We read in Jn 19:12-13 (NRSVCE):

From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.” When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha.

William Barclay has this to say:

The scene comes to an end by saying that Pilate brought Jesus out; as we have translated it, and as the King James Version and Revised Standard translate it, Pilate came out to the place that was called the Pavement of Gabbatha--which may mean the tessellated pavement of marble mosaic--and sat upon the judgment seat. This was the bema ( G968) , on which the magistrate sat to give his official decisions. Now the verb for to sit is kathizein ( G2523) , and that may be either intransitive or transitive; it may mean either to sit down oneself, or to seat another. Just possibly it means here that Pilate with one last mocking gesture brought Jesus out, clad in the terrible finery of the old purple robe and with his forehead girt with the crown of thorns and the drops of blood the thorns had wakened, and set him in the judgment seat, and with a wave of his hand said: "Am I to crucify your king?" The apocryphal Gospel of Peter says that in the mockery, they set Jesus on the seat of judgment and said: "Judge justly, King of Israel." Justin Martyr too says that "they set Jesus on the judgment seat, and said, 'Give judgment for us'." It may be that Pilate jestingly caricatured Jesus as judge. If that is so, what dramatic irony is there. That which was a mockery was the truth; and one day those who had mocked Jesus as judge would meet him as judge--and would remember (Source)

The footnote on Verse 13 (NRSVCE) also attests to the possibility of two different translations:"sat" and "seated him".

Incidentally, John does not mention whether any OT prophecy was fulfilled by Jesus having been made to sit on the Seat of Judgement. Nevertheless, it did prove itself as a prophecy.

My question therefore is: Was Jn 19:12-13 intended to be a prophecy on the Day of Judgement? Inputs from any denomination are welcome.

  • Marvelous! I never heard of this possible interpretation of Pilate's words before. Curious to see what others say. Apr 26, 2023 at 17:19
  • 2
    Quoting Willian Barclay in regard to 'prophecy' is highly controversial. [William Barclay] denied the infallibility of the Scripture, the virgin birth, deity, and substitutionary atonement of Christ, the eternality of Hell. He interpreted the miracles of Christ in a naturalistic fashion, claiming, for example, that Jesus did not actually walk on the water but that he was probably walking in shallow water near the beach and it only appeared to the disciples that he was walking on the water. Beware of William Barclay.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 26, 2023 at 20:01

1 Answer 1


Was John 19:12-13 intended to be a prophecy on the Day of Judgment? If so, then it would portend Jesus Christ to be a humiliated, mocked figure on that awful Day; a pretender to the role of supreme judge who is to have authority regarding life and death.

For that reason alone, the text cannot be prophetic of the Day of Judgment. Yet there is more reason to show that point to be correct. The need here is to go to the Greek text of scripture. Never mind what philosophers (either ancient or modern) say about words. What does God's word actually say?

Although I have a couple of William Barclay's books, his "New Testament Words" does not list bema or kathizien. However, all the Greek words he does list have copious quotations from modern critical scholars, and from Homer, Epicurus, Herodotus, Sophocles, Euripides, Xenophon, Aristotle etc. Classical Greek and the Classics form a considerable part of this book, so much so, that if all that were to be removed, the book would be reduced from 288 pages to about half that. The reason why this is troubling, is that Classical Greek should not be mixed up with koine Greek. The Holy Spirit inspired the writing of the Greek Scriptures, using koine Greek, so that the in-depth meaning of the Bible must come from that, and not language or philosophers of different centuries.

So, what does the koine Greek actually say? Here is the pertinent reading from a very old, respected text, that of the Greek text of Stephens, 1550:

"Pilate therefore having heard this word led out Jesus and sat down upon the judgment-seat at a place called Pavement but in Hebrew Gabattha." The Englishmans Greek New Testament by Robert Estienne, page 303

I have two other Greek interlinears which support that. Indeed, one is the literal word-for-word translation of the Greek text by Westcott and Hort (approved of by William Barclay) and it is even clearer:

"The therefore Pilate having heard of the words these led outside the Jesus, and he sat down upon step into place being said Stone pavement, in Hebrew but Gabattha." John 19:13

This clearly shows that Pilate sat down on that judgment seat. Barclay could only arrive at his view by calling upon an apocryphal writing, and (as is his want) citing Classical language and philosophers. By sticking to what the Bible actually says, and comparing John 19 with Revelation 20:11, it's obvious there is no comparison with the disgraceful, sinful human attempt at judging the Son of God. If you want to find a prophetic parallel, it is in the second Psalm.

  • Up-voted +1. Excellent points regarding manuscript evidence 'judgment seat' ; the fallacy of following Classical and Philosophical sources rather than Koine scripture ; and the proper concepts documented in Psalm 2.
    – Nigel J
    May 1, 2023 at 3:58

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