MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/29 March) – On Maundy Thursday, the National
Geographic Channel ran a documentary on the possibility that the accounts on the trial of Jesus The Christ, as contained in the Gospel itself, could have been revised to suit political exigencies. It may sound heretical, but the claim rests on what the characters likely did
given the role carved out for them by the circumstances of those times.
All the Gospel writers – or at least as the versions adopted by Christian churches would have us believe – implied that it was the Jews not Pontius Pilate, and by extension, not the Romans, who killed The Christ. The New Testament portrayed Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, as having wanted no part in the Messiah’s death by washing his hands in public after the Jews chose to have a zealot named Barabbas freed.
That supposed act of Pilate absolving himself effectively made the Jews the [only] guilty party. Caiaphas, the high priest of Jerusalem at the time, stood out as the principal villain. This, the NGC says, led to the emergence of anti-Semitism.
However, the documentary points out that such presentation of the most celebrated trial of all times is inconsistent with the situation of Judea and Pilate’s role as governor of a province that was home to one of the fiercest rebellions against Roman rule. His role was simple:
maintain order by suppressing all threats to imperial authority. And since it was a job that required ruthlessness, it is not hard to imagine that the governor relied on blood and terror to exact obedience to Rome.
Furthermore, since The Christ’s enemies presented him as a king, a royal pretender, logic tells us that Pilate would likely see him as a political threat, an assertion that negates the governor’s alleged declaration that he could not impute any crime against his prisoner.
NGC contends that given the widespread imposition of death by crucifixion by the Romans the trial of Jesus was just another day in office for Pilate, that is, it was unlikely that he gave the lowly Nazarene some form of special treatment.
NGC reckons that the revisions on the accounts of the trial were made to ingratiate the Christians with Rome, which had made Christianity the empire’s official religion. Presumably, the writers who altered the text and made Pilate look like an unwilling executioner did it for political ends. It would look awkward to not sanitize his image given
the religion’s new role in the Roman order. In other words, it was the later writers that washed Jesus’s blood off the hands of a murderous Pilate.
If this was indeed the case, it is possible that some other accounts in the Bible, the New Testament in particular, had been revised for reasons known only to those who did such revisions. But in the absence of any conclusive evidence we can only speculate. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at