Who judges whom? – “The Judgment of Pontius Pilate” (JLR 2017)

In Pilate and Jesus, Giorgio Agamben argues that Pontius Pilate never formally condemned Jesus of Nazareth. “The traditional interpretation of Jesus’ trial … must be revised,” he urges, because “there has not been any judgment in a technical sense.” On Agamben’s telling, Pilate’s non-judgment is the original truth of Jesus’ death which has been covered over by tradition.

This is an intriguing hypothesis, but Agamben’s use of sources is highly irregular. The present article sets out a critique of the legal and philological argumentation of Pilate and Jesus. In the process, it revisits an ancient – and still actual – controversy surrounding the Roman trial of Jesus, and demonstrates that Pilate did sentence Jesus, pro tribunali, to death on a cross.

David Lloyd Dusenbury, “The Judgment of Pontius Pilate: A Critique of Giorgio Agamben”, Journal of Law and Religion 32.2 (2017). [In press.]


Giorgio Agamben


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