Pilate’s Wife

“And while he was sitting in the judgment seat his wife sent to him, saying, ‘You do nothing to that righteous one for I have suffered greatly today as a result of a dream about him.’”

(Matthew 27:19)

 

Not only is Matthew the only Gospel writer to record this warning from Pilate’s wife, he is the only Gospel writer to record God speaking through dreams at all, though in every other account, the dreams that Matthew records are those that take place as part of the birth narrative. In fact, in the Gospel narrative, the dreams are nearly all warnings about the attacks from a wicked king (Herod); here this dream stands as a warning against harming a righteous king. In each of the birth narrative dreams, the dream is also designed to protect Jesus from harm; so too, this dream is designed to protect Jesus from harm once again — or at least to serve as one additional warning so that Pilate, Herod, and the wicked priests around him would stand without excuse for the evil that they were doing.

Some medieval theologians suggested that the dream to Pilate’s wife was sent by Satan to thwart the design of God to sacrifice his Son, but that does not seem fitting either with the way that Matthew has been recording dreams and it seems to give Satan too much insight into the design of God. Satan’s aim is to see Jesus dead — his plan throughout history was one designed to destroy the promised seed of Eve. For him to seek to stop the execution would be for him to realize and comprehend the plan of God which is not likely. He saw this death as his victory even though it would become his eternal defeat.

Nevertheless, the warning is given and ignored. We know nothing more of Pilate’s wife. Several apocryphal traditions identify her as Claudia Procula, the granddaughter of Emperor Augustus, and as later becoming a Christian as a result of this dream. But we know nothing of the veracity of these things. The earliest church traditions do not speak of such a thing and Origen, the 3rd century Church Father from Alexandria, was the first to speak of her conversion though it should be noted that Origen is known (along with many of his contemporaries) for his spiritualizing of the Biblical texts.

What we know is that Pilate’s wife was tormented by this dream which motivated her to speak with her husband on the matter. Perhaps even the tormenting was meant as a foretaste of the judgment that was to come for the wicked apart from a savior. We simply do not know and are not given enough information to speculate with confidence. What we can say with confidence is that God’s design is being fulfilled and that those who stand in opposition to him will face judgment not only in this life but eternally. There is no speculation as to this matter.

Friends, if you have not given your life to Christ, I beg you to pray to God for the faith to do so. And, if you are a believer, I pray that you share the good news that you know to be true with others. Pilate’s wife was tormented by this dream over the wickedness her husband was about to commit. Lot is described as tormenting his soul over the wickedness of the people living in Sodom around him (2 Peter 2:7-8). Why is it that our souls are so often content with the eternal punishment awaiting those in our midst? Will not we be held accountable for all those we loved so little as to not share the source of eternal reconciliation, love, and hope with them?

 

 

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