Screen Pilates: Hristo Shopov

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began last year during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone and Barry Dennen may be read here, here and here.

Without a doubt the screen portrayal of Pilate seen by the most people around the world is that of Bulgarian actor Hristo Shopov in Mel Gibson’s hugely successful Passion of the Christ (2004).  That is good, because it is a superb portrayal.


Shopov portrays Pilate as a coolly in charge Roman prefect in public, but in private he unburdens himself to his wife Claudia who warns him that Jesus is a holy man and he must not condemn Him.  Pilate repeats his query to Christ about truth to his wife.  His truth he tells her is that the Emperor has warned him that if there are any more rebellions in Judaea, he will pay for it with his own blood.  If he refuses to execute Jesus he fears that Caiaphas will lead a revolt, but that if he executes Jesus the followers of Christ might revolt.  I believe this was a key fear of the historical Pilate and he did not order the execution of Jesus until he decided that a revolt by the rent-a-mob of Caiaphas on Good Friday posed the far greater threat. Continue Reading