HE WAS CRUCIFIED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE
“Christus… suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate.”
“…upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross.”
“Jesus… was arrested, tried, and sentenced by Pontius Pilate to be scourged, and finally executed on a cross…. Many modern scholars consider … his crucifixion… to be historically certain…”
—Wikipedia, “Crucifixion of Jesus,” accessed May 1, 2013
“…he was crucified under Pontius Pilate…”
The opening phrases of the Creed plunge us into God’s mysterious nature. The creed is finite and made of words; the words drop pins in the map of the Infinite, if only to keep us from getting lost.
- “One” God means “no less, no more,” leaving unsaid the shape and structure of the Trinity.
- “Father,” familiar, stands for shadow of something more real, more fatherly.
- “Almighty” seems straightforward until you contemplate how free we are to wonder at it.
- “Incarnate,” the fleshiest term of all, contains in one word the most bewildering of the mysteries.
But then, all of a sudden, we come up against something that anyone can understand:
He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
Here we have not an article of faith, but an article of history.
It is a news report;
if we take the long view, it is a current event.
Pontius Pilate is not just one man’s name, either.
It means a place,
Anyone who was crucified “under Pontius Pilate”
(note the passive voice)
when it was a Roman province,
ruled by Emperor Tiberius,
by the authority of its prefect,
the fifth man to hold that office,
sometime between A.D. 26 and A.D. 36.
That he was crucified under Pontius Pilate is not only our creed.
It’s also the creed of history,
the academic consensus.
The crossbeam fell into place, and the weight of it drove the tall
upright beam a bit farther into the ground
—this is the pivot-point of the creed, and the pivot-point of history,
a pin not just in our map,
but in all the maps.
That crux is fixed
there and then,
because history is something which does not repeat;
because history is nothing that can be tested or rechecked or
history is not “what happens,”
history is “what happened,”
don’t you think sometimes about him?
Behold the man,
leaving his wife in her bed,
going to his work,
dreary some days like any man’s toil;
If only he could have had that dream,
dreamed that all generations would invoke his name,
he might have been sore afraid indeed.
partly thanks to Pilate,
whose name, or part of it, is carved on a stone found in Caesarea Maritima
(DIS AUGUSTIS TIBERIÉUM PONTIUS PILATUS PRAEFECTUS IUDAEAE FECIT DEDICAVIT)
—we all know that once upon a time, men and women could approach and touch Him at will;
that once upon a time, He could not slip away into the crowd.
There was a time and place that it was all present,
incarnate just a few hours more,
a moment that the world has acknowledged ever since,
one place where the believer’s Jesus is the historian’s Galilean.
no meat in that argument, however the debaters gnaw on context.
If we can all agree on anything, it’s this:
that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
On this pin hangs a living drop that trembles over the dry paper,
and at any moment it may make contact,
swiftly disappear into the page,
from there to silently wick and spread outward, staining the whole.
What are your thoughts? What else can we learn from “he was crucified under Pontius Pilate”?
Erin Arlinghaus blogs at Bearing Blog
Read all the entries in the Blog Series: Credo: Professing the Creed for the Year of Faith.