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Memoirs of Pontius Pilate: A Novel [Paperback]

James R. Mills
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Product Description

From Library Journal

Thirty years after the death of Jesus of Nazareth, an exiled Pontius Pilate compiles his memoirs into a history of the Jewish faith and the rise of Christianity. He contemplates his role in sentencing Jesus to death by crucifixion and puzzles at the rapid spread of the teachings of that simple man. A true politician, he denies any blame for his part in Jesus' final hours. Instead, he lays the blame at the feet of the crowd who cried for Barabbas to be released and at the feet of the temple officials who called for his trial. Subtly, Pilate's fascination with Jesus and his teachings gives life to his recital, and glimpses of Pilate's own thoughts and feelings surface. Mills's (Gospel According to Pontius Pilate) expertise with his subject provides unexpected depth to this intriguing glimpse at a man vilified for his place in history. Recommended for all collections.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"OUTSTANDINGLY ORIGINAL, SUPERBLY WRITTEN, FASCINATING AND ENGAGING."
--Midwest Book Review

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Prologue

The time has come for me when I, like Julius Caesar, can say, "I have
lived long enough, whether for fame or fortune." My wife is dead, and I
have no friends here in my place of exile, so I spend my days reflecting
upon the past, as old men do for lack of better ways to occupy their
time.

As I reflect upon my experiences of long ago, I find that they are
fading in my memory, losing their colors and details, growing as muzzy
as wall paintings exposed to the elements in some ancient ruin. However,
one action of mine is still as vivid in my mind as it ever was. I refer
to my ordering of the crucifixion of that now famous Jewish carpenter
called Jesus of Nazareth, while I was governor of Judea, Samaria, and
Idumea.

Three years after I was exiled to Gaul by Caligula, that mad young
emperor banished Herod Antipas to Lugdunum, just a few miles up the
river that flows outside my window as I sit here writing this. Herod did
not deserve to be disgraced, even as I did not, but we both had powerful
enemies, and we both became the victims of those enemies.

Herod had been, like his father, Herod the Great, a loyal ally of Rome
and a pragmatic ruler of his people. However, his youthful nephew Herod
Agrippa was a close boyhood friend of Caligula's, and he wanted to be
king of all the Jews, so the realm of Herod Antipas was added to his
own, and Herod Antipas was banished to Gaul in his old age to die.

I had dinner with Herod Antipas once in the last year of his life, and
we talked for over an hour about that strange carpenter. His wife was
present, and she tried to turn our conversation to another odd Jewish
mystic, one called John the Baptist, a fellow she had snared her husband
into beheading. Herod muttered through his beard that it had been a
mistake to kill John, which it clearly had been, and he spoke again of
the carpenter, expressing a belief that the man's miracles had been
genuine.

During the long years I have been in exile here, I have had few other
occasions to talk about Jesus of Nazareth. However, an agent of the
Emperor came here recently to question me about the man. The reason for
that sudden imperial interest was, of course, the great fire that
destroyed Rome.

I must acknowledge in passing that there are people who think the
Christians are not guilty of the crime of starting that fire. Such
skeptics say it is not in accordance with Christian principles to cause
so much random death and destruction. Be that as it may, scandal mongers
in Rome have been spreading a rumor that it was the Emperor himself who
was responsible for the conflagration, and that created a need to assign
blame elsewhere and to proceed at once with spectacular punishments.

Whether or not persons punished are responsible for the crimes of which
they are accused is not the only factor to be taken into account
sometimes. That can be an uncomfortable truth, as it was for me in the
case of the carpenter.

It seems the Emperor wants to get rid of the Christians in any event.
They have become subversive of the interests of the empire in their
efforts to woo the general populace away from its beliefs in the
officially recognized gods of Rome, including Nero himself, whose
divinity seems important to him.

Punishing those wretches is easy to do, and watching them die provides
popular entertainment for the citizens of the charred and blackened
city. Because of the stories of their drinking blood as a part of their
rituals, the Christians had already become objects of public loathing,
and severe governmental condemnation became an appropriate way to
appease that popular feeling of antipathy.

The current concern about this sect has caused me to sit down here at my
desk with a long roll of papyrus, a lot of goose quills, and a pot of
ink before me. My purpose is to spend a month of my otherwise idle time
relating and explaining the events in the life of this fellow Jesus of
Nazareth. I think it important to let readers know how the man was seen
by his own people during his lifetime. Therefore I shall point out those
peculiarities that set him apart from the other charlatans, demagogues,
and zealots who have recently declared themselves to be the messiah, by
which they mean the deliverer of the Jewish nation from Roman rule. Some
of those pretenders have attracted considerable followings and have
thereby caused a great deal of Jewish blood to flow. However, with the
exception of this single individual, the execution of each of them has
resulted in the disillusionment of his followers.

I'll give two examples. When Felix was governor of Judea, he had to deal
with an Egyptian Jew who proclaimed he would bring down the walls of
Jerusalem with a breath from his mouth. This shatterbrain presented
himself east of the city, upon the Mount of Olives, where the messiah is
expected to appear. He was able to assemble four thousand fools to
attack the city, but Felix dispatched troops to take him prisoner. On
the morning that maniac was executed, his movement vanished. Later, when
Fadus was governor there, a magi-cian named Theudas persuaded a
multitude of Jews to go with him to the Jordan River, which he told them
he would divide to allow them to walk through it dry-shod. To deal with
them, Fadus sent a large detachment of cavalry which killed many of that
mob and took a lot of prisoners. Among them was Theudas. The soldiers
crucified him there on the bank of the river, and they cut off his head
and took it to Fadus in Jerusalem.

Afterward none of his followers ever spoke of him again. It is
surprising that a similar falling away has not taken place among the
adherents of that carpenter, even though the measures now being taken to
suppress them are thorough and systematic. The agent of the Emperor who
came to see me here informed me that one of those who have been
crucified in Rome recently was a Galilean fisherman named Peter who was
a leader among them because he had been close to the carpenter. That
imperial representative also told me that another man who had great
authority among the Christians--an aged Jew named Paul--was beheaded not
long ago in Rome.

No doubt this singular sect will disappear with the execution of its
leaders and the extermination of its members throughout the Roman
Empire. At most it may persist for a time in isolated parts of the East
as a small and esoteric cult.

It is difficult for reasonable men to understand how that dead carpenter
can continue to attract followers who cling to his memory even while
they are being nailed to their own crosses. I shall try to shed light on
that mystery by setting forth in writing the facts relating to his life
and death that have given rise to the legends now current about him.

Over thirty years ago, in Caesarea, I heard with some interest reports
from Galilee about that charismatic carpenter and the stir he occasioned
there when he laid down his tools and assumed his new identity, that of
a wonder-working prophet. Those earliest reports did not concern me
directly, because the provinces I governed did not include Galilee. I
did not order my agents to start collecting information about him until
he had left Galilee and was no longer the responsibility of Herod
Antipas and had become mine by coming into Judea. From that time until
the end of his life, I continued to receive reports about him as a
potential leader of insurrection in the region for which I was
responsible. The more his following grew, the more I had to take an
interest in him, until at last he stood before me in the judgment hall
of the Fortress Antonia on the last day of his life.

I remained as military governor of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea for four
years after that. During that short time Christianity was already
becoming a rapidly growing element among the Jews. Therefore I told my
agents to continue to collect information about the crucified carpenter
and the increasing legions of his worshipers. When I was dismissed by
Vitellius and sent back to Rome to be tried before the emperor, I
brought all that information with me, along with other material bearing
upon the danger of messianic movements in that troubled land.

In addition, I still receive letters from the few friends I have left in
Rome, and one of those friends recently sent me a biography of the
carpenter that was taken from a group of his worshipers who were
captured and then crucified in the arena in Rome. Fortunately that book
contains a number of direct quotations of things the man said.

Because I possess these materials, and because I acquainted myself with
the customs and beliefs and history of the Jews during the years when I
was their governor, I can tell the story of Jesus of Nazareth and
explain why he lived and died as he did.

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