Roman Influence on the Birth of Christianity

Judgment in Jewish Court

  • Excerpts from Mark 14:53-65 (similar accounts in Matthew 26:57-68, Luke 22:54-65, and John 18:19-24):

  • 53And they led Jesus to the high priest; and all of the chief priests and the elders and the scribes were assembled. 55Now the chief priests and the whole council sought testimony against Jesus to put him to death. 63And the high priest tore his mantle, and said, “Why do we still need witnesses? 64You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. 65And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.

  • The above would have been based on Jewish testimony.

  • The only documented conflict to Roman support of the Jesus movement are written accounts that Jesus was struck with a reed while in Roman custody:[1] Matthew 27:27-31 states:

  • Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the praetorium, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe upon him, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on his head, and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spat upon him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe, and put his own clothes on him, and led him away to crucify him.

  • Six very important points regarding the above excerpt:

    • Being that the event took place in the Roman praetorium, it would have been based strictly on Roman witness, the very ones who would have been involved in promoting deception. Jews very rarely entered Roman buildings (considered defiled). John 18:28 even records that the Jews did not enter the praetorium on that day.

    • The spitting and mocking have remarkable similarity to the description in the Jewish court.

    • In Luke this event did not involve Roman soldiers, just Jewish soldiers in Herod’s court. And in Luke the Jewish soldiers did not strike Jesus.

    • The accounts in the Jewish court are in all four Gospels. They are more angry and violent than the excerpt in the Roman praetorium. Being struck in the head with a reed is hardly the beating commonly portrayed in Christian folklore.

    • The Christian folklore version of a violent beating by Roman soldiers conflicts significantly with Pilate’s public defense of Jesus in front of the Jewish mob.

    • And why would the Romans beat Jesus in one set of clothes and then go to the trouble of re-dressing him in his original clothes prior to leaving the praetorium?

  • The traditional word-of-mouth version of the “crown of thorns” in Christian folklore imagines long, menacing thorns tearing into Jesus’ scalp causing great pain with blood streaming down his face.

    • These are strictly word-of-mouth images since written documentation say nothing about thorns piercing his skin, the blood they may have caused, or the pain they may have inflicted.

    • The Gospels refer to Roman soldiers “plaiting a crown of thorns.” The word plait means to braid, as in hair or straw, which suggests a softer weave of some flexible stalk.

    • If not word-of-mouth, where else did these dramatic additions to a documented incident come from?

[1] Matthew 27:27-30, Mark 15:16-19, John 19:1-3


Historical Discussion
In Depth

Historical Context

Dating the Gospels

I Was a Sunday-School Spy

The Crucifixion (animation)

Post Appearance of Jesus

Who Did Jesus Curse-Praise

Taxes to Rome

Submissiveness to Oppression

John the Baptist

Admirable and Amazing Works

The Term Gospel


Pilate's Defense (animation)

Roman Soldiers at the Tomb

Migration of Christianity to Rome

Irony of Faith

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