The Master and Margarita

Sin and Redemption

In the Bible, as in The Master and Margarita, the reader has grown accustomed to despising Pontius Pilate, the infamous procurator of Judea. In both texts, it is Pontius Pilate who sentences Yeshua Ha-Notsri—a harmless, wandering preacher—to a painful death on the cross. Even more despicable, perhaps, is the fact that Pilate himself is plainly aware that Yeshua has done no wrong besides a minor technicality in a speech regarding Caesar. Although Pilate ultimately has the choice of letting Yeshua go, he fails to do so out of fear for his own political welfare. Yet, despite this arguably unforgivable moral failing, after reading the novel, the reader is nevertheless able to sympathize with the procurator. Through Bulgakov’s artful retelling of the Biblical story, the reader can better understand Pontius Pilate’s situation and the rationale with which he ultimately makes his fateful decision. Furthermore, Bulgakov extends the story beyond the scope of that in the Bible, revealing Pilate’s subsequent tormented regret and desperate attempts to right the wrong he had committed. The one-dimensional story character we encounter in the Bible is much easier to hate than the man we meet and come to know intimately in The Master and...

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