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Answering The Atheist
January 23, 2005 / Volume 5, Issue 4

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Was Jesus silent during his trial before Pilate? Matthew 27:12-14 indicates that He was silent, but John 18:33-38 has him making a lengthy speech. Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
We have addressed before cases when one gospel writer supplies details which another does not. Such is the case here. Matthew records only a small bit of the conversation held between Pilate and Jesus (see Matthew 27:11), whereas John gives more details of their discourse.

Does the recorded conversation in John 18 contradict the statement made by Matthew in 27:14, namely that "...He (Jesus) answered him (Pilate) not a word..."? Context and details are important. Verse 12 states, "...while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing." It is not that Jesus did not speak at all to Pilate, but simply while the false accusations were being levied, He stayed silent. No doubt, Pilate expected that Jesus would defend Himself, but He kept silent.

In John 18, the conversation between Pilate and Jesus was private. Notice in verse 33, Pilate entered the Praetorium, and following his conversation with the Lord, he "went out again to the Jews" (v 38). While in private, Jesus indeed spoke to Pilate, but when before the people and being accused, He held silence.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible