Pontius Pilate as an Embodiment of State Power


This paper wishes to examine several places in Karl Barth's writings where he discusses the meaning of Pontius Pilate's encounter with Jesus, and to see in what regard his study of this biblical figure may help to explicate from a theological perspective the nature of political power. Historical reconstructions of Pontius Pilate are numerous and diverse, depictions of him range from a cowardly bureaucrat to a seasoned governor who succeeded in dissipating an impending riot. Early Christians saw the need of an anchor point of Jesus' Passion in history, and included the name of Pilate in their creedal formula. With the testimony of Adolf Eichmann, the biblical figure came to symbolize a self-absolved conscience, with suspended judgment and relaxed moral responsibility, an inner state reached through misplaced trust in the idealized political power of Nazism. Pilate's case are commonly built from historical materials and informed by analyses of the first century socio-cultural context where Jesus' trial happened. In contrast, Barth offers a theological interpretation of the trial by pinpointing directly the nature of power, as manifested in the life of Jesus, and also as state power behind Pilate. Barth's decision to subsume political power under divine providence and soteriology will be evaluated at the end of this paper

Author Information
Pui Shum Ip, China Graduate School of Theology, Hong Kong

Paper Information
Conference: ACERP2015
Stream: Religion - Theism and Atheism

This paper is part of the ACERP2015 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon