Why Pilate Was Willing to Content the People
September 5, 2023
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
The following is excerpted from Bill Cooper’s The Authenticity of the New Testament: The Gospels (2013).

Bill Cooper (1947-2021) was a prolific writer and speaker, with a gift of cutting through the fog of biblical criticism to defend the infallible, plenary, verbal inspiration of Scripture, the six-day creation, and the Masoretic Hebrew and Received Greek texts. He was a council member of the Creation Science Movement and the Tyndale Society and an adjunct professor for the Institute for Creation Research’s Master Faculty. His most popular book is After the Flood which gives evidence for the historicity of Genesis 10 based on ancient, little known British and European genealogies. He published a series of books entitled “The Authenticity,” which included The Authenticity of the Book of Genesis, Joshua, Judges, Esther, Daniel, Jonah, the Gospels, Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation. In The Forging of Codex Sinaiticus, Cooper gave evidence to support his thesis that Sinaiticus is a forgery.

Cooper was a careful researcher, an independent thinker, and a brave defender of God’s eternal truth. He accomplished this in spite of suffering serious illnesses, including leukemia, the last two decades of his life. We can’t agree with all of his conclusions; at times he seems to be dogmatic when the evidence isn’t absolute; there is an occasion or two when he might have been led astray by Jewish mysticism; but everything we have read from his pen is well worth considering.

If you want to be encouraged in your faith in the divine inspiration of Scripture, read Bill Cooper.

Not all of his books are currently available in print, but all of them are available in Kindle format from Amazon.


Mark 15:15: “And so Pilate, willing to content the people....”

It is the phrase ‘willing to content the people’ which sticks in the craw. Historians will tell you that a less likely attribute for Pontius Pilate could hardly be thought of. This, after all, is Pontius Pilate that we’re talking about – the same Pontius Pilate who despised the Jews and who thought nothing of ‘mingling their blood with the blood of their sacrifices’ (Luke 13:1). There are several occasions outside the Gospels on which he is recorded as shedding Jewish blood, and treating the Jews with a general disdain and loathing.7

So, why this sudden timidity? Why should he now be anxious to content the same people whom he had always and openly despised? On any other occasion, he would have let his soldiers loose on them. But not now; so, why the sudden change?

The riddle has a most interesting solution, and it shows Mark to have been spot on in his statement.

Pilate was, indeed, now willing to content the people, and for this reason. Some years previously to this event – in AD 26 to be precise - the emperor Tiberius effectively retired from the toil of government and resided at Campania and Capri in order to pursue depravities which even the Romans would have baulked at.8 He handed over the reins of government to his trusted henchman, Lucius Aelius Sejanus, and it is Sejanus who appointed Pontius Pilate in AD 26 to the governorship of Judaea. Sejanus was a notorious anti-Semite who despised the Jews, and he had appointed a man to govern the Jews who shared his hatred of them.9 Pilate owed him much, even down to the highly irregular privilege of being allowed to have his wife with him at his new appointment. Then, suddenly, in October of AD 31, after plotting to murder Tiberius and seize the imperial crown, Sejanus famously fell from power, and Tiberius set about hunting down and exterminating all his old friends and appointees.

Pilate’s position had suddenly become precarious in the extreme, and Tiberius, once so anti-Semitic himself, now reversed all the policies of Sejanus and began to show much favour to the Jews. Pilate, therefore, in great fear that he would himself be recalled to Rome to be killed, was now forced to reverse all his own anti-Semitic policies, and this explains so much of what was now going on in Judaea, and especially what was now happening when Jesus was brought before him. The Jewish leaders who were baying for Jesus’ execution knew all about the fall of Sejanus, and they knew precisely how precarious Pilate’s own position – which he owed to Sejanus - had now become.

It is why, after Pilate had gone to such pains recently to assure Tiberius of his loyalty,10 they took the opportunity to cry out to Pilate that he would be no friend of Caesar’s if he let this Man go. If just the mere suspicion of disloyalty found its way to Rome, then Pilate, as a former friend and appointee of Sejanus, would be doomed, and he knew it. And this is the reason why he was now so suddenly anxious to please the Jewish leaders. When Mark recorded that fact, he was recording the plain simple truth. Pilate, once the brutal oppressor of the Jews, now had to do their every bidding – or perish. Hence, he really was willing to content the people, just as Mark says he was. His very life depended on it.

In AD 37, Pilate was indeed recalled to Rome by Tiberius, and he was facing certain death when he got there. As he arrived, however, it was to find that Tiberius himself had died on March 16th of that year, and that his successor Caligula was now famously waiving all outstanding prosecutions from Tiberius’ reign.11

Pilate must have hoped for a reprieve, but Caligula had once lived in fear of Sejanus who had murdered members of his family, so Pilate, once Sejanus’ friend and appointee, could expect no mercy whatever from him. It seems that after a short trial, he was forced to commit suicide by Caligula.12

But what is very evident throughout this entire episode is the unfolding of Providential History. Had Sejanus not fallen when he did, and had Pilate’s position remained secure at the time of Jesus’ arrest, there is no way that he would have accommodated the Jews in their demands to have Jesus executed. After slaughtering the ringleaders for having stormed his palace with such a riotous and threatening assembly, he would certainly have released Jesus just to show the Jewish hierarchy that he was in charge and not they. He would have arrested – and perhaps even murdered - Jesus later. That, after all, is the Pilate we all know. But then, had that happened, the Scripture would not have been fulfilled, and it is the very Truth and fulfilment of the Scriptures that this is all about.

God does not lie, nor - unlike the Sejanuses and Pilates of this world - is He ever surprised by events. His Word stands fast, and that Word – that promise of redemption – says that Jesus must be condemned and crucified at the instigation of the Jewish leaders. Hence, the circumstances of history so prevailed under the Hand of God that Pilate – entirely contrary to his character - was now at this very moment in time willing to content the people, just as we read in the Gospel of Mark, and just as God’s Word had ordained

- Receive these reports by email
- www.wayoflife.org


Sharing Policy: Much of our material is available for free, such as the hundreds of articles at the Way of Life web site. Other items we sell to help fund our expensive literature and foreign church planting ministries. Way of Life's content falls into two categories: sharable and non-sharable. Things that we encourage you to share include the audio sermons, O Timothy magazine, FBIS articles, and the free eVideos and free eBooks. You are welcome to make copies of these at your own expense and share them with friends and family. You may also post parts of reports and/or entire reports to websites, blogs, etc as long as you give proper credit (citation). A link to the original report is very much appreciated as the reports are frequently updated and/or expanded. Things we do not want copied and distributed are "Store" items like the Fundamental Baptist Digital Library, print editions of our books, electronic editions of the books that we sell, the videos that we sell, etc. The items have taken years to produce at enormous expense in time and money, and we use the income from sales to help fund the ministry. We trust that your Christian honesty will preserve the integrity of this policy. "For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward" (1 Timothy 5:18). Questions? support@wayoflife.org

Goal:Distributed by Way of Life Literature Inc., the Fundamental Baptist Information Service is an e-mail posting for Bible-believing Christians. Established in 1974, Way of Life Literature is a fundamental Baptist preaching and publishing ministry based in Bethel Baptist Church, London, Ontario, of which Wilbert Unger is the founding Pastor. Brother Cloud lives in South Asia where he has been a church planting missionary since 1979. Our primary goal with the FBIS is to provide material to assist preachers in the edification and protection of the churches.

Offering: Offerings are welcome if you care to make one. If you have been helped and/or blessed by our material offerings can be mailed or made online with with Visa, Mastercard, Discover, or Paypal. For information see: www.wayoflife.org/about/makeanoffering.html.

Bible College
Way of Life Literature
Publisher of Bible Study Materials
Way of Life Literature
Publisher of Bible Study Materials
Way of Life Bible College