If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. –I Corinthians 15:17
“What If?” is a series of best-selling books put together by Robert Cowley, in which historians look at key events in history and try to imagine what if things had not happened that way.
What if Pontius Pilate had spared Jesus?
That is the title of the chapter by Carlos M. N. Eire, chairman of the Department of Religious Studies at Yale University. The subtitle reads, Christianity without the Crucifixion.
Eire imagines Pontius Pilate heeding the warning of his wife whose sleep had been disturbed that night by thoughts of “that righteous man.” Her message to the governor said, “Have nothing to do with him.”
So, he asks, what if Pilate had done the right thing and resisted the religious leaders and the rabble who were crying for Jesus’ execution; what if he had released Him?
On one page, underneath a 13th century painting of Pilate with the Jewish leaders is the caption: “The Decision That Made a Religion.” (We can insist that it was the resurrection that “made” the Christian faith, but we won’t quibble over the importance of the crucifixion.)
Eire asks, “What if Jesus hadn’t been nailed to a cross at Pilate’s orders? What if he had lived a long, long life? Or even just ten more years? Or one? What if his person and message had been interpreted differently, as they surely would have been?”