I think your first option is the most likely - Pilate was not worried about the multitudes â€“ when we consider the evidence. The reason was simply that these were peaceful gatherings.
Goose, thank you for you response. I first attempted a point by point reply but the post was too long. So I've distilled my response down to these basic points which still make for a long post. Feel free to pass over point without comment you deem irrelevant or a distraction accept for point 1. This is a core point I think.
1] If people from afar had heard of Jesus to the degree they were willing to travel to see him, why had those stories not reached Pilate?
2] How does any occupying empire know a crowd is peaceful? And the obvious answer is the empire keeps eyes on the crowd.
3] That Jesus' ministry was peaceful and not a threat to the Romans misses the point of what it means to administer an empire. Emphasising the lack of threat fails to engage the point that the Romans need sufficient intelligence to make that assessment. It is they that decide Jesus was not militant. They could not do that if they were not aware of him. There is only one way Pilate could know Jesus' teaching were peaceful and that would be if he had intelligence on the matter.
4] Pilate was not going to crush every crowd, but he did need sufficient intelligence to know when he needed to crush a crowd.
5] If Pilate didnâ€™t know about Jesus, then Jesus wasnâ€™t famous
- removes the nuances from argument. The argument is that on balance of probabilities Pilate's ignorance signals Jesus was not well known (see point 1). Meaning he was no so famous and probably was just a local ministry. This is a question about the size and scope of Jesus' fame. As though Pilateâ€™s knowledge of the details of Jesusâ€™ life is somehow the litmus test for the scope of Jesusâ€™ fame
- Yes that is a good way of putting it. It is a litmus test. If the account in the gospels had a a verse that said something long the lines of Pilate had heard tales Of Jesus' miracles
. That would have been sufficient to block this line of questioning. That he appears ignorant is not the the final litmus tests nor hard and fast proof, but it is a notable test that raises questions of balance of probabilities. And the basic tension bubbles up in point 1 and the claim people from afar had heard of Jesus but Pilate hadn't.
6] We can question both Pilate's resources and his competence. These indeed need to be diminished if Jesus' ministry was as large and as famous as described. The argument hangs on how we assess this point. Pilates willingness and capacity to collect intelligence the smaller Jesus' ministry versus the larger the ministry the smaller Pilate's intelligence gathering. Pilate's ignorance does not signal Jesus' non militant peacefulness, as already stated the Romans needed to make that assessment themselves, it signals an empire not paying attention. Maybe this is true..it just seems less likely than downsizing Jesus' ministry a degree it would not have piqued the curiosity of Roman intelligence.
7] It is true that silence in the historical record from the contemporaries of people in antiquity is more the norm than the exception. And yes many famous people have likely been lost to us because their fame was not so great or they were really not so very noteworthy. But the central thrust of this argument is that Jesus' fame was lost on Pilate. That Jesus was unknown or only vaguely known to Pilate would help explain the silence. Because if Pilate had not heard of Jesus than there is no reason to expect anyone else from Rome to heave heard. The only documenters of Jesus life would then be his followers and Jewish historians interested in the minutia of Jewish politics. The surprise I am registering is Jesus' fame that could draw large crowds had had apparently spread afar had not register more deeply with the likes of Pilate.
8] Herod moved on John because he was a threat, but was also afraid to kill John because he was a holy man. It is not clear whether Herod respected John's holiness or he feared the trouble it would cause in the populace if he killed a holy man. Either way Herod does not appear to fear Jesus.
9] It is also not at all clear where Pilate and the Romans knew of John or not, or how large were the crowds that followed John (we are doubting the biblical claims after all). If they were large then maybe Herod feared their reaction. Maybe he didn't want to be seen to kill any holy man. These are tricky issues difficult to parse with so little information. But there is a point of which we can be clear - if we follow the gospels - Herod was curious but not impressed by Jesus and if Jesus had a large following Herod like Pilate was not concerned.