THE INNOCENCE OF PONTIUS PILATE
How the Roman Trial of Jesus Shaped History
David Lloyd Dusenbury
French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish
David Lloyd Dusenbury is a research fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of Platonic Legislations: An Essay on Legal Critique in Ancient Greece, and The Space of Time: A Sensualist Interpretation of Time in Augustine.
The gospels and ancient 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 twenty-first—would have been radically different.
"I finish David Dusenbury’s new book on the trial of Jesus before Pilate, which is a fantastically gripping read: simultaneously learned and literary, in the manner of an extended Borges story." –– Tom Holland (author of DOMINION) ‘An original, compelling contribution that brims with erudition. A work of real sweep and ambition.’ — Paul du Plessis, Professor of Roman Law, University of Edinburgh ‘A quite exceptional study, showing in exemplary detail how the narrative of Jesus’ trial generates an entirely new vision of the politics of human power and divine justice, and of the very nature of law. A unique contribution to political theology and biblical interpretation—learned, impassioned and nuanced.’ — Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury ‘At breathtak...