Sunday, March 14, 2004

PONTIUS PILATE IN THE NEWS. New Testament Professor Warren Carter gives his take on the historical evidence in "A Place for Pontius Pilate" (Kansas City Star). Looks pretty balanced to me. Also includes some material on Pilate in later Christian tradition. Excerpt:
Pilate and the Jerusalem leaders are allies. Making alliances with local leaders was a common strategy Rome used to rule its empire. Along with taxes and military power, it was an effective way of establishing control. Mutual interests of wealth, power and status held these alliances together under Roman control.

The Roman governor appointed the high priests in Judea. The chief priest, Caiaphas, was a political appointment who held power at the pleasure of his Roman masters. Of course, there were tensions and struggles within these alliances. Together they sought to maintain a system in which 3 percent of the population ruled for their own benefit at the expense of the rest.

Maintaining this alliance required good political skills. If the Jerusalem leaders viewed Jesus as a threat to their power, Pilate knew to take their concern very seriously. Their interests are Pilate's interests.

But there are other political games to play. On one hand, Pilate needs to keep them happy by granting their request to remove Jesus. On the other hand, he needs to show them that as the Roman governor he is their superior and they are dependent on him.

The Gospel of John's account especially highlights this dimension where Pilate seems to taunt them about their dependent status. In Luke's account, Pilate can be seen making them beg him to execute Jesus.

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