“When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha)”. (John 19:13)
At the Antonia Fortress archaeologists have uncovered an elevated paved platform believed to be the Gabbatha. The Gabbatha is the location of the “Judgment Seat” (berma in Aramaic) where Pilate delivered his judgment against Jesus. When a representative of the Crown, in this case Rome, spoke from the berma he was speaking with the power of the Crown.
The 10th Legion and the King’s Game
The Roman 10th Legion was garrisoned at the Antonia Fortress and enforced the authority of Rome in Judea. Soldiers in the 10th were mercenaries from Trace. They were assigned to Judea because of their brutality. Adding to that, Judea was one of the least desirable garrison assignments for Roman soldiers. Soliders in the 10th, therefore, made sport of prisoners given over to them for punishment.
Found chiseled into the paving stones of the Gabbatha are a circle with lines dividing it like a six slice pizza. Below and to the right of the circle is a chiseled scorpion, the sign of the 10th Legion. Here the soldiers payed what has been called “The King’s Game” with political prisoners.
“The Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again saying ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ And the struck him in the face.” (John 19:1-3)
The soldiers rolled dice to see which of them would administer punishment and what punishment would be administered. Prisoners accused of treason against Rome were subjected to the very harshest punishments. Being as brutal as they could was a way for the soldiers to have fun and take out their frustrations at the same time. It also brought them recognition from their leaders, in this case including Pilate.
The Brutality of the Flogging
Pilate had the soldiers administer 39 lashes. Forty lashes was the penalty of death.
The instrument of punishment consisted of long strips of leather. At the end of each strip was a hooked piece of metal or glass, formed like a fish hook. The tips would enter the skin easily, but tear away flesh when pulled back. The flesh and muscle on Jesus’ back would have been virtually torn away by this punishment. Jesus, following the flogging, would have been a dead man walking.
When Pilate brought Jesus to the berma Jesus was clothed in a purple robe. Purple was, of course, the symbol of royalty. Pilate was mocking Jesus. The robe would also have concealed the ripped, torn and bleeding back of Jesus.
The Berma in the Gospel of Peter (Apocryphal)
In the Apocryphal Gospel of Peter, Pilate had Jesus sit on the Judgment Seat. This is also reported by several early church historians. Although our modern English translations of John 19:13 state that Pilate took the seat, it is unclear in the original Greek who was seated on the berma.
If this is true, then Pilate was further mocking Jesus as “King of the Jews”. But, if true, there is extreme irony in this. In the end, God will be the Judge.
The Passion of Christ
As we see from just a very few verses taken from John, Jesus suffered unimaginable pain and humiliation. This was true not only with the crucifixion itself, but all of the events leading up to it. Prior to His trial before Pilate, Jesus had been beaten and humiliated before the Sanhedrin.
Our Lord Jesus suffered all this for us. He is the Sacrifice of the Lamb. He died for His love for us.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, it is now and ever shall be.
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