John 18:28–19:22 and the paradox of judgement
Why does the Johannine Pilate refuse to rewrite his inscription on Jesus’ cross? And why had the chief priests demanded “he himself said, I am King of the Ἰουδαῖοι” over “King of the Ἰουδαῖοι” in the first place? Thus John concludes the trial episode at the praetorium as no other gospel does. In this thesis I analyse the dispute between Pilate and the Ἰουδαῖοι in light of both the accusation and the verdict. When they shout that “everyone who makes himself king opposes Caesar,” the Ἰουδαῖοι presume that the criminal issue is, rather than kingship itself, the declaration of kingship, a speech act belonging only to Caesar. Considering that Pilate has repeatedly declared Jesus innocent of the crime, why does he yet write an inscription that designates Jesus King of the Ἰουδαῖοι? No extended study has accounted for the problem, but in this thesis I do so in terms of Johannine paradox. The gospel begins by saying that the λόγος revealed divine glory as human flesh (John 1:14). Whereas Johannine scholars recognise both the significance of the incarnation throughout the narrative and the presence of ironies in the passion account, no one has examined John 18:28–19:22 as a literary unit underpinned by paradox. The course of the narrative, moreover, has prepared the Ἰουδαῖοι to initiate the paradox in dispute with Pilate. There, they will destroy the temple of Jesus’ body, so that he can raise it (2:19). Put in other terms, they will exalt the Son of Man, so that he can reveal himself (8:28). They make Jesus witness to the truth, the truth out of the glory of the λόγος. And they do so through one lie, the accusation that Jesus declares himself King of the Ἰουδαῖοι. The episode in John 18:28–19:22 follows its protagonist, Pilate, who goes between the Ἰουδαῖοι outside and Jesus inside. He hears an accusation that amounts to diminishing the superiority of Caesar. The crime centres on the title “King of the Ἰουδαῖοι.” Jesus persuades Pilate that his kingship is otherworldly, which leads Pilate to declare Jesus innocent. In response, the Ἰουδαῖοι threaten Pilate with an accusation of misrule. But the verdict of innocence indicts the Ἰουδαῖοι of false accusation, against not only Jesus but Pilate, too. They themselves commit the crime against Caesar. They declare Jesus as “King of the Ἰουδαῖοι”—and this is why they command Pilate to change the inscription. Scholars commonly suppose that Pilate succumbs to pressure and concedes the accusation against Jesus. However, the conclusion I reach is that Pilate both maintains the innocence of Jesus and publicises the guilt of the Ἰουδαῖοι. Pilate moreover inscribes both destruction (“King of the Ἰουδαῖοι”) and restoration (“Jesus the Nazarene”) on the temple of Jesus’ body. But the paradox of judgement in John is neither simple nor safe. Its theological danger is in the identification of unbelieving Ἰουδαῖοι as offspring of an archetypal διάβολος who lie and murder.
Advisor: Trebilco, Paul; Harding, James
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Theology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Pilate; Ἰουδαῖοι; gospel of John; judgement; paradox; John 18:28–19:22; Jesus; King of the Ἰουδαῖοι; Caesar
Research Type: Thesis