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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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PAVEMENT.—The word occurs only in John 19:13 as one of the names by which was known the locality otherwise called Gabbatha (wh. see) In classical usage λιθόστρωτον denotes a stone pavement, and later a mosaic or tessellated pavement, in which sense the word passed into Latin. Of recent years beautiful pavements have been found in many places in Palestine; but so far there is no evidence outside the NT that any locality in Jerusalem was generally known as either Gabbatha or the Pavement, and no attempted identification of the spot is quite satisfactory. The easiest course is to regard the passage as unhistorical, and the allusions as derived only from the writer’s imagination and introduced to give verisimilitude to the narrative; but such an explanation is itself as subjective as the pleas it adopts. That the reference is to the paved forecourt of the Temple, or to the usual meeting-place of the Sanhedrin, is rendered unlikely by the absence of the designation from Jewish literature, as well as by the improbability that Pilate would choose any partially consecrated spot for the inquiry. On the other hand, there are Latin usages which seem to connect the locality with the governor’s official or temporary residence. Julius Caesar is described by Suctonius (Vit. Div. Jul. 46) as carrying about with him on his military expeditions a tessellated pavement, which was laid down in his encampments as marking the spot from which judicial decisions and addresses to the soldiers were given. Josephus (Ant. xviii. iv. 6) reports that Philip the tetrarch similarly carried his tribunal with him (τοῦ θρόνου εἰς δν ἔκρινε καθεζύμενος ἐν ταῖς ὁδοῖς ἑπομένου), but there is no reference to a portable mosaic. In the case of Pilate, it is possible that he would be disposed to imitate the procedure of the Emperor, or even that of a petty sovereign, but in this matter no record to such an effect has been found; and whilst the course would not be without danger, it is not easy to think that a locality would derive its name from being one of many places on which a movable pavement was once or occasionally laid. That, moreover, there were, as a rule, in the larger centres of population, fixed places for the administration of justice is not unlikely. The provincial basilicas were often law-courts as well as exchanges, the tribunal being set in the semicircular apse, of which the raised floor was certainly paved, and exactly the kind of spot to attract a designer. There may not have been any such basilica at Jerusalem, or at least the remains of one have not so far been clearly identified. Josephus (BJ II. ix. 3: καθίσας ἐπὶ βήματος ἐν τῷ μεγάλῳ σταδίῳ) has been cited in support of a view that Pilate used ‘the open market-place’ (so Whiston, followed by many) at Jerusalem for the administration of justice; but the passage refers to Caesarea, and the rendering of στάδιον as a synonym of ἀγορά is not well established. Each stationary camp, again, had its tribunal, sometimes formed of turf but more frequently of stone, and from it the general addressed the soldiers and the tribunes administered justice. In Jerusalem the garrison occupied the castle of Antonia, within which would be the tribunal used in cases of military discipline, but probably not for the hearing of Jewish complaints and causes. Pilate himself would reside in Herod’s palace (cf. Philo, ad Gaium, 31, and the practice of Gessius Florus in Josephus BJ ii. xv. 5), as did also the procurator at Caesarea (Acts 23:35). It was a magnificent building, lined outside with spacious porticoes. Here it was natural that the Jews should present themselves when seeking the execution of Jesus (John 18:28; John 19:4), who was apparently confined in the palace (John 19:9; John 19:13 a). And one of these paved porticoes may well have been known within the palace as the Pavement, upon which stood the judgment-seat, under an open cupola or within a rounded porch.

Literature.—Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible , art. ‘Gabbatha’; EBi [Note: Bi Encyclopaedia Biblica.] , art. ‘Pavement.’

R. W. Moss.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Pavement'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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Saturday, November 28th, 2020
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