Pontius Pilate as Co-Messiah
The concept of a trinity and man’s position in the world crosses cultures but is most famously epitomized by Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was a radical religious figure and philosopher because he wanted to establish no actual physical institutions or laws much to the dismay of the Jewish pharisees who were looking for a leader or messiah to usurp the political rule of Rome. Instead of an earthly kingdom, Jesus overthrew the old laws of the Old Testament and promised a spiritual kingdom instead.
Ultimately, Jesus’ transgressions against Jewish law and claims of being a king but “not of this world” led to his arrest and trial. Pontius Pilate, as the prefect of the Roman province Judaea, was responsible for the judgement of political cases like Jesus’ particularly for possible treason. In all four gospels of the New Testament, Pilate finds no guilt in Jesus and lobbies for him to be spared. “I find nothing wrong with this man!” exclaimed Pilate to the mob.
In the gospel of John, Jesus describes his mission as, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.” Being educated in Greek philosophy, Pontius Pilate may have seen the fallacy of Jesus’ claim as the ancient Greeks knew that truth was simply statements that people allowed. Pilate famously asked Jesus, “What is truth?” Eventually, Pontius Pilate acquiesced to the mob’s wish for crucifixion. He washed his hands, so to speak, from the situation, and Jesus was executed.
They put a crown of thorns on his head and labelled him the “King of the Jews” to ridicule him. Jesus, however, never claimed to be that king. His only claim was that he was the Son of Man.
Through the lens of philosophy, we can see that Pilate represents the Socratic interrogation of truth while Jesus is the conviction of truth —the buck stopped with Jesus. Paradoxically, together, these two created the modern Western world where a balance of inquisition and fact-claiming exist. Centuries later, during the reign of the Roman emperor Constantine, Christianity became the dominant and official religion of the empire.
In some Christian theology, Jesus’ conviction of truth was an individualistic one, separate from religious and political institutions. At bottom, the “spiritual” kingdom Jesus claimed was a democratic gesture where the proverbial curtain between man and heaven was ripped. This is why “Christian” societies produce more capitalistic democracies eventually. These systems maximize certain types of opportunities. Throughout time, these systems have conquered all other nations, ideologies — religious, philosophical, or political — economically or militarily because the freer man is freer to think (science) and can create tools (technology) more powerful than others. Above all, possibly the greatest right democracy allowed was man’s freedom of speech.
In Luke 22:3, all the officials, priests, and holders of the truth –– the mob of commoners and authorities who thought they knew all –– asked the man of Nazareth a simple question to which Jesus’ answer cost him his life:
“Are you the son of God, then?”
“It is as you say,” Jesus replied.
Sometimes meaning can get lost in translation. What Jesus really meant to say in terms of our modern vernacular was, “whatever you say, man.”
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