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Between Power and Love: Pilate’s Transformation in The Master and Margarita

Dmitry Vladislavovich Bosnak

Summary

The conventional reading of the “ancient” chapters of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita attributes the role of an active moral subject to Pilate and a largely passive role to Ieshua. Proceeding from this assumption, the encounter between these characters is interpreted as an ethical event, in which Pilate is supposed to make decisions based entirely on his own will. This paper challenges this reading by arguing that Ieshua, generally considered the epitome of love, is the actual source of the events in which Pilate is involved. This idea is demonstrated by a comparison with the early Christian experience that views divine love as prior to power and intellect. The analysis traces Pilate’s inner transformation caused by the impact of proactive love and of the actual person of Ieshua, rather than his ideas, which clarifies the meaning of the encounter of these protagonists in Bulgakov’s novel.

Acknowledgement

I would like to thank Evgeniia Shelina for her feedback and her invaluable suggestions for improving an early draft of this paper.

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Published Online: 2020-10-31
Published in Print: 2020-10-30

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