Matthew 27:11-12 (Mark has a very similar account in Mark 15:1-11)

11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. 12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

John 18:33-37

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” 34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” 35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” 36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” 37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

How do we reconcile these texts with one another, then, seeing that Matthew essentially states that Jesus was silent while John reports Jesus holding a conversation with Pilate?

2 Answers 2


John's account of Pilate's questioning of Jesus is more detailed: in Matthew it's given only four verses, 27:11-14, but in John it's given nine verses, 18:33-38, 19:9-11.

In both gospels Jesus responds to Pilate's question of whether Jesus is the king of the Jews: Matthew 27:11 and John 18:34-37.

And in both gospels Jesus is later silent when Pilate questions him at the insistence of the Jewish leaders: Matthew 27:12 and John 19:7-9.

John 18:28 explains that Pilate's questioning took place without the Jewish leaders being present, because they refused to enter the governor's headquarters so that they wouldn't be defiled. Matthew collapses the whole of John 18:28-19:11 into four verses which of course means it is less detailed. But in both gospels Jesus' two kinds of responses, accepting the title of king of the Jews and not deeming the Jewish leader's accusations worthy of a reply, are presented.


There is a high level of consensus among New Testament scholars that Matthew's Gospel was substantially based on Mark's Gospel, with many also agreeing that John's Gospel was indirectly based on Mark. Adam Winn says on page 1 of The Purpose of Mark's Gospel that at least eight significant critical commentaries on Mark’s Gospel were published in the preceding eight years (2000-2007), and all eight assume Markan priority as a starting point. So any reconciliation of texts should start from understanding their divergence, if any, from Mark.

Part of the discrepancy between John chapter 18 and Matthew is that in John 18:28 the priests intended the celebrate the Passover feast that evening, yet Matthew 26:17-20, following Mark 14:14-17, says that the Passover feast had been celebrated the previous evening. Here and elsewhere, Matthew's Gospel follows quite consistently, whereas John's Gospel develops new themes while following Mark much less closely. While the synoptic gospels place little emphasis on the divinity of Jesus, this is a major theme of John's Gospel. So John 18:36 has Jesus say, “My kingdom is not of this world," thus telling its readers that Jesus is indeed king of the heavenly world to come.

Matthew states that Jesus was silent, because Matthew's source (Mark) had said this. John reports Jesus holding a conversation with Pilate in order to enlighten the book's readers, with Jesus finally answering Pontius Pilate:

John 18:37: Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

Faced with this marvellous testimony, Pilate went out again to the Jews and said he could find in Jesus no fault at all.

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