Memoirs of Pontius Pilate: A Novel

Memoirs of Pontius Pilate: A Novel

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by James R. Mills

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It's been thirty years since he sentenced the troublemaker to die,
but Pontius Pilate can't get Jesus out of his mind. . . .

Forced to live out his life in exile, Pontius Pilate, the former governor of Judea, is now haunted by the executions that were carried out on his orders. The life and death of a particular carpenter from Nazareth lay heavily on his mind.


It's been thirty years since he sentenced the troublemaker to die,
but Pontius Pilate can't get Jesus out of his mind. . . .

Forced to live out his life in exile, Pontius Pilate, the former governor of Judea, is now haunted by the executions that were carried out on his orders. The life and death of a particular carpenter from Nazareth lay heavily on his mind. With years of solitude stretched out before him, Pilate sets out to uncover all he can about Jesus—his birth, boyhood, ministry, and the struggles that led to his crucifixion. With unexpected wit and candor, Pilate reveals a unique, compelling picture of Jesus that only one of his enemies could give.

In a vibrant, inventive, completely engaging novel that places Jesus and his teachings in a wonderfully accurate historical setting, James R. Mills has created nothing less than a new gospel that illuminates the beginnings of Christianity from an astonishing and unexpected point of view.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
—Midwest Book Review
San Francisco Chronicle
Intelligent, historically accurate, and absorbing.
Library Journal
Thirty years after the death of Jesus of Nazareth, an exiled Pontius Pilate compiles his memoirs into a history of the Jewish faith and the rise of Christianity. He contemplates his role in sentencing Jesus to death by crucifixion and puzzles at the rapid spread of the teachings of that simple man. A true politician, he denies any blame for his part in Jesus' final hours. Instead, he lays the blame at the feet of the crowd who cried for Barabbas to be released and at the feet of the temple officials who called for his trial. Subtly, Pilate's fascination with Jesus and his teachings gives life to his recital, and glimpses of Pilate's own thoughts and feelings surface. Mills's (Gospel According to Pontius Pilate) expertise with his subject provides unexpected depth to this intriguing glimpse at a man vilified for his place in history. Recommended for all collections. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Reader's Circle Series
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Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt


The time has come for me when I, like Julius Caesar, can say, "I have lived long enough, whether for fame or fortune." My wife is dead, and I
have no friends here in my place of exile, so I spend my days reflecting upon the past, as old men do for lack of better ways to occupy their time.

As I reflect upon my experiences of long ago, I find that they are fading in my memory, losing their colors and details, growing as muzzy as wall paintings exposed to the elements in some ancient ruin. However,
one action of mine is still as vivid in my mind as it ever was. I refer to my ordering of the crucifixion of that now famous Jewish carpenter called Jesus of Nazareth, while I was governor of Judea, Samaria, and

Three years after I was exiled to Gaul by Caligula, that mad young emperor banished Herod Antipas to Lugdunum, just a few miles up the river that flows outside my window as I sit here writing this. Herod did not deserve to be disgraced, even as I did not, but we both had powerful enemies, and we both became the victims of those enemies.

Herod had been, like his father, Herod the Great, a loyal ally of Rome and a pragmatic ruler of his people. However, his youthful nephew Herod
Agrippa was a close boyhood friend of Caligula's, and he wanted to be king of all the Jews, so the realm of Herod Antipas was added to his own, and Herod Antipas was banished to Gaul in his old age to die.

I had dinner with Herod Antipas once in the last year of his life, and we talked for over an hour about that strange carpenter. His wife was present, and she tried to turn our conversation to another odd Jewish mystic, one called John the Baptist, a fellow she had snared her husband into beheading. Herod muttered through his beard that it had been a mistake to kill John, which it clearly had been, and he spoke again of the carpenter, expressing a belief that the man's miracles had been genuine.

During the long years I have been in exile here, I have had few other occasions to talk about Jesus of Nazareth. However, an agent of the
Emperor came here recently to question me about the man. The reason for that sudden imperial interest was, of course, the great fire that destroyed Rome.

I must acknowledge in passing that there are people who think the
Christians are not guilty of the crime of starting that fire. Such skeptics say it is not in accordance with Christian principles to cause so much random death and destruction. Be that as it may, scandal mongers in Rome have been spreading a rumor that it was the Emperor himself who was responsible for the conflagration, and that created a need to assign blame elsewhere and to proceed at once with spectacular punishments.

Whether or not persons punished are responsible for the crimes of which they are accused is not the only factor to be taken into account sometimes. That can be an uncomfortable truth, as it was for me in the case of the carpenter.

It seems the Emperor wants to get rid of the Christians in any event.
They have become subversive of the interests of the empire in their efforts to woo the general populace away from its beliefs in the officially recognized gods of Rome, including Nero himself, whose divinity seems important to him.

Punishing those wretches is easy to do, and watching them die provides popular entertainment for the citizens of the charred and blackened city. Because of the stories of their drinking blood as a part of their rituals, the Christians had already become objects of public loathing,
and severe governmental condemnation became an appropriate way to appease that popular feeling of antipathy.

The current concern about this sect has caused me to sit down here at my desk with a long roll of papyrus, a lot of goose quills, and a pot of ink before me. My purpose is to spend a month of my otherwise idle time relating and explaining the events in the life of this fellow Jesus of
Nazareth. I think it important to let readers know how the man was seen by his own people during his lifetime. Therefore I shall point out those peculiarities that set him apart from the other charlatans, demagogues,
and zealots who have recently declared themselves to be the messiah, by which they mean the deliverer of the Jewish nation from Roman rule. Some of those pretenders have attracted considerable followings and have thereby caused a great deal of Jewish blood to flow. However, with the exception of this single individual, the execution of each of them has resulted in the disillusionment of his followers.

I'll give two examples. When Felix was governor of Judea, he had to deal with an Egyptian Jew who proclaimed he would bring down the walls of
Jerusalem with a breath from his mouth. This shatterbrain presented himself east of the city, upon the Mount of Olives, where the messiah is expected to appear. He was able to assemble four thousand fools to attack the city, but Felix dispatched troops to take him prisoner. On the morning that maniac was executed, his movement vanished. Later, when
Fadus was governor there, a magi-cian named Theudas persuaded a multitude of Jews to go with him to the Jordan River, which he told them he would divide to allow them to walk through it dry-shod. To deal with them, Fadus sent a large detachment of cavalry which killed many of that mob and took a lot of prisoners. Among them was Theudas. The soldiers crucified him there on the bank of the river, and they cut off his head and took it to Fadus in Jerusalem.

Afterward none of his followers ever spoke of him again. It is surprising that a similar falling away has not taken place among the adherents of that carpenter, even though the measures now being taken to suppress them are thorough and systematic. The agent of the Emperor who came to see me here informed me that one of those who have been crucified in Rome recently was a Galilean fisherman named Peter who was a leader among them because he had been close to the carpenter. That imperial representative also told me that another man who had great authority among the Christians—an aged Jew named Paul—was beheaded not long ago in Rome.

No doubt this singular sect will disappear with the execution of its leaders and the extermination of its members throughout the Roman
Empire. At most it may persist for a time in isolated parts of the East as a small and esoteric cult.

It is difficult for reasonable men to understand how that dead carpenter can continue to attract followers who cling to his memory even while they are being nailed to their own crosses. I shall try to shed light on that mystery by setting forth in writing the facts relating to his life and death that have given rise to the legends now current about him.

Over thirty years ago, in Caesarea, I heard with some interest reports from Galilee about that charismatic carpenter and the stir he occasioned there when he laid down his tools and assumed his new identity, that of a wonder-working prophet. Those earliest reports did not concern me directly, because the provinces I governed did not include Galilee. I
did not order my agents to start collecting information about him until he had left Galilee and was no longer the responsibility of Herod
Antipas and had become mine by coming into Judea. From that time until the end of his life, I continued to receive reports about him as a potential leader of insurrection in the region for which I was responsible. The more his following grew, the more I had to take an interest in him, until at last he stood before me in the judgment hall of the Fortress Antonia on the last day of his life.

I remained as military governor of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea for four years after that. During that short time Christianity was already becoming a rapidly growing element among the Jews. Therefore I told my agents to continue to collect information about the crucified carpenter and the increasing legions of his worshipers. When I was dismissed by
Vitellius and sent back to Rome to be tried before the emperor, I
brought all that information with me, along with other material bearing upon the danger of messianic movements in that troubled land.

In addition, I still receive letters from the few friends I have left in
Rome, and one of those friends recently sent me a biography of the carpenter that was taken from a group of his worshipers who were captured and then crucified in the arena in Rome. Fortunately that book contains a number of direct quotations of things the man said.

Because I possess these materials, and because I acquainted myself with the customs and beliefs and history of the Jews during the years when I
was their governor, I can tell the story of Jesus of Nazareth and explain why he lived and died as he did.

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Memoirs of Pontius Pilate 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
stahmuu More than 1 year ago
if you like the history around the time of jesus' death also then this is a very interesting book. the author did a good job. fun to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Pontius Pilate is one of those Biblical figures whose a cardboard villain or a real weakling. Mills does a great job of giving this tyrant depth. Not always historically accurate, 'Memoirs' still does a great job of portraying Pilate as the vile, petty man historians tell us he was. I recommend this for anyone who wants to get a better sense of what was going on in Rome and Judea at that time.