The Berean Expositor
Volume 30 - Page 122 of 179
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The Powers That Be.
(Being a series of studies in Roman history,
and Roman laws and customs,
in so far as they throw light upon the N.T. narrative).
The Charge of Majestas.
Christ before Pilate.
pp. 21 - 25
The animosity of the Jewish rulers against the Lord is manifest quite early in the
gospel narrative, but the fact that they were members of a subject nation, with Roman
soldiers always on guard, prevented them from accomplishing the Saviour's destruction
early in His public ministry. Even when the Sanhedrin had decided that the Lord must be
apprehended, they were in some perplexity as to how to accomplish his arrest without
causing a tumult or bringing down upon them the Roman soldiery. The way, however,
was opened for them by the betrayal of Judas, and through his instrumentality they
accomplished their fell designs.
According to Roman law there were three preliminary proceedings before trial was
possible, namely arrest, warrant, and commitment. The authority for the Saviour's arrest
was the Sanhedrin, the supreme Council of the Jews. The words of Matt. 26: 3: "Then
assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the
palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and consulted that they might take
Jesus by subtility, and kill Him" show that a full meeting of the Sanhedrin was behind the
order for arrest. Rome recognized this body, which had full powers within its own
province. That the Sanhedrin were fully conscious of their rights is evident from the fact
that they applied to the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate for a band of soldiers to assist in
the arrest.
"Judas then, having received a band of men (spiera here means a cohort of soldiers, as
in Matt. 27: 27) and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with
lanterns and torches and weapons" (John 18: 3).
This cohort was under the command of a "captain" (chiliarchos), which means that
there were more than a hundred men; otherwise they would have been under a centurion.
The Sanhedrin were evidently taking no risks. In addition to the Roman soldiers there
were also the "officers from the chief priests and scribes", called by John apparitors.
Luke, with his usual accuracy and Roman view-point, calls these leaders stratigoi tou
hieron, "officers of the temple" (Luke 22: 4, 52).  They have already appeared in
John 17: 32, 45, and appear again in Acts 5: 22-26.  This civil guard formed the
Temple "police force', but it was inadequate to deal with an uproar of the people. It was
the usual custom for a full military force to be available at the Passover, on account of the
tumults that often arose with such throngs of fanatical people gathered in one place. The
force concerned in this case was indeed a formidable one for the arrest of one unarmed
Man, but the officers of the temple had heard Him speak and had seen exhibitions of His