Outlines Of New Testament History -Rev. Francis E. Gigot D.D.



              1. Time and Place.


              2. Actors and Incidents.






              1. The Preliminary Examination (Annas and Caiphas).




              2. The First Session of the Sanhedrim: Condemnation to Death:

              Its legality.


                            Its only ground.




              3. The Second Session of the Sanhedrim: The Sentence of Death Formally Ratified.






              1. Jesus before Pilate:

              Site of the prætorium.


                            An artifice of the Jews eluded by Pilate.


                            Accusations against Jesus declared groundless.




              2. Jesus before Herod: How Received, Treated, and Sent Back to Pilate?




              3. Jesus before Pilate again:

              The weak policy of Pilate a failure.


                            The people choose Barabbas; demand Our Lord’s crucifixion.


                            Jesus is scourged and presented to the people.




                            The Jews declare that

              Jesus “ought to die, having made Himself the Son of God.”


                                          To release Him is to be the enemy of Cæsar.




              The Final Sentence: “Ibis ad Crucem.”.


§ 1. The Arrest

1. Time and Place. It was probably between ten and eleven at night when Jesus, leaving the Cœnaculum, went with His disciples towards Gethsemani, an olive orchard east of Jerusalem. On His way thither His main concern was to prepare His apostles for what was now at hand. He predicted to all their common desertion, and to Peter, the loudest in his protestations of fidelity, He foretold again his threefold denial.

Meanwhile they crossed the deep ravine of the Cedron, and soon reached the garden of Gethsemani, not far distant from, if not identical with, the present enclosed space pointed out by tradition as the scene of Our Lord’s agony. This garden was well known to Judas, for it was a place to which Jesus often resorted to pray. On this night His prayer lasted long, and meantime His soul was sorrowful unto death, His body covered with a sweat of blood, and His heart wounded by the insensibility of His three chosen disciples, Peter, James and John. But at length Jesus, comforted by a heavenly messenger, lovingly accepted the chalice of His passion, and bade His apostles be ready to face those who, at that very moment, were approaching the garden to arrest Him. As Our Lord’s walk from the Cœnaculum to Gethsemani, together with His prayer and agony in the garden, took probably more than one hour, His arrest is most likely to be placed about midnight.

2. Actors and Incidents. The chief actor in the arrest was one of the twelve, the traitor Judas. This night, during which all were busily engaged at the Paschal meal, had appeared to him the most favorable time to betray his Master, and hence it was probably understood between him and Our Lord’s enemies that he should leave the Paschal table immediately after he had eaten the Pasch, and lead without delay those in charge of the arrest, to the exact place where Jesus was reclining with His disciples. It is in this way that Judas became “the leader of them that apprehended Jesus,” that is, of “a multitude” made up (1) of soldiers and servants from the chief priests and ancients of the people; (2) of a part of the Roman cohort under one of its captains, in case a disturbance should arise; (3) of chief priests and ancients to direct the proceedings. Thus accompanied, the betrayer went first to the upper room, but finding it empty, he went next to the garden of Gethsemani, where he suspected his Master might still be in prayer.

Judas had calculated aright, and upon his arrival at the other side of the Cedron he soon found Jesus, who, with the eleven apostles, had come forth from the garden to meet His betrayer. According to an arrangement, calculated, it was thought, not to cause any suspicion among Our Lord’s followers, Judas left those who accompanied him a little behind, and “coming forward” saluted Jesus with the usual salutation, to which he added the kiss of peace. Scarcely had Our Saviour received this sign of friendship, now transformed by Judas into an act of treachery, when He went towards the multitude and asked them, “Whom seek ye?” “Jesus of Nazareth” they replied, to which Our Lord answered, “I AM HE.” At these simple words of Jesus they went backward and fell to the ground, the Son of God proving thereby that had He so willed, no power on earth would have been able to arrest Him.

But as Our Lord’s second question and reply to the multitude, together with His request that they should allow His followers to escape unmolested, implied His willing surrender of Himself, they proceeded to seize Him. At this moment, Peter, drawing his sword, intervened and cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest. But Our Lord rebuked him, healed the ear of Malchus, and affirmed explicitly His resolve not to defend Himself, protesting, however, against the unworthy conduct of the Jewish leaders He then noticed among the crowd. Jesus was then seized and bound, while in the midst of the confusion His disciples took to flight.

§ 2. The Trial of Jesus before the Religious Authorities

1. The Preliminary Examination. From Gethsemani, Jesus was led first to Annas, one of the most influential men of the time, and whose house was probably nearer the place of the arrest than that of Caiphas, his son-in-law and the actual occupant of the high priesthood. Furthermore, Annas, having been the official high priest during about eight years, had been deposed by the representative of a foreign and heathen power, the Roman procurator, Valerius Gratus, so that in the eyes of the Jews he was still their lawful high priest, bearing the title and wielding the influence of his former office. It was only natural, therefore, that immediately on His arrest, Jesus should be brought to him, the more so because he would greatly rejoice at the success of the plot against Our Lord. However this may be, we have no record in the Gospel of a trial to which Annas would have subjected Jesus, and we are simply told that he “sent Him bound, to Caiphas the high priest.”

Soon the house of this official high priest of the Jews was reached, but as some interval would necessarily elapse before the members of the Sanhedrim could be assembled, Caiphas asked Jesus some questions about His disciples and His doctrine. This was but a preliminary examination, since “there was no formal accusation, no witnesses, no sentence pronounced.” (Andrews.) In His answer Our Lord reminded the high priest that as an accused person, He should not be expected to criminate Himself. At these words of Jesus, an officer of Caiphas, knowing that he would thereby please his master, smote the face of the Son of God for what he called an irreverent answer to the high priest; but Our Lord patiently bore this outrage, mercifully expostulating however with that man to open his eyes to the injustice and baseness of his action.

Meanwhile, Peter and John, having recovered from their panic, had followed their Master to the house of the high priest and had been introduced by the portress, and it is probably during Our Lord’s preliminary examination by Caiphas, that the first two denials of Peter occurred.

2. The First Session of the Sanhedrim. At length—between two and three in the morning—the Sanhedrists met in a large room of the high priest’s palace, and the result of their first sitting was a sentence of death against Our Lord, the illegality of which can easily be perceived. It is clear, for instance, that the most elementary forms of justice were not observed in the case of Jesus; before His trial His death had been agreed upon by His judges; at the trial, no one appeared for Him as advocate, no witnesses were called to testify in His favor, and when the witnesses against Him could not agree in their testimony, He Himself was put under oath and compelled by the high priest to criminate Himself; again, the trial took place before sunrise, in opposition to Jewish law, and the ill-treatment both before and after the trial proves that Our Lord’s judges were in reality His cruel and implacable enemies. A further proof of the illegality of this sentence is found in the fact that it was pronounced although the charges brought against Jesus could not be proved by witnesses.

The time came during this iniquitous trial when the witnesses were so manifestly untrustworthy that Our Lord declined to answer their various charges, and then it was that His declared enemy, the high priest Caiphas, resorted to a manœuvre apparently reserved for the emergency. He arose, put Jesus under oath, thereby obliging Him to speak, and bade Him declare whether He was “the Christ, the Son of the blessed God.” Our Lord answered affirmatively, and then added a few words which implied a claim on His part to equality in power and dignity with Jehovah Himself. In the eyes of the high priest and of the Sanhedrists present the declaration of Jesus amounted to an open blasphemy, and this is why, dispensing with further witnesses, they at once pronounced the sentence, “HE IS GUILTY OF DEATH!” Then the Sanhedrim suspended its session to meet again at daybreak.

It was during this first session of the Sanhedrim, or at its close, that the third denial of Peter occurred, upon whom Jesus then cast a look of mercy and who, “going forth, wept bitterly.” We must also mention here the awful scene of ill-treatment to which our divine Saviour was subjected between the two meetings of the Sanhedrim, and the general features of which are recorded in the Synoptists.

3. The Second Session of the Sanhedrim. In holding a second meeting at the earliest possible moment after sunrise the Sanhedrists wished to comply with one of the strict rules of the court forbidding capital trials at night. This second session was held, like the first, in the house of Caiphas and lasted but a short time, for it was simply devoted to secure from the lips of Jesus a most explicit statement of His claim to the divine nature and authority. Our Lord’s judges began with a question about His Messiahship, to which He apparently refused to answer. But as He soon repeated the very words which in their first meeting the Sanhedrists had considered as implying a claim to equality in power and dignity with Jehovah, they asked Him with one accord, “Art Thou then the Son of God?”

Plainly all the circumstances of the case gave to this question of Our Lord’s judges but one meaning. They wanted Him to commit Himself to a formal declaration that He was no less truly God than Jehovah Himself, whom He claimed as His Father. This was their meaning and Jesus fully realized it; and this is why He answered by the rabbinical formula, “You say, that I am,” whereby He endorsed as His own affirmation the full intent of the question put to Him. By this formal declaration of Our Lord the Sanhedrists had fully reached their object. They themselves “had heard it from His own mouth” that He claimed to be equal to God, and therefore the sentence of death already pronounced against Him was at once ratified by the highest tribunal of the Jews.

Judas soon learned this issue of His Master’s trial, and having returned the money to the chief priests and ancients, he went and hanged himself, despairing that his deliberate perfidy could be forgiven him.

§ 3. The Trial of Jesus before the Civil Authorities

1. Jesus before Pilate. There now remained for the Jewish rulers to obtain from Pilate the ratification of their sentence of death against Jesus, for without the approval of the Roman procurator they had no power to carry out a capital sentence. But this approval they hoped easily to wrest from the weakness of Pilate, and in consequence they hurriedly led Our Lord to the fortress Antonia where, as is very probable, this Roman official now resided.

Arriving at the prætorium—for so were called the headquarters of the procurator wherever he happened to be—the Sanhedrists refused to enter this heathen house, lest they should incur a legal defilement which would have prevented them from eating the Chagigah, as they were expected to do on that very day, Nisan 15th. Pilate therefore came out to give them audience, and he at once demanded they should proffer grounds of accusation against their prisoner. The Jewish officials remonstrated in order that their sentence should be confirmed without inquiry into the matter, but Pilate stood firm and compelled them to bring forth definite charges of which he would feel bound to take cognizance. “They therefore began to accuse Jesus, saying: We have found this man perverting our nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar, and saying that He is Christ the King.” These charges directly affected the Roman power, and hence Pilate, entering the prætorium, began to inquire into them. As, however, they could be summed up in the charge of setting up a kingdom in opposition to that of Cæsar, Pilate questioned Jesus about His title of King of the Jews. To this fair inquiry of His judge, Our Lord answered that He was indeed a King, but that His kingdom, being not of this world, could not clash with the Roman power. This reply of Our Lord fully satisfied the susceptibility of the Roman official, and in consequence Pilate, going out with Jesus, declared to the Jews, “I find no cause [that is, ground for condemnation] in Him.”

Our Lord’s enemies were little prepared for such a public and unhesitating acquittal of Jesus, and this made them all the more earnest in repeating their charges: “He stirreth up the people,” said they, “teaching throughout all Judæa, beginning from Galilee to this place”; and St. Mark adds: “and the chief priests accused Him in many things.” Amid this storm of accusations Jesus remained silent, and this perfect self-command on the part of his prisoner astonished the procurator. As Pilate’s ear had caught the name of Galilee among the clamors of the multitude as the province wherein Jesus had excited the people to revolt, this suggested to the Roman official an expedient to relieve himself from all responsibility in connection with Our Lord. Having assured himself that the accused was a Galilean, he sent Him to Herod Antipas, now in the Holy City, as one to whose jurisdiction Jesus naturally belonged.

2. Jesus before Herod. Accompanied by the Roman soldiery and by a delegation of the Sanhedrim, Jesus left the prætorium on Mount Moria, crossed the bridge which spans the Tyropœon valley, and soon reached the palace of Herod on Mount Sion. The Galilean ruler had long wished to see the prophet whose fame had reached his ears, and it was with a firm hope that Our Lord would perform some miracle to secure his patronage, that he saw Jesus standing before his tribunal. This, however, Jesus refused to do; nay, more, He even remained silent both to the numerous questions of Herod and to the vehement accusations of the chief priests and the Scribes. Herod was irritated, and in scorn of Our Lord’s claims he arrayed Him in the white garment of a candidate to royalty, and sent Him back to Pilate.

This interchange of civilities restored the broken friendship between the Roman procurator and the Galilean tetrarch.

3. Jesus before Pilate Again. With Our Lord’s return to the prætorium, Pilate felt that all the responsibility he had wished to shift upon Herod had come back to him. He was thoroughly convinced of the innocence of Jesus, and accordingly having called together “the chief priests and the magistrates and the people,” he took his place on the judgment-seat, intending to proclaim Our Lord’s innocence and to end the trial. Through his weak policy, however, instead of authoritatively putting an end to the trial, he suggested a compromise, calculated, as he thought, to satisfy all parties. It was customary at the Paschal festival to release any prisoner for whom the people had a special desire, and now Pilate proposed that since the charges against Jesus had appeared groundless to Herod and to him, he would simply have Our Lord “chastised” and then released.

Pilate’s policy was a lamentable failure. The priests, of course, could not be satisfied with anything but the capital punishment of Jesus, and the people, reminded of their right to the release of any prisoner they asked for, rejected the idea that the Roman procurator should limit their choice to Jesus. Pilate was thus led to allow the multitude to choose between Our Lord and Barabbas, and to this he agreed the more readily because he felt sure that Jesus would be the object of their preference, since a few days before they had received Him with enthusiasm into Jerusalem.

While the people deliberated about the choice of a prisoner, the procurator received from his wife a message to the effect that during the night she had been greatly troubled in a dream about the just man now standing before her husband’s tribunal; she therefore advised him not to inflict upon Him the least punishment. This, of course, made Pilate more anxious to end the trial; but to his great astonishment, he soon discovered that, following the perfidious suggestions of their leaders and their own national feelings in favor of one who, like Barabbas, had fought against the Roman yoke, the multitude had agreed upon asking for the release of Barabbas and for the crucifixion of Jesus. In vain did the Roman procurator remonstrate with the people; the multitude persisted in choosing Barabbas and clamoring for Our Lord’s crucifixion.

At last Pilate yielded and ordered that Jesus should be scourged, this being the usual preliminary to crucifixion. The soldiers therefore stripped Our Lord to the waist, tied Him to a low pillar that, bending over, He might better receive the blows of the instrument of torture, viz., a leather thong often loaded with lead or iron. There is no doubt that this scourging of Jesus was of the severest kind: the victim was of the hated Jewish race, and the Roman soldiers could inflict any number of lashes.

After this cruel scourging, another awful scene took place in the inner court of the prætorium. There, before the assembled cohort, the soldiery arrayed Jesus in purple, crowned Him with thorns, placed a reed in His right hand, and paid a derisive homage to Him as the King of the Jews, smiting at the same time His sacred head with the reed, and spitting upon His august face.

When Pilate beheld Jesus in this pitiable condition, he was moved with compassion, and presented Him to the multitude, hoping that this sight would be sufficient to touch the hearts of all. In fact, in presence of such meekness and suffering the people were touched, and only “the chief priests and their servants” cried again for Our Lord’s crucifixion. Pilate was angry at this implacable hatred of the Jewish rulers, and realizing that he had gained ground over the people’s mind, resolved not to put Jesus to death. “Take Him you,” said he, “and crucify Him: for I find no cause in Him.”

It is at this juncture, that to regain their hold upon the multitude, the Jewish rulers charged Our Lord publicly with the crime of blasphemy, which must needs be punished with death. “We have a Law,” they exclaimed, “and according to the Law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” Hearing this, Pilate greatly feared, submitted Our Lord to a new interrogation, and even took an open step towards His release. But the Roman procurator was no match for the crafty Sanhedrists. They now threaten him with the vengeance of Tiberius for releasing a man accused of treason against the emperor. Pilate, doubtless, remembered how in one of his former conflicts with the Jews, that emperor had pronounced against him, and he knew well that to the suspicious mind of Tiberius the simple accusation of indifference to his imperial interests would be equivalent to conviction. Trembling for his very life, Pilate now prepared to give the final sentence, not without, however, protesting his own innocence by washing his hands before all; then he ordered that Jesus be taken away and crucified. As Our Lord came forth, Pilate presented Him to the Jews as their King, and as such, the representatives of the Jewish people rejected their Saviour, declaring that they had no king but Cæsar.

The form of the final sentence is not given in the Gospel narratives; the usual form was “Ibis ad crucem.”

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