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John 19:12

Context

19:12 From this point on, Pilate tried 1  to release him. But the Jewish leaders 2  shouted out, 3  “If you release this man, 4  you are no friend of Caesar! 5  Everyone who claims to be a king 6  opposes Caesar!”

1 tn Grk “sought.”

2 tn Or “the Jewish authorities”; Grk “the Jews.” Here the phrase refers to the Jewish leaders, especially members of the Sanhedrin, and their servants (mentioned specifically as “the chief priests and their servants” in John 19:6). See the note on the phrase “Jewish leaders” in v. 7.

3 tn Grk “shouted out, saying.”

4 tn Grk “this one.”

5 sn Is the author using the phrase Friend of Caesar in a technical sense, as a title bestowed on people for loyal service to the Emperor, or in a more general sense merely describing a person as loyal to the Emperor? L. Morris (John [NICNT], 798) thinks it is “unlikely” that the title is used in the technical sense, and J. H. Bernard (St. John [ICC], 2:621) argues that the technical sense of the phrase as an official title was not used before the time of Vespasian (a.d. 69-79). But there appears to be significant evidence for much earlier usage. Some of this is given in BDAG 498-99 s.v. Καῖσαρ. E. Bammel (“φίλος τοῦ καίσαρος (John 19:12),” TLZ 77 [1952]: 205-10) listed significant and convincing arguments that the official title was indeed in use at the time. Granting that the title was in use during this period, what is the likelihood that it had been bestowed on Pilate? Pilate was of the equestrian order, that is, of lower nobility as opposed to senatorial rank. As such he would have been eligible to receive such an honor. It also appears that the powerful Sejanus was his patron in Rome, and Sejanus held considerable influence with Tiberius. Tacitus (Annals 6.8) quotes Marcus Terentius in his defense before the Senate as saying that close friendship with Sejanus “was in every case a powerful recommendation to the Emperor’s friendship.” Thus it is possible that Pilate held this honor. Therefore it appears that the Jewish authorities were putting a good deal of psychological pressure on Pilate to convict Jesus. They had, in effect, finally specified the charge against Jesus as treason: “Everyone who makes himself to be king opposes Caesar.” If Pilate now failed to convict Jesus the Jewish authorities could complain to Rome that Pilate had released a traitor. This possibility carried more weight with Pilate than might at first be evident: (1) Pilate’s record as governor was not entirely above reproach; (2) Tiberius, who lived away from Rome as a virtual recluse on the island of Capri, was known for his suspicious nature, especially toward rivals or those who posed a political threat; and (3) worst of all, Pilate’s patron in Rome, Sejanus, had recently come under suspicion of plotting to seize the imperial succession for himself. Sejanus was deposed in October of a.d. 31. It may have been to Sejanus that Pilate owed his appointment in Judea. Pilate was now in a very delicate position. The Jewish authorities may have known something of this and deliberately used it as leverage against him. Whether or not they knew just how potent their veiled threat was, it had the desired effect. Pilate went directly to the judgment seat to pronounce his judgment.

6 tn Grk “who makes himself out to be a king.”



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