Understanding the Story of Malchus’ Sliced Ear

In my last post, I described the story of how, during Jesus’ arrest, someone associated with Jesus (perhaps Peter) sliced off the ear of the slave of the Jewish high priest (named as Malchus in the Gospel of John). This has to be one of the strangest stories in the New Testament, made stranger by the fact that the Gospels (particularly Mark) and most New Testament commentaries describe the story as no big deal. Peter sliced off Malchus’ ear? Of course he did!

Last time I described the many reasons I think this story is strange. You can review my earlier post to get the gory details. Here is a brief summary of the strangeness:

  • One sword blow, one injury to one person? That doesn’t make sense. Actions tend to produce reactions. Jesus’ followers may have been dedicated to nonviolent resistance, but nonviolence isn’t exactly a principle adhered to by armies and police forces. Yet the attacker (we’ll call him Peter, following John’s Gospel) faced no counterattack. In fact, the Gospels report no response whatsoever to Peter’s attack. Peter was not struck, or arrested, or even disarmed. He was allowed to get away with (attempted) murder.

     

  • OK … maybe Peter’s attack was not attempted murder. Maybe he didn’t try to slice off Malchus’ head, miss, and remove his ear instead. But the story is no less strange if Peter intended to remove the ear. Why would he have wanted to do that?

     

  • Peter’s ear-slicing was against the law – not just Roman law, but Jewish law. Of course, it was against the law (then and now) to resist arrest, and to slice off people’s ears. It may have also been against the law for a Jew to carry a sword – against both Roman and Jewish law. Is it plausible to think that Peter violated both Roman and Jewish law, in multiple ways?

     

  • About that sword-carrying: what was Peter (a fisherman!) doing with a sword in the first place?

     

  • Finally, there’s Jesus’ reaction. Only in Luke does Jesus bother to heal the wounded slave. Only in Matthew does Jesus clearly condemn the attack. And even in Matthew, the condemnation seems half-hearted – merely what Raymond Brown called a “general poetic assertion”: “All those who take the sword, by the sword will perish.” The Roman soldiers listening to Jesus may have agreed with this, enthusiastically. The Spartan poet Tyrtaeus wrote, “How glorious fall the valiant, sword in hand, in front of battle for their native land.” Given Jesus’ strong statements elsewhere about loving enemies and turning cheeks, why wouldn’t he have taken advantage of this situation to make a ringing statement about how violence violates his word?

So … what are we to make of this story? Let’s ask the question: what really happened with sword-wielding and ear-severing at Jesus’ arrest? I see three possibilities:

  1. It Happened Just Like the Gospels Say. Let’s try putting all doubts aside. All four Gospels agree that someone like Peter sliced off the ear of the slave of the high priest. Evidently, this story was not unbelievable to the early Christians, or else they would not have told it, and the essential details of this story would not have been repeated in all four Gospels. This story satisfies two of the most important criteria of authenticity used by many historians to verify Gospel stories: the story is multiply attested, and it satisfies the criterion of embarrassment: it does not seem to be the kind of story that early Christians would have made up. The early Christians seemingly wanted to stress the peace-ability of Jesus, how he was wrongly accused and convicted, how he was essentially the kind of law-abiding teacher of wisdom that any good Roman gentile could follow in good conscience. Yeah, the story sounds crazy. But crazy things do happen.

    To which I say: uh … no. It’s against human nature for a fight to end with a single sword-swipe, or for an armed force (indeed, the force with superior arms) to absorb a deadly blow without retaliation. Romans and Second Temple Jews were (in different ways) dedicated to the rule of law. The chance that both groups would ignore a clear breach of their respective laws seems awfully remote to me. Add to this that the attack seems out of character for the followers of Jesus (who never resorted to violence against the person of another in any other scene in the Gospels) and that Jesus’ response to the attack itself seems out of character, and the scene just seems impossible to me.

    In The Death of the Messiah, Raymond Brown asks the question, why doesn’t Mark tell us who attacked Malchus? Brown suggests one possible answer: Mark’s Gospel may have been written in Rome, while Peter was still living there, or shortly after his death there. Given Mark’s audience, it might not have been wise to suggest that Peter had attacked duly authorized agents of (Roman) law enforcement, using deadly force. Of course, we cannot know for sure why Mark wrote the arrest account the way he did (or even that he wrote it in Rome). But if Brown thinks that Mark (writing 30-40 years after Jesus’ arrest) needed to describe the arrest scene with due concern for Peter’s well-being (if he was still alive at the time) or reputation (if already dead) – this only shows the kind of peril Peter would have faced at the time of Jesus’ arrest if he had actually sliced off Malchus’ ear in the way described by Mark and the other evangelists.

    Yes, crazy things do happen … and for my readers who believe in miracles, perhaps this scene can be explained by a few well-chosen miracles. But in an interfaith context, where we’re thinking like historians, we have to consider the most plausible explanation for “what happened,” and from this perspective the Gospel accounts of the ear-severing are not historically plausible.

  2. It Happened, But In A Bigger Way. We can call this the Resa Aslan Hypothesis. In his book Zealot, Aslan describes the arrest scene – the Garden of Gethsemane – as Jesus’ “hideout”. The arresting party found Jesus there along with his disciples, “shrouded in darkness and armed with swords – just as Jesus had commanded.” According to Aslan, Jesus did not meekly surrender – he and his followers fought the Roman soldiers and Temple Guard in a “brief melee”. While Jesus and his followers were not “taken easily”, their resistance proved “useless”, and Jesus was “seized, bound, and dragged back into the city to face his accusers.”

    I poked fun at Aslan’s version of this story in my review of his book. But in fairness to Aslan, the scene he describes comes pretty close to how the arrest is portrayed in Western paintings. Let’s face it: a melee, or a scuffle, or a rumble, makes for better art than does an abject surrender. (NOTE: as should be apparent from the art I’ve included in the margins here, all I know about art I learned from Google image searches.)

    The “melee theory” does solve a number of problems. It gets us past the idea that the violence at Jesus’ arrest was somehow limited to one sword stroke. The scene is more recognizable if Peter’s ear-slicing was a part of something bigger, with forces on both sides facing off against each other, swords drawn and clubs brandished. If this was the case, then there would have been a number of attacks and injuries, with Malchus’ injury simply being the one that got remembered. Eventually, Jesus was able to bring the melee to a halt. As John’s Gospel tells us, Jesus offered to surrender peaceably, in exchange for his disciples being allowed to go free – an exchange that makes more sense if the disciples had all done something arrest-worthy. The Jewish Temple police and Roman soldiers then agreed to Jesus’ offer of truce — after all, it was only Jesus they came for. Malchus was grievously wounded, but he was only a slave, hardly worth the trouble of defending.

    But ultimately, the melee theory is no more believable than the single sword-stroke theory. For one thing, no melee is reported by the Gospels. Luke’s Gospel in particular appears to deny the possibility of a melee, having the disciples ask Jesus, “Should we strike with our swords?” Luke thus tells us (as we might expect) that the disciples (except Peter) would only have fought with the soldiers and police on Jesus’ command, and of course Jesus commanded otherwise. Moreover, if it’s hard to explain how Peter could have escaped arrest and punishment after severing Malchus’ ear, it would be that much more difficult to explain how eleven disciples were able to get away with resisting law enforcement authority with armed force. John’s explanation – that Jesus negotiated for the escape of his disciples in exchange for his individual and peaceful surrender – isn’t much of an explanation. Roman soldiers weren’t known to cut deals with scruffy rebel bands. It’s a good rule of thumb: if you are looking to negotiate with police or armed forces, it’s a bad idea to first wage violence against them, and a particularly bad idea to first seriously injure one of them.

    If there had been a brief melee, as Aslan imagines, then the eleven disciples (all but Judas) should have died on crosses along with Jesus.

    Let’s also remember that in the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus questions why the Jews and Romans have come to arrest him in force. “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus in Mark’s Gospel, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?” Jesus makes a nearly identical protest in Matthew and Luke. Later, John’s Gospel has Jesus tell Pilate that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world; if it was, then “my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.” It is odd enough that Jesus would say these things right after Peter’s solo attack on Malchus – of course the Roman soldiers and Jewish police were armed, if only to protect themselves against Peter! But it would be odder still for Jesus to say these things if, indeed, all of his followers did fight to prevent Jesus’ arrest

    In short: the melee theory defies both the Gospels and common sense.

  3. The Ear-Slicing Never Happened. This is, I think, the most plausible way to understand Jesus’ arrest. The Gospels tell us that Jesus peacefully surrendered to the authorities, without resistance. They tell us that only Jesus was arrested, and only Jesus was punished. They tell us that the disciples fled, but evidently not from arrest, as the Gospels report no subsequent effort to arrest them. Indeed, within hours, Peter would wander into the courtyard of the home of the high priest where Jesus was being interrogated, and in that courtyard Peter was able to warm himself by the fire next to the very forces who had arrested Jesus!

    (NOTE: as a Jew writing in an interfaith context, I’m never comfortable saying that there’s something reported in the Gospels that “never happened.” I have friends and readers who believe, to one degree of the other, in the inerrancy of their canon of scripture. The Gospels are not a part of my canon, which is all the more reason why I want to treat them with great respect. Therefore, to those of my readers who believe that the Gospel stories must all be historically true, I will say simply that I respect your belief, and that what I’ve written here is from a different perspective. This blog is intended to foster dialogue from many perspectives and many faiths. If you think I can approach the Gospels with greater respect and in a way consistent with the purposes and goals of interfaith dialogue, please let me know!)

    I think that the Gospel story makes better sense if the ear slicing is not “what really happened.” Dropping this story from the historical account of Jesus’ ministry is consistent with Jesus’ message of nonviolence, and with the practice of nonviolence by his disciples and early followers – both before and after Jesus’ death. It is consistent with the reality of life in Palestine under Roman rule, where those who “lived by the sword” –even for a moment – invariably died by the sword, or on the cross, and in short order. It is consistent with the Gospel theme that at his death, Jesus was abandoned by his disciples, not defended by them.

But if Jesus was arrested without incident, without violence, then how do we come to have this particular story in all four Gospels? Did someone make this story up? Did this small story somehow mysteriously emerge from the oral telling and retelling of the larger story of Jesus’ passion? I will address these questions, as best I can, in my next post. In the meantime … let me hear from you! Do you see a historical possibility that I’ve overlooked? I’ve limited my historical examination to simple degrees and extents of violence (a little, a lot, none). Maybe there are possibilities we should consider beyond this linear view. What do you think?

  • Claire Gebben

    Nice arguments, Larry, but I can’t help but wonder if a 21st century perspective is getting in the way of your understandings. Perhaps the passage indicates:
    a.) the need for the disciples to show some mettle against the capture of their leader (fact or fiction), as a way of defending themselves against complete emasculation by the Romans, and
    b.) it was a slave, after all. In those days, who cared a fig about a slave?

    • Claire, the 21st century often gets in my way!

      Regarding (a): yes, I’m thinking about that. But if the early Christians wanted to remember Peter showing some mettle, why also remember the disciples abandoning Jesus, and Peter denying Jesus three times within hours of the alleged sword-attack? Also, it’s not like slicing off the ear of a slave is much in the way of mettle. It’s more like, Peter picked on the most vulnerable member of the arresting party in what is pictured in some of the art I’ve included here as a sneak attack. This incident comes across less like “mettle” and more like Peter’s final failure to understand the basic nonviolence of Jesus’ message. So, it’s hard for me to see the story as “positive” spin on the conduct of the disciples during Jesus’ arrest.

      (b) is an interesting point, one I tried to research. Yes, Malchus was a slave, but he was also something of a representative of the Temple establishment. There are scholars who have argued that Malchus was really an important figure, maybe something of a priest himself. All four Gospels note the identity of the injured person, and one remembers the slave’s name (a name that may itself be symbolic: some say the name means “king” or “counselor”). Malchus is the only person in the arresting party we know by name, so in a literal sense it’s hard to say he was a “nobody.” It is probably impossible for us to understand the status of a slave 2,000 years ago, but the Torah contains rules about the fair treatment of slaves, and while I’m no expert on these laws, even a slave’s owner might be punished for killing a slave (see for example Exodus 21:20-21). Slaves certainly had an economic value, so Peter’s action had both economic and moral consequences. And while I don’t think Jesus taught anything about slavery one way or the other, it’s hard for me to imagine that Jesus would think that injuring or killing a slave was no big deal. So in short, I don’t think we can dismiss this incident because Malchus was a slave.

      All this is to say, this is a very difficult story to understand. I’ll take a stab at it in my next post. I’m going to attempt to argue that the story shows a certain tension or contradiction in the Jesus tradition.

    • Andrew Dowling

      A good slave was expensive. And people often did have relationships of some sort to them as well . . they weren’t all treated like soulless automans.

  • Anthony Le Donne

    Is it possible that this Reservoir Dogs’ scene was created to provide a frame for the remembered saying? “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword” is more than a general poetic assertion in my estimation. Perhaps you and Brown are diminishing the importance of the saying by puzzling over the severed ear. -anthony

    • Anthony, sure, it’s possible that the ear-slicing was a scene invented, or imagined, so that Jesus could utter a remembered saying in the context of a scene of sword-violence. But I think the opposite is more likely, that the swordplay was what people remembered, and that the saying was created because Jesus’ response to the ear-slicing was not remembered. After all, the sword use was remembered in all four Gospels, and Jesus’ saying was remembered only by Matthew.

      If Jesus’ saying in Matthew is more than a general poetic assertion, it is also something less than a ringing condemnation of violence (or if you prefer, of militancy). You’re the one who teaches classes in ethics, so you can probably draw these distinctions better than I can, but here Jesus is not saying that living by the sword is wrong (virtue ethics?). He’s saying that living by the sword can lead to an undesirable end (consequential ethics?). Moreover, the saying does not condemn Peter’s particular act, but instead makes a general observation on the consequences of what will happen if Peter continues to slice off peoples’ ears. Perhaps the Greek reads otherwise, but isn’t the implication here along the lines of, “if you keep this up, bad stuff is going to happen to you”?

      If the ear-slicing is an invented scene, why not invent a scene where an unnamed follower of Jesus dies from a retaliatory sword wielded by a Roman soldier? Instead, we have Peter wielding the sword, and Peter walks away from the incident without a scratch and without consequence, lives another 30 years, and dies just as his master did — ironic, as Jesus did not himself live by the sword.

  • Larry, I love your approach to this. Perhaps this scene is meant to be interpreted just as you have – raising questions that get us out of the text and into real interactions. Just what will we do with our violence. I am in the hospital and cannot respond further. My hotspot may be cut off!

    • I have carried this metaphor into a final post in a series where I am thinking with no where near the thoroughness that your summon – so I hope I will continue to learn from you. What a pleasure it is.

      • I pray we continue to learn from each other. My prayers are with you.

        • For those following: Bob is out of the hospital and recovering at home.

  • Paul

    There is no way to slice off an ear in a general melee, with a big instrument such as a sword, as you note. Slicing an ear is an up-and-down motion, and if you swung with a sword, it would slash down into the body. That works against the story.

    It isn’t hard to believe, though, that a group of semi-nomadic people would have knives or swords. After all, how could you prepare, cut and/or kill food without sharp objects?

    It isn’t hard to believe that someone would resist arrest, either. Maybe when the group came to arrest Jesus, a couple of followers tried to put up a fight to protect their leader, and Jesus, sensing that if he didn’t surrender it would cause much bloodshed against his followers, decided to give himself up.

  • guairdean

    I’m a little late adding to the discussion, I found the link on another site. As to the reason the disciples were armed, Christ himself commanded it. We don’t, however, know the disciples proficiency with those weapons. It could be that the servant was injured in the heat of the moment and subsequent tellings embellished the event. A nicked ear becomes a severed ear, or something along that line. A minor injury to a slave might have been overlooked in order to prevent further violence, or it might have been so slight that the soldiers considered it a minor footnote in their report of the events. Thanks for delving into this, I always welcome a fresh perspective.
    ==========================
    Luke 22:36-38King James Version (KJV)

    36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.

    37 For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.

  • R Vogel

    I think you give a bit of short shrift to the ‘Aslan Hypothesis’ (using your title, not citing him as an actual authority) A simple re-framing, I think, could address your objections. First, there may have been many more people present than just the 11, Jesus’ was often followed by large crowds, or the force sent to arrest him may have been relatively small hoping to avoid creating a larger scene. They come upon them, Judas does his thing, and Jesus’ disciples attack, or resist and are attacked which could explain Jesus’ lackluster rebuke. Jesus’ follower overpower the authorities, which sound more like a group of enforcers armed with swords and clubs rather than an actual fighting force, the slave receives the most grievous wound. Jesus now pulls a reversal – he and his followers are in control, but in order to ‘fulfill the scriptures’ he offers himself to them, on the condition that they let the others go. They would have had to accept this bargain if Jesus was in control.

    The issue I have with it being completely made up is: to what purpose? As you note, it is such a strange story and seems to work against the broader narrative, so why would you throw that in unless you were trying to address events that were known to have occurred? The hypothesis above may also explain the whole scene when Peter denies him. The agents of the chief priest had to reluctantly accept Jesus’ deal to let the others go, but now Jesus is in custody and they think they recognize Peter. If they are right, Peter will be seized as a bandit and potential murderer so he denies, denies, denies. If the agents were overpowered it is plausible that they may not have fully recognized Peter, it being dark and them fearing for their lives, as much as they would have if they were in control.

    • R, I’m sure there were many people present at Jesus’ arrest. I don’t think he was followed by a crowd that night, but I think the Jerusalem environs would have been crowded with Passover pilgrims, some of whom were camped out on the Mount of Olives. It seems unlikely to me that these pilgrims would have joined Jesus and his disciples in a counter-attack against the armed Jewish-Roman force come to arrest Jesus, but such a scenario is not impossible. I struggle to see Jesus and his rag-tag, ad hoc group overwhelming armed law enforcement, but such a thing is not unprecedented. Where you lose me is with the idea that Jewish-Roman law enforcement would negotiate with Jesus and ultimately agree to offer amnesty to the entirety of his fighting force, in exchange for Jesus’ surrender. When did the Romans ever agree to such an arrangement?

      As to your question, for what purpose, please look two posts ahead: http://jewishchristianintersections.com/?p=672.

      • R Vogel

        Where do you see Romans taking place in the arrest?

        • Take a look at my analysis here

          http://jewishchristianintersections.com/?p=631

          and tell me what you think of it.

          • R Vogel

            Interesting analysis. So I would respond to a couple of things:

            I am not sure the potential prohibition of carrying swords is compelling as we are talking about the Temple Guard not any Peter, Paul or Mary (see what I did there?). I frankly don’t know the answer, but the links seemed to deal more with general carrying of weapons rather than carrying them in an official capacity, and even then is seems less than clear.

            It seems strange to me that the 3 oldest gospel accounts do not mention Romans specifically. I think we would have to account for this, and making the case that the gospel of John is the least antisemitic seems like a bit of a stretch. Is there other places in the other gospels where Romans are suppressed? The Gospel of John seems to play up the Romans as the unwitting pawn of the Jewish authorities and the addition of a large number of Roman soldiers (between 200 and 500 hundred is what I found based on the word used) under the command of the Jewish authorities seems to follow that trope.
            If they did come with such a large force, then it seems Jesus’ followers were more than just a rag tag band, which means in the right conditions they may have overpowered even the Romans, given that they were armed. (I have no problem believing that 2 swords was an understatement) The Romans were fearsome, but not invincible. (I am reading ‘The Spartacus War’ by Barry Strauss at the moment). If this was the case it would make an even stronger case for Jesus’ execution for sedition.

            If they came at night in order to avoid a scene, bringing a huge contingent of Roman soldiers was probably not the way to go.

            It also seems strange to consider an event attested to in all 4 accounts, the severing of the ear, as fictional, while the presence of Romans, which is only attested to in one, and the latest at that, as factual.

            An alternate approach, that preserves the severing incident, would be that the Jewish council, perhaps under the orders from Rome, sent out a smaller group hoping to nab Jesus without causing a huge ruckus. Perhaps they underestimated the size or zeal of Jesus’ followers and were overpowered, the slave being wounded in the process. This could have happened in a short violent episode that Jesus quells, and then offers to go willingly with them if they allow his disciples to go free (doesn’t that sound like something the gospel Jesus would do?). I don’t have to see any antisemitism in the lack of direct Roman involvement at this point. It was an occupied land and the Jewish leaders were doing what they felt was necessary to avoid clashing with Rome which, as we would soon see, would go very badly for the Jewish people. ‘Better that one should perish….’ The Romans were also relatively smart, knowing that direct involvement during this particular time of the year may escalate things too quickly.

            All this said, I am not sure we can know what the answer is, but it is fun to speculate and try to put together the pieces to this admittedly odd puzzle. I have enjoyed all your pieces on this. Glad to have found your blog from Dr. McGrath’s post.

            • R, clearly, there is room here for different opinions. This being said …

              A number of commentators read “crowd armed with swords and clubs” in the synoptic Gospels as a reference to Roman soldiers and Jewish Temple police. True, the reference is not explicit, and I cannot explain why it isn’t explicit. But I don’t know of any source indicating that Temple police carried swords. The chances of Temple police carrying swords would have been less, if the arrest took place on the first night of Passover. Yes, you’re right to question a strict division between the weaponry carried by Roman and Jewish law enforcement; the reference to “swords and clubs” may have been more like a direct reference to the identity of the forces involved (kind of like we might refer to a corporate executive as a “suit” even when they’re in the presence of corporate subordinates who are also wearing suits).

              Yes, you’re right to point out that only John’s Gospel explicitly points to the presence of Roman soldiers at Jesus’ arrest (in comparison to there being at least two independent sources attesting to the ear-slicing), but the criterion of multiple attestation is only one of the many we should be considering here. There are many scenes in the Gospels that are questioned by historians even though they are multiply attested, and many others generally accepted even if they appear in only one independent source. Our goal here should be to consider all of the evidence, and put together the most plausible account we can. For all of the reasons I’ve argued, the ear slicing does not seem plausible to me, and the presence of Roman troops does seem more plausible to me than their absence.

              No, I would never argue that John’s Gospel is the least anti-Semitic! But your argument here works in reverse: why would John have invented the idea that there were Romans in Jesus’ arresting party, where it seems that John is generally interested in painting “the Jews” as most culpable for Jesus’ death?

              It is certainly possible for a group to successfully resist arrest, at least for a time, if the group is prepared and willing to do so. But I see no evidence, outside of the discussion of the two swords (found only in Luke), that Jesus and his disciples were prepared to resist even a modest force of Jews and Romans. What I think would be truly unusual, unprecedented really, is for a Roman or Jewish contingent of law enforcement to be successfully resisted by a group like Jesus’, and then to negotiate a truce with them, allowing all but one member of the group to permanently escape punishment. You’re right, the Jesus of the Gospels would certainly have offered himself up in exchange for his disciples’ freedom. Indeed, this is pretty much what John 18:8-9 says took place. I think the John 18:8-9 account is plausible, so long as we imagine Jesus’ cohorts to have behaved in a largely peaceful way. But once there is any significant violence, I cannot see the Jews and Romans negotiating with a group they would have perceived as being dangerous and a threat to public order.

              I very much agree with the thought process you attribute to Jewish leadership. Yes, I think John’s reported logic of “better that one should perish” is (unfortunately) precisely the logic that drives and justifies collaboration.

              I’m happy you’ve enjoyed this discussion. Thank you very much for your well-reasoned contribution to this discussion. I hope you’ll stick around for the remainder of the discussion.

              • R Vogel

                Not sure we can resolve whether Romans participated in the arrest or not, or if the reference to swords hints to them. Maybe someone more learned on the period will weigh in.

                Multiple attestation may not be 100% compelling, but that combined with the criterion of embarrassment in the episode seems to give it added weight.

                My general sense, I haven’t dived into John in awhile, is that John plays up a trope of the Romans as a tool of the Jews (cue dramatic music!). Pilate washing his hands and all. Roman troops following the orders of the Jewish leaders to go arrest Jesus and bring him back to them would seem to fall in that line.

                I think you might be overemphasizing the ‘negotiating with a group’ idea. What I have in mind here is some force comes upon them, makes a move to arrest Jesus, is quickly overwhelmed by a larger than expected and zealous group of armed followers. The arresting group is not negotiating, they fear for their lives and are being proscribed terms. What other choice do they have?

                • Richard Munisamy

                  It’s simple. The Jews were there to quietly abduct Jesus from his followers. Judas was their way in. The Romans stood back at a distance waiting for this to take place. Once Jesus was within the Roman ranks then no rescue attempt could be made.

                  Judas knew that Jesus would not put up a fight and Peter’s attack, probably far more grievous than slicing off an ear, was unexpected. Jewish law demanded Peter’s punishment. Jesus took the blame upon himself, thereby demonstrating his teaching and laying down his life for his friend.

                  A crime had been committed but the Jewish Elders could not bear false witness when Pilate asked them why Jesus had been handed over to him. Hence the whole King of the Jews story, implying he was the head of a mass rebellion. Pilate sensed that Jesus was being framed and tried to appeal to the masses to set Jesus free. Clearly Barrabus was more popular because the average Jew considered Jesus a pathetic pacifist.