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 pled guilty or not.

  • 1
    Sedition would be the charge that got the Romans to kill Jesus
    – Kris
    Apr 2, 2018 at 17:17
  • Ironic, since Jesus taught His followers to obey rulers and give taxes. Apr 3, 2018 at 16:00

6 Answers 6


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?").


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.


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.

  • 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? Mar 4, 2013 at 18:53
  • 2
    Son of Man has the implication of God. Mar 4, 2013 at 21:38
  • many denominations would disagree with you on that. "Son of Man"!="God" Mar 5, 2013 at 4:32
  • 1
    @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, 2013 at 21:57

The charge all along was blasphemy for claiming to be equal with God (although wrongful of them, for He is, and not merely falsely claiming to be, God's eternal Word, His Son), for to them it is clear (as it is in Christianity) that Son of God doesn't denote mere friendship with God of Jesus the Son of God, but rather the sharing of the same nature, Father and Son.

This is clear from the Gospel accounts:

John 10:33 (ESV) The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.

John 5:18 (ESV) This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

A further proof that they understood Son of God in the divine sense, not an adoptionist or other weaker sense, is in John 10:29-36 (ESV), the context of the first passage quoted above:

My Father, who has given them [my sheep] to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

This makes more sense, then, when we read:

John 19:7 (ESV) 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.

As for the trial, they came up with all sorts of distortions of what He did and said, including misrepresenting what He said about His body, which He called a Temple, being destroyed and His rebuilding it, deliberately adding words He never spoke to make it seem like He was speaking of the Jerusalemn Temple and so forth. As the Gospels say, 'their testimony was conflicting' and no one agreed with the other.


The whole Jewish group was upset with Lord Jesus because He claimed divinity, which is ego eimi, I AM THAT I AM, equal to Godship, This was the big blasphemy, that was brought against Him, a good answer to Islam, which denies His deity.

  • Welcome! We're glad you are here, but this answer would be much stronger if you showed, with sources (at least Bible references), that it doesn't merely reflect your opinion. I hope you'll take a minute to review how this site is different from others, and better understand how your answer can be supported. Nov 11, 2016 at 20:54
  • Welcome to Christianity.SE, and thanks for offering an answer here. However, the question specifically asks only for charges leveled against Jesus in the Roman court. So charges leveled against him in the Jewish council are not what the question is asking for. Nov 11, 2016 at 20:57

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?

  • Here's a source for your second paragraph.
    – Ryan Frame
    Jun 23, 2013 at 11:08
  • 1
    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, 2013 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, 2013 at 16:04

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