The Flogging

Pilate had Jesus flogged. Severe scourging often preceded crucifixion of the prisoner. Such actions were regular punishments. This particular punishment was severe, and it was a part of the death sentence. Since Pilate has not presented a sentence, the scourging of Jesus is not as severe. He hopes that the blood drawn from the beating will satisfy Jesus’ accusers John 19:5. This is an unlikely supposing on Pilate’s part. John 18:31 Pilate took this action because he attempted to compromise with the Jews.

Jesus was tied to a post set in the courtyard for the punishment of prisoners. He was stripped naked and stretched against the iron post. Jesus was fully exposed to the brutality of His torturers.

It should be noted that Julius Caesar had decreed that scourging was too severe for the Italian soldiers to administer. Pilate’s entourage included two Syrian conscripts who shared the task. [Gordon Thomas, The Jesus Conspiracy Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1997), 221.

Soldiers normally administered this type of punishment in the provinces. Free Romans were beaten with rods, and soldiers with sticks. Slaves and despised non-Romans were beaten with whips. The leather thongs were enclosed with sharp pieces of metal or bone. Jewish law commanded thirty-nine lashes while Roman law allowed this punishment until the soldier got tired. There are texts that report that bones or entrails were sometimes bared. [Bible Background Commentary, WordSearch Database]

Such flogging often killed an individual. The flogging, the mocking crown of thorns and purple robe, the ridiculing in hailing Him King of the Jews along with the physical blows on His face were all part of Jesus’ deep humiliation as He was identified with human sin as the Servant of the Lord. Note Is. 50:6; 52:14-53:6. In Matthew and Mark’s gospel, we read of the soldiers spitting on Jesus. Matt. 27:30 and Mark 15:19. It should be noted that the thorns are connected with the curse of thorns caused by human sin as seen in Genesis 3:18.

While the malefactors hung on the tree, soldiers played games of knucklebones, coins or dice. It was common for street mimes to mock kings arrayed in mock splendor. The Jewish ruler Agrippa I was ridiculed in this manner in Alexandria. [Ibid.]

Concerning the purple robe, Greek vassal princes wore this type of robe. The “purple robe” may have been a faded scarlet lictor’s robe or an old rug. The crown of thorns may have come from an “acanthus shrub or from the date palm. These “crowns” may have been used to mimic the wreaths of Hellenistic kings. Some thorns may have been turned inward, which caused Jesus’ head to bleed.

“Hail” is sarcasm derived from the customary salutation of the Roman emperor, which is “Ave (Hail), Caesar!”

Pilate told the Jewish crowd twice that he found Jesus not guilty. Their response both times was they wanted Jesus to die. Pilate finally bowed to their demand.

 

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