It seems Pilate and Chief Priest fell out with each other when he said "What I have written I have written".

Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” (John 19:19-22 ESV)

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The interpretation of this in antiquity seems to have been that Pilate was "getting even" with the Jews, so to speak, for essentially forcing him to crucify Jesus. Pilate had sought to release Him from his own custody at least four times:

  • When Jesus was first led to the Prætorium (John 18:28-32)
  • After Pilate asked Jesus whether He was a king (John 18:37-39)
  • After the crowd asked that Barabbas rather than Jesus be released (John 18:40-19:7)
  • After becoming afraid when hearing the crowd refer to Jesus as the Son of God (John 19:7): And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release Him (John 19:12-14).

Theophylact, a Byzantine Greek commentator, states:

We have commented several times that Pilate was more weak and timid than evil. Outwardly he appears to examine and judge, but goes about it feebly. Behold your king! he declares (John 19:14), neither condemning Jesus nor openly rebuking the Jews. Indirectly he does reproach them as slanderers, saying in effect, "Behold the man you claim is attempting to become your king: a lowly, simple person who in fact has no aspirations to such a rank ... What are you hoping to gain by killing this powerless and harmless man!"1

He explains Pilate's decision on the inscription:

Pilate wrote this partly to retaliate against the Jews for disobeying him, and partly to show that they were wicked rebels ... He broadcasts the madness of the Jews in all three languages, making it plain to everyone.2

1. Explanation of the Gospel of John (tr. from Greek; Chrysostom Press, 2007), p.283
2. Ibid., pp.285-6

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