Why did the Romans and not the Jewish leaders kill Jesus?

The Jewish leaders could stone an adultress and also St Stephen to death. Why couldn’t they kill Jesus?

I think…for the seriousness of the charge against him (sedition?) it fell to the higher-ups to act as judge and jury and give the sentence/punishment?

The Romans were the only ones allowed to kill the Jews.

I think the adulterous woman (John 8) was not going to be a “kill situation” for the Jews, as indicated in John’s Gospel. They intended Jesus to let her go, thus losing favor among the stauncher Jews. If Jesus ordered her death… well, that would be on His head, not theirs.

The mob in Acts that stoned Stephen probably did that only because they were worked up into such a fury over Stephen’s words. They didn’t originally intend to kill him, but they simply got out of hand.

Didn’t the Romans reserve execution to themselves? Certainly for sedition.

I think there was politics at play even then, and the Jewish leaders feared that certain personalities were too popular with the people that they risked a backlash. For the same reason, even Herod Antipater was hesitant to kill John the Baptist. The Bible did mention that according to the Jewish leaders the law didn’t allow it, but that’s probably just an excuse. The Romans were powerful enough then not to be threatened by the people.

Though under Roman law the Jews were not allowed to execute anyone (John 18:31), I think the Jewish leaders were more concerned about upsetting the multitudes rather than breaking Roman law. Scripture says that the Jewish leaders feared the multitudes who regarded Jesus as a prophet of God. (See Matthew 21:45) Getting the Romans to kill Jesus allowed the Jewish leaders to divert blame for his killing from themselves to the Romans.

Remember that the Council refused to convict Jesus, so there is your answer. Caiaphas wanted Jesus out of the way quickly, so he sent him over to Pilate. That Caiaphas didn’t make a personal appeal to Pilate suggests that Pilate owed him a favor, or was paid off.

Yet another stock answer by myself: :blush:

Thank you all for replying.

So it seems that Jesus’ death was for a “secular crime” (claiming to be a king) because the Jews could not not make the case for blasphamy (saying that he is “I AM”)?

Yes. Simply put, I concur with Patrick’s response.

But to address the question in my own words…

What we are seeing in the gospels are two sets of law in play. The Law of Moses ascribed a death sentence to certain crimes and sins, including blasphemy. But the Romans conquered the area and imposed Roman law, which allowed the Jewish court (the Sanhedrin) to continue to operate in issues that did not specifically require the Roman authorities. Generally speaking, capital punishment was reserved to the Roman authorities (which would include the Jewish kings, as they acted as a representatives of Caesar), so according to Roman law, in order to legally execute someone, you had to bring them to a Roman court and they had to be convicted by the proper Roman authority for a violation against Roman law (for which capital punishment was the penalty).

With this in mind, the Sanhedrin found Jesus guilty of blasphemy according to their view of the Law of Moses. But they did not want to get in trouble with the Romans for killing Jesus themselves, so they took him to Pilate. But blasphemy against the God of the Jews was not a crime according to Roman law, so the Jews accused Jesus of treason against Caesar (because if someone claimed to be “the king of the Jews” who was not someone like King Herod Antipas, then this would be treason). According to Roman law, treason against Caesar was a crime punishable by death.

As a side note, when the NT describes a Jewish crowd executing someone, such as St. Stephen, or threatening to execute someone, such as the woman caught in adultery, what we are seeing is lynch mob activity. Because the Jews knew that the Romans would not execute someone for blasphemy or adultery, and because they thought God would punish them collectively for allowing blasphemers and adulterers to live amongst them, it was not unusual for certain Jews of the time to resort to “private justice.” We can presume that no Roman soldiers were present when these events took place, or they would have put a stop to the proceedings and arrested the instigators.

Because the Jew’s knew they couldn’t execute Jesus according to the law.

I see a similar scenario in Acts where the Jews want to bring Paul up for trial. Herod Agrippa (?) realized that this was “nothing more than a religious squabble among the Jews” and didn’t want to dal with it.

It seems it took sedition to rise up to the need for capital punishment. Look at the Jews words to Pilate, "If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar.* Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.

The governor’s job was to maintain order.

And the Romans had absolutely no restraint in executing any local who might constitute a risk of rebellion. And the Romans executed locals by the hundreds, and did so as slowly and painfully as possible, usually leaving the bodies up on their crosses to be picked at by birds and dogs and to rot … to make an example for the others.

In the case of Jesus, the Romans were asked to respect the Passover holy day and so they dispatched the two “thieves” quickly by breaking their legs so they would slump and be asphyxiated quickly. Jesus, however, had been pretty much beaten to death prior to His crucifixion, so He would not have had the strength to hold on for a few days, as customary. So Jesus died without any broken bones, befits the Sacrificial Lamb of God.

The Jewish people were so troublesome that finally the Romans demolished the Temple.

Might want to do a google search for Pontius Pilate.

For example,


Again, thank you all for your replies. :slight_smile:

=irishcolleen45;8740322]The Jewish leaders could stone an adultress and also St Stephen to death. Why couldn’t they kill Jesus?

***Actually; I think perhaps that they usurped authority; but Rome not looking for more termolil let it slide because of the “religious grounds” of such acts.

In the Case of Jesus there are at least two additioanl factors.

The People [in mass] were on the side of Jesus and DEATHLY afraid of both the Jewish Leaders and the Romans.

And the Jewish Leaders did a poor job of convinving the multitudes that Jesus was guilty of any actual wrong doing. After ALL, the miracles, Love and good deeds, it was a tough sell.

Not unlike present times; the “Silent Majority” is drowned out by the VOCAL radicals drieven by their own agenda.SHAME of them; and SHAME ON US!

God Bless,

They were not allowed to execute Stephen or the adulteress, in fact Jesus by pointing out that the Pharisees in bringing the woman to Him had usurped Roman legal authority is how He caught them on that one.

I figure they figured that if they just dragged Jesus out and stoned Him the crowd would stone Him because they were afraid of the crowd and said so several times. They assumed if they executed Him then the crowd would kill them, but when Jesus gave Himself to Roman authority instead of killing the Romans the crowd turned on Him.

Actually it was pretty nifty bit of crowd slight of hand by the Sanhedrin; using Pilate to get the crowd to turn on Jesus.

But killing Stephen or the adulteress, I mean, they weren’t famous… so who would care?

Seems cynical but then again I think these were cynical people.

God Bless

Personally I don’t think we need to think that the ‘crowd’ of Jesus’ death were those who formerly followed Him but had a change of heart. Just a speculation by some, but it is also likely that this ‘crowd’ was a specially-selected one, composed of people who were really antagonistic toward Jesus (say, the henchmen of the high priest, Temple priests, and people who were bothered with Jesus’ causing a scene in the Temple - the money-changers and vendors?).

Since the high priest and other leading citizens had the responsibility of keeping peace in Jerusalem (Roman rule was an indirect one - the prefect usually delegated these tasks to local rulers while he spent most of the year off in the capital of Caesarea Maritima far away from the prying eyes of Jews), and because it would have been decided that Jesus was a threat to public order, they would have ensured that Jesus was taken care of, even if it meant playing dirty. The fact that they send Jesus to Pilate early in the morning - when most people, including the Galilean pilgrims and others who could have supported Him (Jesus had more popularity in the Galilee than in Judaea after all), would have still been sleeping and thus less likely to intrude.

Certainly a possibility.

It is also possible that that great many people got caught in the furor over His coming on Palm Sunday and were hoping He would start killing the Romans and when He surrendered instead turned on Him.

This is how mobs act.

But I did not mean to imply that the people in the crowd were among His followers who had turned on Him I don’t think that is true. AFter all Scripture says His followers mostly ran away, rather I was saying that people who in the heat of the moment will take up the cause can just as easily be heated the other way.

God Bless

However as I reread my post I can totally see how it would be read that way.

But let me say that I think the crowd the Sanhedrin would have had most to fear would have been those caught up in the momentary expectation of Roman soldiers lying slain in the street. Such people I think would be very dangerous if the Sanhedrin had seized Him in plain view of them all.

God Bless

Let’s look at things in context, primarily relying on John, assuming a Passover year of A.D. 36.

Jesus was arrested around midnight and within twelve hours was hanging on the cross, to die at the ninth hour of the day of Preparation.
During that time period he was interrogated by Caiaphas, Ananus, the Sanhedrin (maybe), Herod Antipas, and Pilate.
Pilate arranged for a special crucifixion for Jesus. It was unlikely that crucifixions were normally scheduled on the Day of Preparation, when the executed had to taken down three hours before the sunset. The point of crucifixion was public deterrence, with the crucified staying up and in public view for days.
Golgotha was on the western part of the upper city of Jerusalem, on the other side of the palace of Herod from the Second Temple. Most of the common Jews entered the Temple from the lower city to the south, or coming from the Mount of Olives on the east.
Most Jews didn’t even know he was arrested before he was dead- the intent of Caiaphas.
Even the future Paul the Apostle, Saul of Tarsus, who was a young priest novitiate in the Second Temple, didn’t know what was going on.

So it was very quick and hush hush.

This is particularly interesting when it is taken into account that Caiaphas had let Jesus preach in the Second Temple outer courtyard for months leading up to the Passover.

Hagan, in Roman Fires, argues that a high-ranking Roman official, Lucius Vitellius, was on his way to Jerusalem on a semi-secret visit at that time, which initiated the railroading of Jesus the trouble maker. Days later, Vitellius removed Caiaphas from the High Priest position, and Hagan argues that the Jesus was the reason.

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