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I read that Jesus was charged with the allegation that he claimed to be the "King of Jews". What is the evidence of this and other charges, if any, on Jesus? I am only interested in the charges leveled against him in the (Roman) court, and if he plead guilty or not?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

There wasn't really one, there were just a few supposed reasons. The certain Jews who wanted to see him executed claimed it was for blasphemy in making himself out to be God, or alternatively for supposing him to have violated the Sabbath.

Yet the rulers of the Jews only had derivative powers granted by the Romans and didn't have the authority to actually execute criminals, so they needed to pass this task along to the Romans, so they delivered him to Pilate under the accusation that as someone who has made himself out to be king, he is not loyal to Caesar.

Upon actually trying the case, Pilate admits that he found no fault in him, however ultimately Jesus' conviction was a matter of political expediency. The Jews were pressuring him and he was more interested in keeping the peace.

It's comparable to police shutting down a peaceful protest on the charge that they lack a noise permit but really because it upsets a favored politician.

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For the civil trial, Luke's account gives the most detail about the charges, Luke 23:2 (NIV):

And they began to accuse him, saying "We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king."

and Luke 23:5 (NIV):

But they insisted, "He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here."

The "subverting our nation" charge may be a religious charge, in which Pilate is, of course, not concerned except with how it interferes with ruling the region. The statement in Luke 23:5 seems to be the religious leaders pointing out that this is causing trouble about which the Romans should be concerned. Anyone that could draw crowds of thousands of people in relatively remote places would naturally be a concern for established authorities, especially given the Jewish history of rebellion (e.g., see Esther 3:8--even after the Babylonian scattering, they were recognized as being non-conformists--and Ezra 4:12-16, speaking of Jerusalem as historically a rebellious city).

The payment of taxes charge is clearly a false charge. Jesus' famous "render unto Caesar" statement (Matt. 22:21, Mark 12:17, Luke 20:25) makes that clear.

On the charge of being King of the Jews, Jesus states that this charge is effectively true (Matt. 27:11, Mark 15:2, Luke 23:3, John 18:37), but his statement recorded in John 18:36 points out that he is not a threat to Roman rule in the traditional political/military sense:

Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." (John 18:36, NIV)

As Affable Geek points out, Pilate knew that Jesus was not guilty but chose political expediency over truth (after all, "What is truth?").

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The charge against Jesus was that of blasphemy- according to the Pharisees, Jesus himself was claiming to be God.

Matthew 26 records the "trial" in the Jewish Court

57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58 But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.

59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.

Finally two came forward 61 and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”

62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent.

The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”[e]

65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?

“He is worthy of death,” they answered.

Whether or not the charges are "true," of course, hinges on whether or not Jesus was God. His prophecy of destroying "this temple" (referring to his body, not necessarily the building) was destroyed, and resurrected after three days. If, in fact, he was God, then it isn't technically blasphemy - but it still seems as though Jesus' trial was supposed to be a setup from the beginning.

Matthew 27 picks up the Roman charge, but he is never convicted of that. As Matthew records it:

“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

Here we have Pilate giving into the mob - nothing legal about it.

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Jesus said Son of Man he never claimed himself God as you mentioned in the very first sentence. Pharisees indeed wanted jesus to get crucified as Jesus had ruined their business and it was their judgement. Still its not clear what were those charges? And certainly Jesus remained silent, he did not plead guilty in front of the court, anyways who are they to Judge him? – JesusBoughtIslam Mar 4 '13 at 18:53
Son of Man has the implication of God. – Affable Geek Mar 4 '13 at 21:38
many denominations would disagree with you on that. "Son of Man"!="God" – JesusBoughtIslam Mar 5 '13 at 4:32
@Ali, Luke 4:8, And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” And yet, Jesus allowed people to worship him. – dcreight Mar 5 '13 at 21:57

He was charged with treason and confessed to it. Read the book "The death and trial of Jesus." by Haim Cohn: Attorney General for Israel, appointed to the Supreme Court of Israel and a member of the International Court of Justice in the Hague. He was very familiar with law in Jerusalem in the 1st. cent.

By the way, in case you didn't know: the character Barabbas was named "Jesus Bar Abbas" in the NT of the 3rd cent. which means "Jesus, son of the Father." Origen the Church theologian in AD 250 in Alexandria, recommended that the NT be edited to remove the name Jesus, as he felt it was sacrilegious to have two people with the name and title Jesus Son of the Father.

So what do you think now, about the crowd calling for the release of "jesus, son of the Father?" The writer was trying to tell us something wasn't he?

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Here's a source for your second paragraph. – Ryan Frame Jun 23 '13 at 11:08
Thank you for the link: I think your reference author has confused us by citing an understanding of Jesus from the 4th. cent Bishops, that none in Jesus's time understood. I was reading from Origen's commentaries of the 3rd. cent. – Waeshael Jun 23 '13 at 15:12
Yeah, I'm not sure of the legitimacy of the source I cited; I just found something to back up your statements and couldn't find anything directly from Origen. – Ryan Frame Jun 23 '13 at 16:04

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