There is a trend among Christians to put the guilt of killing Jesus on Jews rather than on Romans.

Some Christians go as far as to proclaiming Pilate a saint (as did either Ethiopian or Coptic church if I am not mistaken).

I wonder is there biblical basis for such whitewashing of Pilate?

For example, some people on this site claimed in other answers that if Pilate did not execute Jesus, there would be a popular riot or Pilate could be fired from his position.

Is there biblical evidence that this indeed would happen and Pilate acted with no choice?

  • 3
    Acts 4:10, addressed to Israel, says that they Crucified Christ, so this much is biblical. It's not a matter of "blame." Secondly, you have faulty logic. The fact that the Jews were culpable doesn't mean that the Romans weren't. Thirdly, I'm not aware of any mainstream sect (liberal or conservative) who blame Jews other than to state a fact, that by their actions he was delivered to the Romans. Fourthly, if such a sect does exist, this is pretty meaningless (bad apples in a whole bunch). Fifth and most important, this line of questioning misses the entire point of the crucifixion. Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 19:37
  • I have never heard the Jews blamed for Christ's Crucifixion. It was by His design anyway. Jesus was Jewish and so were all of the apostles. So, it's certainly unbiblical to blame the Jews for anything.
    – Narnian
    Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 19:40
  • "When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, 'I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.' And all the people said, 'His blood shall be on us and on our children!'" -Matt. 27:24-25
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 20:19
  • Also, in Acts 3 Peter says, "Men of Israel . . . you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses."
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 23:45

2 Answers 2


In short, no. Pilate had a choice.

In Jesus' conversation with him, He says this:

Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” John 19:11 ESV

The Jewish religious leaders--not all Jews--were guilty of a greater sin than Pilate, even though Pilate was guilty of sin for perverting justice. Indeed, God sets up rulers "to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right". So, Pilate failed in that.

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 1 Peter 2:13-14 ESV

Furthermore, Pilate himself made the following statement:

“Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” John 19:10 ESV

Pilate certainly may have wanted to appease the crowd, but with all the might of Rome at his disposal, he certainly was not subject to the Jewish religious leaders in any way.

In reality, Pilate had already had Jesus flogged at this point. He could very well have said that Jesus had already been punished and than they needed to shut up and go home. He was the ruler--they were his subjects.

So, Pilate most certainly had a choice. The Jewish religious leaders did all they could to influence Pilate in his decision.

Edit: Even if some of the Jewish leaders and the Jewish people of that day could be held accountable, they are all dead now. People of Jewish descent today can not be held accountable for anything any of the ancestors did hundreds and thousands of years ago.

Finally, all of this was in God's plan, so it is unbiblical, immoral, and ungodly to hold the Jews in any way responsible or guilty for the death of Christ. I'm the guilty one, and Christ died for my sin. I am the one to blame.

  • 2
    I agree for the most part. Holding someone responsible or guity... You're right, neither you nor I have that right. God however does. And again, it wasn't "all Jews," as you rightly pointed out. It was the Jewish religious leadership, and even then, not all of them (e.g., Nikodemos and Joseph of Arimathea had no part in it). But, Paul did certainly indicate that the Jewish religious leadership (again, not all) were responsible for Christ's death (cp. 1 Thes. 2:14-15). God did hold them responsible; the destruction of Jerusalem was one consequence of their actions. Pilate also guilty to God.
    – user900
    Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 20:06
  • @H3br3wHamm3r81 the bible says that the Jews said 'His blood shall be on us and on our children!'. Does not it mean that all the Jews and their descendants are guilty, not only the leadership?
    – Anixx
    Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 1:25
  • 1
    That would mean that Jesus would also curse the apostles and their descendants (since they were Jews). As well as Lazarus, Martha, Mary, Joseph of Arimathea, Nikodemos, etc. Not likely at all.
    – user900
    Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 1:34
  • @H3br3wHamm3r81 I think Christian doctrine tells that all sins are pardoned to the converts to Christianity by the sacrifice of Jesus. So even if they shared the collective Jewish guilt, it was pardoned upon conversion. This is not the case of the non-Christian Jews who share the guilt. Am I right?
    – Anixx
    Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 1:38
  • @Anixx: I don't think I can reject that assertion. But, what constitutes "collective Jewish guilt"? Meaning, at what point is a sin no longer individual but becomes collective?
    – user900
    Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 1:45

Of course Pilate is not portrayed as a Christian, or even a good man, let alone a saint. However, nearly all bible commentators agree that Pilate was trying to avoid crucifying Christ. Undoubtedly it was political pressure from the Jewish leaders that forced his hand against his own will.

First Pilate really did not care about the silly religious infighting of a strange people. He just wanted to govern and avoid major conflicts like any governor does. He first tried to avoid crucifixion by the penalty of scourging:

Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. (John 19:1, ESV)

Then Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” Which shows his intention, that they would recognize this is silly to kill an innocent man over what he saw as just dumb religion. For Pilate, if anything, seemed more like an atheist in his words, ‘What is truth?’

He could not avoid the blood-thirst of the crowd, so in exasperation said:

“Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” (John 19:6, ESV)

Then The Jews threatened him with political pressure:

The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. (John 19:7-8, ESV)

Pilate's main ambition was to release Jesus but the fear of seeming disloyal to Caesar made him go against his own conscience:

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.” (John 19:12, ESV)

To counter his fear of Caesar, he had an opposing fear and reluctance to kill an innocent man, for we find in Luke his wife had a dream (omen) and warned Pilate not to do it:

Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” (Mathew 27:19, ESV)

Under all these pressures from his own conscience and his wife, although not a believer in Christ, but simply from the human aspect of not wanting to kill and innocent man and fearing what bad luck might follow the 'omen', Pilate feared Caesar more. While making a last ditch effort to free Jesus by offering him up as an alternate to Barabbas, he eventually gives up. The crowd, under the influence of the ‘chief priests and the elders’ was so blood thirsty for Christ that they would rather choose a known criminal and murderer.

So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” (Mathew 27:24, ESV)

Conclusion: Of course Pilate had a choice, but on the other hand it is true that if he chose to ignore the blood-thirsty crowd and released Christ, as his own desire clearly indicated, it could have meant his own trouble with Caesar. Yes even loss of his position as governor, and during those days this could even possibly lead to his own death for failure to manage the people.

  • Pilate did not find Jesus guilty in declaring himself god. Does it mean he did not make a proper investigation as Jesus indeed claimed to be god?
    – Anixx
    Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 12:12
  • You say that Pilate did not want to kill an innocent man, but before Jesus he killed about 12 people who claimed to be prophets (who did no crime against Rome). Was Jesus a special case in that Pilate felt special sympathy to him compared to other "prophets" whom he executed?
    – Anixx
    Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 12:15
  • We can only speculate what is not recorded in scripture but I take Pilate as a very discerning character without any religion. Did Jesus say he was God, who cares? Pilate did not believe in religion. Did Pilate execute others who seemed innocent, probably but he could probably smell crimes in the supposeed innocent, but could sniff out the real innocence of Christ as well. We don't really know the deep thought's of Pilate, we can only imagine.
    – Mike
    Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 13:02
  • I think the blasphemy laws were introduced mainly to prevent religious schism, social strife and other dangerous bloody consequences. Since the activity of Jesus in fact brought schism, strife and huge bloodshed, exactly what the law was to prevent, it is difficult to call him innocent. Yet the law evidently was not efficient enough in preventing the consequences even having him executed.
    – Anixx
    Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 14:03
  • Probably poetic license, but in the Passion of the Christ the character implies that there will be harsh punishments for him if there is another civil issue in his Provence. Like any leader of an occupying army, he was surely doing his best to keep the peace and the depiction in the Bible appears that the Jews may have rioted if they were not allowed to execute Jesus. In their minds he was guilty of the greatest sin.
    – user3961
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 11:58

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