The Jesus-Pilate-Scene in Mk 15 - just an illogical Fairy Tale?

Nov 2016
1,034
Germany
Are there logical errors in the NT passion story that lead its credibility ad absurdum?

First the scene in Mk 15:

6 Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. 7 And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. 8 And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. 9 And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. 12 And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14 And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged[a] Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

(1)
The historically unproven custom of the release of a prisoner mentioned in v.6 is, in the opinion of most historians, to be regarded as Mark's invention, the deeper meaning of which is subsequently discussed in the Barabbas context.

(2)
On Pilatus´ conciliatory behaviour towards Jesus: It is unlikely that the procurator will not sentence to death someone who, seemlingly with a rebellious intent, claims the title ´King of the Jews´ (Mk 15:2), and is to be seen as an attempt by the evangelist to morally exonerate the Roman authorities. Not quite as implausible is Pilatus´'s soft behavior towards the Jewish crowd. In one case Pilate gave in to the pressure of a crowd, even if this contradicted his violent nature (Ant. 18,55f.). However, this case is not really comparable to the Mark scene and thus is by no means sufficient to support the authenticity of the Jesus-Pilate scene; I already mentioned two reasons: the unhistorical custom of the release and Pilatus´ unbelievable conciliatoriness towards Jesus.

(3)
Another indication of the fictionality of Mk 15:6-15 is the behavior of the Jewish crowd. According to 15:11 the "chief priests" have instigated the crowd, which then repeatedly demands the crucifixion of Jesus.

Mk 11 says about the first entry of Jesus into Jerusalem:

8 And many spread out their clothes in the way, and others cut branches from the trees, and scattered them in the way. 9 And they that went before and followed called and said: Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! (...)

The question arises as to why the people switch 180 degrees from enthusiasm for Jesus to hatred of Jesus and, screaming twice, demand of Pilate to have Jesus crucified, and, despite Pilate's question, do not even provide an explanation for this (see below point 4).

One could object that for some reason the crowd has been convinced that a release of Barabbas would be preferable to the release of Jesus, and therefore urges Jesus´ death. But that doesn't explain the intensity of the new death wish.

(4)
Moreover, the objection contains a logical error of reasoning:

In order to obtain the release of Barabbas, the people do not have to demand the execution of Jesus. The latter is not a condition for the former. The (unhistorical) release custom does not consist in a decision for the release of one prisoner at the expense of another, but in the release of one prisoner independently of the fate of another. Also in Matthew (Mt 27:21) the release of Barabbas does not presuppose the execution of Jesus, there Pilate merely asks which of the two he should release.

Within the framework of this constellation, however, the procurator would be free to surrender the Barabbas to the crowd and then also release Jesus, whom he does not consider sufficiently guilty according to Mk 15. This (unhistorical) custom does not allow the crowd the right to demand the execution of one (other) prisoner. Nevertheless, after releasing Barabbas, Pilate asks the crowd what to do with Jesus. His question as to what Jesus did "evil" (15:14) is not answered by the multitude who demand the crucifixion without any reason.

This construct is illogical and undoubtedly serves only to blame the Jews for the death of Jesus.

In Jn 19, this strategy is further enhanced by the author (known for pushing the break with Judaism even further than the synoptists) portraying the Jews in a way that is now completely unbelievable:

12 From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”

(5)
On the name of Barabbas:

In some Gospel manuscripts he is not simply called ´Barabbas´, but ´Jesus Barabbas´, in nine manuscripts from Greece, Syria and Armenia. In his commentary on Matthew, section 121, Origenes praises the erasure of the first name because it wouldn´t fit in with a "culprit". The Latin translation of the Greek version of Mt available to him reads:

(...) quem vultis dimittam vobis, Iesum Barabbam, aut Iesum qui dicitur Christ?

(= Who shall I release according to your will: the Jesus Barabbas or the Jesus called Christ?)

One can therefore assume that in the earliest versions of the Gospels the term ´Jesus Barabbas´ was mentioned throughout, since a subsequent insertion of the first name is less likely than a subsequent redemption. The current Edition XXVIII of the Gospel of Matthew of Nestle-Aland also reads ´Jesus Barabbas´.

´Barabbas´ means ´Son of the Father´, what corresponds to a Christological attribute of Jesus.

(6)
On the basis of the identity of the first names of both prisoners and the correspondence of the surname of Barabbas with a Christological attribute of Jesus, theories have emerged according to which both figures were originally a single figure (the Christian Jesus), which for certain reasons was subsequently doubled.

One of those theories is:

In the earliest Christian tradition, the legend circulated that the Jewish people in Jerusalem, admiring Jesus, called in vain for the release of Jesus, who was nicknamed ´Son of the Father´ (Barabbas). This demand was not made in connection with an annual amnesty, as described in Mk, but happened spontaneously. When, as Christianity spread into the Roman Empire, it became necessary to adapt its original legend to a Roman public, the Roman Pilate, who was responsible for the execution of Jesus, had to be exonerated and the blame shifted to a third party, the Jews. The Jewish demand for the release of Jesus Barabbas was not completely eradicated. Rather, this figure was split into a good and an evil Jesus Barabbas (robber). The evil Barabbas is wished free from captivity by the now likewise ´evil´ Jews and the good one is killed at their request. Pilate thus looks innocent.

This also explains the invention of the release custom, without which the construct does not function, and the reversal of the crowd from worship of Jesus to hatred of Jesus, which is also necessary for the construct.
 
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tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,812
You're concerned about this scene but not about the tombs of all the saints opening and them walking about Jerusalem ? ..... Or all the other "miracles" ?

There is a fairly long thread here about whether a "historical" Jesus existed at all (no hard evidence so far supporting that).... I would think this would be the main questions rather than picking out indivitual pieces of the NT

As for this scene, note that in most works of fiction it is customary for the hero to interact with (an) important person(s) (in most current fiction that would be POTUS) who is/are suitably impressed by him to underline the importance of the hero... Apparently the authors of the time thought that Pilate was the guy of the time and place...
 
Aug 2012
1,554
I find the biggest issue that the Jewish council would not simply, on their own authority, stone Jesus to death. The Roman governance of Judea was a mix of liberalism and brutality, and for keeping the zealots in line, the elders were clearly allowed a great deal of power and autonomy. There should have been nothing stopping them from executing Jesus in the manner of their own people.


Perhaps there were political reasons for it? But given the glut of Messianic claimants at the time, I doubt they were seriously concerned about the threat he posed.
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
That we have no record of Pilate's habit of releasing a prisoner, does not mean it did not happen. It wouldn't be the first example of an otherwise harsh ruler performing what they think is an act of kindness to gather favor. Pilate was the longest or second longest Roman governor of Judea, and despite his bad press, he must have done something right to last so long in such a volatile region. The great Jewish revolt did not happen under his watch.

As for why the crowd turned against Jesus, crowds can be ficke like that, one minute they love you, the next they hate you. Especially if Jesus didn't deliver on what many expected, namely driving the Romans out of Israel. If Jesus was arrested, and didn't strike the Romans down, he wasn't the true Messiah, but a false one and deserved death. Plus, the priest and Romans could have bribed the crowds - the priests could have made sure all their followers were available, before Jesus followers even knew he had been arrested. Jesus was a politcal hot potato, he was popular in some quarters, so neither the Romans nor the Jewish leadership would have wanted to take responsibility for his death. The Jewish leadership could blame the Romans for the actual killing, and the Romans could claim they were only acting as had been requested by the Jewish leadership. It is why Jesus was arrested at night, far from the crowds. If Jesus had been arrested during the day, a riot might have erupted as the soldiers attempted to sieze Jesus, and a riot is the last thing the Jewish leadership or the Romans would have wanted. By the time people realized what had happened, Jesus had been arrested, tried, and convicted, and safely guarded by soldiers, so there was no point in throwing their lives away on a useless rescue attempt.

Note, when we say crowds, that is a relative term. A crowd could be 30 people at your house party, or 30,000 at football game, both would be a crowd. Jesus might have 5,000 perhaps 10,000 screaming followers as he entered Jersualem, which could seem like a lot, but there were probably 200,000 in Jerusalem for Passover. 10,000 thousand would be enough to concern Roman and Jewish officials, but not necessarily cause them to panic.
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
You're concerned about this scene but not about the tombs of all the saints opening and them walking about Jerusalem ? ..... Or all the other "miracles" ?

There is a fairly long thread here about whether a "historical" Jesus existed at all (no hard evidence so far supporting that).... I would think this would be the main questions rather than picking out indivitual pieces of the NT

As for this scene, note that in most works of fiction it is customary for the hero to interact with (an) important person(s) (in most current fiction that would be POTUS) who is/are suitably impressed by him to underline the importance of the hero... Apparently the authors of the time thought that Pilate was the guy of the time and place...

Mark makes no mention of the tombs of the saints, apparantly you don't know the difference between Mark and Matthew. Well, they both begin with "Ma".

That Pilate was a real person and governor of Judea is supported by a wealth of evidence, including inscriptions as well as pagan sources. Nor were the gospels writers alone in their view of Pilate executing Jesus, pagan authors such as Tacitus shared the same view.

To claim that there is no evidence for a historical Jesus is not true. There are the writings of pagan writers such as Tacitus, writing at a time when possible eyewitnesses to the event might just still be alive. The fact no ancient writer ever expressed doubts as to the real existence of Jesus, neither Roman, nor Greek, nor Jewish ones, must be counted as evidence. Proof, maybe not, but the evidence of Jesus existence is no worse than many people of ancient times, where all we have is just a mention in some writing, yet we accept their existence. So to claim there is no evidende is not true. To claim the evidence is not good, is a different statement, but not one you made. The population of ancient Rome was a million, yet we only have the names of a few thousand of those millions. That does not mean the population of Rome waa only a few thousand simply because that is all we have names for.

Second, that because there is exaggeration doesn't mean that the person wasn't real, or the bulk of the history isn't correct. Alexander claimed to be a son of a god, and Vespasian is said to have cured a blind man, but that does not mean Alexander or Vespasian did not exist.
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,812
Mark makes no mention of the tombs of the saints, apparantly you don't know the difference between Mark and Matthew. Well, they both begin with "Ma".

That Pilate was a real person and governor of Judea is supported by a wealth of evidence, including inscriptions as well as pagan sources. Nor were the gospels writers alone in their view of Pilate executing Jesus, pagan authors such as Tacitus shared the same view.

To claim that there is no evidence for a historical Jesus is not true. There are the writings of pagan writers such as Tacitus, writing at a time when possible eyewitnesses to the event might just still be alive. The fact no ancient writer ever expressed doubts as to the real existence of Jesus, neither Roman, nor Greek, nor Jewish ones, must be counted as evidence. Proof, maybe not, but the evidence of Jesus existence is no worse than many people of ancient times, where all we have is just a mention in some writing, yet we accept their existence. So to claim there is no evidende is not true. To claim the evidence is not good, is a different statement, but not one you made. The population of ancient Rome was a million, yet we only have the names of a few thousand of those millions. That does not mean the population of Rome waa only a few thousand simply because that is all we have names for.

Second, that because there is exaggeration doesn't mean that the person wasn't real, or the bulk of the history isn't correct. Alexander claimed to be a son of a god, and Vespasian is said to have cured a blind man, but that does not mean Alexander or Vespasian did not exist.
So are you now saying that some of the gospels are correct while others are not ? Are you saying that Mark should be fully discounted ? Is the meeting with Pilate nor recounted in Mark ? Or what is it that you are trying to say when you highlight that Mark and Matthew spin a somewhat different tale ?

Tacitus does not provide evidence about the existence of Jesus... the writings of Tacitus are merely supporting evidence for the existence of christians, which is not a matter of debate... Ancient writers had no need to "express doubt about the existence of Jesus". Modern writers not expressing doubts about for example the existence of batman is not evidence for the existence of batman... But all of this has already been discussed to death in the relevant thread..
 

Jax

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
6,347
Seattle
In her book: A Shift in Time, Lena Einhorn asks the very reasonable question "what insurrection was it that Barabas was part of?"

Let's face it. Mark is fiction. As are the other Gospel stories, and Acts.

Pure and simple.
 
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Jax

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
6,347
Seattle
I find the biggest issue that the Jewish council would not simply, on their own authority, stone Jesus to death. The Roman governance of Judea was a mix of liberalism and brutality, and for keeping the zealots in line, the elders were clearly allowed a great deal of power and autonomy. There should have been nothing stopping them from executing Jesus in the manner of their own people.


Perhaps there were political reasons for it? But given the glut of Messianic claimants at the time, I doubt they were seriously concerned about the threat he posed.
Exactly! +1000

Like Justin in the story of Acts.
 
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Nov 2016
1,034
Germany
You're concerned about this scene but not about the tombs of all the saints opening and them walking about Jerusalem ? ..... Or all the other "miracles" ?

There is a fairly long thread here about whether a "historical" Jesus existed at all (no hard evidence so far supporting that).... I would think this would be the main questions rather than picking out indivitual pieces of the NT.
Sounds funny, since for years now I belong to the small German circle of Jesus mythicists who are rigorously doubting the historical existence of Jesus... I wrote also in this forum on that issue, seemingly without your notice. Below I quote two respective posts of mine from 2017.

As to "picking out individual pieces": What´s wrong about that? I think it might considerably shake the belief in the historicity of Jesus if one of the most important Jesus scenes is led ad absurdum by a logical analysis.

+++

Quote from my post from March 16, 2017 (thread: "Did Jesus exist?"):

The biblical Jesus is indeed best refuted by pointing to the fact that the ´kingdom of God´ which the Jesus figure announced to come into force during the lifetime of his disciples resp. the contemporary "generation" (Mt 10:23 / Mk 13:30) has yet not come. A really divine ´son of God´ wouldn´t have failed on that matter. Of course such sayings are in no way authentic but inventions of early Christian folks in the tradition of Jewish apocalyptic thought.

The gospels have no historical value, that´s for sure. They are mere fictitious propaganda, designed to convey a religious idea to Roman, Greek and Jewish people by means of antique novel and biography techniques.

There are at least two hypotheses about the true origin of Christianity:

(1) An today unknown Jewish wannabe-Messiah was stoned or crucified at some time in the first century BCE or first century CE. His followers were so frustrated about the loss that they invented a mythology around their master including fantasized features such as resurrection, virgin birth and redemption of all mankind. Thus they attributed a cosmological meaning to the miserable death of their master. The famous ´sayings´ in the gospels were patchworked from traditional Jewish literature - none of them are original Christian thoughts. So the difference between the original figure (Jewish wannabe-Messiah) and the fantasized figure in the NT is much too big to justify the claim that the latter is a historical figure.

(2)´Jesus´ is the historicized hero of an antique mystery play where the fate of a dying and rising god (similar to Dionysos or Mithras) was enacted in a symbolizing manner. There are a lot of parallels between Dionysos and Jesus suggesting this hypothesis. However those parallels could also be the result of the mythologization in the way of above (1).

See also a text of one of the most important skeptics of the historicty of Jesus, German philosopher Arthur Drews:
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_W...icity_of_Jesus

+++

Quote from my post from Jan 31, 2017 (thread: "Who wrote the gospels and why?":

How historically reliable are the reports and quotes in the gospels? When were they written? Which parts are original and which are redactionally inserted?

As to the first question, the main issue is of course the historicity of Jesus, namely the question, if historical, how much Christ is in Jesus, and if non-historical, what was the original idea behind such a fiction? Some of the Mythicist movement say that Christ was originally a heavenly figure in Gnosticism which later became historicized by a sect, namely the Catholics, for the purpose of legitimizing papal authority, which was thought to be passed on through a line of apostolic successors of the earthly Christ. According to this theory, the gospels were not written in the 1st century or around 100 CE, but around 150 CE. Fact is that Irenaeus is the first historical person known to us to witness to them around 180 CE.

As to the quotes, many exegetes hold that only a few represent authentic sayings of Jesus, including those which are thought to belong to the hypothetical source ´Q´. Some say that only the ´I am´-sayings are authentic, others say that these very sayings are altogether non-authentic and formally (not regarding content) derived from the ´I am´-sayings of the Egyptian goddess Isis, the most popular mediterranean deity in those days.

Since Freud had approached religion and especially Judaism psychoanalytically and was followed on this road by Otto Rank, Theodor Reik, and Erich Fromm, the analysis of Christianity in the context of the history of polytheism, which had started in the late 19th century with the Protestant´History of Religions School´ in Germany, has by this gained an important new analytical dimension (Freud, Reik, and Fromm were atheistic Jews), especially by introducing the subject of Oedipus complex into the analytical study of monotheism.

What in an atheistic view can be called the narcissism of Jesus, concerns not only his ´human´ or ´emotional´ aspects but the whole construction of being the living incarnation or representation of the only god, his ´father´, whose ´son´ he pretends to be according to the gospels. However it can be doubted that Jesus, if historical, emphasized his divinity exactly the way as reported in the gospels. It is one thing to pretend to be the long-attended Jewish messiah and another to pretend not only to be the son of Yahweh but his earthly incarnation, in other words, to be the living center of the universe. It is another thing the more as Jesus, if historical, like his followers seems to have begged for alms during his complete ministry. It is most questionable that such an extremely self-centered attitude would have encountered sympathy and veneration to the extent as reported in the gospels. Most probably, he would have been dismissed as mad and far from being the son of Yahweh, if there would not have been his alleged but unbelievable displaying of miraculous capacity in line with similar miracle makers of his day. So, the career of Jesus seems to have been founded primarily on the success of his, naturally purely fictitious, miracle activities and only secondarily on his teachings, what in turn would render questionable the historicity of the whole career.

The excessively self-centered self-image of Jesus is, for the reasons mentioned above, probably not the attitude of a historical Jesus but the effect of posthumous Christology, influenced by several Hellenistic ideas, such as the Logos concept of the Jew Philo of Alexandria which most likely served as blueprint for the Logos idea in John´s gospel.
 
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tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,812
Sounds very funny, since for years now I belong to the small German circle of Jesus mythicists who are rigorously doubting the historical existence of Jesus... I wrote also in this forum on that issue, seemlingly without your notice...

As to "picking out individual pieces": What´s wrong about that? I think it might considerably shake the believe in the historicity of Jesus if the one of the most important Jesus scenes is led ad absurdum by a logical analysis. However, painstaking detail work seems not to be your cup of tea, right?
It will prove absolutely nothing on its own.... You will be told things like "its people recounting the encounter they might have gotten details wrong" or "perhaps something else happened that is not told in the gospels which explains why they acted in this way"....or "Tacitus confirms Pilate had one Chrestus executed" etc...

In fact you could actually prove that all of the gospels are fiction and that would still prove nothing regarding the existence of a "historical Jesus"

In fact I've seen here a line of reasoning that goes somewhat like this "Jesus was unimportant at the time , had a very small following and that is why he left no evidence behind.. no one was really interested in him"...
 
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