Co-Conspirators in the Death of Jesus

Who Killed Jesus Christ?

The death of Christ involved six co-conspirators, each doing their part to push the process along. Their motives ranged from greed to hatred to duty. They were Judas Iscariot, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin, Pontius Pilate, Herod Antipas, and an unnamed Roman centurion.

Hundreds of years earlier, the Old Testament prophets had said the Messiah would be led like a sacrificial lamb to slaughter. It was the only way the world could be saved from sin. Learn the role each of the men who killed Jesus played in the most important trial in history and how they co-conspired to put him to death.

Judas Iscariot - Betrayer of Jesus Christ

Judas Iscariot
In remorse, Judas Iscariot throws down the 30 pieces of silver he received in payment for betraying Christ. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Judas Iscariot was one of Jesus Christ's 12 chosen disciples. The group's treasurer, he was in charge of the common money bag. Scripture tells us Judas betrayed his Master for 30 pieces of silver, the standard price paid for a slave. But did he do it out of greed, or to force the Messiah to overthrow the Romans, as some scholars suggest? Judas went from being one of Jesus' closest friends to a man whose first name has come to mean traitor.

Joseph Caiaphas - High Priest of the Jerusalem Temple

Jesus Before Caiaphas
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Joseph Caiaphas, High Priest of the Jerusalem temple, was one of the most powerful men in ancient Israel, yet he felt threatened by the peace-loving rabbi Jesus of Nazareth. Caiaphas feared Jesus might start a rebellion, causing a clampdown by the Romans, at whose pleasure Caiaphas served. So Caiaphas decided Jesus had to die, ignoring all the laws to make sure that happened.

The Sanhedrin - Jewish High Council

The Sanhedrin, Israel's high court, enforced Mosaic law. Its president was the High Priest, Joseph Caiaphas, who leveled charges of blasphemy against Jesus. Although Jesus was innocent, the Sanhedrin (with the exceptions of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea) voted to convict. The penalty was death, but this court had no authority to order execution. For that they needed the help of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.

Pontius Pilate – Roman Governor of Judea

Illustration of Pilate washing hands as he gives orders for Jesus to be flogged and Barabbas to be released. Eric Thomas / Getty Images

Pontius Pilate held the power of life and death in ancient Israel. When Jesus was sent to him for trial, Pilate found no reason to execute him. Instead, he had Jesus brutally flogged then sent him to Herod, who sent him back. Still, the Sanhedrin and Pharisees were not satisfied. They demanded that Jesus be crucified, a torturous death reserved for only the most violent criminals. Always the politician, Pilate symbolically washed his hands of the matter and turned Jesus over to one of his centurions.

Herod Antipas - Tetrarch of Galilee

Herodias In Triumph
Princess Herodias carries John the Baptist's head to Herod Antipas. Archive Photos / Stringer / Getty Images

Herod Antipas was tetrarch, or ruler of Galilee and Perea, appointed by the Romans. Pilate sent Jesus to him because Jesus was a Galilean, under Herod's jurisdiction. Herod had earlier murdered the great prophet John the Baptist, Jesus' friend and kinsman. Instead of seeking the truth, Herod ordered Jesus to perform a miracle for him. When Jesus was silent, Herod sent him back to Pilate for execution.

Centurion - Officer in Ancient Rome's Army

Roman Centurion
Giorgio Cosulich / Stringer / Getty Images

Roman centurions were hardened army officers, trained to kill with sword and spear. One centurion, whose name is not given, received a world-changing order: crucify Jesus of Nazareth. He and the men in his command carried out that order, coldly and efficiently. But when the deed was over, this man made a remarkable statement as he looked up at Jesus hanging on the cross.