Aslan is fascinated with Pontinus Pilate,the fifth prefect of the Roman Province of Judea.

Aslan appears to possess insider knowledge of the workings of Pilate’s psyche, a knowledge that was evidently unavailable to the first century Gospel writers despite their closer proximity to the events.

Aslan claims that

The gospels present Pilate as a righteous yet weak-willed man so overcome with doubt about putting Jesus of Nazareth to death that he does everything in his power to save his life, finally washing his hands of the entire episode when the Jews demand his blood. 47

With characteristic certainty and boldness Aslan declares that the Gospel portrayal of Pilate

is pure fiction. 47

In opposition to the Gospel portrait of Pilate, Aslan describes Pilate as a man of “extreme depravity” who had

total disregard for Jewish law and tradition, and…barely concealed aversion to the Jewish nation as a whole.

Aslan explains that during Pilate’s

tenure in Jerusalem he so eagerly, and without trial, sent thousands upon thousands of Jews to the cross that the people of Jerusalem felt obliged to lodge a formal complaint with the Roman emperor.47

But, for Aslan, even the prospect of a trial for Jesus before Pilate is hard to imagine. Aslan writes,

The notion that [Pilate] would even be in the same room as Jesus, let alone deign to grant him a “trial,” beggars the imagination. Either the threat posed by Jesus to the stability of Jerusalem is so great that he is one of only a handful of Jews to have the opportunity to stand before Pilate and answer for his alleged crimes, or else the so-called trial before Pilate is pure legend. 148

Or, perhaps the “so-called trial” did take place. Aslan goes on,

It is, of course, not inconceivable that Jesus would have received a brief audience with the Roman governor, but, again, only if the magnitude of his crime warranted special attention. 152

Aslan’s confusion here is filled with speculation and unfounded assertion. It is hard to understand why  it “beggars” Aslan’s fairly active imagination to conceive of Jesus facing a trial before the Roman governor of occupied Palestine. But for Aslan, the Gospel presentation of Pontius Pilate

spending even a moment of his time pondering the fate of yet another Jewish rabble-rouser …. is truly beyond belief. 149

Curiously Aslan questions,

Why would Mark have concocted such a patently fictitious scene, one that his Jewish audience would immediately have recognized as false? 149

The question offers as evidence for the “patently fictitious” nature of this scene, the fact that it would not be believed by Mark’s “Jewish audience.”

So it is curious that Aslan goes on to answer his own question with an answer that “is simple.”

Mark was not writing for a Jewish audience. 149

So, why create an imaginary Jewish audience for Mark’s Gospel in order to answer a question that does not need to be posed if Mark was not in fact writing for a Jewish audience?

Aslan has no evidence to support his contention that the trial of Jesus before Pilate could not happen.

In fact, it makes sense that, in occupied Palestine, Jewish religious officials might feel their position of privilege in the religious world might be threatened by an upstart religious reformer who seemed about to upset the comfortable accommodation they had established with Rome. Unable to deal adequately with Jesus themselves, the religious establishment of the day badgered Pilate into acquiescing to their demands. Pilate’s cooperation is a sign of his determination to keep the peace. The price of one innocent man’s life would have been unlikely to have occasioned much of a struggle of conscience for Pilate who “sent thousands upon thousands of Jews to the cross.”

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