The Legend of the Roman Soldiers

As we approach Resurrection Sunday let us beware of legends and traditions that do not follow Holy Scripture. One such legend is that of Roman soldiers arresting the Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and Roman soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus.

After the “Last Supper” the Lord Jesus and eleven of the Disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. It was here that Judas led the chief priests, elders and captains of the Temple (Temple guards) to the Lord Jesus. Please note that there is no mention of Roman soldiers.

“Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves?” – Luke 22:52
There is also an interesting incident at this occasion where some translations imply that the Temple guards, as they attempted to seize Jesus, stepped back and knelt before Him. This does not match Scripture nor does it match logic. Why would a guard, who has come to arrest someone, step back and kneel before them?

“Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon Him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered Him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am He. And Judas also, which betrayed Him, stood with them. As soon then as He had said unto them, I am He, they went backward, and fell to the ground.” – John 18:4-6
They did not step back, they went back (aperchomai – Strong’s G565), and then they fell (pipto – Strong’s G4098). This appears to me as if they were repulsed as they tried to grab God in the form of man. They were allowed to take Jesus into custody with the second attempt.

After the Crucifixion and burial of the Lord Jesus, the priests went to Pilate to ask for a Roman guard on the tomb of Jesus. Pilate’s response was, “you have guards, do it yourself.”

“Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.” – Matthew 27:65-66
The word translated as “watch” is koustodia (Strong's G2892) from which we get our English word “custody.” Pilate reminded the Jewish priests that they had guards, men that could place people in custody. The guards at the tomb were Jewish.

The Romans were there to enforce Roman law and were reluctant to become involved in Jewish religious differences. They most certainly crucified the Lord Jesus, because of the lie told by the priests that Jesus declared Himself king in order to usurp the position of Caesar. Once the execution of Jesus by crucifixion was completed, the Romans took no further action.

In conclusion, we cannot point too many fingers at other groups for the inaccuracy of their traditions. We seem to have sufficient traditions of our own.

Praise the Lord for sending the Lord Jesus to this world, to die and to redeem all who will believe on Him. May the name of Jesus be praised forever!

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