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Pontius Pilate's wife

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Procula / Claudia
Pilate's wife, Saint Procla (right), in a Greek Orthodox icon
Venerated in Eastern Orthodox Church
Ethiopian Orthodox Church
Feast 27 October (Eastern Orthodox)
25 June (Ethiopian Orthodox)

Pontius Pilate's wife (Latin: uxor Pilati; Greek: γυνη Πιλατου, gunē Pilātou; fl. 1st century) is unnamed in the New Testament, where she appears a single time in the Gospel of Matthew. Alternate Christian traditions have referred to her as Saint Procula (also spelled Proculla or Procla) or Saint Claudia, and the combinations Claudia Procles (Latin: Claudia Proclēs) and Claudia Procula have been used. Since little is said of her in the New Testament, and no verifiable biography exists, details on Pilate's wife are surmised from Christian tradition and legend.

Biblical references

In the New Testament, the only reference to Pilate's wife exists in a single sentence by Matthew. According to the Matthew 27:19, she sent a message to her husband asking him not to condemn Jesus Christ to death:

While Pilate was sitting in the judgment hall, his wife sent him a message: "Have nothing to do with that innocent man, because in a dream last night, I suffered much on account of him."[1]

Pilate did not heed his wife's warning. The name "Claudia" only appears once in the New Testament, in the Second Epistle to Timothy 4:21: "Eubulus, Pudens, Linus and Claudia send their greetings, and so all the other Christians."

Early Christian references and theological interpretations

Origen's second century Homilies on Matthew suggest that she became a Christian,[2][3] or at least that God sent her the dream mentioned by Matthew so that she would become one.[4][5] This interpretation was shared by several theologians of Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Rival theologians contended the dream was sent by Satan in an attempt to thwart the salvation that was going to result from Christ's death.[4][5]

Pontius Pilate's wife is mentioned in the apocryphal Acts of Pilate (Gospel of Nicodemus, probably written around the middle of the 4th century),[6] which gives a more elaborate version of the episode of the dream than Matthew.[7][8] The name Procula derives from translated versions of that text. The chronicle of Pseudo-Dexter (1619) is the first place known where she is referred to as Claudia.[5]

Sainthood

Procula is recognized as a saint in two churches within the Eastern Christian tradition: the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, she is celebrated on 27 October. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church celebrates Pilate and Procula together on 25 June.[2]

Purported letter by Pilate's wife

A letter, purportedly written in Latin by Pilate's wife from "a little Gallic mountain town" several years after Pilate left Jerusalem, was first published in English by Pictorial Review Magazine in April 1929.[9] The English version of the letter was provided by writer Catherine Van Dyke and it states that Pilate's wife successfully sought Jesus' aid to heal the crippled foot of her son Pilo.[10]

In the arts

Pilate's wife is often, but not usually, shown in medieval depictions of the scenes including her husband, typically standing behind him, and sometimes whispering in his ear.[11]

Pilate's wife has been featured in literature, theater, film and television. Charlotte Brontë wrote the poem "Pilate's Wife's Dream" in 1846.[12] The Biblical scholar Paul Maier, in Pontius Pilate: A Biographical Novel (1968), attempts to take what is known from the documented record and from there construct a fictional narrative as connective material. Maier refers to Pilate's wife as "Procula" arguing that the name "Claudia" only comes from a later tradition.[13]

Novels inspired by Pilate's wife include The Bride of Pilate (1959) by Esther Kellner and Pilate's Wife: A Novel of the Roman Empire (2006) by Antoinette May. Both books use the name Claudia, and May's book depicts her parents as Roman aristocrats related by blood to Emperor Augustus.[14] Pilate's Wife by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), written between 1929 and 1934 but posthumously published in 2000, presents Pilate's wife with the name Veronica.[15]

In theater, the life of Pilate's wife has been the subject of the dramas “A Play for Easter” by Jewell Ellen Smith [16] and “Claudia Procula” by Curt M. Joseph. [17] The Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice stage musical Jesus Christ Superstar and the subsequent film version omits Pilate's wife and gives the dream about Jesus to her husband in the song Pilate's Dream.[18]

In films, Pilate's wife was called “Proculla” in the 1927 Cecil B. DeMille epic The King of Kings; Majel Coleman played the role. Other notable cinematic references include Barbara Billingsley in the 1954 Day of Triumph, Viveca Lindfors in the 1961 King of Kings (where she is identified as the daughter of the Emperor Tiberius), Jeanne Crain in the 1962 Italian film Ponzio Pilato, and Angela Lansbury in the 1965 epic The Greatest Story Ever Told.)[19] In the 2004 movie The Passion of the Christ she is known as Claudia Procles (played by Claudia Gerini). In this film, she fails to lobby her husband to save Jesus [20], and consoles Jesus' mother Mary and Mary Magdalene, as she generously hands them towels to clean up the blood from his scourging.[21]

Pontius Pilate's wife also appeared in comedy: John Case played her in Monty Python's 1979 Life of Brian.[22]

On television, Pilate’s wife was played by Joan Leslie in the 1951 “Family Theatre” production “Hill Number One” and by Geraldine Fitzgerald in the 1952 Studio One production “Pontius Pilate.” Hope Lange played her in the 1980 made-for-television film “The Day Christ Died.” More recently, Pilate's wife is featured in the 2008 TV serial The Passion, played by Esther Hall.[23]

See also

References

  1. See, for instance, Wikisource:Bible (World English)/Matthew#Chapter 27
  2. 2.0 2.1 Catholic Encyclopedia, entry: "Pilate".
  3. Paul L. Maier. Pontius Pilate: A Biographical Novel. Kregel Publications, 1995, ISBN 0825432960, p. 370 (endnotes to Chapter 26)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Sandro Sticca. The Latin Passion Play: Its Origins and Development. SUNY Press, 1970, ISBN 0873950453, p. 98
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Ulrich Luz, Helmut Koester (contributor), James E. Crouch (translator). Matthew 21-28: A Commentary. Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2005, ISBN 0-8006-3770-4, p. 499
  6. Catholic Encyclopedia, entry "Acta Pilati"
  7. The Acts of Pilate, Chapter 2, Paragraph 1, translated by M. R. James
  8. "THE GOSPEL OF NICODEMUS, OR ACTS OF PILATE", from The Apocryphal New Testament, M.R. James (translation and notes). Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924
  9. Issana Press - this company published a version of Claudia's purported letter ("A Letter from Pontius Pilate's Wife") in the booklet Relics of Repentance ISBN 0-9625158-2-5
  10. Time Magazine, 1963-04-12: "Gospel According to Claudia"
  11. G Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. II,1972 (English trans from German), Lund Humphries, London, p. 66, and passim see Index, ISBN 853313245
  12. "Pilate's Wife's Dream" by Charlotte Brontë
  13. Paul L. Maier. Pontius Pilate: A Biographical Novel. Kregel Publications, 1995, ISBN 0825432960. preview at Google Book Search
  14. USA Today coverage of "Pilate's Wife"
  15. Amazon.ca/Library Journal review
  16. The Dream of Claudia Procula - Jewell Ellen Smith
  17. Trunk-In-The-Attic Drama Resources - Contemporary Bible Dramas
  18. Original score listing for “Jesus Christ Superstar”
  19. Halliwell, Leslie (2003). Halliwell’s Film & Video Guide. HarperResource. ISBN 0060508906
  20. Variety review
  21. Boston Globe
  22. Chapman, Graham; Cleese, John; Gilliam, Terry; Idle, Eric; Jones, Terry; Palin, Michael (1979). Monty Python's The Life of Brian/Montypythonscrapbook. London: Eyre Methuen. 
  23. Film and TV productions featuring the character Claudia Procula

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