BIBLE PICTURES   © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008






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Christ before Pilate; Hans MULTSCHER; 1437; panel; Staatliche Museen, Berlin

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Jesus’ death sentence



What you can see in this picture……

A man is standing; Jesus appears before a judge who is sitting, Pilate.
The accused is brought by some soldiers followed by a crowd. He is marked with the blows he has received. On the judge’s side, are to be found a religious leader wearing a mitre and two women, one of whom points to Jesus. She is Pilate’s wife who tells her husband that Jesus is innocent. Pilate “washes his hands of it” by using a servant’s ewer.


Jesus’ trial is a complicated affair with several sittings and comings and goings. The evangelists, whose narratives are slightly different, mention four appearances before the judge: before Anne, the High Priest who is discharged, then before his son-in-law Caiaphas, a high priest who presides over the Sanhedrin Council; this is the religious trial. Jesus is also submitted to a political trial before Herod, the kinglet of Galilee whose subject he is, and before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor.



...and in other pictures

The two great trials are those presided over by Caiaphas and Pilate, the latter being the most frequently represented.

Caiaphas can be recognized by his religious vestments, a large robe and a pointed hat, often a sort of mitre; he is sitting and tears off his robe at the level of his chest. This gesture is not a sign of anger but one of mourning, for what Jesus says seems to him a blasphemy.

Pilate is dressed after the Roman fashion or after the oriental manner with a sort of turban. He is sitting and questions Jesus or he is standing and presents him to the crowd. The picture often follows the text of Matthew and shows his wife who asks him to be cautious, or Pilate can be seen washing his hands. The latter scene can become the main subject, Jesus being then relegated into the background.