Probing the Creed

Pilate and Herod – Images of the Fall

He was crucified under Pontius Pilate. . . – Apostles Creed.

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. – Isiah 53, the Suffering Servant.

Pontius Pilate, after silence from his new “friend,” Herod, formerly an “enemy,” is the one who sentenced Christ to death. And so we have, “He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.” Yet, is only Pilate guilty of this? Or even the crowd of Jewish persons who shouted for Jesus’s brutal execution?

Our Sins Killed Jesus

Of course not! WE ARE ALL THE EXECUTIONERS OF CHRIST!

In her Magisterial teaching of the faith and in the witness of her saints, the Church has never forgotten that “sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured.” Taking into account the fact that our sins affect Christ himself, the Church does not hesitate to impute to Christians the gravest responsibility for the torments inflicted upon Jesus. . . . (CCC 598)

Yes, not only did Jesus suffer and die for our iniquities but by them. It was sin, in all of us, and in all forms, that scourged our Lord, that beat Him, that spat upon Him, that reviled Him, that crowned Him with thorns, that set Him out to carry the great load of the cross, that further beat and whipped Him to move on, that brutally stripped Him of His garments, that nailed His hands, that nailed His feet, and that pierced Him through with a lance! We all did it. He died for our sin, and He died by our sin.

Whenever we have sinned in the flesh, we have brutally swung the whip of broken cords and glass across His already bloody, divine back. Whenever we have looked upon a person with lust or at pornography intentionally, we have stripped His garments and reopened His wounds. Whenever we have oppressed others by keeping them from exercising their will for needs or to go as they please in freedom, we have driven nails into Jesus’s hands and feet, to fixate his possibility of going wherever as He pleases. Whenever we have mocked or refused to revere authority — whether parents, teachers, supervisors, dignitaries or rulers — have we not placed the crown of thorns on Jesus’s beloved Head?

The Lies of the Fall Killed Jesus

And therefore, if it is our sin, and our fallen nature that put Christ to death, was not also the root of His death the very lies of the fall themselves which we have believed? Indeed, the power of the dragon is in his lies, and they came forth from him from the very beginning, in that mystical garden, at the Fall. Therefore, if the lies — the words — of the dragon are what have seduced us, if those lies were incarnated into human history and every human person as sin, and if sin put Christ to death, then the dragon’s lies also put Christ to death. And if that is true — if Pontius Pilate put Him to death — then should not Pontius Pilate, in his whole being and words, be the mystical image of the very same words of the dragon at our preeminent spiritual demise?

It works! It is indeed the case, as we will see momentarily, that Pontius Pilate’s epic words of indifference and cowardice in exchange for concern to please the crowd rather than do what is right that image the very lies of the Fall. Let us probe it deeper.

What are the Lies of the Fall?

First, what are the lies of the Fall? Let us recall how they developed from ecclesiology. The five loaves and two fish imaged the seven sacraments, out of which the heretics only retain two, and thereby lose five. The two they retained were the two fish of Baptism and Marriage. There, we saw the first step to the lies: What are the summarizing principles of all good? We recall this from catechism of time immemorial:

  • To know, love, and serve God in this life.
  • To be happy with God forever in the next life.

Surprisingly, the ultimate aspects of the two great remnant sacraments of heretics, Baptism and Marriage, perfectly image these catechism principles above:

  1. Baptismal Desire: have faith, or know God, and repentance, or love of God.
  2. Apocalyptic Marriage: to seek as ultimate fulfillment of one’s end to marry God forever in the next life, happiness forever.

What then does the dragon do? Does he not tell humanity that these two great principles are a lie, that they do not bring fulfillment and happiness, and that they only bring bondage and constriction of truly self-actualizing freedom? Yes! And he offers the anti-principles as counterfeits!

  1. Anti-Baptismal Desire: have no regard to know God, no faith, and no regard to love God, no repentance: believe as you wish and do as you wish! And you will be truly free, truly better off!
  2. Anti-Marital Desire toward God: seek not your ultimate fulfillment in the marriage to your Creator in the next life — in holy, profound, and meaningful goods: truth, beauty, goodness, mystery, life, love, gift, and reception — but in fornication (figurative) with the Creation in this life; finding your ultimate fulfillment in the things of this world, not the next — brute, superficial, and frivolous entities: pleasures, possessions, egotistical accomplishments, power, technology, and materialistic wonders. In short, materialism!

Pontius Pilate Images Anti-Baptism, the First Lie

Pontius Pilate most eminently images the first lie in all his words and actions.

The Sovereignty of God

“So then, you are a king?”

Christ’s kingship, though spiritual in nature, is nevertheless the supreme sovereignty: all men should submit to the authority of God as a loving Father and benevolent custodian of all good things. The absolute sovereignty of God is presupposed in our reason for existence. That we are called to know God means His truths, even He AS truth, is the highest source of all truth, of all things that can be known, or should! All men should recognize the authority of God as the source of truth and law for their own well-being. Pilate, on the other hand, is indifferent to this. He considers his own sovereignty to be independent and self-realized, as if he were to have some power over God:

“Do you not realize that I have the power to kill you and to have you crucified?”

Truth: God’s Truth

Too, Pilate is either indifferent to truth, or in denial of it.

“I came into the world for one purpose: to testify to the truth! Whoever desires to know the truth listens to My voice.”

“What is truth?”

When man is fallen, he either denies and refuses to accept God’s truths (atheism, paganism), or he is indifferent to what is true to God, believing it is either not important or is unattainable (the modern relativism: How can we really know what is true in religion and morals? Everyone might as well be equally right. Or else, I have better things to do. Religion is boring.). Hence, “What is truth?” is the first great part of the first great lie of the dragon: “Seek not to know God, or have faith. Rather, believe as you wish!”

Repentance: Knowing Good and Evil

The second part is like it: repentance. Repentance means one has moral culpability and obligation to shun wrong doing, to do what is right — even when inconvenient — and that God is the arbiter of the moral law, not us. It means that the waters of Baptism convey the great mystery: in immersion, or sprinkling, one is saying, may my wrongdoings of the past be forgiven by God on behalf of my contrite heart, and may, therefore, my future actions, which are still culpable before God, my judge, be holy and right.

Pilate, then, in his epic act of betrayal and murder of God — in the washing of his hands (an Anti-Baptism) — has in no wise contrition for former sins on account of Divine absolution and a contrite heart but a declaration of absolving himself, by himself, of forthcoming culpability, and with the idea that he, himself, judges what is right and wrong, not God!

“I am innocent of this man’s blood! Go and kill him yourself!”

These lies then clearly mock Baptism and form the first great lie. Pilate images anti-Baptism in his whole being, actions, and words. Pilate is Anti-Baptism, the first lie of the Fall!

Herod Images Apocalyptic Anti-Marriage, the Second Lie

What about the other lie of the Fall, anti-marital desire toward God, or materialism? Let us recall that the one seduced by materialism only cares about this world, for what he can get from this world, not receive. He only cares about pleasures, possessions, egotistical accomplishments, and glorious signs and wonders of purely physical and worldly intellectual progress: science, technology, and man-made grandeur.

This is emblematic of Herod. When Christ is sent to Herod, Herod is not so much bent on condemning him to death as he is interested in seeing those very “material wonders,” or, in this case, miracles:

When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort.

Herod is a man of this world, not the other. He is only interested in what is fantastic from a worldly standpoint, in seeing a physical sign or miracle for its own sake, as when his supreme delight at the young woman who danced before him led him to pledge absolutely anything as a gift of homage, even St. John the Baptist, who images the Baptismal spirit: seeking the truths of God and repentance to live it.

Christ, however, did not perform miracles as ends unto themselves but only as a means to end: to lead others to faith in God’s revelation, to repentance and eventual pursuit of holiness and grace, ultimately from His Church to come, the Bride, the one who represents the truths and graces of God to humanity, those things which alone can fully satiate, and not mere temporal healings, feedings, or any other mere physical prodigy.

But the ones of the second lie take the mere physical wonders and goods as the final end of existence, of happiness, of well-being. Hence, Herod is Anti-Marriage.

Enemies or Friends? Herod and Pilate, Anti-Baptism and Apocalyptic Anti-Marriage

“That day Herod and Pilate became friends — before this they had been enemies.”

Now, if Pilate images Anti-Baptism, and Herod images Anti-Apocalyptic Marriage, what might his mean? The profundity is symbolized immensely in another marvelous meditation we have seen, regarding the harlot seated upon the beast with ten horns.

Armageddon and the “Kings from the East”: Probing Deeper into the Meaning of Strife

In this imagery, the harlot is atop the beast with ten horns. For a time, the she rides undisturbed. But later, in the same Scripture, the ten horns turn upon her, burn her up and consume her flesh.

And there came one of the seven angels, who had the seven vials, and spoke with me, saying: Come, I will shew thee the condemnation of the great harlot, who sitteth upon many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication; and they who inhabit the earth, have been made drunk with the wine of her whoredom. And he took me away in spirit into the desert. And I saw a woman sitting upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was clothed round about with purple and scarlet, and gilt with gold, and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand, full of the abomination and filthiness of her fornication.

And the ten horns which thou sawest, are ten kings, who have not yet received a kingdom, but shall receive power as kings one hour after the beast. These have one design: and their strength and power they shall deliver to the beast. These shall fight with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, because he is Lord of lords, and King of kings, and they that are with him are called, and elect, and faithful. And he said to me: The waters which thou sawest, where the harlot sitteth, are peoples, and nations, and tongues.

And the ten horns which thou sawest in the beast: these shall hate the harlot, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and shall burn her with fire. For God hath given into their hearts to do that which pleaseth him: that they give their kingdom to the beast, till the words of God be fulfilled. (Rev 17:1–17)

There we saw that, for a while, the joint amicability between the harlot and the beast seems to persist until the ten horns turn on the whore. Here, we learned that the whore is our Anti-Marital lie toward God made Incarnate: materialism: when man does not want a spousal relationship with God forever, or the Creator in the next world, he chooses his fulfillment in an infatuated perverse relationship with the creation and this world; that is, he lives for this world alone, what it alone can give: the brute goods of physical pleasure, possession, accomplishment and mere material wonders, material grandeur.

Such perverse infatuation implies that man has abandoned God, and hence has no regard for the commandments of God, namely, the Ten Commandments. Hence, his moral dimension is the antithesis of the Ten Commandments or, that is, ten anti-principles against God, against the moral law. These ten anti-principles, we saw, were the ten horns of the beast.

So then, again, just as the teenager can enjoy the alcohol and sex for a time, seemingly fulfilling himself, so humanity can for a time flourish in both godlessness and materialism. This can be imaged in the “peaceful” state of the woman riding atop the beast.

But, just as the consequences of sex and alcohol eventually catch up to the hedonistic young person and bring suffering and ruin (alcoholism, failed relationships, multiple divorces, venereal disease, low self-esteem, psychological wounds, . . .), so eventually the same consequences of shirking the Decalogue start rupturing what was merely an illusory peace in the society that had, seemingly, wedded materialistic prosperity and stability to an attitude of either indifference to God or coldness toward Him. For, the end of sexual immorality is divorce and broken childhoods, which ruptures the children’s ability to grow up responsible, diligent, and trusting of authority and relationships. This then leads to children whose interests are less than noble: undisciplined, uncompassionate, superficial, hedonistic, and nonintellectual. Hence, lack of peace in families leads to lack of peace in communities: crime, devaluation of life, and so forth. And if communities have not peace, neither can cities. And if not cities, neither nations. And if not nations, neither the world.

Hence, the materialistic prosperity is destroyed, and the so-called great civilization collapses. The “anti-Ten Commandments” “eat the flesh of the whore and burn her up”! “The flesh is of no avail, but My Words are Spirit and Truth!” The flesh of the whore is the grandeur of this world and what is possible merely materialistically. It has no real power to bring peace and prosperity, rather, only the grace of God, which finds its apex in the very Flesh and Blood of Our Lord, the Eucharist. In fact, without grace, without love of God and neighbor — without the Ten Commandments — the flesh of this world and its power, the flesh of the whore, will be eaten up by the power of corruption and burnt up in a great fall: “Fallen, fallen, is Babylon the Great!”

But it is when the whore and the beast are friends that the Lord is most crucified! How? Well, it is when the whore and the beast are mutually aiding one another that the world is in the worst condition. Why? Because both lies are in vogue! The world is blind to God and His ways, His truth and His moral law (Anti-Baptism), and yet, at the same time, placing their faith in merely this world and its goods instead of in God and the next world (Anti-Marital disposition toward God). It is then that it is totally mocking the Savior and spitting on Him, relishing its power and enjoyment of the brute things that are merely seen, and, concurrently, scoffing at their need for the things that are unseen. It is when it thinks that it can ignore God and His morals and yet escape the consequences that it crucifies Christ in His Feet and in His hands: crucifying His feet because it cares not to walk in the way of truth, and crucifying His hands because it cares not to use its hands to do the works of good, and rather only evil! And it is when it wants to fornicate with this world in materialism that it mocks the Christ on the cross with His intimate essence unfolded, thereby mocking that they are called to have mystical and marital union with Christ for all eternity in the next world.

Hence, when Pilate and Herod are “friends,” Christ is scourged and crucified! But when they were “enemies,” Christ’s light shone for a time, in His ministry. Too, in history, in the time of warfare, in the time when 10,000 and 20,000 spar, when the tower is not being built, the anti-Decalogue is keeping the illusory peace of materialistic grandeur at bay, and man, not yet fully comfortable in this world, finds yet, in some sense, his need for the divine law and assistance. We will elaborate on this shortly.

Was the Passion “Predestined”? Was Pilate? Herod? The Historical Period of Christ?

The Catechism comments on the mystery:

II. Christ’s Redemptive Death in God’s Plan of Salvation

“Jesus handed over according to the definite plan of God”

Jesus’s violent death was not the result of chance in an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances, but is part of the mystery of God’s plan, as St. Peter explains to the Jews of Jerusalem in his first sermon on Pentecost: “This Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” This Biblical language does not mean that those who handed him over were merely passive players in a scenario written in advance by God.

To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of “predestination”, he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace: “In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness. (CCC 599–600)

The Necessary Succession of Manifestations of the Fallen Nature in History

Here, I think, a profound argument, perhaps not entirely popular in post-Vatican-II thought, can be made: successive manifestations of the fall in human history are perpetually inevitable until the end because of the force and gravity of Original Sin; put another way, no matter how God responds with redemptive activity at each great stage of His plan, there is a very real, almost inevitable, tendency of Original Sin to drag humanity down, to “heal a wound of the head of the beast” (Rev 13), to bring a sunset to the light of day (“evening came . . . evening came . . . evening came” [Gen 1]), to cruelly pull down our Savior wounded by the effects of sinful men upon Himself (though He Himself was without sin) crashing to the ground under the weight of our sins.

And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten diadems, and upon his heads names of blasphemy. . . . And I saw one of his heads as it were slain to death: and his death’s wound was healed. And all the earth was in admiration after the beast. (Rev 13:1, 3)

That is, with each manifestation of redemptive activity of God in human history, slaying an age of sin, or mortally wounding a head of the beast, humanity, under the weight of Original Sin, falls again, the wound is healed. The Christ falls carrying the Cross. The sun sets into darkness once again. This is the story of Redemption.

  • Darkness: The Fall and Wickedness of Noah’s day
  • Light: The Flood
  • Darkness: The Tower of Babel
  • Light: The Confounding and formation of Hebrew People
  • Darkness: Egypt
  • Light: The Exodus
  • Darkness: The Wickedness of the Jews prior to Babylon
  • Light: Their repentance in the Exile

. . . and so it continues unto our day.

Does God ordain the sinful stages, or sin at all? Absolutely not! God only allows it. Yet, He has foreseen that the weight of an initial fall of man will continually tend to drag him down. God does not ordain it. God does not “cause” it directly, God does not desire it, God only foresees it and only allows it. Yet, He foresees that it will constantly reemerge because not only of free will, but fallen free will!

The Predestined Historical Conditions of Christ’s Time

The Predestined Condition of the Jews

Firstly, regarding the Jewish People, can we not imagine that if it is true that God, in His Infinite foreknowledge, knew that humanity could not efficaciously receive Him Incarnate immediately in human history but that, therefore, a preparatory covenant of pictures would need to be instituted to prepare for it, is it not highly likely that, precisely because of this fallen nature that effectively inevitably reemerges in history, the same predestined people would, dare we say, almost inevitably, cling to the mere material pictures as ends unto themselves instead as what they merely point to, what really matters, when the unveiling comes? In other words, was it not inevitable that the Jews, as a near whole, would not be able to accept the fulfillment of the Christ when He came? Was it not bound to happen, because of the fallen nature as a force in human history, that they would persist in the seeing the pictures as the final end?

The Predestined Condition of the Gentiles

And this misunderstanding of the prefiguring People was the first factor in the murder of Christ. The other, as we have seen, was the two great lies of the fall — Anti-Baptism, or anti-Decalogue, and anti-Marriage, or the whore, materialism — two lies as friends, that were formerly enemies. And how might we view this in “predestined history”?

Pagan Rome: The Two Lies “Friends”

Behold, the Roman Empire had wed the anti-Decalogue to the whore. How? Well, a seeming illusory utopia, when the whore rides the beast: on the one hand, the world, in the spirit of the beast, was godless, no Decalogue. They are all pagans and polytheists with Emperors self-deifying. Their beliefs are the antithesis of the truths of God, of true religion. And they are all wicked: drunken, brute, hedonistic, fornicating, in orgies, sodomy, infanticide, abortion, gluttony, theft. Yet the Empire, in majestic materialistic glory, flourishes despite the anti-Decalogue; the glories of Rome’s accomplishments shine forth: magnificent temples and edifices, engineering feats of roads, bridges, viaducts, and military might, the splendor of images of gods, tapestries, coliseums and the games, and on and on. It is the best of both worlds: you can do what you please, but peace and prosperity will still remain by our power and grandeur. “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with it?” (Rev 13).

Post-Babel History: the Second Lie Restrained: the Two Lies “Enemies”

And yet, before this apex of ancient history, the two lies were not yet friends but still enemies.

How? Remember, the two lies arise from the first primordial man: Noah’s Day, Anti-Baptism, and the Tower of Babel, Anti-Marriage. Each of these was a wound to human pride to “restrain” the full effects of Babel, which would be Rome.

The Covenant with Noah

After the unity of the human race was shattered by sin God at once sought to save humanity part by part. The covenant with Noah after the flood gives expression to the principle of the divine economy toward the “nations”, in other words, towards men grouped “in their lands, each with [its] own language, by their families, in their nations”.

This state of division into many nations is at once cosmic, social, and religious. It is intended to limit the pride of fallen humanity united only in its perverse ambition to forge its own unity as at Babel. But, because of sin, both polytheism and the idolatry of the nation and of its rulers constantly threaten this provisional economy with the perversion of paganism. (CCC 56–57)

Here, the parable of the tower and the armies of 10,000 and 20,000 (Lk 14) illustrates perfectly the mystery. Let us explore it.

In the beginning, God “wounds” Anti-Baptism, or anti-Decalogue, with a baptism, the Flood. Sin and scoff is washed away, and the world begins anew. Then, Anti-Marriage emerges, materialism: the exaltation of the creation above the Creator, the human race united not in love of God and neighbor but in, as above in the CCC reference, perverse unity aimed at worldly utopia and physical grandeur, blasphemously asserted in place of God as the ultimate fulfillment of man; “Let us build a tower to heaven.”

This condition, in antiquity, cannot be left to its own devices without a redemptive action, else the Incarnation can be of no avail. For, once again, we recall God must send preparatory covenant before the ultimate covenant in Christ. Yet, since humanity, at Babel, is fixated in apocalyptic infatuation with this world, there must be a distraction, or a restraint, like the same CCC reference above.

The division of man into competing nations and tongues solves the conundrum. But, like the fallen nature, humanity ever strives to recover this arrogant perversity. Hence, one nation will rise up, conquer lesser nations, and continue to swallow lesser ones, until a world power has emerged, Babel renewed. That is, Luke 14:28-33:

The Unfinished Tower and the 20,000 and 10,000

For which of you having a mind to build a tower, doth not first sit down, and reckon the charges that are necessary, whether he have wherewithal to finish it: lest, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that see it begin to mock him, saying: This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, about to go to make war against another king, doth not first sit down, and think whether he be able, with ten thousand, to meet him that, with twenty thousand, cometh against him? Or else, whilst the other is yet afar off, sending an embassy, he desireth conditions of peace. So likewise every one of you that doth not renounce all that he possesseth, cannot be my disciple.

The parallel mystery is here: humanity tries to build the tower of Babel, in order that this world might satiate its needs and wants. It can never do so. This world alone cannot fulfill, only the next, in God. The tower, no matter how high, will never be enough, never enough to satisfy, never enough to secure peace and prosperity.

God, then, confounding humanity at Babel, leaves them in a state of disarray, nation against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, hence, “think whether he be able, with ten thousand, to meet him that, with twenty thousand, cometh against him?” Humanity, by the self-same lies that continue to arise (a mortally wounded head of the beast is healed), is ever tending toward trying to recover Babel. And this, by larger kingdoms progressively swallowing smaller ones (10,000 against 20,000). But until Babel is recovered, the war of man against himself, a supreme manifestation of the antitheses of the Decalogue, restrains Babel, and so is its enemy.

We now have a theology to understand the “predestined” condition of the world at the time of Christ: on the one hand, as the Jews — after having reached spiritual maturity in the Old Covenant and yet in condition to, effectively unavoidably, reject the fulfillment when it comes, clinging to the mere physical pictures of Old — are conjoined with a Gentile world that for centuries, tossed violently in the sea of the fish that is Baptism and its chaotic waves of passion and blindness — even while the Jews were journeying in their ever progressing maturity of the Old Covenant — was trying to recover Babel, so that same Gentile sojourner has now, at the apex, by Divine Providence, reattained Babel; it is back to the time of the tower. Anti-Baptism and Anti-Marriage, having been enemies for so long, are now friends again; and Pilate and Herod, who were for so long enemies, are now friends, just in time for the Passion! Unfathomable!

Scott Pauline About Scott Pauline

Scott is a Catholic revert, blessed to have had his story shared in This Rock Magazine in 1999. He is currently attempting to complete a book on the meaning of salvation history in light of analogies from Apocalypse, and other scriptures, and Tradition, a great portion of which can be found at: www.theologyoftheages.com. He is happily married to Linda since 2009 and resides in Portland, Oregon.

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