The Catholic Letter

Catholics and History

Herod vs Pilot

If you asked this question to a group of Christians, over 85% of them would probably call Pilot a better man than Herod. Yet to this day, our Nicene Creed attributes the torture and death of Jesus to Pilot. So why do people consider him the lesser of two evils?

Was it the Half Hearted Attempt?

It could be because Pilot tried to convince the crowds of Jesus’ innocence…or at least of his harmlessness. Scripture records his obvious unwillingness to crucify Jesus. But then again, Pilot is the one who authorized it…not Herod.

Herod (once he realized Jesus wouldn’t entertain him with a miracle) simply dismissed Jesus and sent him back to Pilot. And while Pilot claimed to wash his hands of the innocent blood, they couldn’t have executed Jesus without his permission.

Was it the History?

Perhaps people can’t help but associate Herod with the actions of his father. It’s not easy to forget that someone murdered all those innocent children...even though the crime was committed by a previous generation. Then again, scripture also points out the just punishment that Herod’s father received.

Was it the Man?

A good look at the characteristics of the two men might reveal more that just looking at their actions. We know very little of Pilot…except that he seemed more ambitious than anything else. While he wanted to set Jesus free, he feared a red mark on his record because of the Jews’ unrest.

Herod, on the other hand, was more concerned with his immediate physical gratification. His fling with his brother’s wife (and his apparent interest in his niece) speaks mountains by itself. But when he so nonchalantly dismissed Jesus, the scholar sees an even more piercing glimpse into the man’s heart.

Where Pilot labor’s over Jesus’ fate, Herod doesn’t seem to care one way or another. His only interests were making sure Jesus wasn’t John the Baptist’s ghost, and witnessing a miracle (one that would benefit him).

The Parallel

These two weaknesses happen to play an interesting role in America now. On the one hand, there are the corporate giants, whom the media points to as public enemy #1. These executives are infamous for their insatisfiable greed. You can turn the news on and see stories about the corruption every day. They are the modern day Pilot.

On the other hand, there’s a vast crowd of modernists who have turned life into a non-stop party life…an orgy of excess and gratification. Aside from occasional charity campaigns, the media does everything in its power to promote this carnal bliss. They label any kind of opposition as oppressive and traditional anti-progressiveness.

The modern teenager (modern Herod) knows nothing of restraint and modesty. Not that there aren’t exceptions to the rule…but they are exceptions. The dominant culture rejects moderation.

The more society swings to this extreme, the more the media and entertainment industry criticizes modern Pilot. Every time a we see this criticism, we should remember one thing. After Jesus’ death, Pilot and Herod (though hey had very different personalities) became good friends.