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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VI:
The Harmony of the Gospels.: Chapter VIII

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter VIII.—Of the Absence of Any Discrepancies in the Accounts Which the Evangelists Give of What Took Place in Pilate’s Presence.

32. He next proceeds as follows: “And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked Him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus saith unto him, Thou sayest. And when He was accused of the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing. Then saith Pilate unto Him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? And He answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly. Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? For he knew that for envy they had delivered Him. But when he was set down on the judgment-seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. But the governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? And they said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say, Let him be crucified. The governor said to them, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person; see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. Then released he Barabbas unto them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to them to be crucified.” 1349 These are the things which Matthew has reported to have been done to the Lord by Pilate.

33. Mark also presents an almost entire identity with the above, both in language and in subject. The words, however, in which Pilate replied to the people when they asked him to release one prisoner according to the custom of the feast, are reported by this evangelist as follows: “But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?” 1350 On the other hand, Matthew gives them thus: “Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?” There need be no difficulty in the circumstance that Matthew says nothing about the people having requested that one should be released unto them. But it may fairly be asked, what were the words which Pilate actually uttered, whether these reported by Matthew, or those recited by Mark. For there seems to be some difference between these two forms of expression, namely, “Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?” and, “Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?” Nevertheless, as they were in the habit of calling p. 193 their kings “anointed ones,” 1351 and one might use the one term or the other, 1352 it is evident that what Pilate asked them was whether they would have the King of the Jews, that is, the Christ, released unto them. And it matters nothing to the real identity in meaning that Mark, desiring simply to relate what concerned the Lord Himself, has not mentioned Barabbas here. For, in the report which he gives of their reply, he indicates with sufficient clearness who the person was whom they asked to have released unto them. His version is this: “But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them.” Then he proceeds to add the sentence, “And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I should do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews?” This makes it plain enough now, that in speaking of the King of the Jews, Mark meant to express the very sense which Matthew intended to convey by using the term “Christ.” For kings were not called “anointed ones”  1353 except among the Jews; and the form which Matthew gives to the words in question is this, “Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” So Mark continues, “And they cried out again, Crucify him:” which appears thus in Matthew, “They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.” Again Mark goes on, “Then Pilate said unto them Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him.” Matthew has not recorded this passage; but he has introduced the statement, “When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made,” and has also informed us how he washed his hands before the people with the view of declaring himself innocent of the blood of that just person (a circumstance not reported by Mark and the others). And thus he has also shown us with all due plainness how the governor dealt with the people with the intention of securing His release. This has been briefly referred to by Mark, when he tells us that Pilate said, “Why, what evil hath he done?” And thereupon Mark also concludes his account of what took place between Pilate and the Lord in these terms: “And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged Him, to be crucified.” The above is Mark’s recital of what occurred in presence of the governor. 1354

34. Luke gives the following version of what took place in presence of Pilate: “And they began to accuse Him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar, and saying that he himself is Christ a king.” 1355 The previous two evangelists have not recorded these words, although they do mention the fact that these parties accused Him. Luke is thus the one who has specified the terms of the false accusations which were brought against Him. On the other hand, he does not state that Pilate said to Him, “Answerest thou nothing? behold, how many things they witness against thee.” Instead of introducing these sentences, Luke goes on to relate other matters which are also reported by these two. Thus he continues: “And Pilate asked Him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And He answered him and said, Thou sayest.” Matthew and Mark have likewise inserted this fact, previous to the statement that Jesus was taken to task for not answering His accusers. The truth, however, is not at all affected by the order in which Luke has narrated these things; and as little is it affected by the mere circumstance that one writer passes over some incident without notice, which another expressly specifies. We have an instance in what follows; namely, “Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man. And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place. But when Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilean. And as soon as he knew that He belonged unto Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time. And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad; for he was desirous to see Him of a long season, because he had heard many things of Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him. Then he questioned with Him in many words; but He answered him nothing. And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him. And Herod with his men of war set Him at nought, and mocked Him, and arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him again to Pilate. And the same day Herod and Pilate were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.” 1356 All these things are related by Luke alone, namely, the fact that the Lord was sent by Pilate to Herod, and the account of what took place on that occasion. At the same time, among the statements which he makes in this passage, there are some bearing a resemblance to matters which may be found reported by the other evangelists in connection with different portions of their narrations. But the immediate object of these others, however, was to recount simply the various things which were done in Pilate’s presence on to the time when the Lord was delivered over to be crucified. p. 194 In accordance with his own plan, however, Luke makes the above digression with the view of telling what occurred with Herod; and after that he reverts to the history of what took place in the governor’s presence. Thus he now continues as follows: “And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him.” 1357 Here we notice that he has omitted to mention how Pilate asked the Lord what answer He had to make to His accusers. Thereafter he proceeds in these terms: “No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him: and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him. I will therefore chastise him and release him. For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast. And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas; who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison. Pilate, therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them. But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him and let him go. And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that He might be crucified; and the voices of them 1358 prevailed.” 1359 The repeated effort which Pilate, in his desire to accomplish the release of Jesus, thus made to gain the people’s consent, is satisfactorily attested by Matthew, although in a very few words, when he says, “But when Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made.” For he would not have made such a statement at all, had not Pilate exerted himself earnestly in that direction, although at the same time he has not told us how often he made such attempts to rescue Jesus from their fury. Accordingly, Luke concludes his report of what took place in the governor’s presence in this fashion: “And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will.” 1360

35. Let us next take the account of these same incidents—that is to say, those in which Pilate was engaged—as it is presented by John. He proceeds thus: “And they themselves went not into the judgment-hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover. Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man? They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee.”  1361 We must look into this passage in order to show that it contains nothing inconsistent with Luke’s version, which states that certain charges were brought against Him, and also specifies their terms. For Luke’s words are these: “And they began to accuse Him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar, saying that he himself is Christ a king.” On the other hand, according to the paragraph which I have now cited from John, the Jews seem to have been unwilling to state any specific accusations, when Pilate asked them, “What accusation bring ye against this man?” For their reply was, “If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee;” the purport of which was, that he should accept their authority, cease to inquire what fault was alleged against Him, and believe Him guilty for the simple reason that He had been [reckoned] worthy of being delivered up by them to him. This being the case, then, we ought to suppose that both these versions report words which were actually said, both the one before us at present, and the one given by Luke. For among the multitude of sayings and replies which passed between the parties, these writers have made their own selections as far as their judgment allowed them to go, and each of them has introduced into his narrative just what he considered sufficient. It is also true that John himself mentions certain charges which were alleged against Him, and which we shall find in their proper connections. Here, then, he proceeds thus: “Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews, therefore, said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death; that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which He spake, signifying what death He should die. Then Pilate entered into the judgment-hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto Him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus answered, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?” 1362 This again may seem not to harmonize with what is recorded by the others,—namely, “Jesus answered, Thou sayest,”—unless it is made clear in what follows that the one thing was said as well as the other. Hence he gives us to understand that the matters which he records next are [not to be regarded as] things never actually uttered by the Lord, but are rather to be considered things which have been passed p. 195 over in silence by the other evangelists. Mark, therefore, what remains of his narrative. It proceeds thus: “Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation, and the chief priests, have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto Him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king.”  1363 Behold, here is the point at which he comes to that which the other evangelists have reported. And then he goes on, the Lord being still the speaker, to recite other matters which the rest have not recorded. His terms are these: “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find no fault in him. But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye, therefore, that I release unto you the King of the Jews? Then cried they all again, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber. Then Pilate, therefore, took Jesus, and scourged Him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe; and they came to Him and said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote Him with their hands. Pilate went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him; for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.” 1364 This may fit in with what Luke reports to have been stated in the accusation brought by the Jews,—namely, “We found this fellow perverting our nation,”—so that we might append here the reason given for it, “Because he made himself the Son of God.” John then goes on in the following strain: “When Pilate, therefore, heard that saying, he was the more afraid, and went again into the judgment-hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. Then saith Pilate unto Him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. From thenceforth Pilate sought to release Him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Cæsar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king, speaketh against Cæsar.”  1365 This may very well agree with what Luke records in connection with the said accusation brought by the Jews. For after the words, “We found this fellow perverting our nation,” he has added the clause, “And forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar, and saying that he himself is Christ a king.” This will also offer a solution for the difficulty previously referred to, namely, the occasion which might seem to be given for supposing John to have indicated that no specific charge was laid by the Jews against the Lord, when they answered and said unto him, “If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee.” John then continues in the following strain: “When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment-seat, in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour; and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King? But they cried out, Away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your king? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Cæsar. Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified.” 1366 The above is John’s version of what was done by Pilate. 1367



Matt. xxvii. 11-26.


Mark xv. 9.


Or, Christs, Christos.


The text gives: et qui dixit illum an illum.


Or, Christs, Christos.


Mark xv. 2-15.


Luke 23:2, 3.


Luke xxii. 4-12.


Luke 23:13, 14.


The words, and of the chief priests, are omitted in the text. [So the Greek text, according to the best authorities. Comp. Revised Version.—R.]


Luke xxiii. 15-23.


Luke 23:24, 25.


John xviii. 28-30.


John xviii. 31-34.


John xviii. 35-37.


John 18:37-19:7.


John xix. 8-12.


John xix. 13-16.


[Many harmonists, in view of the fact that Jesus had been scourged before the events narrated in John xix. 2-16, place these occurrences after the delivery of Jesus to be crucified. In § 36 Augustin defends the view that Matthew and Mark have varied from the order. See also chap. xiii.—R.]

Next: Chapter IX

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