Whose soldiers put the robe on Jesus, Herod’s or Pilate’s?

Posted on Mar.27, 2009. Filed in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Average rating: 2.5 / 10 (Rate It).

Before Jesus was crucified, he was dressed in a royal robe and a crown of thorns and abused by soldiers who fell down in mock worship before him. There is disagreement between the gospels, however, concerning which soldiers it is that actually placed the robe on Jesus.

Matthew reports that it was Pilate’s soldiers, those who actually abused Jesus, who put the robe on him:

… after flogging Jesus, he [Pilate] handed him over to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ [Matthew 27:26b-29]

Mark too has Pilate’s soldiers clothing Jesus in the robe: 

… after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified. Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. [Mark 15:15b-19]

In John’s account, it is again Pilate’s soldiers who dress Jesus in the robe to mock him:

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and striking him on the face. [John 19:1-3]

According to Luke, however, the robe was put on Jesus by Herod’s soldiers before he was sent to Pilate:

Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. [Luke 23:11]

So whose soldiers put the robe on Jesus, Herod’s or Pilate’s?

N.B. All posts are written in a style sympathetic to the claim of Biblical error, even in cases where the author ("Errancy") disagrees with the claim. See the About page for the site's philosophy.

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  1. 1

    Presumably you could say that Herod’s soldiers put “an elegant robe on him”, then Pilate’s men “stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him”?

  2. 2

    Yes, I think the best response here is that there were two different robes placed on Jesus by two different groups of soldiers.

    Usually I’m not keen on multiplying events in order avoid contradictions, but in this case it doesn’t seem particularly implausible.

  3. 3

    No need to multiply the robes to avoid contradiction. It is only necessary to multiply the robings. Presumably, Herod gave Jesus the robe prior to the flogging, the soldiers stripped him of it, flogged him and then put it back on him. Later on they cast lots for it.

    The Luke passage actually explains how it is that the Roman soldiers came by such an incredibly valuable item that they wasted on a prisoner for a bit of fun.

    In my prior comment on the color of the robe, I surmised that the purple dye used for the robe was redder because it was of lower quality. I still hold to that. But I supposed that the dye was of lower quality because the soldiers wouldn’t have a high quality robe lying around.

    Of course, I should have gone the full mile and realized that they wouldn’t even have a low quality robe lying around. Such an item would be hugely expensive. To have one lying around would be like having a gold Rolex lying around today. And the answer now is obvious. They did not have the robe lying around: Herod gave it to Jesus.

    But wouldn’t Herod have a high quality purple robe? Doesn’t that, then, undercut the prior harmonization regarding the scarlet purple robe? There are two answers to that. First, Herod probably wouldn’t want to waste one of his good robes on Jesus. He probably sent a less valuable extra red purple robe along with him. Second, even if Herod did give Jesus a high quality purple robe, it would be the color of clotted blood, and thus might still be described as scarlet.

  4. 4

    Matthew’s “they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him” suggests to me that the soldiers removed Jesus’ clothes in order to put the scarlet robe on him, which would mean that he wasn’t already wearing it. That’s why I was suggesting two robes, rather than just two robings.

    That said, I appreciate that scarlet robes would have been in short supply, and so that a reading that requires only one would be preferable.

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