The Christian bible portrays Pontius Pilate as this meek guy. History shows the reverse is true. Rome even recalled him for cruelty! One example was when he had soldiers blend in with a crowd of Jews protesting one of his actions. The soldiers were dressed like civilians, but they had clubs under their clothes. They beat numerous people to death, causing a riot where others died in the rush to escape.
Philo lived in the time of Pilate (c. 25 BCE – c. 50 CE). He wrote in Legatione ad Caium wrote of Pilate "He feared they . . . might impeach him (Pilate). . .in respect to the his corruption, his acts of insolence, and his rapine and his habit of insulting people, and his continual murder of persons untried and uncondemned, and his never ending, and gratuitous and most grievous inhumanity."
So, no, Pontius Pilate was neither a "nice" guy, a meek man or likely to be swayed by the Jews as portrayed in the Christian bible.
This post will discuss how the trial of Jesus, as described in the Christian bible, could never have happened. Roman law and Jewish law -- and historical information that has come to us from sources outside the Christian bible including Philo and Josephus (37 CE to 100 CE) re-enforces the fact that the story of Jesus' "trial" by Jews is total fiction. There is an excellent article on this topic, with references, at "The Rejection of Pascal's Wager."
Let us begin.
There were multiple Sanhedrins in the 1st century of the common era. 'Sanhedrin' (the word) is derived from the Greek 'Synhedrion' -- so the body didn't come to be called by that name until later, but the courts were the same.
Courts (בית דין / Beit Din / houses of judgment) are comprised of three judges. This court system is still in place today. No Jewish court exists with only one judge (as in American courts). There is no jury system of lay persons, cases are adjudicated and tried by judges (rabbis).
The next level of court was the "minor Sanhedrin." Cities had "minor Sanhedrins." These courts were comprised of 23 judges. (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 1:4a). Ergo the court system was somewhat similar to the American system of courts, appellate courts and a supreme court. The minor Sanhedrins did indeed have the ability to pass the death penalty. The number (23) is derived from Bambidar (Numbers) 35:24-25 as discussed in the Rambam's Mishna Torah: "What is the source which teaches that capital cases may be judged only by a court of 23? Although this is a matter conveyed by the Oral Tradition, there is an allusion to it in the Torah. Numbers 35:24-25 states: "And the congregation shall judge... and the congregation shall save...." Implied is that there must be the possibility of a congregation judging - and condemning him to death - and a congregation saving - and seeking his acquittal. Now a congregation is no less than ten. Thus there are at least 20 judges. We add three judges so that there not be an equally balanced court and to allow the possibility of "following after the inclination of the majority."
A death penalty could be appealed to the "supreme court" of the land -- the "Great Sanhedrin."
The Great Sanhedrin was the supreme court of the land, the court which met in the Temple in the Chamber of Hewn / Carved Stone. It was comprised of priests, scribes and judges -- normally 71 judges. This number is taken from Bambidar (Numbers) 11:16. The true Hebrew name would be Beit Din HaGadol (The Great Court) but it came to be called Sanhedrin in the 2nd Temple period. Different name -- same concept. Link.
Here is a great link on the legal system in Judah.
All the "particulars" of the mock trial, those who supposedly tried Jesus, etc. don't fit with Jewish law or historically known facts. The whole thing is fiction.
The real Sanhedrin (the Jewish court, not the Roman puppet court) had lost its power to pass the death penalty twice over. The Romans withdrew this right. According to Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 17:13) around the year 6 CE, Herod Archelaus, was dethroned and banished to Vienna. He was replaced, not by a Jewish king, but by a Roman Procurator named Caponius. The legal power of the Sanhedrin was then immediately restricted. When Archelaus was banished the Sanhedrin lost the ability to try death penalty cases -- that power was given to the puppet Roman procurator. See Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 20:19.
From the Jewish perspective, the Chamber of Hewn Stones had been destroyed inside the Temple prior to Jesus' supposed death. Also supposedly from the Talmud (the Talmudic quote at the end of the paragraph is found in the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, Chapter 4, fol,37): “When the members of the Sanhedrin found themselves deprived of their right over life and death, a general consternation took possession of them; they covered their heads with ashes, and their bodies with sackcloth, exclaiming: ‘Woe unto us, for the scepter has departed from Judah, and the Messiah has not come’ ” (M. M. Lemann, "Jesus Before the Sanhedrin," translated by Julius Magath).
The Roman Sanhedrin was a puppet court put into place by the Romans. ROMAN Sanhedrins -- not to be confused with the real Sanhedrin. Solomon Zeitlin in his book The Rise and Fall of the Judean State "Any disturbance was a peril to the Judean (Roman) authorities, who could maintain their status only if complete tranquility prevailed."
The high priest in particular - then Caiaphas - was really a servant, or lackey of Rome, appointed by the legate or procurator to ensure local control of malcontents. His sensitivity to the Galilean preacher is not difficult to imagine. Nor is Pilate's...
Pilate was vicious to the people and hostile to their religion. He was cunning and treacherous. Due to his provocations, Judea was on the brink of rebellion. The leaders of the people and High Priest Caiaphas, knowing his cunning and treachery, were fearful that if anything should happen Pilate would hold them responsible and wreak vengeance on the entire people.
William Nichols wrote: Christian Antisemitism, A History of Hate. (He is a former Anglican minister, and founder of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of British Columbia). "Following the Jewish scholar Paul Winter in his influential book, The trial of Jesus, Vermes concluded that if indeed such a trial as the Gospels describe took place, the Sanhedrin achieved the considerable feat of breaking just about every rule in the book on a single occasion." (Vermes, Jesus the Jew p36).
One of the most relevant of these rules prohibits holding a capital trial by night or on a festival. We are asked by the synoptic writers to believe that Jesus was arraigned before the full Sanhedrin on the evening of the Passover celebration. Given the especial sacredness for Jews of the first night of Passover, such a claim alone will strain the credulity of anyone who has ever thought about its implications...
The historicity of the affair is more than suspect. Paul knows nothing of it and the accounts in the first two Gospels are both conflicting and highly tendentious.
From anything we know from other sources about the character and conduct of Pilate, the accounts in all four Gospels of his inadequate attempts to defend Jesus against a Jewish mob howling for blood are so improbable as to border on the ludicrous. Pilate was eventually relieved of his post for brutality in his administration excessive even in Roman eyes. (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 17:85-89) It is not easily conceivable that this administrator, who did not shrink from massacres, would have gone through scruples of conscience on whether it was legitimate, in view of the nobility of Jesus' character, to yield to Jewish demands for the crucifixion of one individual.
Matthew adds an even more devastating but no less improbable touch when he has the crowd shout, "His blood be on us and our children", words that have been used down through the centuries to justify many a pogrom and persecution...
The upshot of the Gospel accounts is to divert attention from a solid historical fact, nevertheless unmistakably present even in their own accounts, that Jesus was condemned in a Roman court on a Roman charge, and put to death by a method of execution only used by the Romans. So successful is this diversion of attention that to this day countless Christians believe that the Jews killed Christ.
No one today blames the Italian people, the putative descendants of the Romans for what their ancestors did in crucifying Jesus. The supposed guilt of the Jews has echoed down history, justifying innumerable massacres..
Sophiee Saguy has been countering false missionary claims about Judaism and the T'nach (Jewish bible) for nearly twenty years. You may find her on FaceBook and at the Messiah Truth forum.