I remember when I was younger I often, for some reason, considered the case of Pontius Pilate. I remember reading about him and perceiving him as a helpless, unwitting player in Christ’s death. I saw him as innocent, washing his hands of the blood of Christ, wanting to help but not having the power to stem the relentless tide of the throngs of angry people wishing to put the Savior to death. I remember one time in particular when I was very young, probably eleven or twelve, praying on my knees to ask God not to judge Pilate harshly. It hadn’t entered my heart that I was not the first person to do this over the last couple thousand years. I just felt closely connected to the story, and from what I read I saw him as mostly innocent.
Into my deconstructive teenage years, I read a bit more about Pilate’s life and realized that a great deal of evidence points to the idea that he may have been a cruel man, as many Roman leaders were, and that his life was anything but exemplary. Christ was probably one of many men that Pilate sent to their death. I saw myself as naive and almost embarrassed for thinking he was innocent. Sometimes I think we get a strange kind of pleasure out of character deconstruction, especially historical figures, as Russ may tell you from his grad school history studies.
Yet popular opinion is as it usually is: divided. It’s a subject that has been explored countless times in countless places. Certain Ethiopian Orthodox churches venerated Pilate as a saint. Medieval European plays show him as a bureaucrat or a demon. There are non-canonized writings that add much to the Pilate story, good and bad.
For me, I’ve found myself doing what many do: projecting my own self onto a vacuum of evidence. When something in history seems to have no answers, people tend to fill the void with their own agendas, and I’m no exception. And thus we see that in some cases, when we judge the morality of others, we are actually looking at ourselves. “Our people” I’ve noticed have somewhat of a love affair with judging the morality of those not within our stewardship (Richard Dutcher! Brother Marriott! Kirby Heyborne! Emma Smith!).
In my life I have stopped wondering about the morality of others so much anymore, yet I still think of him now and then. Thoughts on Poor Pontius Pilate?