Book Review: The Trial Of Jesus From A Lawyer’s Standpoint, Volume II

The Trial Of Jesus From A Lawyer’s Standpoint, Volume II: The Roman Trial, by Walter M. Chandler

As commented on before [1], this volume is the second volume to an excellent work of history and legal analysis that looked at the trial of Jesus, and this trial focuses on the Roman side of the trial. This book, although it is organized very differently from the first volume in the series, is a book that shares the elegant and precise legal style of its predecessor, although it is much less precisely focused for a variety of good reasons. Here, even to a greater extent than the previous volume of the series, Chandler blends an immense and deep knowledge of first century biblical history with a passionate application of these affairs to contemporary concerns in a way that is starkly relevant to our present society, even though this book was written around a century ago or so.

This particular volume has a slightly misleading but entirely understandable title, in view of its contents. The title is given as a parallel to the first volume, which was about the Jewish trial of Jesus. That said, the contents of this volume are far more extensive than a mere legal analysis of the trial of Jesus by Pontius Pilate (and his attempts, in vain, to pass off Jesus to Herod’s jurisdiction after having pronounced him innocent in a quick though formal Roman proceeding). Where this book shines in the early sections is in its knowledge of Roman law and legal history and in bringing it to bear on the question of whether Pilate judged correctly. The author supports his thesis well, that Pilate judged rightly and tried Jesus according to the forms of a trial, that Jesus was an able and honest defendant, forthrightly confessing His kingship but phrasing it in such a way that it did not involve any seditious interests vis-a-vis the Roman empire, but that he showed cowardice in preferring to avoid risking political capital to deliver a man that he knew to be innocent.

Where this book excels, and what accounts for most of its contents, is the way that the book shows a massive and pointed critique at the corruption of Pontius Pilate as well as the general corruption at the time, and even candidly admits the many similarities between Hellenistic Christianity and pagan beliefs from the ancient Near East [2]. Where the book takes on a particularly dark relevance is in the way the book connects the loss of religious faith among the ancient Romans to a decline of respect for marriage and a rise in sexual immorality (including pedophilia, especially pederasty, sex trafficking, and homosexuality, adultery, and fornication in general), as well as a decline for the respect for the life of infants and slaves and the rise of suicide resulting from the loss of hope in an afterlife. The way in which the contemporary Greco-Roman culture continually encouraged the corruption of morality through lurid sex and violence is something that looks distinctly modern in its relevance as well. The book includes some lengthy quotations of other sources to make its points, including a large bit of writing about early Roman attempts to stop the orgies of the Bacchanalia as well as the entire Acts of Pilate (along with notes about it) and some biographical sketches of some 40 members of the Sanhedrin during the time of Christ, exposing their corruption and depravity.

Although this particular book is more varied and wide-ranging in its commentary than the first volume, it offers a passionate defense of the legitimacy of the biblical moral worldview, a stirring defense of the worth of the Jewish people against anti-Semitism, and a harsh but merited criticism of the cowardice of Pontius Pilate when faced with the mob that had been stirred up by Jesus’ Jewish enemies. In its strong moral critique of the corrupt morals and culture of the Romans during the first century, the book makes a strong and implicit condemnation against that same corruption in our own time, which makes this book a timely work in the way it speaks out against so many of the evils of the 20th and 21st century even given its lack of explicit interest in predicting the future. For those of us who live in the present future, the comments this book makes about Roman corruption and the belief that might makes right and anti-Semitism and social Darwinism are a strong condemnation of Nazi and Communist tendencies, to say nothing of the epicurian consumerism and sexual immorality in our own contemporary society. This book has a lot to say about us, albeit unintentionally, and it says it well.


[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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6 Responses to Book Review: The Trial Of Jesus From A Lawyer’s Standpoint, Volume II

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