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Pilate: The Biography of an Invented Man [Hardcover]

Ann Wroe
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

18 Mar 1999
The facts about Pontius Pilate are very few. We don't know when he was born or when he died. We know nothing of his career before he became Govenor of Judea, and nothing of what happened to him after he was recalled by Tiberius. Some say he came from Rome, others from Spain or Germany. Everyone - from the evangelists to the writers of the medieval mystery plays - has his own Pilate, each symbolic of something, each a projection of his own ideas and anxieties. This extraordinary book is all about our Pilates, real, half-real and invented. Some are familiar, some surprising. They have depths and contrasts that are unexpected. They do remarkable things. Among these surprises, perhaps, are the glimpses we get of a man actually walking on a marble floor in Caesarea, feeling his shoes pinch, clicking his fingers for a slave, while the clouds of lasting infamy gather over his head.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 381 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd; 1st edition (18 Mar 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224059424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224059428
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.4 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 913,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

As one of the most remembered and controversial minor characters from the bestselling book of all time, Pontius Pilate makes an intriguing subject for a book of his own. His own ambivalent role in the drama leading up to the crucifixion, and his actions afterwards, have made him a character of great fascination over the centuries. He is not an easy man to pin down though and is, therefore, not an immediately obvious candidate for a biography. However this isn't strictly speaking your typical biographical work.

Pilate the man has become far more over the centuries since his destiny briefly and fatefully met that of Jesus of Nazareth, far more; a symbol, a portmanteau character, a name rich in meaning and filled with a subtle ambiguity that reaches to the essence of people's souls. The Bible says very little about him and accounts from the Gospels of events leading up to the crucifixion are inconsistent. According to St John, Pilate and Jesus entered into a serious discussion about the nature of God's kingdom before Pilate, finding no fault with Jesus, offered the Jewish crowd the opportunity of having "their King" released. They chose instead to free Barabbas, a robber and a murderer, and Pilate, no doubt mindful of the precarious political minefield he was navigating, ceded to their yobbish preference. Whether he ever really had a choice or was simply a pawn fulfilling his role is an unanswerable question that reaches to the very heart of the Christian religion. Anne Wroe has researched this study of an elusive man thoroughly and come up with an engaging book that explores every aspect of the man that can be discerned from the historical record, together with the layers of myth and legend, interpretation and judgement that have been laid down on top for the 2,000 years since. --Alisdair Bowles


"The sheer skill of the writing... the touch of a master-novelist... Few have ever explored so imaginatively, or with such passionate attention to detail." - "Sunday Telegraph" "Extraordinary and compelling." - "Sunday Telegraph" "Ann Wroe's knowledge of the past 2,000 years is encyclopaedic--She manages to keep Pilate living and breathing in the text, and occasionally kicking and screaming." - "Independent on Sunday" "From the Trade Paperback edition."

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly written 17 Feb 2001
By Count
Ann sets out in her introduction that this is an under-researched collage from diverse sources. It is a brave attempt to fly in the face of history writting traditions, and I think she pulls it off marvellously. Making no apologies for inaccuracies or stumbling into myths, she attempts to paint a picture of what a man such as Pilate may have been like. Most authors would get bogged down in arguments around insignificant aspects, but Ann sticks to the script the whole way thru. Read it as a piece of history, or read it as a fictional account, it works either way. And she makes no attempt to force any theories your way. Read it and make your own mind up!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the read 14 Sep 2010
I've been intrigued by the conversation between Jesus and Pilate for a long time. I therefore, enjoyed her analysis of the dialogue that the 4 Gospels report. Insightful, sensitive and encourages the reader to contemplate further about the dialogue. I did not find the 'invented' dialogue from the many historical dramas to be useful. A well researched piece, given how little we know about Pilate. I came to feel sympathy for him!
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
This book makes the reader think. Ann Wroe draws into it legend and modern parallels that most readers might not have considered. It will hold your attention and tantalise to the very end. It will make the reader consider his/her attitudes and will pose many unanswered questions. Who else could compare Christ's methods with those of the anti-abortionists? Who else would dare to compare Ghandi with Christ? How many of us realised or considered that Christ planned his own agonising death?
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5.0 out of 5 stars The life and afterlives of an enigmatic Roman 26 April 2014
By Jeremy Bevan TOP 500 REVIEWER
Thanks largely to his reported role in the trial and execution of Jesus of Nazareth, Pontius Pilate has been a perennial source of fascination for writers over the centuries. In this ‘biography’, Ann Wroe sifts the evidence to tell the Roman prefect’s story, from his origins (obscure: he was variously thought to be a Spaniard, a German, or a descendant of the Samnite tribe that originated somewhere south of Rome) to his encounter with Jesus and beyond. And it’s very well done. Although drawing largely on the ancient Jewish historian Josephus to confirm or interrogate what is known of Pilate from the gospels, Wroe enlists a host of classical Roman writers to add ‘period colour’ and give us a fuller, more rounded picture of the time.

But this is the biography of an ‘invented’ man, and by far the best part of the work, in my view, is the way Wroe uses the vast corpus of legendary material as a launch-pad for musings on Pilate’s inner life, his motivations, and the enduring significance of his actions. This rich tapestry includes such delights as an imagined correspondence with his protector and patron, the emperor Tiberius; the Acta Pilati; the Anaphora of Pilate; medieval mystery plays; Coptic legends; enduring stories from around the Swiss Pilatussee – and much more. The result is a hugely satisfying extended meditation on the life, and after-lives, of a man whose career appears to peter out into obscurity after Tiberius’ death. But whatever his earthly fate, Pilate was ever after to be immortalised, variously celebrated (especially in Ethiopia, apparently), pitied, reviled or simply puzzled over thanks to one enigmatic encounter - whose significance for the subsequent history of the world we may doubt the Roman administrator ever grasped. A wonderful read.
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