Christ is brought before Pontius Pilate and there begins Pilate’s long argument with the Jews about the question of his guilt. In this exchange the chorus portrays the Roman soldiers, and the mob of people who are turned against Christ. (Pontius Pilate (d39AD) was the fifth Prefect of the Roman province of Judaea from AD26-36 serving under the Emperor Tiberius. As well as being mentioned in all four gospels, he is also named as Procurator of Judaea in the works of the Roman historian, Tacitus (c55-120). In all of the gospels Pilate is reluctant to acquiesce to the wishes of the crowd, and in Matthew’s gospel he even washes his hands in front of it, symbolically disowning the decision to crucify Christ.) The music for choruses 23 and 25, on both occasions broadly the same, is harmonically restless, and characterised by a chromatically ascending, then descending phrase, heard first in the basses, but given, on numerous occasions, to the other parts in turn, which continuously overlap one another, often with contrary motion moving inwards between the highest and lowest parts. The music for each of Pilate’s phrases is also very similar, and this repetition between Pilate and chorus serves only to emphasise the insistence of both sides in this argument. When Pilate addresses Christ for the first time, Christ replies with two short phrases, both of which rise in pitch towards the end. Also present in no.26 on the word sterben (a reference to dying) is the four note chromatic “cross” leitmotiv which Bach was to use so liberally in the St Matthew Passion three years later. It appears here in the cello continuo part. In his customary way, Bach also draws attention to the word by using a small chromatic melisma. The word kämpfen (fight) is also painted with a jagged and quick moving melisma, set to a fanfare-like phrase suggesting a call to battle.



Da führeten sie Jesum von Kaipha vor das Richthaus, und es war frühe. Und sie gingen nicht in das Richthaus, auf daß sie nicht unrein würden, sondern Ostern essen möchten. Da ging Pilatus zu ihnen heraus und sprach:

Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgement, and it was early. And they themselves went not into the judgement hall, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the passover. Pilate then went out unto them and said:

  Pilate “Was bringet ihr für Klage wider diesen Menschen?” “What accusation bring ye against this man?”
  Evangelist Sie antworteten und sprachen zu ihm: They answered and said unto him:
23 Chorus “Wäre dieser nicht ein Übeltäter, wir hätten dir ihn nicht, nicht überantwortet.” “If he were not a malefactor we would not have delivered him up unto ye.”
24 Evangelist Da sprach Pilatus zu ihnen: Then Pilate said unto them:
  Pilate “So nehmet ihr ihn hin und richtet ihn nach eurem Gesetze!” “Take ye him and judge him according to your law!”
  Evangelist Da sprachen die Jüden zu ihm: The Jews therefore said unto him:
25 Chorus “Wir dürfen niemand töten.” “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.”
26 Evangelist Auf daß erfüllet würde das Wort Jesu, welches er sagte, da er deutete, welches Todes er sterben würde. Da ging Pilatus wieder hinein in das Richthaus und rief Jesu und sprach zu ihm: That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die. Then Pilate entered into the judgement hall again and called Jesus and said unto him:
  Pilate “Bist du der Jüden König?” “Art thou the King of the Jews?”
  Evangelist Jesus antwortete: Jesus answered him:
  Christ “Redest du das von dir selbst, oder habens dir andere von mir gesagt?” “Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?”
  Evangelist Pilatus antwortete: Pilate answered:
  Pilate ”Bin ich ein Jüde? Dein Volk und die Hohenpriester haben dich mir überantwortet; was hast du getan?” “Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me; what hast thou done?”
  Evangelist Jesus antwortete: Jesus answered:
  Christ “Mein Reich ist nicht von dieser Welt; wäre mein Reich von dieser Welt, meine Diener würden darob kämpfen, daß ich den Jüden nicht überantwortet würde; aber nun ist mein Reich nicht von dannen.” “My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world then would my servants fight that I should not be delivered to the Jew; but now is my kingdom not from hence.”