In one of the more dramatic scenes of the Passion, Jesus stands before Pontius Pilate, who is about to determine Jesus’ fate. Pilate has a tradition of releasing one prisoner at Passover. He offers to release Jesus, but the gathered crowd wants to release Barabbas, a notorious prisoner. While Pilate considers his options, he receives a message from his wife.
Her message is foreboding: “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” (Matthew 27:19, NRSV) Dreams carry a lot of weight in Scripture, and Pilate’s wife does not need a psychologist to interpret her dream. She knows to heed its message. She became a Christian following Pontius Pilate’s death.
Of course, we want to know what she dreamed to provoke her strong response. Charlotte Brontë (1816-55) wrote a poem in an attempt to image the dream. Titled “Pilate’s Wife’s Dream,” it is available athttp://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/bronte/poems/pbc-pilate.html (accessed March 3, 2021).
According to the Orthodox Church in America, the gospel of Nicodemus (perhaps written in the fourth century) identified Pilate’s wife as Procula. Since the fifth century, however, she has been known as Claudia Procula. She is celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox Church on Oct. 27, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church honors both Pontius Pilate and Procula on June 25.
“Saint Claudia Procula,” Orthodox Church in America, https://www.oca.org/saints/lives/2014/10/27/103070-saint-claudia-procula (accessed March 4, 2021).
New Revised Standard Version
15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus[a] Barabbas. 17 So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus[b] Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”[c] 18 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. 19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”[d] All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
©Suzanne O’Dea, 2021
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