The Wife of Pilate by Patrick Henry Reardon

The Wife of Pilate

Since the story of Pilate’s wife is found only in the Gospel of Matthew (27:19), it seems reasonable to examine it specifically through the perspective of Matthew. What function is served by that very short narrative in that particular Gospel?

Commentators have remarked that Pilate’s wife, a Gentile woman who pleads the innocence of Jesus (“that just man”) serves as a literary foil to the Jewish leaders who clamor for his crucifixion (27:23). This comment is surely accurate, but it does not indicate a larger context, nor an intention specific to Matthew.

Indeed, this is the sort of story we might more readily have expected in Luke. The latter, after all, is rather preoccupied with showing that the Roman authorities regarded Jesus as innocent (Luke 23:4,14–15,20,47), and among the four evangelists, he is certainly the one who writes most often about women, whether in Jesus’ parables or among his actual associates.

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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).

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