Why Mark Created a Gospel Role for Pilate

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by Neil Godfrey

Wenceslas Hollar - Jesus before Pilate 2
Jesus before Pilate: Image via Wikipedia

The earliest Christian records make no mention of Pilate. It is only with the composition of the Gospel of Mark that he first appears. And when he does appear, he is certainly not the bloodily efficient “historical Pilate” but almost a hapless figure who has no argument with Jesus at all. Thinking through the narrative of Mark’s Gospel while walking home from work this afternoon it suddenly occurred to me that Pilate’s appearance fits a tidy theological-literary pattern that is introduced and sustained throughout the first part of the Gospel. Mark wouldn’t be Mark if he didn’t have a balancing book-end arrangement so that this pattern is repeated at the end to complete the full impact of his theological message.

Pilate missing from the earliest record

The New Testament epistles (excepting the Pastorals) are earlier than the Gospels according to widespread scholarly agreement. There are only two passages in these epistles that identifies those responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion:

  1. 1 Corinthians 2:8 — “None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
  2. 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15 — “. . . the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus . . .” Continue reading “Why Mark Created a Gospel Role for Pilate”