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And when he knew that he was of Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him up to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem in those days. Bible

“he sent him up.” The Greek verb, “he sent…up” is anapempō (#375 ἀναπέμπω), and it means “to send from a lower to a higher place,” or, “to send to a person of higher authority,” or, “to send back to a previous location” (BDAG Greek-English lexicon). In this context, the meaning is “to send from a lower to a higher place,” and it helps us locate where Pontius Pilate was during the trial of Jesus Christ.

There is some very good evidence that Pilate tried Jesus in the Hasmonean palace, which was just west of the Temple and on the west slope of the Tyropoeon Valley, the valley that runs south to north through Jerusalem. During Jesus’ trial, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod Antipas. It is most likely that Herod Antipas, who grew up in the Western Palace as a boy, would be offered that as a place to stay during Passover. The Western Palace, or “Citadel,” was the ancestral home of the Herods and it was on the far west of Jerusalem and higher in elevation than the Hasmonean palace. So if Pilate sent Jesus from the Hasmonean palace to the Western Palace, then the Bible did indeed correctly state that Pilate sent Jesus “up” to Herod.

The Judean ruler, king Herod Archelaus (Matt. 2:22), who was the son of Herod the Great and his wife Malthace and who replaced Herod the Great as king, was deposed by the Romans in 6 AD, at which time all his possessions, including his palaces, became the property of Rome. Thus, by the time Pilate was governor, he controlled and used both the great Western Palace and the old Hasmonean palace. The Hasmonean palace was directly west of the Temple and had towers that overlooked its walls, and historically, both palaces were called a “Praetorium.” Little attention is payed to the Hasmonean palace today. This is partly due to the fact that nothing remains of it; in fact, even its exact location was disputed until recently. Also, it has only been recently that some scholars have begun to put together the evidence and come to the conclusion that the old Hasmonean palace was the place of the trial of Christ.

There are a number of pieces of evidence that lead us to conclude that Pilate tried Jesus in the Hasmonean palace, too many to discuss here. Nevertheless, one very important piece of biblical evidence is the Bible’s use of anapempō in Luke 23:7. As the Roman authority and governor of Judea, Pilate was a higher authority in the land than Herod Antipas was, which was likely why Herod was flattered and honored when Pilate sent Jesus to him, and thus why Herod and Pilate became friends (Luke 23:12). Many lexicons write as though Herod was the higher authority in Israel at the time, and make it seem like Pilate sent Jesus “up” to Herod because Herod was a higher authority than Pilate. But that is clearly not the case. For one thing, Herod was visiting Judea for Passover, and Judea was not even technically his jurisdiction. Also, the religious leaders brought Jesus to Pilate because he was the authority in Judea. So, Pilate did not send Jesus “up to a person of higher authority” when he sent Jesus to Herod, nor did he “send Jesus back to a previous location.” The evidence leads us to conclude that the Bible is historically correct and Pilate sent Jesus “up” to Herod because the Western Palace was higher in elevation than the Hasmonean palace.

Also, Pilate’s wife had a dream about Christ, and “sent word to him” to have nothing to do with Christ (Matt. 27:19). Although it is possible that she would have “sent word” even if she and her husband Pilate were in the same palace enclosure, it seems unlikely. The message seems urgent enough that if she could have reasonably seen her husband face to face, she would have. If, however, she was staying in the plush and very secure Western Palace, and at that time of day Pilate was working from the Hasmonean palace near the Temple, she would have “sent word to him.” The Roman work day, even for government officials, began very early, so it would not be unusual for Pilate to be working when his wife wanted to tell him about a dream she had (there is also some ancillary evidence that perhaps the governor and his wife would not have stayed in the same location anyway).

Also, the Hasmonean palace had been used as the administrative center of Jerusalem for years, so there is some support from tradition. And, as the historian Jack Finegan points out, “…the oldest Jerusalem tradition, attested by the pilgrims down into the seventh century, points to the Praetorium of Pilate as being on the west bank of the Tyropoeon Valley, which was the area of the Hasmonean palace which became Herod’s Lower Palace” (The Archeology of the New Testament, Revised Edition, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1992, p. 249.) However, Finegan notes that the Western Palace is also a possibility even if it does not have the historical support the Hasmonean palace does.

Also, at some point in the early centuries after Christ, the Christians built a church on the site of where Jesus had been on trial, and that church was visited by early pilgrims, including Peter the Iberian in 451 AD; and there is a church in that location on the Madaba Mosaic Map (done sometime between 542 and 570 AD). It has only been in the last decades that remains of an ancient church has been uncovered on the west slope of the Tyropoeon Valley where the Hasmonean palace would have been located, whereas there is no history of a church being in the location of the Western Palace.

Although it is possible that Pilate did try Jesus in the Western Palace, and that place has a lot of support today, the actual evidence for it is very limited. It mainly comes from traditional support; the fact that the Western Palace, like the Hasmonean palace, was called a Praetorium; and archaeology showing there was a pavement there and room for a crowd. But the Hasmonean palace would have had plenty of room for a trial also.

If Pilate was at the Western Palace, that does not explain why Pilate sent Jesus “up” to Herod. Also, if Herod had been staying in the Antonia Fortress or the Hasmonean palace, those places were “down” from the Western Palace.

It also should be noted that although the Antonia Fortress has often been traditionally known as the place where Pilate tried Jesus, the historical and archaeological evidence is against it. (For more information, see (Finegan, The Archeology of the New Testament, pp. 246-250. Also, Bargil Pixner, Paths of the Messiah, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA, 2010, pp. 268-272; 308-309).


Commentary for: Luke 23:7