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John 18:28-40 New English Translation (NET Bible)

Jesus Brought Before Pilate

28 Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the Roman governor’s residence.[a] (Now it was very early morning.)[b] They[c] did not go into the governor’s residence[d] so they would not be ceremonially defiled, but could eat the Passover meal. 29 So Pilate came outside to them and said, “What accusation[e] do you bring against this man?”[f] 30 They replied,[g] “If this man[h] were not a criminal,[i] we would not have handed him over to you.”[j]

31 Pilate told them,[k] “Take him yourselves and pass judgment on him[l] according to your own law!”[m] The Jewish leaders[n] replied,[o] “We cannot legally put anyone to death.”[p] 32 (This happened[q] to fulfill the word Jesus had spoken when he indicated[r] what kind of death he was going to die.[s])

Pilate Questions Jesus

33 So Pilate went back into the governor’s residence,[t] summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”[u] 34 Jesus replied,[v] “Are you saying this on your own initiative,[w] or have others told you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I?[x] Your own people[y] and your chief priests handed you over[z] to me. What have you done?”

36 Jesus replied, “My kingdom[aa] is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would be fighting to keep me from being[ab] handed over[ac] to the Jewish authorities.[ad] But as it is,[ae] my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Then Pilate said,[af] “So you are a king!” Jesus replied, “You say that I am a king. For this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world—to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to[ag] my voice.” 38 Pilate asked,[ah] “What is truth?”[ai]

When he had said this he went back outside to the Jewish leaders[aj] and announced,[ak] “I find no basis for an accusation[al] against him. 39 But it is your custom that I release one prisoner[am] for you at the Passover.[an] So do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?” 40 Then they shouted back,[ao] “Not this man,[ap] but Barabbas!”[aq] (Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.[ar])[as]


  1. John 18:28 tn Grk “to the praetorium.”sn The permanent residence of the Roman governor of Palestine was in Caesarea (Acts 23:35). The governor had a residence in Jerusalem which he normally occupied only during principal feasts or in times of political unrest. The location of this building in Jerusalem is uncertain, but is probably one of two locations: either (1) the fortress or tower of Antonia, on the east hill north of the temple area, which is the traditional location of the Roman praetorium since the 12th century, or (2) the palace of Herod on the west hill near the present Jaffa Gate. According to Philo (Embassy 38 [299]) Pilate had some golden shields hung there, and according to Josephus (J. W. 2.14.8 [2.301], 2.15.5 [2.328]) the later Roman governor Florus stayed there.
  2. John 18:28 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author.
  3. John 18:28 tn Grk “And they.” The conjunction καί (kai, “and”) has not been translated here in keeping with the tendency of contemporary English style to use shorter sentences.
  4. John 18:28 tn Grk “into the praetorium.”
  5. John 18:29 tn Or “charge.”
  6. John 18:29 sn In light of the fact that Pilate had cooperated with them in Jesus’ arrest by providing Roman soldiers, the Jewish authorities were probably expecting Pilate to grant them permission to carry out their sentence on Jesus without resistance (the Jews were not permitted to exercise capital punishment under the Roman occupation without official Roman permission, cf. v. 31). They must have been taken somewhat by surprise by Pilate’s question “What accusation do you bring against this man,” because it indicated that he was going to try the prisoner himself. Thus Pilate was regarding the trial before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin as only an inquiry and their decision as merely an accusation.
  7. John 18:30 tn Grk “They answered and said to him.”
  8. John 18:30 tn Grk “this one.”
  9. John 18:30 tn Or “an evildoer”; Grk “one doing evil.”
  10. John 18:30 tn Or “would not have delivered him over.”
  11. John 18:31 tn Grk “Then Pilate said to them.”
  12. John 18:31 tn Or “judge him.” For the translation “pass judgment on him” see R. E. Brown (John [AB], 2:848).
  13. John 18:31 sn Pilate, as the sole representative of Rome in a troubled area, was probably in Jerusalem for the Passover because of the danger of an uprising (the normal residence for the Roman governor was in Caesarea as mentioned in Acts 23:35). At this time on the eve of the feast he would have been a busy and perhaps even a worried man. It is not surprising that he offered to hand Jesus back over to the Jewish authorities to pass judgment on him. It may well be that Pilate realized when no specific charge was mentioned that he was dealing with an internal dispute over some religious matter. Pilate wanted nothing to do with such matters, as the statement “Pass judgment on him according to your own law!” indicates. As far as the author is concerned, this points out who was really responsible for Jesus’ death: The Roman governor Pilate would have had nothing to do with it if he had not been pressured by the Jewish religious authorities, upon whom the real responsibility rested.
  14. John 18:31 tn Or “the Jewish authorities”; Grk “the Jews.” Here the phrase refers to the Jewish leaders, especially members of the Sanhedrin. See the note on the phrase “Jewish leaders” in v. 12.
  15. John 18:31 tn Grk “said to him.”
  16. John 18:31 tn Grk “It is not permitted to us to kill anyone.”sn The historical background behind the statement We cannot legally put anyone to death is difficult to reconstruct. Scholars are divided over whether this statement in the Fourth Gospel accurately reflects the judicial situation between the Jewish authorities and the Romans in 1st century Palestine. It appears that the Roman governor may have given the Jews the power of capital punishment for specific offenses, some of them religious (the death penalty for Gentiles caught trespassing in the inner courts of the temple, for example). It is also pointed out that the Jewish authorities did carry out a number of executions, some of them specifically pertaining to Christians (Stephen, according to Acts 7:58-60; and James the Just, who was stoned in the 60s according to Josephus, Ant. 20.9.1 [20.200]). But Stephen’s death may be explained as a result of “mob violence” rather than a formal execution, and as Josephus in the above account goes on to point out, James was executed in the period between two Roman governors, and the high priest at the time was subsequently punished for the action. Two studies by A. N. Sherwin-White (Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, 1-47; and “The Trial of Christ,” Historicity and Chronology in the New Testament [SPCKTC], 97-116) have tended to support the accuracy of John’s account. He concluded that the Romans kept very close control of the death penalty for fear that in the hands of rebellious locals such power could be used to eliminate factions favorable or useful to Rome. A province as troublesome as Judea would not have been likely to be made an exception to this.
  17. John 18:32 tn The words “This happened” are not in the Greek text but are implied.
  18. John 18:32 tn Or “making clear.”
  19. John 18:32 sn A reference to John 12:32.
  20. John 18:33 tn Grk “into the praetorium.”
  21. John 18:33 sn It is difficult to discern Pilate’s attitude when he asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Some have believed the remark to be sarcastic or incredulous as Pilate looked at this lowly and humble prisoner: “So youre the king of the Jews, are you?” Others have thought the Roman governor to have been impressed by Jesus’ regal disposition and dignity, and to have sincerely asked, “Are you really the king of the Jews?” Since it will later become apparent (v. 38) that Pilate considered Jesus innocent (and therefore probably also harmless) an attitude of incredulity is perhaps most likely, but this is far from certain in the absence of clear contextual clues.
  22. John 18:34 tn Grk “Jesus answered.”
  23. John 18:34 tn Grk “saying this from yourself.”
  24. John 18:35 sn Many have seen in Pilate’s reply “I am not a Jew, am I?” the Roman contempt for the Jewish people. Some of that may indeed be present, but strictly speaking, all Pilate affirms is that he, as a Roman, has no firsthand knowledge of Jewish custom or belief. What he knows of Jesus must have come from the Jewish authorities. They are the ones (your own people and your chief priests) who have handed Jesus over to Pilate.
  25. John 18:35 tn Or “your own nation.”
  26. John 18:35 tn Or “delivered you over.”
  27. John 18:36 sn The kingdom (of God) is a major theme of Jesus’ teaching. The nature of the kingdom of God in the NT and in Jesus’ teaching has long been debated by interpreters and scholars, with discussion primarily centering around the nature of the kingdom (earthly, heavenly, or both) and the kingdom’s arrival (present, future, or both). An additional major issue concerns the relationship between the kingdom of God and the person and work of Jesus himself, as here where Jesus refers to My kingdom.
  28. John 18:36 tn Grk “so that I may not be.”
  29. John 18:36 tn Or “delivered over.”
  30. John 18:36 tn Or “the Jewish leaders”; Grk “the Jews.” Here the phrase refers to the Jewish leaders, especially members of the Sanhedrin. See the note on the phrase “Jewish leaders” in v. 12. In the translation “authorities” was preferred over “leaders” for stylistic reasons.
  31. John 18:36 tn Grk “now.”
  32. John 18:37 tn Grk “said to him.”
  33. John 18:37 tn Or “obeys”; Grk “hears.”
  34. John 18:38 tn Grk “Pilate said.”
  35. John 18:38 sn With his reply “What is truth?” Pilate dismissed the matter. It is not clear what Pilate’s attitude was at this point, as in 18:33. He may have been sarcastic, or perhaps somewhat reflective. The author has not given enough information in the narrative to be sure. Within the narrative, Pilate’s question serves to make the reader reflect on what truth is, and that answer (in the narrative) has already been given (14:6).
  36. John 18:38 tn Or “the Jewish authorities”; Grk “the Jews.” Here the phrase refers to the Jewish leaders, especially members of the Sanhedrin. See the note on the phrase “Jewish leaders” in v. 12. The term also occurs in v. 31, where it is clear the Jewish leaders are in view, because they state that they cannot legally carry out an execution. Although it is likely (in view of the synoptic parallels) that the crowd here in 18:38 was made up not just of the Jewish leaders, but of ordinary residents of Jerusalem and pilgrims who were in Jerusalem for the Passover, nevertheless in John’s Gospel Pilate is primarily in dialogue with the leadership of the nation, who are expressly mentioned in 18:35 and 19:6.
  37. John 18:38 tn Grk “said to them.”
  38. John 18:38 tn Grk “find no cause.”
  39. John 18:39 tn The word “prisoner” is not in the Greek text but is implied.
  40. John 18:39 sn Pilate then offered to release Jesus, reminding the Jewish authorities that they had a custom that he release one prisoner for them at the Passover. There is no extra-biblical evidence alluding to the practice. It is, however, mentioned in Matthew and Mark, described either as a practice of Pilate (Mark 15:6) or of the Roman governor (Matt 27:15). These references may explain the lack of extra-biblical attestation: The custom to which Pilate refers here (18:39) is not a permanent one acknowledged by all the Roman governors, but one peculiar to Pilate as a means of appeasement, meant to better relations with his subjects. Such a limited meaning is certainly possible and consistent with the statement here.
  41. John 18:40 tn Or “they shouted again,” or “they shouted in turn.” On the difficulty of translating πάλιν (palin) see BDAG 753 s.v. 5. It is simplest in the context of John’s Gospel to understand the phrase to mean “they shouted back” as a reply to Pilate’s question.
  42. John 18:40 tn Grk “this one.”
  43. John 18:40 sn The name Barabbas in Aramaic means “son of abba,” that is, “son of the father,” and presumably the man in question had another name (it may also have been Jesus, according to the textual variant in Matt 27:16, although this is uncertain). For the author this name held ironic significance: The crowd was asking for the release of a man called Barabbas, “son of the father,” while Jesus, who was truly the Son of the Father, was condemned to die instead.
  44. John 18:40 tn Or “robber.” It is possible that Barabbas was merely a robber or highwayman, but more likely, given the use of the term ληστής (lēstēs) in Josephus and other early sources, that he was a guerrilla warrior or revolutionary leader. See both R. E. Brown (John [AB], 2:857) and K. H. Rengstorf (TDNT 4:258) for more information. The word λῃστής was used a number of times by Josephus (J. W. 2.13.2-3 [2.253-254]) to describe the revolutionaries or guerrilla fighters who, from mixed motives of nationalism and greed, kept the rural districts of Judea in constant turmoil.
  45. John 18:40 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author.
New English Translation (NET)

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