Pontius Pilate's wife

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Saint Procla
Pontius Pilate's wife.jpg
Greek icon of Saint Procla (Hagia Prokla)
Governess of Judea
Saint, Widow and Martyr
Venerated inEastern Orthodox Church
Ethiopian Orthodox Church
Eastern Catholic Churches
Feast27 October (Eastern Orthodox,Eastern Catholic)
25 June (Ethiopian Orthodox)

Pontius Pilate's wife, otherwise unnamed in the Bible, appears in a single verse of the Gospel of Matthew, where she tries to persuade her husband not to condemn Jesus to death.

She is named as Procla or Procula in early Christian tradition (later also Percula, Claudia, Claudia Procula or Claudia Procles). She is considered a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. She is first named as Claudia in 1619, in the chronicle of Pseudo-Dexter.[1][2]

Christian tradition[edit]

In the New Testament, the only reference to Pontius Pilate's wife exists in a single sentence by Matthew:

When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.

— Matthew 27:19 (KJV)

The Gospel narrative continues that Pilate was being pressured to sentence Christ to death, but "washed his hands", asserting that "I am innocent of this man's blood" (see Blood curse, Jewish deicide).

In the 3rd century, Origen suggested in his Homilies on Matthew that the wife of Pilate had become a Christian,[3][4] or at least that God sent her the dream mentioned by Matthew so that she would convert.[5][6] This interpretation was shared by several theologians of Antiquity and the Middle Ages. The apocryphal Letter of Pilate to Herod, dating from around the 3rd–4th century, names Pilate's wife as Procla and connects to the story of Matthew 27:19.[7] Pilate and his wife are here portrayed as Christian converts.[8] The apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, also known as Acta Pilati, probably written around the middle of the 4th century, gives a more elaborate version of the episode of the dream than Matthew, and names Pilate's wife as Procula.[9][10][11][5]

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.[3][12]

By contrast, later Western tradition contended the dream was sent by the Devil in an attempt to thwart the salvation that was going to result from Christ's death.[5][6] A 12th-century Latin Passion play[13] describes the dream of Pilate's wife as an apparition of the devil (diabolus appareat ei).[14]

Christ before Pontius Pilate, late 15th-century Limoges enamel by Monvaerni Master (Walters Art Museum): "... Pilate is flanked [...] on his left by the attendant sent by Pilate's wife to warn him"

Pilate's wife is sometimes shown in medieval depictions of scenes including her husband. She typically stands behind him, sometimes whispering in his ear, while other representations of Matthew's version of the scene in Pilate's court may depict an intermediary delivering the message of Pilate's wife to her husband.[15]

Pilate's wife is a major character in the 30th York Mystery Play (Tapiters' and Couchers' Play), where she introduces herself as "Dame Precious Percula".[16] Her dream is dictated by the Devil. He first soliloquises to the effect that if Jesus dies, he, the Devil, will lose control of men's souls. He then tells the sleeping Percula that Jesus is innocent, and that if he is condemned, she and Pilate will lose their privileged position. She wakes and sends a message to Pilate, but Annas and Caiaphas succeed in convincing him that her dream was inspired by Jesus' witchcraft.

Modern reception[edit]

Early modern[edit]

The Dream of Pilate's Wife (ca. 1879), engraving by Alphonse François, after Gustave Doré
The Message of Pilate's Wife (1886–94) by James Tissot (Brooklyn Museum)

Aemilia Lanyer's volume of poems Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (1611) contains a poem of the same title, in which Pilate's wife is the main speaker. She makes reference to the Fall of Adam and Eve, and argues that Pilate's sin in killing Christ abrogates the curse on Eve, since Pilate sinned by not listening to his wife (unlike Adam, who sinned by hearkening to the voice of Eve).

19th century[edit]

In Anne Catherine Emmerich's visions, as recounted by Clemens Brentano, she appears as Claudia Procles.[17] "Pilate's Wife's Dream" is an 1846 poem by Charlotte Brontë.[18]

A letter, purportedly written by Pilate's wife, was first published, in Slovenian, in the Catholic journal Kmetijske in rokodelske novice in 1865. According to the publication, the letter was translated from French by Luiza Pesjak [sl].[19] An English translation of the purported letter was published as Letter from Pontius Pilate's Wife.[20]

20th and 21st centuries[edit]

Pilate's wife was called Proculla in the Cecil B. DeMille epic The King of Kings (1927) in which Majel Coleman played the role.[citation needed] She had a major part in Julien Duvivier's Golgotha (1935), played by Edwige Feuillère.[citation needed]

Pilate's Wife, published posthumously in 2000, is a novel H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) wrote between 1929 and 1934, in which Pilate's wife has the name Veronica.[21]

The novel ‘’Hear Me, Pilate!’’ by William LeGette Blythe (1961) names her Claudia and makes her the stepdaughter of the Emperor Tiberius.

"The Wife of Pilate" [de] is a 1955 novella by Gertrud von Le Fort.[22]

On television, Pilate's wife was played by Joan Leslie in the 1951 Family Theater episode "Hill Number One" (also starring James Dean as John the Apostle), and by Geraldine Fitzgerald in the 1952 Studio One episode "Pontius Pilate" (where Procula is depicted as half-Jewish, and is brought before Pilate as a Christian rebel herself, fifteen years after Jesus' death).[citation needed]

Pilate's wife is mentioned briefly in Pilate's hand-washing scene in The Robe (1953) ("Even my wife had an opinion").[citation needed] Other cinematic appearances for the character include the film Day of Triumph (1954, played by Barbara Billingsley), the film King of Kings (1961, played by Viveca Lindfors—in which the character is identified as the daughter of the Emperor Tiberius), the Italian film Ponzio Pilato (1962, played by Jeanne Crain) and the epic The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965, played by Angela Lansbury). Also, Marjorie Lord performed the role of Claudia Procula on stage in 1963.[23]

John Case played her in Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979).[24] Hope Lange played Pontius Pilate's wife in the 1980 made-for-television film The Day Christ Died. The character is also depicted in the film The Inquiry (1986) in which she is played by Phyllis Logan, as well as in that film's 2006 remake, played by Anna Kanakis.[25]

In The Passion of the Christ (2004), she is known as Claudia Procles (and played by Claudia Gerini). In this film, Claudia succeeds in convincing Pilate not to pass judgement personally condemning Jesus, but fails in her effort to lobby him to directly save Jesus,[26] and consoles Jesus' mother Mary and Mary Magdalene as she hands them towels to clean up the blood from his scourging.[27]

Pilate's wife is featured in the 2008 TV serial The Passion, played by Esther Hall, and in the 2013 miniseries The Bible, portrayed by Louise Delamere.[28] Delamere reprised her role in 2014's Son of God.[citation needed]

Joanne Whalley portrayed Pilate's wife in the 2015 series A.D. The Bible Continues.[29]

Carol Ann Duffy's 1999 poetry collection The World's Wife contains a poem, Pilate's Wife.[citation needed]

Two novels by Antoinette May, Pilate's Wife: A Novel of the Roman Empire (2006)[30] and Claudia: Daughter of Rome (2008), use the name Claudia, as does Diana Wallis Taylor in Claudia: Wife of Pontius Pilate (2013). Both May and Wallis depict her parents as Roman aristocrats related by blood to Emperor Augustus.[citation needed]

D.S. Ryelle's Early One Morning has several brief appearances by Claudia Procula—in one scene, she appeals to the high priestess of Isis when she has a nightmare involving her husband.[31]

In his historical novel The Advocate, Randy Singer refers to Pilate's wife as "Procula" and tells of an earlier vision in which she had seen and been healed by Jesus.[32]


  1. ^ Erwin Preuschen, Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche, Volumes 86-87 (Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1995)
  2. ^ Katrina B. Olds, Forging The Past: Invented Histories in Counter-Reformation Spain (Yale University Press, 2015. ISBN 978-0-300-18522-5), page 119: When Higuera recorded the apocryphal tale of the conversion and miraculous healing of Pilate's wife, he refused to choose between the two separate traditions that identified her alternately as Claudia or Procula, and instead kept them both, making her "Claudia Procula
  3. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pontius Pilate" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  4. ^ Paul L. Maier. Pontius Pilate: A Biographical Novel. Kregel Publications, 1995, ISBN 0-8254-3296-0, p. 370 (endnotes to Chapter 26)
  5. ^ a b c Sticca 1970, p. 98
  6. ^ a b 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
  7. ^ Ehrman and Pleše 2011, p. 519
  8. ^ Ehrman and Pleše 2011, p. 517.
  9. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Acta Pilati" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  10. ^ The Acts of Pilate, Chapter 2, Paragraph 1, translated by M. R. James
  11. ^ "The Gospel of Nicodemus, or Acts of Pilate", from The Apocryphal New Testament, M.R. James (translation and notes). Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924
  12. ^ "The Fate of Pontius Pilate," Hermes 99.3 (1971), p. 362.
  13. ^ Sticca 1970, p. 51
  14. ^ Sticca 1970, p. 72
  15. ^ G Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. II,1972 (English trans from German), Lund Humphries, London, p. 66, and passim see Index, ISBN 0-85331-324-5
  16. ^ original text of Tapiters and Couchers Play at University of Michigan
  17. ^ Clemens Brentano, after an oral account by Anne Catherine Emmerich. The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. 1833. (At Project Gutenberg: 20th edition, 1904)
  18. ^ "Pilate's Wife's Dream" by Charlotte Brontë
  19. ^ Kmetijske in rokodelske novice, 12.04.1865, volume 23, number 15, pages 117-120
  20. ^ Catherine Van Dyke. Letter from Pontius Pilate's Wife. TEACH Services, Incorporated, 2008. ISBN 1572585765
  21. ^ Amazon.ca/Library Journal review
  22. ^ Francis Phillips. "A Christian genius and her inspired account of the life of Pilate’s wife" in The Catholic Herald, 1 April 2015
  23. ^ Time Magazine, "Gospel According to Claudia", 1963-04-12.
  24. ^ Chapman, Graham; Cleese, John; Gilliam, Terry; Idle, Eric; Jones, Terry; Palin, Michael (1979). Monty Python's The Life of Brian/Montypythonscrapbook. London: Eyre Methuen.
  25. ^ Halliwell, Leslie (2003). Halliwell's Film & Video Guide. HarperResource. ISBN 0-06-050890-6.
  26. ^ Variety review
  27. ^ Boston Globe
  28. ^ Film and TV productions featuring the character Claudia Procula
  29. ^ Joanne Whalley plays "Claudia" in :AD: The Bible Continues"
  30. ^ USA Today coverage of "Pilate's Wife", usatoday.com; accessed 21 April 2019.
  31. ^ D.S. Ryelle. Early One Morning. DarkMoon Publishing. (October 27, 2013), ASIN B00G8GJ0R4. [1]
  32. ^ Randy Singer. The Advocate. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (May 1, 2014), ISBN 978-1414391304. [2]

Cited works[edit]

  • Bond, Helen K. (1998). Pontius Pilate in History and Interpretation. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-63114-9.
  • Boxall, Ian (2018). "From the Magi to Pilate's Wife:David Brown, Tradition and the Reception of Matthew's Text". In Allen, Garrick V.; Brewer, Christopher R.; Kinlaw, Dennis F., III (eds.). The Moving Text: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on David Brown and Bible. London: SCM Press. pp. 17–36. ISBN 9780334055266.
  • Cornagliotti, Anna (2013). "Da procul a Procula: Antroponimi dei vangeli eterodossi". In Bremer Bruno, Donatella; Da Camilli, Davide; Porcelli, Bruno (eds.). Nomina: Studi di onomastica in onore di Maria Giovanni Arcamone. Pisa: Edizioni ETS. pp. 183–193. ISBN 9788846736383.
  • Crowley, Roger W. (1985). "The So-Called "Ethiopic Book of the Cock": Part of an Apocryphal Passion Gospel, "The Homily and Teaching of Our Fathers the Holy Apostles"". The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. 1: 16–22. JSTOR 25211766.
  • Demandt, Alexander (1999). Hände in Unschuld: Pontius Pilatus in der Geschichte. Cologne, Weimar, Vienna: Böhlau. ISBN 3-412-01799-X.
  • Demandt, Alexander (2012). Pontius Pilatus. Munich: C. H. Beck. ISBN 9783406633621.
  • Ehrman, Bart; Pleše, Zlatko (2011). The Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 978-0-19-973210-4.
  • Fascher, Erich (1951). Das Weib des Pilatus (Matthäus 27,19); Die Auferweckung der Heiligen (Matthäus 27,51-53): Zwei Studien zur Geschichte der Schriftauslegung. Halle (Saale): Max Niemeyer Verlag.
  • Grüll, Tibor (2010). "The Legendary Fate of Pontius Pilate". Classica et Mediaevalia. 61: 151–176.
  • Hourihane, Colum (2009). Pontius Pilate, Anti-Semitism, and the Passion in Medieval Art. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691139562.
  • Hourihane, Colum (2008). "She Who Is Not Named: Pilate's Wife In Medieval Art". In Kogman-Appel, Katrin (ed.). Between Judaism and Christianity Art: Historical Essays in Honor of Elisheva (Elisabeth) Revel-Neher. Leiden: Brill. pp. 215–239. doi:10.1163/ej.9789004171060.i-490.61. ISBN 9789004171060.
  • Kany, Roland (1995). "Die Frau des Pilatus und ihr Name: Ein Kapitel aus der Geschichte neutestamentlicher Wissenschaft". Zeitschrift für neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde des Urchristentums. 88 (2): 104–110.
  • Lémonon, Jean-Pierre (2007). Ponce Pilate. Paris: Atelier. ISBN 9782708239180.
  • MacAdam, Henry I. (2001). "Quid Est Veritas? Pontius Pilate in Fact, Fiction, Film, and Fantasy". Irish Biblical Studies. 23 (1): 66–99.
  • MacAdam, Henry I. (2017). "Quod scripsi, scripsi: Pontius Pilatus Redivivus". The Polish Journal of Biblical Research. 17 (1–2): 129–140.
  • Maier, Paul L. (1968). Pontius Pilate. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
  • Martin, Howard (1973). "The Legend of Pontius Pilate". Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik. 4 (1): 95–118.
  • Mouterde, René (1929). "Sarcophages de plomb trouvés en Syrie". Syria. 10 (3): 238–251. JSTOR 195509.
  • Ollivier, Marie-Joseph (1896). "Ponce Pilate et les Pontii". Revue Biblique. 5 (2 and 4): 247–254, 594–600. JSTOR 44100212.
  • Piovanelli, Pierluigi (2003). "Exploring the Ethiopic "Book of the Cock", An Apocryphal Passion Gospel from Late Antiquity". The Harvard Theological Review. 96 (4): 427–454. JSTOR 4151866.
  • Smith, Jill Carington (1984). "Pilate's Wife". Antichthon. 18: 102–107. doi:10.1017/S0066477400003166.
  • Sticca, Sandro (1970). The Latin Passion Play: Its Origins and Development. SUNY Press. ISBN 0873950453
  • Wroe, Ann (1999). Pontius Pilate. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-375-50305-6.

External links[edit]

Media related to Claudia Procula at Wikimedia Commons