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Bible Q

How many soldiers were at the crucifixion?

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. Matthew 27:27, see also Mark 15:16

A whole band of soldiers mocked and assaulted Jesus at the residence of Pilate during his trial. We are not told exactly how many soldiers were in this band, but battalions are said to contain between 300 and 1300 men[1]. We do not know how many of them then led him to his crucifixion.

And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. Matthew 27:31, see also Mark 15:20

We do know that four soldiers crucified Jesus and shared out his garments amongst themselves, gambling for his seamless robe.

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things. John 19:23-24

They were presumably the same soldiers that later checked on the crucified men, one of which pierced the side of Jesus.

So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. John 19:32-34

We know that there was a centurion at the crucifixion and it is possible that he had his band of men with him.

When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” Matthew 27:54, see also Mark 15:39 and Luke 23:47

A Roman centurion was a military officer that commanded anywhere between 60-100 men.[2] So there could have been at least 60 soldiers at the crucifixion. Many would be needed to police the large crowds that followed Jesus to his crucifixion and then watched on as the horror unfolded.

And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. Luke 23:27

It is possible that a large battalion would have been needed. We can also state that Pilate may have provided a sizeable force of soldiers out of fear of reprisal, given the shambolic nature of the trial of Jesus and reports of his at-times sizeable following.

We can take a lesson from the soldiers and centurion at the crucifixion…

We could be like the four soldiers with the Lord Jesus Christ lifted high behind them. Do we have our back turned to him and our minds focused on material things? Or do we look at our saviour and listen to him; proclaiming like the centurion — ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’ Mark 15:39

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