Screen Pilates: Greg Hicks

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Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas, Frank Thring and Stephen Russell may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here and here.

Greg Hicks portrays Pilate in the movie Son of God (2014) as concerned above all at protecting his position.  If he does not execute Jesus Caiaphas can tell Tiberius through his agents that Pilate is coddling a rebel against Rome and that would lead to the ending of Pilate’s procuratorship and perhaps his life.  That is more than enough reason for him to deny the request for mercy for Christ from his wife Procula, disturbed by her dream of Christ.

This is a fairly conventional portrayal, but Hicks gives it some interesting twists.  He holds out a ladle of water to the battered Christ that Christ does not take.  When he asks Christ what is Truth, Christ looks up, presumably toward His Father.  Pilate looks up also, perhaps hoping, no matter how unlikely, that he could see the Truth that Christ sees.  As a human being Pilate finds Christ intriguing and a mystery.  However as a representative of Rome he is trapped in his desire to maintain the power and position he currently holds.  How many people over the centuries have denied Christ for just such reasons?  An interesting take on Pilate.

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  1. “By asking the question, “Jesus or Barabbas?” he (Pilate) had already rejected the claims of Jesus. By placing the two on the same level, he had ranged himself with Christ’s enemies. This choice was in fact a failure of nerve: failure to commit himself to the defense of a man in whom he had found no crime. Niemöller , preaching in Nazi Germany with the storm troopers closing in around him, saw Pilates everywhere. “In those days and weeks,” he said, “it seems dangerous to vote or to work openly and unequivocally for this Jesus, and human foresight and shrewdness may more than once give us the tempting counsel to imitate Pilate and leave the decision to others. ‘Do choose for yourselves; you are free, you know, to decide whether you will have Barabbas or Jesus, of whom it is said is called the Christ.” ~Pontius Pilate by Ann Wroe This excerpt, from Chapter 5 “The Great Equivocator”.

  2. “By asking the question, “Jesus or Barabbas?” he (Pilate) had already rejected the claims of Jesus.”

    I disagree with Ms. Roe, whose book I have read. Pilate was testing by this stratagem who was the stronger on the streets in Jerusalem: Caiaphas or the followers of Jesus, and the answer was obvious, even though Barabbas was a bandit and rebel. Pilate’s goal throughout his encounter with Jesus was to prevent a rebellion in Jerusalem during Passover, which could easily have led to full scale war. The claims of Jesus would have struck Pilate as mysterious and Jewish and largely incomprehensible to him. After the intervention of his wife, he would have preferred to have let Jesus live, but Caiaphas had prepared a clever trap, and Pilate ultimately saw the execution of Jesus as his only way out.

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