P: ….so what do you think you know about me?
Me: Not a lot. Only what appears in the four gospels, plus one or two bits of information in the historian Josephus….oh and the legend that you were born in Scotland….
P: The legend may be more accurate than some of what you read in the gospels. Ask yourself who witnessed the various conversations I’m supposed to have had with your Jesus, not to mention the fact that the gospels each tell different stories.
Me: Different in detail, yes, but basically they agree that you didn’t want to crucify Jesus because you thought he was innocent, but gave in to agitation by a Jewish crowd, which was set up by The Jewish religious leaders.
P: Yes, yes, but you should ask yourself why they take that line…
M: What d’you mean?
P: I mean, my little Christian, that after we had destroyed the jewish Jihadis who rebelled in 70 CE, even Christians knew it might be very dangerous if they depicted their saviour as a man justly condemned by a Roman governor. Far better to throw the blame on his own people.
Me: So you thought Jesus was guilty….on the evidence of the priests and Pharisees?
P: Of course not. How could a Roman accept the evidence of manipulative barbarians? I had my own spies with the Nazarene prophet from his early days in Galilee.
Me: And what did they tell you?
P: That he was a decent man, doing tiny miracles for tiny people in a tiny corner of the land….
Me: And that made him dangerous to Rome!
P: ….listen, Christian, listen! They told me that he was popular, so popular that some people considered him a Messiah. Zeus spare me, I spent years hearing about divinely inspired Messiahs annointed by God to murder Romans and turn the world into God’s Kalifate.
Me: But Jesus wasn’t like that, he wasn’t political!
Pontius: I don’t want to be rude, but as you’ve never been in government, especially imperial govenment, you would have difficulty in telling your political arse from your political elbow. Any man who can gather 5000 men around him in the desert, or stage a mockery of a Roman Triumph as he entered Jesusalem, is political. Any Jewish man talking about the Kalifate of God and allowing his followers to call him Messiah, is dangerously political….
Me: But he never intended…
P: How do you know what he intended? In any case, a governor cannot waste time guessing intentions when he has facts before him. If a man acts like a jihadi, if he promotes a story about God’s Kalifate, and radicalises young men, then he must be treated as a jihadi whatever his intentions. Public order must be protected.
Me: Jesus never recommended violence against Rome or anyone!
P: Even your own gospels have to admit he staged a violent pantomime in the Temple and was personally violent to blameless small businessmen.
Me: But that was against Jewish people, not Romans, and for religious reasons not political ones.
P: Truly faith is harmful to the intelligence! The motives behind public disorder are of no importance; it simply must be stopped. As for your carelessness about harming Jews, isn’t that of a piece with the nauseating anti- Jewishness of your church down the centuries? But a Roman Governor has to protect all citizens, even barbarians. The man had to go.
Me: But even if I admit you may have had some justification for finding Jesus guilty, I can still point to the unnecessary death penalty you imposed.
P: Ah, now you are moving to another area of your expertise: criminal justice! So perhaps you think I could have put him in prison?
Me: It would have been more merciful….
P: I have to remind you that unlike your own filthy system of justice, Roman justice never used prison as a punishment, not even for slaves or barbarians. We never kept a living man in prison except when awaiting trial or execution. Restitution, fines, forfeit of property, exile, enslavement, and death were the punishments which made our justice the envy of the world.
Me: People tortured by beatings followed by a prolonged death on a stake, that’s the image of what you call justice?
P: The part of our justice reserved for rebellious slaves and jihadis. It was designed to cause fear if not respect, and I may say was quite successful in doing so. You may think I am pained when I hear your creed being repeated, ‘ suffered under Pontius Pilate, ‘ time and time again. But no, I feel a modest pride in having done my duty.
Me: And you’ve no regrets at what you did to Jesus?
P: None like the feelings ascribed to me in your gospels. But yes, I did regret what I had to do with Jesus of Nazareth. He was a decent man, intelligent, honest and brave, but with an unfortunate belief that he had been chosen by God to establish his rule in the world. Yes, I’m sure he thought this rule would be kindly, except maybe in respect of people like me. God would have to get rid of me. But as you can see, He hasn’t, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this entertaining chat, my fellow Caledonian. But look, dawn is imminent and I have to get back before first light, I have to get back to…eh, I have to get back.