Fox News Analyst Calls Obama the Reincarnation of Pontius Pilate

Fox News Analyst Calls Obama the Reincarnation of Pontius Pilate

Fox News strategic analyst Ralph Peters had a new name to call President Obama on Wednesday: “the reincarnation of Pontius Pilate.” You know, the guy who killed Jesus.

You know, after the Holocaust and World War II, the world said ‘Never again.’ But Bill O’Reilly’s right; it’s happening again. And it is a genuine Holocaust against Christians.

Christians are driven from their homes in the Middle East by the hundreds of thousands, slaughtered by the tens of thousands, and our President does nothing. He is the reincarnation of Pontius Pilate washing his hands, but this blood’s not coming off.

Watch courtesy of Media Matters for America:

(Continued Below)

A couple of quick comments here:

Number 1: Bill O’Reilly is not right. About anything. He’s proven himself a pathological liar.

Number 2: The idea of reincarnation is not Christian. Not in the Bible, Ralph, you heretic. So doctrinally speaking, President Obama can’t be the reincarnation of anyone.

The charge itself is interesting. The allusion to Pilate washing his hands is actually found only in one Gospel, Matthew 27:24. Mark, Luke, and John don’t mention it, though Luke and John have Pilate declare three times that Jesus is innocent.

The thing is, then, given early Christianity’s view of Pilate, Ralph Peter’s intended insult is actually a compliment. Let me explain why.

Bart Ehrman calls the second century “the period in which Christian anti-Judaism began to assert itself with particular vigor. One by-product of this increased animosity is that Christians began to exonerate Pilate for Jesus’ death and to blame Jews – all Jews – more and more.”

Prior to that, Matthew (written sometime between 75-90 CE) placed the blame upon the Jews (Matt.27.25) whereas Mark, written earlier, c. 65-70, indicts Pilate (Mark 15.1-15). The Jewish historian Josephus had nothing good to say about Pilate (e.g. The Jewish War 2.175-177) even if later Christians did: “The more he is excused,” writes Ehrman, “the more the Jews are blamed.”

And early Christians loved themselves some Pontius Pilate.

In the second century, Church apologist Tertullian (Apology 5) even claimed that Pilate had sent a letter to the Emperor Tiberius telling him of Jesus’ divinity and innocence, and that not only had Tiberius declared Jesus a God but had converted himself.

By medieval times, the story (the “Surrender of Pilate,” or Paradosis Pilati) was that Pilate was put on trial by Tibeius for killing Jesus and was about to have his lead lopped off when God’s voice came down from heaven, saying, “All generations and families of the Gentiles shall call you blessed…and you yourself shall appear as my witness at my second coming” (v. 10).

I guess this is all meant to be a step beyond calling Obama Hitler, but hey, Obama gets to be present as God’s witness at his second coming. Does Ralph Peters? Apparently not!

pontius-pilatePontius Pilate, prefect (praefectus iudaeae) of the province of Judaea from 26 to 36 CE, is critical to the tale of Jesus, because unlike Jesus, we can prove Pilate existed.

For example, Philo, the great Jewish scholar living in Alexandria during Jesus’ lifetime, mentions Pilate but not Jesus (Legatione ad Gaium, 38.295-305).

More important is the epigraphic evidence. We know that Pilate existed and was prefect, and not procurator, thanks to a discovery made by Italian archaeologist Antonio Frova in 1961. In the old Roman provincial capital of Caesarea Maritima he found a damaged dedication by Pilate of a Tiberieum, which not only named Pilate […]TIVS PILATV[…] but gave his title as […]ECTVS IUDA[…] (praefectus iudaeae). It is now in the Israel Museum and Jerusalem.

So who really crucified Jesus, the Romans or the Jews? In the Synoptic Gospels it is clearly Pilate who ordered Jesus to be crucified, for instance Mark 15.16-20, though in all three cases blame is made to rest with the Jews.

In John 19.16 we are told outright that, “Then he [Pilate] handed him [Jesus] to them [the Jews] to be crucified.” Mark says that “he [Pilate] delivered him to be crucified” (15.15) which Brandon feels could be “due to Mark’s reluctance to admit that Pilate actually ordered the execution of Jesus” but the episode which follows at 16.20 and the mention of the centurion commanding the detail in both Mark and Matthew (Matthew 27.54; Mark 15.39) demonstrate that it was indeed Pilate who ordered it and the Romans who carried it out.

In fact the greatest contradiction is within John itself, where Pilate tells Jesus that he has the power to free him or crucify him and Jesus acknowledges this (John 19.10) yet John portrays Pilate as having no power at all, making such power lie with the Jewish people who decide his fate.

A final contradiction in John is that it is Pilate who places the titulus on the cross (John 19.19), indicating the sentence, which is odd indeed if the Jews crucified him as John asserts. After all, being king of the Jews, or even messiah, was not illegal in Jewish law. But the only kings the Romans tolerated were the kings the Romans made and they were making a regular habit of swatting down would-be messiahs.

So it is interesting that, with all this tangled history, Ralph Peters would single out Pilate to be Obama. A strange way has Fox News of showing adoration of Israel. Peters is just fortunate that his viewers are as ignorant as he himself is.

Perhaps, like many, Peters is not aware of the latent anti-Semitism of the Christian gospels, or, like many more, he hasn’t even bothered reading them before talking about them. Else he would know that according to the New Testament, Pilate Is the hero, the would-be savior of Jesus, and the Jews the Galilean’s enemy and executioner.


[1] Bart D. Ehrman, Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew (Oxford University Press, 2003), 20.
[2] Ibid., 20.
[3] Ibid., 21.
[4] See Jerry Vardaman “A New Inscription Which Mentions Pilate as ‘Prefect'”, Journal of Biblical Literature 81 (1962), 70-71.
[5] S.G.F. Brandon, The Trial of Jesus of Nazareth (Stein and Day, 1968), 191, n. 124.

Recent posts on PoliticusUSA