[sword-devel] Paul's epistles

Chris sword-devel@crosswire.org
Wed, 16 Jan 2002 02:16:15 +1100

>It is known from historical documents that Pilate never had the custom of 
>releasing a prisoner on pesach.
>>Is it possible that this information is only ``well-known'' with certain
>>Judaic circles?
>No, it has even been reported on the discovery channel.
Oh, well if it was on TV it MUST be right.

Josephus records a possibly similar incident. A group of Assasins 
kidnapped a scribe belonging to the retinue of the High Priest, and held 
him hostage. This happened JUST BEFORE THE FESTIVAL. They then informed 
the High Priest that they wanted him to persuade the governor to release 
ten of their number who were being held prisoner. The governor, Albinus, 
agrees, and the prisoners are released. (Josephus, 'Antiquities', XX 9.3).
      Of course, this doesn't necessarily indicate the existence of a 
regular custom during a festival, but it is possibly suggestive.
      Similarly, there is a mention in the Mishnah (Pes. 8.6) that a 
seder may be prepared for one 'whom they have promised to bring out of 
prison' , and  who presumably can't prepare one for  himself. Some 
scholars think this presupposes some kind of regular amnesty for 
Pesach.  So, while there isn't proof of a custom,  neither is it 
possible to assume that such a custom 'couldn't' have existed, or 
'didn't' exist, or that the release of a prisoner by the Roman governor 
at a festival period was never practiced.
     And one may ask why, if there was no such custom, the writer of a 
gospel should mention it, since it would be easily disproven by any of 
those alive at the time who could have very  simply refuted it.