Saint or Sinner? Don't Wash Your Hands of Pilate

Daily Mail (London), March 13, 1999 | Go to article overview

Saint or Sinner? Don't Wash Your Hands of Pilate


Byline: A. N. WILSON

PILATE: The Biography Of An Invented Man by Ann Wroe (Jonathan Cape, [pounds sterling]17.99)

WE MAKE our own Pontius Pilates and it was always so, even when they were writing the Gospels.

A friend of mine, a newspaper editor and devout Christian, once told me that Pilate was the only character in the Gospel story with whom he could 'identify'. When I asked why, he replied that he could imagine that Pilate, like himself, had been to Eton.

Early Jewish records - those of the Jewish-Egyptian philosopher Philo of Alexandria, or the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus - do not depict such a gentlemanly Pilate. They believed him to be a thug, a torturer, a bully, who ruthlessly suppressed any hint of rebellion in Judaea.

He crucified rebels readily - it was the usual Roman method of capital punishment for the criminal classes.

He deliberately insulted the religious sensibilities of the Jews by erecting the standards of the Legions (idols in Jewish eyes) within sight of their holy Temple at Jerusalem.

What were the Gospels to make of the man who was ultimately responsible for putting Jesus to death?

THE Gospel writers were in a difficult position. They were writing at a time when the Romans were at war with the Jews, levelling Jerusalem and taking its inhabitants into slavery, while fighting a long guerilla campaign against the few recalcitrant Palestinian freedom fighters.

The Gospel writers wanted to distinguish the new religion, Christianity, as much as possible from its Jewish roots, lest the Christians should also be persecuted.

So they put the blame for Jesus's death on the Jews. They can't get round the fact that Jesus died the death of a common Roman criminal just the sort of death Pilate meted out to Jewish freedom fighters. But they pretend, in the Gospels, that it was the Jews who insisted on this - 'and his blood be on us and on our people'.

Pilate absolves himself of any guilt.

He uses, in the Gospel-fiction, a Jewish method of purification ritual.

No real Roman governor would have ritually washed his hands in public, in the manner described in the Gospels.

Ever since the Gospels were written, humans have continued to interpret their own experiences, their own ideas of what it means to be human, to be a society, to be an individual under God, in terms of the story of Jesus. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Saint or Sinner? Don't Wash Your Hands of Pilate
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.