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Author Topic: The Sincerity of Pontius Pilate  (Read 2395 times) Average Rating: 0
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HabteSelassie
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« on: February 26, 2011, 04:54:51 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

I was reading this archaeology book on Jesus Christ and First Century Jerusalem/Galilee. It also discuss the various actual history interrelated in the Gospel narratives.  There are interesting political and historical points elaborating characters in the stories.  Of particular interest to me yesterday upon my usual Friday/Fasting for the Crucifixion of Christ meditations were the sections on Pontius Pilate.  

He really was quite an integral figure in his  contemporary time in Jerusalem and was very actively involved in the politics and religion of the region.  What was interesting to me upon meditation was the decision Pontius Pilate had to make.

Clearly from the Gospels, particularly John's narrative, Pontius Pilate did not want to execute Jesus Christ.  Three specific times he tried to evade the sentence and exonerate Jesus Christ, aside from all his stalling and backroom dealings.  He also specifically washed his hands of the decision, which is reflected still in Christianity when the priest washes his hands of our sins before the Fraction prayer at the Divine Liturgy.  

In the Ethiopia Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Pontius Pilate is recognized as a Saint.  What I was thinking about yesterday was to imagine the stress, the agony, the fear, the anger, about his having to have made that decision to appease the politics of the situation.  Pilate was ever the politician, but this was a serious conflict for him internally.  What if Pilate himself recognized the Divinity of Christ in the glint of Jesus' eyes?  What if Pilate became conscious of his own responsibility, how would we feel as Christians if were were put in his place? We know that Jesus Christ had to be crucified, but would any of us be able to handle that responsibility? Look at Judas Iscariot, he obviously did not cope well with his regrets.  This is the Valley of Decision we all face, to follow the path of faith in God and revelation and the Will of God, or to do our own wills, our own decisions.  Every decision we make carries this grave responsibility, that we go in accord with God.  God intended Jesus Christ to die on the Cross, and He intended Pilate to carry out the sentence, but did Pilate himself really want to do it? That is partly why I feel the Fathers of the Tewahedo tradition canonized Pontius Pilate as a Saint, because not only did Pilate fulfill the plans of God, but he did it well and with the dignity and sureness of his decisions that Adam himself neglected when he hid from God in that Garden.  Pilate stood before God himself, acknowledged the inevitability of the Will of God (something we humans always have a hard time accepting be it trivial and mundane or life altering and significant) in our lives, saluted God's own decision and consigned to it with an uplifted head.  I don't think I could honestly do the same, I would probably fall into weeping like Peter or even to the ultimate despair of Judas, but I'm quite sure I could not carry on as Pilate did.

"Salutations to Saint Pontius Pilate who washed His hands of Jesus' blood."

His Saint's day is honored on the Ethiopian month of Senne 25 (July 1-3)..
http://www.stmichaeleoc.org/Synaxarium/Senne_25.htm



stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2011, 06:04:56 PM »

To me, no matter how you look at it, Pilate is a secondary figure and was not the focus of scriptures nor of the Apostolic Creed. If this is true, then questions about Pilate, Herod, Judas, and others, should ultimately lead to Christ since the significance of their actions are defined relative to Him, no matter how each of them may have ended up for participating as they did in the Crucifixion or what they did afterwards. I think this is important in reading the bible.
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« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2011, 06:47:00 PM »

I had no idea! I find Pilate to be an intriguing figure, though perhaps that comes from Master and Margarita.

Really interesting stuff, though. What is the general EO view on Pilate?
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« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2011, 06:49:16 PM »

I have always had a deep feeling for Pontius Pilate and consider him one of the most tragic figures in the NT.  His reply to Jesus is one of my favorite verses, and one of my favorite quotes period - What is Truth?  My path to Orthodoxy began when I begged God to answer that question for me.  I really hope that he is a Saint.  If he is condemned for what he did, how much more should I be condemned for what I have done.
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« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2011, 07:44:11 PM »


Read the last two paragraphs (XII and XIII).  I found this to be eye opening.

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/gospelnicodemus.html

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« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2011, 10:23:43 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
I have always had a deep feeling for Pontius Pilate and consider him one of the most tragic figures in the NT.  His reply to Jesus is one of my favorite verses, and one of my favorite quotes period - What is Truth?  My path to Orthodoxy began when I begged God to answer that question for me.  I really hope that he is a Saint.  If he is condemned for what he did, how much more should I be condemned for what I have done.

That is exactly my own affinity with Pontius Pilate, his existential question of, "what is Truth?" This is the fundamental starting point of our groping for God.  This is why in Ethiopian Orthodox he is called Pilate the Confessor, because "Truth" and "Widsom" is our Savior, who Pilate affirmed when he titled Jesus Christ "King of the Jews" at the Cross.

I think Pilate represents in part the full submission to the Will of God, even when it bewildering or frightening or dangerous.  If Pilate had not been the one, naturally another would have completed God's Will, however Pilate accepted God's decision just as Abraham did at Mount Moriah.  This is a deep mystery, perhaps as deep as the Apostle Paul's conversion.  Pilate gets a bad rep in Christian culture, and for obvious reasons, but the interaction between God and Man rarely is comfortable or makes sense.



stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2011, 10:29:23 PM »

I have always had a deep feeling for Pontius Pilate and consider him one of the most tragic figures in the NT.  His reply to Jesus is one of my favorite verses, and one of my favorite quotes period - What is Truth?  My path to Orthodoxy began when I begged God to answer that question for me.  I really hope that he is a Saint.  If he is condemned for what he did, how much more should I be condemned for what I have done.

Amen to that.
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« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2011, 10:32:34 PM »

A different perspective on Pilate:

Quote
From the Scriptures we can surmise that Pilate must have had a fairly good Roman educ- ation, for the questions directed at Christ are poignant and thought- provoking: 'Are you the King of the Jews?' (John 18:33); 'Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me; what have you done?' (John 18:35); and, 'What is truth?' (John 18:38).

Pilate seems sincere as he tries to understand the man before him but he becomes perplexed, in particular, with the latter question that Christ does not answer, 'What is truth?' He is also quick to inform the Jews, 'I find no crime in him' (John 18:38).

Ironically, it is this last phrase that reveals Pilate as both a man of virtue and of cowardice. For Pilate is wise and good enough to understand that the man in front of him is innocent, but has not the strength of character to stand up for the truth when pressed.

Although some may feel sympathetic toward Pilate, and have even considered his defence of Christ's innocence to be a mark of saintliness, there can be no excuse for Pilate having Christ scourged, when he knew Christ to be an innocent man.

This view is cemented when Pilate addresses the crowd, after the scourging: 'See, I am bringing him out to you, that you may know that I find no crime in him' (John 19:4). And yet again shortly after, 'Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no crime in him' (John 19:6).

The shallowness of Pilate's commitment to justice is revealed when he is tested by the Jews regarding his loyalty to Caesar. For this reason alone, his concern for personal security and ambition, Pilate knowingly accepts false witness and sentences to death a man not only innocent of crime, but one completely free of sin.

From the Gospel accounts Pilate cements for himself a place in history for villainy, for a man who kills in error is distinct from one who kills with the knowledge that what he does is wrong. Pilate's tunnel-vision in permitting a sentence of guilt for Christ arises from a pre- existing condition of pride. He will risk only so much for the truth and no further; he cannot see the full canvas being painted out in front of him, for he chooses not too.

What other reason did the Procurator have for sentencing Christ to be executed while insisting that a plate be placed on the cross, written in three languages, that Christ was King of the Jews, had he not had more than a mere suspicion that somewhere in what he ordered written was that truth he so desired to find.

When Pilate addressed the crowd with 'Ecce homo'(Behold the man') he knew that he was condemning to death an innocent man. He knew that he had had an encounter with the Truth, but he also knew that for him, the Truth was not worth dying for, but rather it was better off dead.

http://www.ad2000.com.au/articles/2009/may2009p20_3048.html
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« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2011, 12:20:55 AM »

The hymnography for the Holy Week services are full of scathing references to those in the sanhedrin who had a vested interest in killing Christ; Pilate is described in rather neutral terms, other than the obvious references in the Passion Gospels of his efforts to have Christ released. If anything, ISTM that he's not painted as a villain, unlike the chief priest, the scribes and the Pharisees.

Let's also not forget that being Procurator of Judea was no easy gig, keeping the pax Romana in the face of the fractious locals, whether they were harassing the Roman occupiers, or squabbling amongst themselves. If Pilate was, indeed, simply a ruthless product of Imperial Rome, then why would he have balked at sentencing Christ to death? History tells us that ruthlessness was not alien to his modus operandi, but it is singularly absent here.
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« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2011, 01:11:44 AM »

Luke 13:1 Now there were some present at that very season which told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
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« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2011, 01:55:44 AM »

Pontius Pilate is a Saint in our Church because he REPENTED at the tomb of Our Lord. His actions prior to his repentance should not be excused or rationalized. His question, "What is truth?" is not evidence of a sincere heart that longed to know Truth, but rather demonstrates a cynical sophistry that seeks to exuse oneself from responsibility and guilt. Pilate was as guilty of Our Lord's death as the Jews, and as guilty as I am. He was the ultimate politrickster, foolishly seeking to appease good and evil at the same time. There is nothing remotely righteous or noble about such cowardice. 

So, let us not view his actions prior to his conversion as anything less than repugnant. The injustices of the world are facilitated by the mentality of Pilate- the refusal to recognize that not stopping evil is tantamount to committing evil.

But in spite of his evil actions, Pilate later repented in sincerinty of heart and was ultiamtely martyred for his faith. So we must honor his repentance and emulate his subsequent faithful and righteous actions; but we must not view his cowardly acquiescence and facilitation of Christ's death as anything less than pure evil.


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« Reply #11 on: February 27, 2011, 08:54:02 AM »

Quote
By the time Tiberius Caesar (42 BC - 37 AD) reached his mid-sixties, he had wearied of daily Imperial duties. He entered semi-retirement on the Island of Capri in 26 AD. There, out of the public eye, he embraced a life of unmentionable depravity and cruelty. Still, even for a degraded and absentee emperor there were the problems of government. As his personal conduit for management of Rome from Capri, Tiberius left a regent in the capitol. This was Aelius Sejanus, who had been captain of the Praetorian Guard. Sejanus had shown himself to be politically capable and apparently loyal to Tiberius, but he was a cunning and ruthless man.

During the 5 years that Sejanus administered the Empire, he artfully engineered the banishment, imprisonment, suicide or other elimination of many of his own opponents and Tiberius' potential successors. As chronicled extensively by the Roman senator and historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus (12), Tacitus Sejanus apparently expected that he might one day plot and murder his way to the throne. He very nearly did. Unfortunately for Sejanus, Tiberius had a trusted sister-in-law, Antonia. She was not a political player, which gave her opinions a certain weight. While nearly all communication from Rome filtered through Sejanus, Antonia managed to place a secret letter before Tiberius in which she described Sejanus' web of plots in convincing detail.

Tiberius responded by plotting his own surprise. He sent an emissary with a lengthy letter to be read before the Roman Senate with Sejanus present. In the turnabout ending of the missive, Tiberius loosed a scathing denunciation of Sejanus and demanded his arrest. The shocked mastermind was dragged out and executed the same day: October 18, 31 AD.

Why does this date matter? Because Roman and Biblical history intersect. During his glory days, Sejanus first influenced and then himself made appointments of many Imperial officials, including one Pontius Pilate. Pilate was made Prefect of Judea about the time that Tiberius gave up Rome for Capri. Sejanus was a notorious anti-Semite (13), and Pilate followed his benefactor's anti-Jewish policies as he governed Judea. A few examples will illustrate Pilate's treatment of the Jews.

The Romans were well aware that the Jews shunned all graven images. Tacitus, though himself disdainful of Jewry (14), accurately comments in The Histories, Book V:

    "...the Jews have purely mental conceptions of Deity, as one in essence. They call those profane who make representations of God in human shape out of perishable materials. They believe that Being to be supreme and eternal, neither capable of representation, nor of decay. They therefore do not allow any images to stand in their cities, much less in their temples."

Of course, this rejection of graven images comes from the Ten Commandments, recorded in the Book of Exodus, Chapter 20:

    4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God..."

Knowing this, Pilate proceeded to install images of Tiberius in the Jewish temple at Jerusalem, a massive offense. From Josephus, Wars, Book II, Chapter 9:

    "Now Pilate, who was sent as procurator into Judea by Tiberius, sent by night those images of Caesar that are called ensigns into Jerusalem. This excited a very great tumult among the Jews when it was day; for those that were near them were astonished at the sight of them, as indications that their laws were trodden under foot; for those laws do not permit any sort of image to be brought into the city. Nay, besides the indignation which the citizens had themselves at this procedure, a vast number of people came running out of the country. These came zealously to Pilate to Cesarea, and besought him to carry those ensigns out of Jerusalem, and to preserve them their ancient laws inviolable; but upon Pilate's denial of their request, they fell down prostrate upon the ground, and continued immovable in that posture for five days and as many nights. On the next day Pilate sat upon his tribunal, in the open market-place, and called to him the multitude, as desirous to give them an answer; and then gave a signal to the soldiers, that they should all by agreement at once encompass the Jews with their weapons; so the band of soldiers stood round about the Jews in three ranks. The Jews were under the utmost consternation at that unexpected sight. Pilate also said to them that they should be cut in pieces, unless they would admit of Caesar's images, and gave intimation to the soldiers to draw their naked swords. Hereupon the Jews, as it were at one signal, fell down in vast numbers together, and exposed their necks bare, and cried out that they were sooner ready to be slain, than that their law should be transgressed."

Other examples of Pilate's intentional mistreatment of the Jews have come down to us in ancient histories. Philo reports that Pilate also proposed to set up a colossal idol in the holy of holies itself, the most sacred part of the temple at Jerusalem (15). Josephus reports that Pilate seized religious offerings made by worshiping Jews to pay for Roman work projects (16). The Book of Luke tells us that Pilate killed Jewish worshipers, mingling his victims' blood with that of their religious sacrifices, a hideous desecration (17). And at the crucifixion, Pilate posted a notice on Christ's cross which declared him "The King of the Jews," thereby mocking the Jewish leadership even as he gave them their way (18).

But all this raises a large question about the execution of Jesus. Pilate's pattern was to avoid doing "anything which could be acceptable to his subjects" the Jews (19). So, why would he now give in to the clamor against Jesus? Why not release Jesus, if only to irritate the priests who called for his death? The Biblical record does reflect Pilate's intention to release Jesus, and that he almost did. But something had changed. Something made Pilate respond to the Jewish leaders, grudgingly, rather than treat them with his customary vicious disdain.

What had changed was Sejanus. He was dead. Even worse for Pilate, after the surprise execution in the Fall of 31 AD, Tiberius began to root out Sejanus's appointees and allies. Many were tried, tortured at length and executed in ways designed to maximize terror. In De Vita Caesarum: Tiberius, Suetonius describes treatment of Sejanus' allies with tortures unmentionable here. One of the milder descriptions from LXII:

    "At Capri they still point out the scene of his executions, from which he used to order that those who had been condemned after long and exquisite tortures be cast headlong into the sea before his eyes, while a band of marines waited below for the bodies and broke their bones with boathooks and oars, to prevent any breath of life from remaining in them."

Tacitus records in The Annals, Book V:

    "Executions were now a stimulus to [Tiberius'] fury, and he ordered the death of all who were lying in prison under accusation of complicity with Sejanus. There lay, singly or in heaps, the unnumbered dead, of every age and sex, the illustrious with the obscure. Kinsfolk and friends were not allowed to be near them, to weep over them, or even to gaze on them too long. Spies were set round them, who noted the sorrow of each mourner and followed the rotting corpses, till they were dragged to the Tiber, where, floating or driven on the bank, no one dared to burn or to touch them. The force of terror had utterly extinguished the sense of human fellowship, and, with the growth of cruelty, pity was thrust aside."

Tiberius also issued countermands to Sejanus' orders and policies, including his anti-Semitic policies. The new official line was to "let the Jews alone" (20). But this was not a casual change of direction. The new mandate arrived amidst the vigorous extermination of many officials Sejanus had put in place. Officials like Pilate.

After October 18, 31 AD, Pilate lived in a lethal political context. If Jesus' "trial" happened after this date, Pilate's strange ambivalence toward Jesus and the Jewish leadership is not strange after all—at this moment of history, his prejudices could cost him his life. Knowing this context, we can also understand why Pilate would genuinely dread the chant of those Jews who demanded Christ's execution. The Book of John, Chapter 19:

    12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, "If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. "

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« Reply #12 on: February 27, 2011, 07:19:21 PM »

"So, let us not view his actions prior to his conversion as anything less than repugnant. The injustices of the world are facilitated by the mentality of Pilate- the refusal to recognize that not stopping evil is tantamount to committing evil. "

This makes sense to me.

To me it seems that Pilate, Harod and the others involved were all part of an evil, human generated government and court system (if it can be described as such) of doing things and dispensing injustice that brought death to Jesus who was innocent of crime.

The way I read it is that this over-reaching evil is what Pilate participated in and was complicit in prior to repenting. At the critical moment he was cowardly and allowed evil to do its work. He may have repented later but this changes nothing relative to his crime since it did happen. After the crime is another question.

Speculating about the content of his mind/thoughts at the time of the critical events is not needed (nor is it good) since his actions are what matter. He looked God in the face, denied Him, and put him to death by his judgment and that of the mob.
What is important is Christ and what He did relative to this. Pilate is and will always remain secondary to that.

Having said all of this negative stuff, I see that it’s up to the Church to determine if Pilate is a saint, and not up to me. If the Church recognizes him as saintly for his repentance and other acts after his crimes, it is likely a good thing.

All the best to you.  Smiley








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« Reply #13 on: June 09, 2011, 04:39:36 AM »

Pontius Pilate is a Saint in our Church because he REPENTED at the tomb of Our Lord. His actions prior to his repentance should not be excused or rationalized. His question, "What is truth?" is not evidence of a sincere heart that longed to know Truth, but rather demonstrates a cynical sophistry that seeks to exuse oneself from responsibility and guilt. Pilate was as guilty of Our Lord's death as the Jews, and as guilty as I am. He was the ultimate politrickster, foolishly seeking to appease good and evil at the same time. There is nothing remotely righteous or noble about such cowardice.  

So, let us not view his actions prior to his conversion as anything less than repugnant. The injustices of the world are facilitated by the mentality of Pilate- the refusal to recognize that not stopping evil is tantamount to committing evil.

But in spite of his evil actions, Pilate later repented in sincerinty of heart and was ultiamtely martyred for his faith. So we must honor his repentance and emulate his subsequent faithful and righteous actions; but we must not view his cowardly acquiescence and facilitation of Christ's death as anything less than pure evil.


Selam
I quite agree. Does the tradition of your priests washing their hands in the Liturgy then derive from some other place?

Edit: Darn. Thought this was a newer thread.
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