Luke 23:13 Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.”

What was Pilate's logic here? What was the Roman legal basis for punishing Jesus from Pilate's point of view?

4 Answers 4


One way to view Jesus' trials before Pilate is Pilate's sense that Jesus is completely innocent and actually tries about six times to release Jesus. However, being a weak and vacillating governor, he must do this by placating the crowd and his boss, Caesar. Note the list below of Pilates attempts to convince the crown and release Jesus:

Attempt #1

John 18:38, 39 - Pilate tries to use the annual release of prisoner to have Jesus release but the crowd shouts that they want Barabbas.

Attempt #2

John 19:1-5 - public executions performed two functions in the ancient Roman empire - a warning to insurrectionists, AND, ghoulish entertainment for the masses. It was an attempt to satisfy the latter that Pilate had Jesus flogged and scourged to ameliorate their blood lust. It did not work.

Attempt #3

John 19:6 - Pilate again declares that he find no basis for a charge against Jesus. Actually the Jews had brought no charges under Roman law, so Pilates response was legally correct.

Attempt #4

John 19:8 - Pilate become very afraid and tries even harder to release Jesus

Attempt #5

John 19:12 - Pilate is becoming desperate and tries even harder to release Jesus and bring out the judgement seat.

Attempt #6

John 19:13 - While sitting on the judgement seat, Matthew adds another detail about Pilate's wife receiving a dream about "this innocent man". Matthew also adds that Pilate AGAIN asks what the charges were for the death sentence but receives no sensible reply.

In view of the above clear pattern, it appears that, among other things, Pilate scourged Jesus, without any legal reason (by his own admission) in a futile attempt to placate the crowd to release Jesus.


Pilate was trying to release Jesus.

His wife had had a dream and had warned him. He could see that there was no fault in Jesus. He could see that witnesses did not agree. He could see that 'for envy' the Pharisees had arrested and delivered Jesus to him.

Being a Roman, Pontius Pilate had clear views of justice, of due process and of proper authority. His intent was to release Jesus.

In order to achieve this end, Pilate had Jesus scourged - a ferocious process involving a lash with, it is said, bits of metal twined into the thong which ripped skin open. He allowed the soldiers to mock him, to put the crown of thorns on his head and to clothe him in mockery.

Only then did he present this appalling sight to the Jews : that they might have pity. That they might see the humiliation, the punishment, the blood stains, the pain and suffering - that it might satisfy them.

That it might suffice. That it might appease. That they might be able to release the innocent man, and save face.

But it was not enough. They wanted his blood. All of it.

So they played their last card : Caesar. "Thou art not Caesar's friend." This was the last straw - for Pilate - and with that, he washed his hands of it all and let them have their way.

And Jesus forgave.

Father, forgive them : for they know not what they do. [Luke 23:34 KJV]


Why did Pilate punish Jesus in Luke 23:16?

What was Pilate's logic here? What was the Roman legal basis for punishing Jesus from Pilate'spoint of view?

There was no basis under Roman law to punish an innocent person, as for logic it was the Roman custom to scourge their victims before executing them.

Christ's sufferings and death were foretold by Isaiah. Fulfillment 33 C.E.


Isaiah 50:6 NASB

I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pull out My beard; I did not hide My face from insults and spitting.


Isaiah 53:12 KJV

12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bares the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.


Many innocent people suffer persecution even though the judge and jurors know they are innocent. Jesus was no different, Pilate had no grounds for punishment. Knowing that Jesus was innocent, and because Pilate himself had no control over the mob's lust for blood, he didn't have to partake in this so called blood lust by beating Jesus as well. In the end pilate didn't really wash his hands of innocent blood, he helped shed it.

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    @ Arlene Richards - Thank you for your interest in answering on BH.SE! What you have shared with us is all true. However it is good to reference your study with Scripture verses, Historical background, and perhaps come recognized, scholarly Commentaries. Keep studying the Bible; it's great for the soul!
    – ray grant
    Commented Feb 17 at 1:17

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