Thursday, April 9, 2009

"Gross weakness and incompetence"

Vito M. DeStefano, a New York State Supreme Court Justice, considers Pilate as a judge and finds him wanting: vacillating, weak and unjust. After considering the historical evidence in the gospels, he concludes:
.... I cannot imagine a more unjust judge than Pilate or a more unjust judgment than the one rendered by him. Unable to hold to the correct and just decision he initially made concerning Christ’s case, Pilate attempted to shift responsibility for making a decision, first to Herod, and then, to the crowds outside the Praetorium. Moreover, rather than having the people judge the case on the evidence—as a jury would—their judgment was to be based on a ridiculous and, as we know, rigged procedure in which they were to choose between prisoners. Finally, having ostensibly placed the decision in the hands of the people, Pilate, in an unparalleled act of weakness, pleaded with them to change their judgment. ....

In the end, knowing that Christ was innocent but too afraid to go against the crowd, Pilate reluctantly condemns him to death. Yet, even in his final judgment, Pilate demonstrates moral and judicial cowardice, for he attempts to shift the responsibility for Christ’s death onto the crowd by “washing his hands” and saying, “Look to it yourselves.”

For a judge to commit any of the wrongs committed by Pilate on the bench—abrogating his duty to render a just decision on the merits, pandering to public opinion, repeatedly vacillating and temporizing, and imposing an undeserved sentence—would constitute gross weakness and incompetence. But to commit all of these acts in a single case is an abomination. That the people who handed Christ over to him may have been guilty of the greater sin (John 19:11) and that Pilate unwittingly cooperated in God’s salvific plan, does not absolve him of his guilt in failing to treat an innocent man with justice.
FIRST THINGS: On the Square » Blog Archive » Pontius Pilate: The Unjust Judge

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