Why So Many Christian, and Pagan, Writers Sought to Preserve the Good Name of Pontius Pilate

April 6 2021

According to the New Testament, Pontius Pilate, the prefect who governed Roman-occupied Judea, was responsible for condemning Jesus to crucifixion. But a long tradition of Christian thought seeks to exonerate him from guilt, a tradition that has had no small impact on Jewish history. Nick Spencer reviews a recent book on this tradition:

David Lloyd Dusenbury’s The Innocence of Pontius Pilate . . . traces numerous readings of the trial from its canonical origins in the gospels, and highlights the various attempts to get Pilate off the hook. The best known of these are the Christian ones, motivated by the twin desires to exonerate Rome and (further) impugn the Jews. An innocent Pilate suited those who wanted to curry favor with the authorities (in the early centuries) or demonize society’s outsiders (in the later ones).

One retelling of the trial claims that it was [the not-quite-Jewish Judean king] Herod, not Pilate, who acted as Jesus’ judge.

Pilate is also pardoned, however, in many other traditions. Pagan intellectuals remembered, or rather reinvented, him as an innocent man and a just judge. A now lost Acts of Pilate forcefully made the governor’s case and was apparently taught by Roman schoolmasters, at least according to the historian Eusebius.

This is all interesting stuff but it is really part of a bigger and more important case that Dusenbury is making. . . . Exculpating Pilate left everything he stood for intact. Pilate was the representative of Roman political power that was also, by its own lights, divine. If he was simply and correctly discharging justice in his encounter with Jesus, all of that—Pilate, Tiberius, Rome, empire—remain authoritative. But if Pilate was indeed guilty, as the gospel writers, the mainstream tradition of the Church and, most influentially, St. Augustine insist, then all this quasi-divine political authority is undermined.

Of course, the desire to exonerate Pilate gave some all the more reason to blame the Jews.

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Read more at Spectator

More about: Ancient Rome, Anti-Semitism, Augustine of Hippo, Christianity, New Testament

Iran’s Dangerous Dream of a Triple Alliance with Russia and China

Aug. 16 2022

Unlike Hamas, which merely receives support from the Islamic Republic, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)—with which Israel engaged in a short round of fighting last week—is more or less under its direct control. In fact, the recent hostilities began with a series of terrorist attacks launched by PIJ from Samaria, which might in turn have been a response to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s call “to open a new front in the West Bank against the Zionist enemy.” Amir Taheri writes:

In Gaza, the Islamic Republic has invested heavily in promoting Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. . . . Islamic Jihad is in a minority in Gaza, hence the attempt by Tehran to help it create a base in the West Bank.

Reliable sources in Baghdad say that [Iran’s expeditionary and terrorist paramilitary] the Quds Force has been “transiting” significant quantities of arms and cash via Iraq to Jordan, to be smuggled to the West Bank. The Jordanian authorities say they are aware of these “hostile activities.” King Abdullah himself has publicly called on Iran to cease “destabilizing activities.”

But such schemes, Taheri explains, are part of a larger strategic vision of creating a grand anti-Western alliance even while engaging in nuclear negotiations with the U.S. and Europe:

Last month, Khamenei praised Vladimr Putin for his invasion of Ukraine. And this month, China’s ambassador to Iran, Chang Hua, praised the Islamic Republic for supporting China in “asserting its sovereignty” over Taiwan.

It is clear that some dangerous pipe-dreamers in Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran have fallen for the phantasmagoric vision of “three great powers” banding together and with help from “the rest,” that is to say, the so-called Third World . . . to destroy an international system created by the “corrupt and decadent.”

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: China, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Russia, West Bank