In NT studies the reference is to the sufferings and death of Jesus, and the Passion Narratives cover the whole period from the Last Supper (Mark 14), the arrest, the trials, the crucifixion, and the burial, as recorded in the four gospels; but the only actual mention of Jesus' ‘passion’ or ‘suffering’ (NRSV) is in Acts (1: 3).

The four narratives reveal a tendency to diminish Pilate's responsibility for the execution of Jesus, at the expense of the Jewish authorities. It is held that this development reflects the situation of the Church after 70 CE in its relationships both to the Roman Empire and to Judaism. It was desirable for the Church not to appear subversive in the Empire; it was also imperative to establish the claims of the predominantly Gentile Christian community as the covenant people who had superseded the Jews. The view, however, that Jesus died by stoning, the Jewish method of execution (Lev. 24: 14), is implausible; the crucifixion (the Roman penalty) is far too strongly attested.

Matt. (27: 24–5) introduces the action of Pilate asserting his blamelessness by washing his hands, while the Jews exclaim that they are willing for the blood of Jesus to be on them and their descendants. In Luke, who has an additional trial scene, before Herod, Pilate three times protests Jesus' innocence, and the centurion at the cross repeats this (Luke 23: 47). In John (19: 12) Pilate says he intends to release Jesus, and is only frustrated by the threats of the Jews to delate him to Rome. But the acme of Pilate's career in Christian exculpation was achieved when he was canonized by the Coptic Church, which commemorates his martyrdom on 25 June.