The Life of Jesus Christ, paintings, Jesus and Pontius Pilate

 'Behold the man' said Pontius Pilate 

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Photograph by Michael Belk

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Christ in the house of Martha and Mary, by Velázquez

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The wife of Pontius Pilate

The Wife of Pilate
A Roman woman's story

Jesus and Pilate
Jesus condemned

Map showing the probably route taken by Jesus on the way to his death

The route to Golgotha

The courtyards of the great Temple of Jerusalem, architectural model

Buildings from the Passion story

Judas gives Jesus the kiss of betrayal

Herod, Pilate, Judas

 


 


 


 

 

Jesus, charged with sedition and insurrection, appeared before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. Pilate questioned Jesus, had him flogged, then presented him to a crowd assembled at the praetorium: 'Look at this man!' said Pilate. 'I find no fault in him.' But he killed Jesus anyway.


'Ecce Homo' (Behold the Man), Antonio Ciseri

Ecce Home (Behold the Man), Antonio Ciseri


'Ecce Homo' (Behold the Man), Quintin Massys

Ecce Home (Behold the Man), Quintin Massys


'Ecce Homo' (Behold the Man), Mantegna

Ecce Home (Behold the Man), Mantegna

 


'Ecce Homo' (Behold the Man), Caravaggio

'Ecce Home' (Behold the Man), Caravaggio


'Ecce Homo' (Behold the Man), Hieronomys Bosch

Ecce Home (Behold the Man), Hieronomys Bosch


Christ Before Pilate, Mihaly Munkacsy

Christ Before Pilate, Mihaly Munkacsy


Matthias Stomer

Matthias Stomer, Jesus before Pilate (?)

The first of these two paintings by Matthias Stomer is labelled 'Christ before Pilate'; the second, 'Pilate washes his hands after condemning Jesus'. But the figure  called Pilate is clearly a Jewish elder (Caiaphas?), not a Roman. Romans were always clean-shaven, not bearded: the word 'barbarian'  comes from the Latin for 'beard'. 
Is it the painter's mistake, or the art specialists'?


 

Christ Before Pilate, Duccio Buoninsegna

Christ Before Pilate, Duccio Buoninsegna


'What is truth?', Nicholas Gai

'What is truth?', Nicolas Gai


Christ Before Pilate, Master Lcz, 1500

Christ Before Pilate, Master Lcz, 1500


'Ecce Homo' (Behold the Man), Lovis Corinth, 1925

Ecce Homo (Behold the Man), Lovis Corinth, 1925


'Ecce Homo' (Behold the Man), James Tissot, 1886

Ecce Homo (Behold the Man), James Tissot, 1886


'Ecce Homo' (Behold the Man), Hieronymus Bosch, 1490

Ecce Homo (Behold the Man), Hieronymus Bosch, 1490


Christ Before Pilate, Hans Multscher

Christ Before Pilate, Hans Multscher


Christ Before Pilate, Tintoretto, 1567

Christ Before Pilate, Tintoretto, 1567


 

 

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  Hidden meanings   in the Trial paintings
  • 'Ecce Homo' (Behold the Man!) are the words of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judaea, to the crowd gathered outside the judgement hall after Christ had been scourged and mocked by the soldiers. 

  • Christ is shown wearing the emblems of kingship with which the mocking soldiers earlier invested him: the crown of thorns and a purple or red cloak; he may also hold a reed sceptre. His wrists are usually tied with a cord or chain and he may have a rope knotted round his neck. His body sometimes shows the marks of scourging. He sometimes weeps. 

  • In narrative versions Christ is attended by two guards. Pilate, standing nearby, gestures towards him, illustrating his words. The crowd of people below the balcony brandish their fists as they call for Jesus' crucifixion.

  • Pilate's wife sent her husband a message, 'Have nothing to do with that innocent man. . .' 

  • It was the custom at the Passover for the governor to release a prisoner chosen by the people, so Pilate asked them if he should free Barabbas or Christ. The mob, now threatening violence, shouted for Barabbas, and for Christ to be crucified.

  • Pilate, fearing a riot, gave way, but thereupon washed his hands in public to signify his refusal to be morally implicated in the decision. 

  • The scene is an open courtyard or judgement hall, outside the governor's house. (According to John the Jews stayed outside to avoid defilement since the Passover was not yet eaten.)

  •  Pilate sits in the seat of judgement. In some early examples he wears a crown of bay leaves, an emblem of Roman authority. The motto, 'Senatus populusque Romanus' (the Senate and the Roman people), or 'S.P.Q.R.', may be shown on the standard of a soldier guarding Christ. 


The Bible text - Jesus before Pilate: 'Ecce Homo'

Matthew 27:11-26

11 Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus said, "You have said so." 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, "Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?" 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge; so that the governor wondered greatly. 15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner, called Barab'bas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release for you, Barab'bas or Jesus who is called Christ?" 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, "Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much over him today in a dream." 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the people to ask for Barab'bas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release for you?" And they said, "Barab'bas." 22 Pilate said to them, "Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" They all said, "Let him be crucified." 23 And he said, "Why, what evil has he done?" But they shouted all the more, "Let him be crucified." 24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves." 25 And all the people answered, "His blood be on us and on our children!" 26 Then he released for them Barab'bas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

Mark 15:2-15

2 And Pilate asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" And he answered him, "You have said so." 3 And the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 And Pilate again asked him, "Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you." 5 But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate wondered. 6 Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. 7 And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barab'bas. 8 And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he was wont to do for them. 9 And he answered them, "Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?" 10 For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barab'bas instead. 12 And Pilate again said to them, "Then what shall I do with the man whom you call the King of the Jews?" 13 And they cried out again, "Crucify him." 14 And Pilate said to them, "Why, what evil has he done?" But they shouted all the more, "Crucify him." 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barab'bas; and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

Luke 23:13-25

13 Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, "You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him; 15 neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Behold, nothing deserving death has been done by him; 16 I will therefore chastise him and release him." 18 But they all cried out together, "Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas"-- 19 a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city, and for murder. 20 Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus; 21 but they shouted out, "Crucify, crucify him!" 22 A third time he said to them, "Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no crime deserving death; I will therefore chastise him and release him." 23 But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. 24 So Pilate gave sentence that their demand should be granted. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, whom they asked for; but Jesus he delivered up to their will.

John 18:28-40 

28 Then they led Jesus from the house of Ca'iaphas to the praetorium. It was early. They themselves did not enter the praetorium, so that they might not be defiled, but might eat the passover. 29 So Pilate went out to them and said, "What accusation do you bring against this man?" 30 They answered him, "If this man were not an evildoer, we would not have handed him over." 31 Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law." The Jews said to him, "It is not lawful for us to put any man to death." 32 This was to fulfil the word which Jesus had spoken to show by what death he was to die. 33 Pilate entered the praetorium again and called Jesus, and said to him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" 34 Jesus answered, "Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?" 35 Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me; what have you done?" 36 Jesus answered, "My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world." 37 Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice." 38 Pilate said to him, "What is truth?" After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again, and told them, "I find no crime in him. 39 But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover; will you have me release for you the King of the Jews?" 40 They cried out again, "Not this man, but Barab'bas!" Now Barab'bas was a robber.

John 19:4-6

4 Pilate went out again, and said to them, "See, I am bringing him out to you, that you may know that I find no crime in him." 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, "Behold the man!" 6 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no crime in him."

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Bible Art: Paintings and Artworks from the New Testament:  Jesus before Pontius Pilate, Ecce Homo: Behold the man

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