30 March 2010


We know relatively little about Pilate the person. He appears nowhere in the Bible except the passion stories. What little we know of him from other sources, chiefly Josephus suggests a brutally efficient military man and nothing about his personal beliefs or political opinions. It is possible that the conflicted judge who saw through a conspiracy by the temple authorities and still ordered the execution is an artifact of story telling and anger.

The synoptics taken in historical sequence seem ever more interested in putting the blame for the judicial murder of Jesus on the temple. John if anything is more emphatic. Why? Perhaps the answer lies in the Acts and in Paul's pre-conversion commission persecution of Christians by the temple authorities. So the ever more conflicted Pilate, the ever more blame worthy temple priesthood may well be reactionary.

Does it matter? I think it does. If Pilate merely saw a threat and acted as a soldier, he can be somewhat excused -- that is precisely what Caesar sent him to do. Soldiers are not charged with mercy. If on the other hand he did see the conspiracy and did understand the temple authorities desire to eliminate a rival, then he is much more guilty.

In the end,I opt for the soldier. Jesus was a problem -- his job was to eliminate problems. That does not perhaps make him blameless or holy but it does make his actions a little less evil.


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