Originally written for the Book of Common Thought. Here adapted and ameliorated.
4. Under Pontius Pilate, He was crucified, died, and was buried.
The Apostles’ Creed certainly has strange twists. With the 4th article, it turns out, the plan has hit a crisis. That is, if the plan included some RomCom version of “happy ever after”.
Here, a weird feature rears its head: the central place of Pontius Pilate. Doesn’t it seem unusual that one of the most ambiguous characters in the crucifixion drama should take such a central role?
I was, however, surprised to learn old Pontius was a 2nd- to 3rd-century church celebrity. In the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of Nicodemus he is the main character. The Coptic and Syrian churches even canonised Pilate.
Pilate is so intriguing for the early church because he roots Jesus in time and physicality. Jesus suffers under someone, who lived at a particular time. Furthermore, Pontius connects Jesus’ death with the Roman universe and emphasises Jesus was executed by Romans.
However, one cannot help but snicker at Pilate’s inclusion as an autocritique. The guy who washed his hands of the death of Christ becomes baptismal candidates’ introduction to the key events into which they will be submerged. Anyway, I’m glad he’s included. All of us have a little Pontius in us.
- Ashwin-Siejkowski, Piotr. The Apostles’ Creed: and Its Early Christian Context. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2009.
- Kelly, John Norman Davidson. Early Christian Creeds. A&C Black, 2006.