PONTIUS PILATE by Ann Wroe
Random House; (April 4, 2000), 432 pages
In the “Remembered by History” sweepstakes Pontius Pilate holds an unenviable position. As the Prefect, (Governor), of Judea, he presided over the trial and ordered the crucifixion of Jesus. And as Jesus prophetically “told” Pilate, “You and I will always be together. Whenever people think of me, they will think of you.”
Ironically, there is little hard historical evidence of Pilate, starting with the records of his tenure as Prefect during 30-32 AD – the time of the “trial” - which were either lost or destroyed. Even Pilate’s heritage is unclear – he may have been Roman or Spanish or German; even the illegitimate son of a Roman ambassador and a Scottish woman. And this is just the tip of the lack of historical evidence iceberg.
The author takes an interesting approach in solving this biographical enigma/conundrum. Taking what scant evidence we do have on Pilate and combining it with the more readily available data on Roman rule, Jewish culture and the documentation of the “times” we do have, she conjectures and provides an educated description of her subject – form fitting Pilate into what we do know. Furthermore the author completes her picture of Pilate with his portrayal over time in the gospels, literature, art, and drama – including film – with Pilate’s identity “evolving” over the last 2000 years.
The sub-title of this book is The Biography of an Invented Man and the result is a mixed bag – at times utterly fascinating and at times – at least for this reader – overwrought and drifting far afield, i.e. who was Judas; the “history” of the cross; the proverbial “apple” and the Garden of Eden. It is evident the author did a lot of research and I’ll leave it to “scholars” to debate the interpretations made here – I just felt at times that less “filling in the blanks” would have been better - The digressions and hypotheticals, as well as the fictional or created “Pilates”, becoming confusing and cumbersome.
This “biography” - a difficult task of a difficult subject, which at times, is a very difficult book to read and digest.
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