In traditional Christianity Pontius Pilate appears as both a handwashing Eichmann and an instrument who crucified Jesus ""for us""; and he continues to be a tantalizing subject for Biblical novelists not only as a study of the soul of a hanging judge, but as a Roman colonial executive whose career is to some extent documented. Essentially this is a political novel about a decent minor official who has just barely been able to stand the heat. As Procurator of Judaea, Pilate is casually zapped now and then from above by the emissaries of the Emperor Tiberius and continuously battered by the sectors of Judaea: the powerful conservative Sanhedrin; the revolutionary Zealots; the unsavory neighbor Herod; and the infighting of the Jews in general -- a situation which could cause the murder of Pilate's good Jewish friend. Pilate lives by his wits from day to day, ""just big enough for his job."" But in the judgment of Jesus (whose appearance here is brief) Pilate withstands the pressure from all sides to condemn--until the death of his son drives him to despair of a ""doomed race"" and he declares: ""(Jesus) is your victim."" An ingenious portrait of Judas (improbably a friend of Barrabas) and some controversial suppositions, but the 20th century idiom reenforces the impression that even in a Pilate's precincts, it was politics as usual. Competent, but more words than swords, and those after religious or exotic hoopla may find it a slow go.