On the Trial of Jesus

On the Trial of Jesus

On the Trial of Jesus

On the Trial of Jesus


Propterea sanguis Iesu non solum super eos factus est qui tunc fuerunt verum etiam super omnes generationes Iudaeorum post sequentes usque ad consummationem.

ORIGENES In Matthaeum 27:25.

Et ideo Iudaei peccaverunt, non solum tanquam hominis Christi sed eliam tanquam Dei crucifixores.

THOMAS AQUINAS, Summae theologicae pars tertia, questio XL VII, articulus v.

Jesus of Nazareth was tried, and was sentenced to die by crucifixion. These are historical facts, attested by Roman, Jewish and Christian authors in extant documents. As facts, they are a subject for historical examination regarding the charge on which Jesus was tried, the grounds for the trial, and the course of the proceedings. Sufficient to sustain the fact of the trial, as far as these aspects are concerned our sources all but desert us.

In second century literature there are sporadic allusions to minutes, acta, supposed to have been taken at Jesus' trial on Pilate's order. Such references are of an apologetic nature and do not merit serious consideration. The writers making such allusions made them without having had examined any official archives.

What survives of pagan and Jewish records of the trial and subsequent execution of Jesus is of too late a date, too secondary a character, too fragmentary a nature, and too tendentious to be of more than supplementary value in a systematic attempt to reconstruct the history of the case. The accounts from Christian sources -- chiefly the Gospels -- are both earlier in date and fuller in their description. Paraphrasing the words of Origen, we may be tempted to say οὐδὲν ἔχομεν ἔξωΘεν τοṽ εὐαγγελίου if we embark upon the task of tracing the precise course of events. Yet without historical analysis, even the Gospels do not yield the necessary data. For while . . .

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