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Review: Pontius Pilate by Paul L. Maier

Publisher: 3rd edition, Kregel, March 12, 2014.
Genre: Historical fiction, Pontius Pilate, trial of Jesus.
Format: Paperback.
Pages: 385.
Rating: 5 Stars for excellent.
Source: Free copy from Kregel in exchange for a review.
This review first appeared at The Christian Manifesto. 

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The year is A. D. 26, and Pontius Pilatus, has been summoned to a meeting with L. Aelius Sejanus, the prefect, the commander of the Roman Praetorian Guard. Sejanus is recommending Pilatus to Tiberius Caesar, to become the new prefect of Judea. Pilatus or Pilate, has dreamed of an advancement in his equestrian career. A governorship in Judea, brings him a step closer to honor and glory. Pilate is a man of average built and looks, he is not a person who stands out; however, his ambitions bring him into an arena of people who manipulate, control, and commit murder for their own advancement. Pilate and his wife Procula, relocate to Jerusalem for his new job as prefect. Their first impressions are of a city which, “seemed more like a mirage shimmering upward in the heat, a glistening sight quite painful to the eye. Its lime-white walls and buildings formed too stark a contrast in reflecting the afternoon sun against a background of brown hills and azure sky.” They are intrigued by the strange exotic city, and it is not long before Procula learns firsthand of Jewish laws. Pilate sought to “Romanize” Jerusalem, but not long after he arrives there is talk of a Jew named Jesus “the Christos.” His reputation is of being a “faith healer.” Stories are shared with Pilate about Jesus' activity, and of the Jewish leaders hatred of him. Pilate is wary of upsetting the Jews, and more importantly of not having a positive reputation with Rome.
Pontius Pilate, is written in the third person, it is a “documentary novel”. Paul L. Maier, states he has not taken “liberties” in the historical facts. His aim is accuracy. His explanations about the book are written in the historical note section. The documents used in the writing of the book are from Flavius Josephus , Philo, and the New Testament Gospels.
The story Pontius Pilate, cannot be told without sharing the story of Jesus' arrest, trial, flogging, crucifixion, and resurrection. Pilate's question in John 18:38, “What is truth?” is not only a foreshadowing of Jesus as the Truth, but is a dismal view into Pilate's psyche. Pilate had a conversation in the beginning of the book about truth, in regards to Roman religion and beliefs, Pilate was unwilling to commit. He is not a man who wants to rock-the-boat with anyone or any ideology, he is indifferent.
Pilate was a key character in the story of Jesus Christ. He was though Roman, and his viewpoint gave the story both an advantage, and yet an awkward atmosphere. The Roman view of Jews was one of quandary. Romans did not understand why Jews did not submit to them, and why they were not able to Romanize them. The Jews worship One God; Romans worshiped many. For a Jew their entire life was lived in reference to their belief in God. Whereas Romans were secular, fleshly, carnal. To “see” the story of Jesus, the city of Jerusalem, and the historical events which unfolded during Pilate's tenure, is fascinating and demure. There is also an awkward feel to the story, because Jesus is not the main character, the story of Jesus is apart of Pontius Pilate, but not the subject.
The marriage of Pilate and Procula are portrayed, their opposing beliefs which led to arguments, as well as their devotion to one another. Through them I saw Roman culture in a marriage, and it showed another contrast against the Jewish religion.
Pilate is an enigma. He represents all those humans who have met Jesus, whether it was in person, or by a Gospel message; but they walk away, neither committing, nor showing any kind of response. Apathy, reflecting a dead spirit.
It has been several days since I read Pontius Pilate, and I have continued to think about the story. There are strong messages, both for Christians, and for unbelievers.