… vexing the multitude …
… a man of a very inflexible disposition, and very merciless as well as very obstinate ...
… his corruption, and his acts of insolence, and his rapine, and his habit of insulting people, and his cruelty, and his continual murders of people untried and uncondemned, and his never ending, and gratuitous, and most grievous inhumanity ...
… being at all times a man of most ferocious passions ...
Obviously not the man who condemns Jesus in the Gospels.
Maybe not in the other
NT gospels, but it sounds like the same guy in the gospel of Mark
to me. Let's look at the entire account again.
Early in the morning, the chief priests, elders, scribes, and the whole Sanhedrin devised a plan. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.
So Pilate questioned him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
And the chief priests began to accuse him of many things.
Then Pilate questioned him again, “Do you not answer? Look how many charges they are bringing against you!”
But to Pilate’s amazement, Jesus made no further reply.
Now it was Pilate’s custom at the feast to release to the people a prisoner of their choosing. And a man named Barabbas was imprisoned with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd went up and began asking Pilate to keep his custom.
“Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” Pilate asked. For he knew it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over.
But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas to them instead.
So Pilate asked them again, “What then do you want me to do with the one you call the King of the Jews?”
And they shouted back, “Crucify him!”
“Why?” asked Pilate. “What evil has he done?”
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
And wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
And here is your synopsis of it again:
The central theme concerning Pilate in gMark is that he is only concerned with whether Jesus claims to be "the king of the Jews," and (after the absurd dialogue with the crowd) is finally willing to have him executed for that specific crime of sedition against Roman rule. It is natural, therefore, for the reader to see him as a symbol of Roman rule in Judea, and to see his execution of Jesus as a portent of the Temple's destruction. Of course he isn't a nice guy, but he perfectly represents Rome as its emperors would have liked her subject nations to regard her.
And my impression is that because Pilate had a custom during Passover "to release to the people a prisoner of their choosing
," the chief priests took advantage of it as part of their "plan" to kill Jesus (as per 15:1). And Pilate asked Jesus if he was "the King of the Jews" because that is the charge he was condemned for in Mk. 14:61-64, and the Jewish leaders had presumably informed Pilate of this when they handed Jesus over to him:
Again the high priest questioned him, “Are you the Christ [aka the Messiah, aka the King of the Jews], the Son of the Blessed One?”
“I am,” said Jesus ... At this, the high priest tore his clothes and declared, “Why do we need any more witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy. What is your verdict?” And they all condemned him as deserving of death.
So this is why Pilate is "only" concerned with this charge. And while I do think his dialogue with the crowd may be "absurd," it is in keeping with the practice of ancient writers (including Philo and Josephus), as this website notes:
Making up quotes is not something ancient writers were embarrassed about …
[Thucydides, Peloponnesian War 1.22.1]:
"With reference to the speeches in this history, some were delivered before the war began, others while it was going on; some I heard myself, others I got from various quarters; it was in all cases difficult to carry them word for word in one's memory, so my habit has been to make the speakers say what was in my opinion demanded of them by the various occasions
, of course adhering as closely as possible to the general sense of what they really said" ...
Away back in Bible times, nobody reading [Matthew's account of the magi, for example] would have thought the magoi men literally stood together and actually spoke exactly these words [in Mt. 2:1-2]. People reading Matthew back then understood that Matthew's "quotation" was an invention that captured what the magois thought about their mission. Or, more precisely, what Matthew thought the magois thought about their mission
So was Matthew a dirty liar? No, he wasn't. Matthew was a product of his time and place. In ancient times this is how people wrote history
. In ancient times historians routinely, unashamedly, got their quotations by making them up …
Here's the first century AD Jewish philosopher/historian Philo describing his meeting with the Roman emperor Gaius Caligula ...
"At this we all shouted out together
, 'Lord Gaius, we are being slandered …' "
Did Philo and all his pals all shout exactly these words, all on the spur of the moment, all together? No they didn't
. Did Philo remember exactly the words Gaius said [in response]? No he didn't. Philo made these quotes up
So sure, Pilate's dialogue with the crowd is similarly "absurd," but it conveys Mark's point that the crowd had been stirred up by the chief priests
(who were favored by Rome) to choose Barabbas over Jesus as part of their "plan" to kill Jesus, in accordance with the Pharisees and Herodians (as per Mk. 3:6), who were also favored by Rome.
And Pilate knows this but was "willing" to go along with it anyway because it was his custom
"to release to the people a prisoner of their choosing," and the crowd (stirred up by the chief priests) chose Barabbas. He wasn't afraid of the crowd or coerced by them to do it, he was simply "wishing to satisfy" them in accordance with his custom
, so he "had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified," despite knowing it was only "out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over" to him.
And this is in keeping Philo's description of him above:
... his corruption, and his acts of insolence, and his rapine, and his habit of insulting people, and his cruelty, and his continual murders of people untried and uncondemned, and his never ending, and gratuitous, and most grievous inhumanity ...
When it's done and over, Lord, a man is just a man.