Pontius Pilate is a historical novel about the famous governor of Judea who presided over the trial of Jesus. Because there is so little source material on Pontius Pilate, the author, Paul L. Maier, was not at liberty to write a biography of this frequently misunderstood politician. Yet there is enough authentic data for Mr. Maier to write what might be called a documented historical novel. Mr. Maier takes no liberties with the facts, but where there are gaps, he attempts to cement them together with probable or possible fictional bridges.
The reading level is high school to adult. High school students could read it independently, discuss it, and write about it. I read it to my boys, ages 10 and 12. They understood the general flow of the story, especially where it intersected with Biblical history. We were able to have some good discussions, particularly because our family devotions in the Gospels and Acts coincided with our reading of this book. It was neat to see the parallels between the Biblical accounts and Mr. Maier's novel.
The story begins in AD 26. Pontius Pilate is a tribune of the first praetorian cohort. Emperor Tiberius Caesar Augustus has been ruling for twelve years. Through the influence of Tiberius' right-hand man Sejanus, Pilate is given the administrative responsibility of Judea. First, though, he is married to the daughter of an important Roman family. After some administrative delays, the newlyweds head to Caesarea in Judaea, where Pilate rules as governor for ten years.
Pilate finds it challenging to rule a mostly independent Jewish population. His attempts to show his authority frequently end poorly. He also tries to please and honor his emperor, especially when Sejanus, the man who got him the job in Judea, turns out to be a traitor to the emperor, Tiberius. Tiberius wants him to maintain peace and not to stir up the Jews. Pilate was frequently caught between varying opinions on how to act in any given situation. Such it was at the trial of Jesus, which turned out to be the high point of his rule. A few years after the trial, he is recalled to Rome over an issue with the Samaritans, but Tiberius dies just before he is to meet with Pilate.
The crazy, megalomaniac Caligula then reigns for four years before being assassinated. Caligula forces Pilate's retirement from public office, so he settles down to private life in Rome. He tries to be invisible as much as possible during Caligula's reign because the emperor was orders executions based on a whim. The book ends with Caligula's uncle, Claudius, as emperor.
My boys and I enjoyed reading this book together, especially as it related to the Biblical events we were familiar with. We learned a lot about Roman history and the relationship between the Jews and the Romans. The book helped us understand this time period better.
This book is available in both hardcover and paperback format. The hardcover sells for $19.99 and the paperback for $14.99. We reviewed the paperback edition. It has 348 pages devoted to the novel as well as 20+ pages of historical notes and maps. The print is medium size and is easy and comfortable to read. For all that is offered, the price of $14.99 seems to be a good one.
The only negative comment I have is that sometimes Mr. Maier gets bogged down in details that slow the pace of the story. I didn't mind it so much, but for young boys who like adventure and action, the emphasis on details occasionally brought a temporary loss of interest and attention. However, I still would recommend this book as a positive educational addition to your family library.