Report to the Emperor-First Draft

Friday, April 6, AD 2012


(I post this each year on Good Friday.)

I thank you Marcus for taking on the onerous task of acting as my secretary, in addition to your regular duties as my aide, in regard to this portion of the report.  The Greek, Aristides, is competent, and like most Greek secretaries his Latin is quite graceful, but also like most Greek secretaries he does not know when to keep his mouth shut.  I want him kept away from this work, and I want you to observe the strictest security.  Caiaphas was playing a nefarious game, and I do not think we are out of the woods yet.  I do not want his spies finding out what I am telling the Imperator and Caiaphas altering the tales his agents are now, no doubt, spreading in Rome.  Let us take the Jew by surprise for once!

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21 Responses to Report to the Emperor-First Draft

  • This is very moving. You said you post it every Good Friday, so I assume you did not write it. Who did?

  • No, it’s my own composition George; I simply re-post each year. Thank you for your kind words.

  • I have read this for the last couple years and have enjoyed it each time. Very well done.

  • My first time reading it….most excellent as it makes the politics of the Crucifixtion both real and topical. I am curious how you came up with the idea and I can see where your love of history was sated by the effort.

  • Thank you cthemfly25. Whenever I am studying a period of history I will try to put myself in the shoes of historical actors and see the world as they saw it. I find this enhances my understanding of both them and the times in which they lived.

  • This is the first time I read this post, Donald. It is now shared on facebook and Goggle blogger. Thanks. I hope my Pentecostal brothers and my sister read it – they know nothing of the historical circumstances surrounding the Crucifixion and I think that this gives excellent background on how Pontius Pilate may have wanted to be careful in his characterization of this event to Tiberius Caesar in the wake of Sejanus’ death, and Caiaphas’ intrigue. It’s too bad real history isn’t taught in public school any longer!

  • This is the first time I read this all the way through, and realized that you wrote it, Don! This is really great — it ought to be more widely published.

  • ” I, Donatus Marclarius, hereby confirm that I witnessed this instruction given by Pontius Pilatus to his secretary Marcus, and swear by the God Jovis that it transpired as he has wriiten.
    May the gods give long life to our illustrious Imperator Maximus Tiberius Caesar.”


  • “It’s too bad real history isn’t taught in public school any longer!”

    Too often the life is sucked out of the history taught in schools Paul and replaced with politicized drek. Blogs I think can help to redress the balance and restore history to its central role for any educated man or woman.

  • “This is really great — it ought to be more widely published.”

    If it were possible for me to blush Elaine after 30 years in the law mines I would be!

  • ” I, Donatus Marclarius, hereby confirm that I witnessed this instruction given by Pontius Pilatus to his secretary Marcus, and swear by the God Jovis that it transpired as he has wriiten.
    May the gods give long life to our illustrious Imperator Maximus Tiberius Caesar.”

    No doubt one of my ancestors Don journied from Hibernia to teach the Roman legions how to fight. (Taken from what my great uncle William Barry said as he joined the Royal Army in 1939: “Someone has to show the Limies how to fight!”).

  • If it were possible for me to blush Elaine after 30 years in the law mines I would be!

    Ah Don………Too much cutting dulls even the sharpest blade.

    Dunno who said that, but I’m sure it was someone much more illustrious than me.

  • This is an excellent post, Don. Thank you.

    How intriguing it is that 300 years after the Crucifixion, it was the Roman Empire that was converted to Christ and the ancient pagan religions of Rome faded away.

    How amazing is it that after the Western Roman Empire faded away, the Catholic Church remained where Rome once ruled, to fight off and defeat the Muslim invaders, discover the New World and evangelize most of the Western Hemisphere.

  • All of the above. Perhaps it will become a script for a documentary. I would like to see that happen. I had little idea of the political intrigue involved and always assumed that anybody who wanted Jesus dead had absolutely no humanity.
    Don the Kiwi: Donald is not “dull”. Donald knows when he ought to blush and why he does not. Donald may be saving his blushes for heaven. Donald’s response to Elaine is precious.
    Elaine:I have always enjoyed your response to postings, but this one, from Donald, I would save.

  • Donald McClarey: Your great uncle was William Barry. Are you related to Commodore John Barry, Father of the American Navy, whose wife was Mary Clary (or Cleary)? and who was born in Ireland?

  • Penguin Fan, thank you for your kind words. A non-Catholic English historian Lord Macaulay said it best more than a century and a half ago about the Church and History:

    “There is not, and there never was on this earth, a work of human policy so well deserving of examination as the Roman Catholic Church. The history of that Church joins together the two great ages of human civilisation. No other institution is left standing which carries the mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon, and when camelopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian amphitheatre. The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace back in an unbroken series, from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable. The republic of Venice came next in antiquity. But the republic of Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains. The Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and youthful vigour. The Catholic Church is still sending forth to the farthest ends of the world missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with Augustin, and still confronting hostile kings with the same spirit with which she confronted Attila. The number of her children is greater than in any former age. Her acquisitions in the New World have more than compensated for what she has lost in the Old. Her spiritual ascendency extends over the vast countries which lie between the plains of the Missouri and Cape Horn, countries which a century hence, may not improbably contain a population as large as that which now inhabits Europe. The members of her communion are certainly not fewer than a hundred and fifty millions; and it will be difficult to show that all other Christian sects united amount to a hundred and twenty millions. Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long dominion is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the governments and of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished at Antioch, when idols were still worshipped in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul’s.”

  • “Are you related to Commodore John Barry”

    Alas no Mary. My great great grandfather Barry came over from Ireland and settled in Newfoundland in circa 1870. He was a tough old bird. According to my mother he regarded pews and kneelers as Protestant innovations, and at Mass he would stand in the back of the church and kneel on the stone floor. When my mother in her childhood observed this, he was in his eighties. I am sorry that I never got to meet him.

    Here is a post I wrote about Commodore Barry:

  • Donald: It would appear that your great, great grandfather Barry and John Barry were related in spirit.

  • I am also a first timer…but ended up reading this several times; (which I recommend BTW…easy to miss stuff the first read).
    Sent to my scripture study group after it came up as a discussion on the political aspect of Pilate and the Pharisees.

Screen Pilates: Rod Steiger

Wednesday, April 20, AD 2011


The figure of Pontius Pilate has always intrigued me.  The fifth Prefect of Judaea, Pilate looms large in the Gospels.  His name Pilate  indicates that his family was of Samnite orgin.  Pilate is mentioned by the Roman historian Tacitus as having condemned Jesus.  In 1961 a block of limestone was discoved at the site of Caesarea Maritima, the Roman capitol of Judaea, bearing an inscription of Pilate dedicating a Roman theater there.  That is almost all we know about Pilate outside of the Gospels, Josephus and Philo.  Pilate today would be forgotten, instead of being the best known Roman who ever lived, but for his role in sentencing Jesus.

This is the start of a series examining how Pilate has been presented in films.  First up  is Rod Steiger, the method actor to end all method actors, and a character actor who achieved stardom with intense, some would say frequently over the top, performances.  Steiger gives an interesting portrayal of Pilate in the superb Jesus of Nazareth  (1977).  Overworked and tired, with a bad temper on edge, he is forced to judge Jesus, and clearly finds the dispute between Him and the Sanhedrin to be completely incomprehensible.  His queries to Jesus, “Who are you?  What are you?”,  sum up how mysterious this  business is to him, and echoes the query of Jesus to his Apostles:  “Who do you say that I am?”

Ultimately Pilate condemns Jesus and this sequence may be viewed here.  To forestall a riot, Pilate sentences Jesus to be crucified.  Pilate still obviously finds Jesus to be utterly mysterious.  His wondering who is the real threat to Rome, Barabbas or Jesus, before he passes sentence on Jesus as the mob howls for him to free Barabbas, indicates that he understands at some level that this is all very important, but he simply cannot fathom why.  Steiger portrays Pilate as world weary and baffled by his encounter with this strange Galilean.

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8 Responses to Screen Pilates: Rod Steiger

  • For all his talents, I think Steiger was miscast here. From scripture and other portrayals, Pilate seems frustrated and perplexed, but he never quite loses it. Rather he dumps it all in the laps of the mob giving them a choice. In his mind, he washed his hands and felt no responsibility for condemning Jesus. See Frank Thring’s cool performance in Ben-Hur for a stark contrast to Steiger’s ranting.

  • I think the only movie I liked Steiger in was as Napolean in “Waterloo.” Even that was a bit of a stretch.

    I did like Hristo Shopov as Pilate in “The Passion of the Christ.”

  • I may be historically incorrect. Here goes. During Passover, Jeruslaem was filled with Jews from all over the world. Pilate was under pressure from his superiors not to suffer a riot during the festival. The Jews were filled with religious fervor and even more volatile during passover: imagine ritually commemorating whipping the Egyptian Empire while suffering under the yolk of Imperial Rome and its “victorious gods.” Pilate was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    Old Sicilian proverb: “Once you draw the sword, throw away the sheath.”

    RE: Josephus’ account of the “sit-in in Caesarea.” Don’t know if any other similar event occurred anywhere else in Roman history. If so, one wonders how the empire survived until the Fifth Century A.D. Imagine how the zealots were encouraged after calling Pilate’s bluff.

  • “See Frank Thring’s cool performance in Ben-Hur for a stark contrast to Steiger’s ranting.”

    All the screen Pilates will have their turn Joe, although it is probably something I will reserve for Holy Week each year. Tomorrow we look at Richard Boone’s interpretation of Pilate.

  • Not to mention Telly Savalas in “The Greatest Story Ever Told”… the role for which the future Det. Theo Kojak shaved his head — and kept that look for the rest of his life.

  • Another marvelous performance Elaine! Playing Pilate has seemed to inspire many actors to give their very best effort.

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