‘Behold the man’ said Pontius Pilate

Questions for Bible study groups

  1. The first painting on this page – of Jesus before Pontius Pilate – is probably familiar. But the others are rarely seen. Why is the subject of Jesus before Pilate less popular with painters? 
  2. Does the images of Jesus in these paintings fit with your personal image of Jesus? Why? Why not?
  3. Compare several of the images of Christ, eg Caravaggio’s, Bosch’s, Mantegna’s. Which artist has captured the Trial most effectively?

In brief: 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 Homo’ (Behold the Man), Antonio Ciseri

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

‘Ecce Homo’ (Behold the Man), Quintin Massys

'Ecce Homo' (Behold the Man), Mantegna

‘Ecce Homo’ (Behold the Man), Mantegna

'Ecce Homo' (Behold the Man), Caravaggio

‘Ecce Homo’ (Behold the Man), Caravaggio

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

‘Ecce Homo’ (Behold the Man), Hieronomys Bosch

Christ Before Pilate, Mihaly Munkacsy

Christ Before Pilate, Mihaly Munkacsy

Matthias Stomer

Matthias Stomer

Mathias_Stomer_Pilate_washes_his_hands_after_the_condemnation_of_Christ_1650
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’?

Find Out More

Jesus Christ
Modern images of Jesus and Mary
Birth of Jesus