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, Stephen Russell, Greg Hicks, Cyril Richard, Stephen Moyer, Dennis King, Keith Mitchell, Leif Erickson, Peter Firth, David Bowie, Lowell Gilmore, Hurd Hatfield, Vincent Regan, Arthur Kennedy, Gary Oldman and Ian Holm may be viewed here, here, here, here here , here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here , here , here , here , here , here, here , here and here.
In Asbaek’s portrayal of Pilate we encounter a hirsute and ruthless Pilate. In his ruthlessness, the portrayal of Pilate reflects that of the Jewish historian Josephus who lived in the latter half of the first century. That portrayal has always been at odds with the more nuanced picture of Pilate contained in the Gospels. I have never viewed these different portraits of the man as necessarily in conflict. Depending upon events, a man might act quite differently than one might expect based upon their past. Pilate had two jobs from the Emperor: keep the peace and keep taxes flowing. Pilate was inclined to be merciful to Christ until Caiaphas skillfully convinced Pilate that he would accuse him of falling down on both his jobs if Christ were not crucified.
As to Pilate having a beard, most Roman aristocrats were clean shaven at the time, and had been since the end of the Second Punic War, a beard usually being considered a Greek affectation. It is unlikely that Pilate would have had a beard, especially considering the hot and humid climate of Judaea, but some Romans did have beards, usually as a sign of fashionable youthful rebellion or as a sign of mourning.