A literary study of the Roman governor of Judaea who condemned the prophet Jesus—reluctantly—to death.
Roman scholar Schiavone (Spartacus, 2013, etc.) reveals a deeply human story in the encounter (both historical and biblical) between a charismatic teacher denounced by the Jewish priests for fomenting “false” and dangerous preaching and the rather tone-deaf but benign Roman governor who did not care to make trouble with his Jewish constituency. In this slender, elegantly translated work geared toward lay readers, Schiavone navigates between memory—by the four writers of the Gospels, especially John, “the closest to the context of first century Palestine”—and history—Josephus and Philo of Alexandria, “two first-century intellectuals”—to help in the reconstruction of these contested events. The narrative culminates in the climax of Jesus’ preaching and testimony in Jerusalem and the trauma—the Crucifixion—that forms the Christian final sequence. Schiavone treads carefully through the narrative by the Gospel writers to get a sense of Pilate’s character and role as a governor who held his job for 10 years, which was rare—he was obviously valued by the emperor. Having arrived at the governor’s palace in Jerusalem in the early hours of the morning after being identified by one of his disciples, Judas, to the Roman authorities, Jesus was taken for interrogation by Pilate, who feared a trap by the Jewish authorities, the Sanhedrin, on this eve of the Passover. The governor could allow a criminal pardon, and he offered the assembled crowd either Barabbas, a notorious criminal, or Jesus, and the crowd still demanded the death of Jesus. Why? What had he done, Pilate wanted to know? He was declared a “sacrilegious blasphemer,” and, as the so-called King of the Jews, he was too dangerous for the community to let him live.
A levelheaded, engaging reading of the Gospels and historical account that forms a solid sense of this pivotal personage and his role on the epic stage.