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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
is the rendering in Mark 15:16 of the Greek notation Πραιτώριον of the Latin word prcetorinum, which properly meant the tent of the Roman general in the field, and hence the house of the Roman governor in his province (see Livy, 28:27; 45:7; Valer. Max. 1, 6, 4; Cicero, Verr. 2, 4, 28; 2, 5, 12, 35; comp. Walter, Gesch. d. Rum. Rechts, 1, 340). In Matthew 27:27 the common version renders the same word common hall; in Philippians 1:13, palace; in John 18:28, hall of judgment; and elsewhere, once in the same verse in John, in 5:33, in 19:9, and Acts 23:35, judgment hall. It, is plainly one of the many Latin words to be found in the New Testament, (See LATINISMS), being the word pretorium in a Greek dress, a derivative from praetor; which latter, from praeeo, "to go before," was originally applied by the Romans to a military officer the general. But because the Romans subdued many countries and reduced them to provinces, and governed them afterwards, at first by the generals who subdued them, or by some other military commanders, the word puraetor came ultimately to be used for any civil governor of a province, whether he had been engaged in war or not; and who acted in the capacity of chief-justice, having a council associated with him (Acts 25:12). Accordingly the word praetorium, also, which originally signified the general's tent in a camp, came at length to be applied to the residence of the civil governor in provinces and cities (Cicero, Verr. 2; 5, 12); and being properly an adjective, as is also its Greek representative, it was used to signify whatever appertained to the praetor or governor; for instance, his residence, either the whole or any part of it, as his dwelling-house, or the place where he administered justice, or even the large enclosed court at the entrance to the praetorian residence (Byneaes, De Morte Jesu Christi [Amsterd. 1696], 2, 407). There dwelt not only the commandant and his family (Josephus, Ant. 20:10, 1), but a division of the troops occupied barracks there, and the prisoners who awaited hearing and judgment from the chief were there detained (Acts 23:35). The praetorium in the capital of a province was usually a large palace; and we see by Josephus (War, 2, 14, 8; comp. 15:5; Philo, Opp. 2, 591) that the procurators of Judaea, when in Jerusalem, occupied Herod's palace as a praetorium, just as in Caesarea a former royal residence served the same purpose. Yet the rendering of the Latin praetorium in general by the word palace (by Schleusner and Wahl) is wrong. The places in Suetonius misquoted refer only to the imperial palaces out of Rome. Verres as praeses or prmetor of Sicily resided in the donmus pretoria, which belonged to king Hiero (Cicero, Verr. 2, 5; 12:31). (See JERUSALEM).
1. As to the passages in the Gospels referred to above, tradition distinguishes the judgment-hall of Pilate, which is pointed out in the lower city (Korte, Reisen, p. 75; Troilo, p. 234 sq.), from the palace of king Herod; and others have believed (as Rosenmü ller, Alterth. II, 2, 228) that the procurator took up his quarters in Jerusalem in the tower of Antonia, and sat in judgment there. The tradition has no weight; yet on general grounds we may believe, since the palace of Herod stood vacant and was roomy and suitable, that the procurators usually resided there, surrounded by a body-guard, while the troops with their officers occupied the tower of Antonia (comp. Faber, Archaeology, 1, 321 sq.). A description of that marble palace of Herod, which joined the north wall of the upper city, and was so large and well fortified, is given by Josephus (War, 5, 4, 4; comp. Ant. 15, 9, 3). The Roman procurators, whose ordinary residence was at Cassarea (Acts 23:23, etc.; 25:1, etc.), took up their residence in this palace when they visited Jerusalem, their tribunal being erected in the open court or area before it. Thus Josephus states that Florus took up his quarters at the palace (ἐν τοῖς βασιλείοις αὐλίζεται); and on the next day he had his tribunal set up before it, and sat upon it (War, 2, 14, 8). Philo expressly says that the palace, which had hitherto been Herod's, was now called τὴν οἰκίαν τῶν ἐπιτρόπων, "the house of the practors" (Legat. ad Caium [ed. Franc.], p. 1033).
It was situated on the western or more elevated hill of Jerusalem, overlooking the Temple (Josephus, Ant. 20, 8, 11), and was connected with a system of fortifications the aggregate of which constituted the παρεμβολή, or fortified barrack. It was the dominant position on the western hill, and-at any rate on one side, probably the eastern— was mounted by a flight of steps, the same from which Paul made his speech in Hebrew to the angry crowd of Jews (Acts 22:1 sq.). From the level below the barrack a terrace led eastward to a gate opening into the western side of the cloister surrounding the Temple, the road being carried across the valley of the Tyropoeon (separating the western from the Temple hill) on a causeway built up of enormous stone blocks. At the angle of the Temple cloister just above this entrance, i.e. the northwest corner, (See TEMPLE), stood the old citadel of the Temple hill the βᾶρις , or Byrsa, which Herod rebuilt and called by the name Antonia, after his friend and patron the triumvir. After the Roman power was established in Judaca, a Roman guard was always maintained in the Antonia, the commander of which for the time being seems to be the official termed στρατηγός τοῦ ἱεροῦ in the Gospels and Acts.
The guard in the Antonia was probably relieved regularly from the cohort quartered in the παρεμβολή , and hence the plural form στρατηγοί is sometimes used, the officers, like the privates, being changed every watch; although it is very conceivable that a certain number of them should have been selected for the service from possessing a superior knowledge of the Jewish customs or skill in the Hebrew language. Besides the cohort of regular legionaries there was probably an equal number of local troops, who when on service acted as the "supports" (δεξιόλαβοι, coverers of the right flank, Acts 23:23) of the former, and there were also a few squadrons of cavalry; although it seems likely that both these and the local troops had separate barracks at Jerusalem, and that the παρεμβολή , or praetorian camp, was appropriated to the Roman cohort. The ordinary police of the Temple and the city seems to have been in the hands of the Jewish officials, whose attendants (ὑπήρεται ) were provided with dirks and clubs, but without the regular armor and the discipline of the legionaries. When the latter were required to assist the gendarmerie, either from the apprehension of serious tumult, or because the service was one of great importance, the Jews would apply to the officer in command at the Antonia, who would act so far under their orders as the commander of a detachment in a manufacturing town does under the orders of the civil magistrate at the time of a riot (Acts 4:1; Acts 5:24). But the power of life and death, or of regular scourging, rested only with the praetor, or the person representing him and commissioned by him. This power, and that which would always go with it-the right to press whatever men or things were required by the public exigencies appears to be denoted by the term ἐξουσία, a term perhaps the translation of the Latin imperium, and certainly its equivalent. It was inherent in the practor or his representatives-hence themselves popularly called ἐξουσίαι ἐξουσίαι ὑπέρτεραι (Romans 13:1; Romans 13:3)— and would be communicated to all military officers in command of detached posts, such as the centurion at Capernaum, who describes himself as possessing summary powers of this kind because he was ὑπ᾿ ἐξουσίᾷ-covered by the privilege of the imperium (Matthew 8:9). The forced purveyances (Matthew 5:40), the requisitions for baggage animals (Matthew 5:41), the summary punishments following transgression of orders (Matthew 5:39) incident to a military occupation of the country, of course must have been a perpetual source of irritation to the peasantry along the lines of the military roads, even when the despotic authority of the Roman officers might be exercised with moderation. But such a state of things also afforded constant opportunities to an unprincipled soldier to extort money under the pretence of a loan, as the price of exemption from personal services which he was competent to insist upon, or as a bribe to buy off the prosecution of some vexatious charge before a military tribunal (Matthew 5:42; Luke 3, 14). (See ARMY).
The relations of the military to the civil authorities in Jerusalem come out very clearly from the history of the Crucifixion. When Judas first makes his proposition to betray Jesus to the chief-priests, a conference is held between them and the στρατγηγοί as to the mode of effecting the object (Luke 22:4). The plan involved the assemblage of a large number of the Jews by night, and Roman jealousy forbade such a thing, except under the surveillance of a military officer. An arrangement was accordingly made for a military force, which would naturally be drawn from the Antonia. At the appointed hour Judas comes and takes with him "the troops" (called τὴν σπεῖραν , although of course only a detachment from the cohort), together with a number of police (ὑπηρέτας) under the orders of the high priests and Pharisees (John 18:3).
When the apprehension of Jesus takes place, however, there is scarcely any reference to the presence of the military. Matthew and Mark altogether ignore their taking any part in the proceeding. From Luke's account one is led to suppose that the military commander posted his men outside the garden, and entered himself with the Jewish authorities (Luke 22:52). This is exactly what might be expected under the circumstances. It was the business of the Jewish authorities to apprehend a Jewish offender, and of the Roman officer to take care that the proceeding led to no breach of the public peace. But when apprehended, the Roman officer became responsible for the custody of the offender, and accordingly he would at once chain him by the wrists to two soldiers (Acts 21:33) and carry him off. Here John accordingly gave another glimpse of the presence of the military: "the troops then, and the chiliarch and the officers of the Jews, apprehended Jesus, and put him in bonds, and led him away, first of all to Annas" (John 18:12). The insults which Luke mentions (Luke 22:63) are apparently the barbarous sport of the ruffianly soldiers and police while waiting with their prisoner for the assembling of the Sanhedrim in the hall of Caiaphas; but the blows inflicted are those with the vine-stick, which the centurions carried, and with which they struck the soldiers on the head and face (Juvenal, Sat. 8, 247), not a flagellation by the hands of lictors. When Jesus was condemned by the Sanhedrim, and accordingly sent to Pilate, the Jewish officials certainly expected that no inquiry would be made into the merits of the case, but that Jesus would be simply received as a convict on the authority of his own countrymen's tribunal, thrown into a dungeon, and on the first convenient opportunity executed. They are obviously surprised at the question, "What accusation bring ye against this man?" and at the apparition of the governor himself outside the precinct of the praetorium.
The cheapness in which he had held the life of the native population on a former occasion (Luke 13:1) must have led them to expect a totally different course from him. His scrupulousness, most extraordinary in any Roman, stands in striking contrast with the recklessness of the commander who proceeded at once to put St. Paul to torture, simply to ascertain why it was that so violent an attack was made on him by the crowd (Acts 22:24). Yet this latter is undoubtedly a typical specimen of the feeling which prevailed among the conquerors of Judaea in reference to the conquered. The order for the execution of a native criminal would in ninety-nine instances out of a hundred have been regarded by a Roman magnate as a simply ministerial act— one which indeed only he was competent to perform, but of which the performance was unworthy of a second thought. It is probable that the hesitation of Pilate was due rather to a superstitious fear of his wife's dream than to a sense of justice or a feeling of humanity towards an individual of a despised race; at any rate, such an explanation is more in accordance with what we know of the feeling prevalent among his class in that age. When at last Pilate's effort to save Jesus was defeated by the determination of the Jews to claim Barabbas, and he had testified, by washing his hands in the presence of the people, that he did not consent to the judgment passed on the prisoner by the Sanhedrim, but must be regarded as performing a merely ministerial act, he proceeded at once to the formal imposition of the appropriate penalty. His lictors took Jesus and inflicted the punishment of scourging upon him in the presence of all (Matthew 27:26).
This, in the Roman idea, was the necessary preliminary to capital punishment, and had Jesus not been an alien his head would have been struck off by the lictors immediately afterwards. But crucifixion being the customary punishment in that case, a different course becomes necessary. The execution must take place by the hands of the military, and Jesus is handed over from the lictors to these. They take him into the praetorium, and muster the whole cohort- not merely that portion which is on duty at the time (Matthew 27:27; Mark 15:16). While a centurion's guard is told off for the purpose of executing Jesus and the two criminals, the rest of the soldiers divert themselves by mocking the reputed king of the Jews (Matthew 27:28-30; Mark 15:17-19; John 19:2-3), Pilate, who in the meantime has gone in, being probably a witness of the pitiable spectacle. His wife's dream still haunts him, and although he has already delivered Jesus over to execution, and what is taking place is merely the ordinary course, he comes out again to the people to protest that he is passive in the matter, and that they must take the prisoner, there before their eyes in the garb of mockery, and crucify him (John 19:4-6). On their reply that Jesus had asserted himself to be the Son of God, Pilate's fears are still more roused, and at last he is only induced to go on with the military execution, for which he is himself responsible, by the threat of a charge of treason against Cesar in the event of his not doing so (John 19:7-13). Sitting, then, solemnly on the bema, and producing Jesus, who in the meantime has had his own clothes put upon him, he formally delivers him up to be crucified in such a manner as to make it appear that he is acting solely in the discharge of his duty to the emperor (John 19:13-16). The centurion's guard now proceed with the prisoners to Golgotha. Jesus himself carrying the cross- piece of wood to which his hands were to be nailed. Weak from loss of blood, the result of the scourging, he is unable to proceed; but just as they are leaving the gate they meet Simon the Cyrenian, and at once use the military right of pressing (ἀγγαρεύειν) him for the public service. Arrived at the spot, four soldiers are told off for the business of the executioner, the remainder keeping the ground. Two would be required to hold the hands, and a third the feet, while the fourth drove in the nails. Hence the distribution of the garments into four parts.
The centurion in command, the principal Jewish officials and their acquaintances (hence probably John [John 18:15]), and the nearest relatives of Jesus (John 19:26-27), might naturally be admitted within the cordon-a square of perhaps one hundred yards. The people would be kept outside of this, but the distance would not be too great to read the title, "Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews," or at any rate to gather its general meaning. The whole acquaintance of Jesus, and the women who had followed him from Galilee- too much afflicted to mix with the crowd in the immediate vicinity, and too numerous to obtain admission inside the cordon-looked on from a distance (ἀπὸ μακρόθεν ). The vessel containing vinegar (John 19:29) was set within the cordon for the benefit of the soldiers, whose duty it was to remain under arms (Matthew 27:36) until the death of the prisoners, the centurion in command being responsible for their not being taken down alive. Had the Jews not been anxious for the removal of the bodies, in order not to shock the eyes of the people coming in from the country on the following day, the troops would have been relieved at the end of their watch, and their place supplied by others until death took place. The jealousy with which any interference with the regular course of a military execution was regarded appears from the application of the Jews to Pilate— not to the centurion to have the prisoners dispatched by breaking their legs. For the performance of this duty other soldiers were detailed (John 19:32), not merely permission given to the Jews to have the operation performed. Even for the watching of the sepulcher recourse is had to Pilate, who bids the applicants "take a guard" (Matthew 27:65), which they do, and put a seal on the stone in the presence of the soldiers, in a way exactly analogous to that practiced in the custody of the sacred robes of the high-priest in the Antonia (Josephus, Ant. 15, 11, 4). (See CRUCIFIXION).
2. The praetorium in Rome, mentioned in Philippians 1:13 where Paul lay imprisoned, has occasioned much discussion among the interpreters. and formed the theme of a learned dispute between Jac. Perizonius and Ulrich Huber (see Perizonii Cum U. Hubero Disquisitio de Praetorio [Lugd. Bat. 1696]). It was not the imperial palace (ἡ οἰκία Καίσαρος, Philippians 4:22), for this was never called praetorium in Rome; nor was it the judgment hall, for no such building stood in Rome, and the name pletoria was not until much later applied to the courts of justice (see Perizonius, l. c. p. 63 sq.). It was probably (as Camerarius perceived) the quarters of the imperial body-guard, the praetorian cohort, which had been built for it by Tiberius, under the advice of Sejanus (Sueton. Tü b. 37). Before that time the guards were billeted in different parts of the city. It stood outside the walls, at some distance short of the fourth milestone, and so near either to the Salarian or the Nomentane road that Nero, in his flight by one or the other of them to the house of his freedman Phaon, which was situated between the two, heard the cheers of the soldiers within for Galba. In the time of Vespasian the houses seem to have extended so far as to reach it (Tacitus, Annal. 4, 2; Sueton. Ner. 48; Pliny, I. N. 3, 5). From the first, buildings must have sprung up near it for sutlers and others. An opinion well deserving consideration has been advocated by Wieseler, and by Conybeare and Howson (Life of St. Paul, ch. 26), to the effect that the praetorium here mentioned was the quarter of that detachment of the Praetorian Guards which was in immediate attendance upon the emperor, and had barracks in Mount Palatine. Thither, wherever the place was, Paul was brought as a prisoner of the emperor, and delivered to the praefect of the guard, according to the custom (Acts 28:16; see Pliny, Ep. 10:65; Philostr. Soph. 2, 32), as the younger Agrippa was once imprisoned by this officer at the express command of the emperor Tiberius (Josephus, Ant. 18, 6, 6). This office was then filled by Burrhus Afranius (Tacitus, Annal. 12, 42; see Anger, Temp. Act. Ap. p. 100 sq.). Paul appears to have been permitted for the space of two years to lodge, so to speak, "within the rules" of the praelorium (Acts 28:30), although still under the custody of a soldier. See Olshausen, Topogr. des alten Jerusalen, § 3, p. 9; Perizonius, De Origine et Significatimone et Usu Vocum Prestoris et Prcetorii (Frank. 1690); Shorzins, De Prcetorio Pilati in Exercit. Phil. (Hag. Com. 1774); Zorn, Opuscula Sacra, 2, 699. (See PAUL).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Praetorium'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/p/praetorium.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.