Who Was Pontius Pilate? Benevolent Pawn, Bloodthirsty Tyrant or Misunderstood Hunk?
The answer, according to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach's Kosher Jesus, "has been used time and again to justify the worst Christian atrocities against Jews. It remains a crucial point of contention between the two religions even today."
August 18, 2013 - 2:00 pm
We are all grown-ups here. We understand there is no Easter Bunny, Santa Claus or truth in Hollywood. Nonetheless, the Pontius Pilate film rumored last winter to star Brad Pitt is a fine example of how even to this day Pilate’s role in Jesus’ death is whitewashed.
This script follows the evolution of Lucius Pontius Pilate from the sensitive son of a Roman Knight into a ferocious soldier whose warrior exploits make him a general and puts him on a political track under the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Promised a military governorship in Egypt, Pilate is instead assigned by Tiberius to become the prefect of Judea, at a time when Jerusalem was a cauldron of religious tensions between various factions of the Jewish faith. Pilate veers from the political fast track into the express lane to hell and historical infamy. Rather than a straight ahead Biblical film, Blasi’s script reads almost like a Biblical era Twilight Zone episode in which a proud, capable Roman soldier gets in way over his head. His arrogance and inability to grasp the devoutness of the citizenry and its hatred for the Roman occupiers and their pagan gods leads him to make catastrophic decisions. All of this puts him in a desperate situation and in need of public approval when he is asked to decide the fate of a 33-year old rabbi accused by religious elders of claiming he is King of the Jews.
This week’s reading in Boteach’s Kosher Jesus claims that throughout history to present, Pilate has been wrongly portrayed as nothing more than a benevolent pawn easily persuaded by those he’s conquered, washing his hands in innocence, and leaving the real cruelty to the Jews. But does this view of Pontius Pilate hold true by what we know of history?
Boteach says no. There’s more to the story.