Revista Studii Teologice


JA slide show

"Ponţiu Pilat – persecutor sau mărturisitor al lui Hristos? Ponţiu Pilat în simbolurile de credinţă ale Bisericii primare"

Pontius Pilate – a persecutor or a confessor of Christ? Pontius Pilate in the early Church Creeds

Autor(i): Ilie CHIŞCARI

Summary: Pontius Pilate – a persecutor or a confessor of Christ? Pontius Pilate in the early Church Creeds
The announcement that Christ had been crucified by sentence of Pontius Pilate, the Roman Prefect of Judaea, represents the first step in the developement of what might have seemed an unimportant historical detail into a vital element of faith, which ultimately provided Christians with a succint formula to describe the Lord in whom they believed. The fourth article of the Christian Church’s Creed contains the following words: «and was crucified under Pontius Pilate» (σταυρωθέντα τε ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου). Although, at first glance, mentioning Pilate seems to be a mere historical reference, things become more complicated when we attempt to explain its exact meaning and determine the reasons for introducing it in the profession of faith. In an attempt to shed some light on the matter, we open our study with a few considerations on the origin and mentionings of this formula – as well as other similar ones, containing Pilate’s name – in the professions of faith of the first Christian centuries. We will easily find that this formula developed semi-independently from the contexts it was introduced in, and was almost exclusively preferred in the fragments expressing the contents of Christian faith. «He was crucified under Pontius Pilate» has become, since the very beginnings of the Church, a description of Jesus Christ, first introduced in the Occidental Creeds, then sanctioned and adopted by the Ecumenical Councils. We may therefore assert that the formula «under Pontius Pilate» was not put forth by the second council, where it became official, but is the retrieval of an older formula, first mentioned in 1 Ti 6, 13.
In order to grasp the sense with which it was incorporated in the Constantinopolitan Creed, we go on to ascertain the precise significance of ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου in the Holy Scripture and the patristic writings. Thus, starting from an analysis of 1 Ti 6, 13, we examine the various translations and interpretations of the phrase, as well as the information conveyed by each version. A first meaning is the temporal one, rendering the setting of the Passions drama, within the imperial history. It tells us that the Saviour was crucified in the year 30 or 33 A.D., while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea. Therefore, ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου in the Creed presents the kairos of those climactic events of Christian history. A second possible meaning is the local one, referring to the physical presence of our Saviour before Pontius Pilate, as an argument in favour of the reality of Christ’s incarnation, against Gnostic heresies, as well as an identification element for a topos of His Passion. The final possible version is the juridical/declarative one, by considering Pilate not only as a temporal-local reference, but also as an active element, a witness and a decisive factor for the respective events. His testimony specifically concerns the contents of our Saviour’s deeds and words, which Pilate witnessed.
Ascribing Pilate an active role in the Passions, according to the third interpretation of ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου, parallels the interesting history of his perception in the period following the emergence of the Creeds. Pontius Pilate gradually gains prominence by the various ways he is set in relation with the history he had directly determined. Although the New Testament tells us nothing of Pilate after the events associated to Christ’s crucifixion, Christians compensated for this lack of information by producing numerous stories and legends, most of them questionable, which provide several imaginary representations of this character. In the second part of our study, we provide a phenomenological analysis, along the lines of the „history of effects”, by considering the perceptions of Pilate’s character and role in various interpretative contexts of the Christian Symbol of the Faith. The different receptions of the sources and traditions concerning Pontius Pilate have thus resulted in two main representations. On the one hand, Pilate has become for some the „type” of the unfair judge, of the cowardly, blackmailable ruler, of the oppressor of the righteous and the accomplice of the wicked; in brief, the tool of Satan and one of the most malevolent characters in history, which brought his well-deserved violent death. On the other hand, this character was seen as a totally different „type” of the one who sees and believes, who confesses his faith and lays down his life for it; in brief, a paragon of saintliness and martyrdom.
What will one feel, then, on uttering the name of Pontius Pilate in the Creed, during each Holy Liturgy? Will one think of him as a persecutor and killer of Christ, or as one who received the confession of Christ and confessed Him in his turn? The answer depends on how each community has perceived, in its tradition, the outcome of the various metamorphoses undergone by the figure of this Roman prefect, throughout the times. Thus, the phrase «under Pontius Pilate» will be understood according to one’s adherence to one of these theological representations or will remain a mere historical mention to those uninterested in deepening its meaning.

Pagini: pp. 101-154