Was Pontius Pilate an agent of Christian salvation?

Aldo Schiavone is an Italian classical historian who has occasionally ventured into more popular works, like his recent study of Spartacus. Here he turns to Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator of Judea who condemned Jesus to death. Other than the witness of the Gospels, relatively little is known about Pilate apart from brief mentions by Josephus, Philo, Tacitus and a recently discovered epigraph in Caesarea.

Advertisement
Pontius Pilateby Aldo Schiavone

W. W. Norton. 226p, $25

One of the contributions of this book is that it situates Pilate in the social political and cultural milieu of the Roman Empire in the Middle East, especially in the conflicted atmosphere of Judea and Jerusalem at the time of Christ. The reader comes close to developing a sympathy for Pilate in dealing with the Jewish population and its leaders, so at odds were the practices of Roman rule with the idiosyncratic religious and political convictions of the Jews. In clarifying this relationship, Schiavone is able to argue which aspects of the Gospel accounts relating to Pilate’s case are more or less credible. Among the less likely aspects are any abdication by Pilate of his authority and responsibility for the condemnation of Jesus to a Jewish crowd, which Schiavone argues simply was not present. This was a matter between Pilate and a small group of Jewish religious leaders, and so the crowds calling for Barabbas or saying “His blood be upon us!” simply did not happen.

It is Schiavone’s conviction that Pilate was always in control that leads him to the most interesting argument in the book, which he makes through a reconstruction of what he believes was the likely dialogue between Pilate and Jesus. While Pilate might not have believed in Jesus’ mission, he came to accept that he had one, which he understood could be accomplished only through Jesus’ sacrificial death. Pilate’s condemnation of Jesus, even though he did not think him guilty of any offense, represents, therefore, his acceptance of Jesus’ understanding of God’s will for him and makes Pilate a self-aware participant in the mystery of salvation.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
J Cosgrove
1 year 9 months ago

Two things:

Pilate is only person besides Jesus and Mary mentioned in the creed.

Is Fr von Arx saying parts of the gospels are nonsense by quoting a critic of them?

Advertisement

The latest from america

Sagal knows what it is to run away from problems, to need to be needed, and how much can be achieved through stubborn persistence.
Emma Winters January 11, 2019
The simple lessons of Jean Vanier on humility and Christian love always bear repeating.
Colleen DulleJanuary 11, 2019

“Anyone can do any amount of work,” wrote the American humorist Robert Benchley, “provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.” Procrastination is an act of will, the choice to postpone what needs to be done.

Nick Ripatrazone January 10, 2019
The stories of Andre Dubus delve into loneliness, the ferocity of parental love, adultery, retribution and sex that is a stay against loneliness.
Kevin SpinaleJanuary 03, 2019