Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Watching history

Thought I was going to talk about Obama, eh? No doubt thousands of bloggers are going to trumpet o'er this moment in U.S. history, but the history I'm talking about goes back a bit farther. I finished reading an odd little tome called 'The memoirs of Pontius Pilate' yesterday, and quite honestly, I had no opinion. As far as length and details go, it was sadly lacking. A fictional account, as precious little is known about Pilate; not nearly enough to put together a long and detailed account of the man's life. I forgive the writer (one James R. Mills) for being so brief with his book. After all, Pilate's role in Biblical history is minimal. Crucial but minimal. He's there for a moment, debating with the fractious, hypocritical Jewish leaders over what to do with Jesus.
This engimatic figure has left me musing for some time. The fellows who recorded what became the Gospels don't paint Pilate as a truly bad man, but at the same time he's no hero. The flawed folk are the most interesting ones, it is said. Mills paints Pilate with several qualities that could be considered flaws, depending on who you are. He's Roman, first and foremost, and to the Jewish community, Rome is evil and untrustworthy. Pilate looks at the Jews with a frustrated and cynical eye. Their religion is so foreign to him (as it is to most Romans at that time) that he finds it fascinating. He sends his spies and minions to observe what the Jews do and that's how he first hears about 'the carpenter'.
And so it goes, with Mills making the critical scenes very potent and poignant at times. Although the account is from Pilate's eyes, it's the priests who are once again the villains here. They tie Pilate's hands and force him to send Jesus off to his death. On the other hand, J.C. is doing what he must to fulfill the Scriptures, and all Pilate can do is watch in bemused wonder. He compares Jesus to Socrates at one point, and admires the calm and serene way J.C. chooses his destiny, which confounds the priests who have dragged J.C. in on trumped-up charges. I admire the cynical eye Mills has Pilate cast over the whole proceedings, and I love how he brings Pilate wife into the story. She definitely had more sympathy for J.C. than the priests did.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who would like to learn what Pilate's opinion might've been. Worth exploring. BYE.

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