In John 19:10-11 we read:

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.

Here the power over the Lord Jesus Christ which Pilate arrogates to himself is one directed at committing a sinful act - killing the very Son of God. The Lord Jesus Christ tells Pilate that whatever power over Him - whether the power to do good or do evil - he has he wouldn't have unless he received it from above.

Does this make God the ultimate source of evil - coupled with a look at Isaiah 45:7?:

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

  • For Isaiah 45:7, see Is God the creator / bringer of evil according to Isaiah 45:7 and 2 Kings 22:20?
    – user2672
    Dec 15, 2018 at 18:14
  • Welcome to BHSX - great question! Do not omit to take the tour (link below).
    – user25930
    Dec 15, 2018 at 20:49
  • The power above Pilate which Pilate 'received from above' was Caesar. That's the whole point of what Jesus said to him. Your supposition is based on a misunderstanding of Jesus' words.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 16, 2018 at 7:47

3 Answers 3


The understanding of such passages involves the Divine Passive. The idea of the Divine Passive is one that is not explicit in the Bible but was created to explain the available, apparently contradictory, facts. Here are some examples:

  • 2 Sam 24:1 vs 1 Chron 21:1 – Who tempted King David to have a census? God or Satan? Both are correct because to the Hebrew mind, God is omniscient and omnipotent and thus events only occur if He allows. James 1:13 explicitly states that God tempts no one.
  • 1 Sam 16:14, 16, 18:10, 19:9 – God sent an evil (literally, unclean) spirit on Saul? God does not have an evil spirit to send! Again, the omnipotent God is deemed responsible for that which He does not prevent.
  • Judges 9:23 has an identical idea of an evil spirit from God.
  • Ex 9:12, 10:1, 20, 27, 11:10, 14:8 – God causes Pharaoh to harden his heart??? Clearly not!
  • Compare Rev 17:1 where God judges the great prostitute, with, Rev 17:16, 17 where the great prostitute becomes a victim of her own wicked ways.

This principle can be readily extrapolated to other many (not all) other passages where the passive voice is used; eg, the beatitudes of Matt 5, Rom 3:28, 1 Cor 7:23, Gal 5:13, Eph 2:5, Matt 9:2, 1 Peter 1:18.

The divine passive says that while God is in control of all things, God does not cause all things - some things are allowed/permitted. God is NOT the cause of evil as "God is love" (1 John 4:8, 16).

In the case of Pilate, John 19:10, 11 states that he had been granted authority to rule by God - a special case of the more general principle of divine permission of government as stated in Rom 13:1. Again, this is not to suggest that God is responsible for everything done by governments. Governments exercise their authority, sometimes poorly and we cannot charge God for decisions by sinful people.

If we want to make God the controller of all human action then humans become automatons and humans become incapable of sin!


In John 19:10-11, Pilate is saying that he has to power to kill Jesus. This is not the case. Jesus came to the world to die. Jesus' life isn't in Pilate's hands, it's in God's hands, and God's will was for Jesus to die for the sins of the world. Does that mean that God is giving Pilate the power to do evil? First of all, death is the punishment of sin. If God kills someone, it is not evil, it is justice. If God let's someone live, it is not a lack of justice, it is a gracious gift. Of course, only God has the right to administer this justice. Jesus didn't sin, but He was still dying for sin. He was a willing sacrifice, meaning that He was to be judicially treated as the offender while those who believe would be justified by His death. God gave Pilate the authority to kill Jesus, and that authority is not evil but justice. Again, it was not justice for a crime that Jesus committed, but justice for our crimes.

Furthermore, God can restrain evil, or He can allow evil. God easily could have prevented Joseph from being sold into slavery, but he chose not to. God gave Joseph's brother the power to do that evil. God did not sin in letting Joseph's brothers sin. Instead, God chose to use for good what Joseph's brothers meant for evil.

Therefore, the one who delivered Jesus into the hands of Pilate did the greater sin. Pilate was God's instrument of justice. Judas was not. Pilate wanted justice. Judas wanted money.

As for Isaiah 45:7, the way I understand it is this: the Hebrew word for "evil" can also be translated "calamity." The NKJV says, "I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things." Basically, "evil" in this context has no more the meaning of moral evil as "peace" does of moral good. God creates peach in Israel as well as calamity. When Israel sinned, God created calamity for them in raising up a nation to take them captive. When Israel repented, God created peace for them in raising up Cyrus to send them back to their homeland (as is the context of this passage).

God defined good. Therefore, He also defined evil. In this way, God "created" evil, but no more than shining a light in a dark room creates shadow. Saying God is the ultimate source of evil is like saying a light is the ultimate source of darkness because it creates shadows. God can chose to allow one to commit an evil, as He allowed Joseph's brothers to commit evil, but that does not make Him the source of evil. Instead, God uses evil for good.


To me, evil was created by God and preceded the first sin that man ever committed. Remember that God created the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and placed it in the Garden of Eden. There could only have been the knowledge of evil if evil had actually been in existence created by God. We know from the Scriptures that everything in existence doesn't exist without God having created it. Satan was created to be the servant of God for evil in the service of God's specific purposes in the outworking of history.

The Scriptures declare in Job 12:16:

With him is strength and wisdom: the deceived and the deceiver are his.

I think God has to be the source of evil for the Bible to say that an evil spirit from God came on Saul in 1 Samuel 18:20.

Also, what is the meaning, what does one think, of 1 Kings 22:20-23 if the source of evil is to be found in an entity independent of God?

And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.

And can there existing independently of the creative will of God?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.