I’ve been meaning to post this interesting-looking new book on Pontius Pilate and the trial of Jesus by David Dusenbury, a post-doc at Hebrew University: The Innocence of Pontius Pilate How the Roman Trial of Jesus Shaped History (Hurst). The Gospel accounts paint Pilate as an ambivalent figure, more or less forced by circumstances to issue a sentence of death against Jesus. According to Dusenbury, though, some early Christian writers went further, arguing that Pilate had in fact acted justly at the trial. Dusenbury maintains that arguments about Pilate’s “innocence” helped shape the emerging Christian theory of religious tolerance.
Here’s the publisher’s description:
The gospels and the first-century historians agree: Jesus was sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate, the Roman imperial prefect in Jerusalem. To this day, Christians of all churches confess that Jesus died ‘under Pontius Pilate’. But what exactly does that mean?
Within decades of Jesus’ death, Christians began suggesting that it was the Judaean authorities who had crucified Jesus—a notion later echoed in the Qur’an. In the third century, one philosopher raised the notion that, although Pilate had condemned Jesus, he’d done so justly; this idea survives in one of the main strands of modern New Testament criticism. So what is the truth of the matter? And what is the history of that truth?
David Lloyd Dusenbury reveals Pilate’s ‘innocence’ as not only a neglected theological question, but a recurring theme in the history of European political thought. He argues that Jesus’ interrogation by Pilate, and Augustine of Hippo’s North African sermon on that trial, led to the concept of secularity and the logic of tolerance emerging in early modern Europe. Without the Roman trial of Jesus, and the arguments over Pilate’s innocence, the history of empire—from the first century to the twentyfirst—would have been radically different.