Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (traditionally c.69 - c.155) was arrested during a public (pagan) festival and asked by his accusers: "What harm is there in saying ’Caesar is Lord,’ and offering incense and saving your life?". Replied Polycarp, who was burned at the stake for his beliefs: "For eighty-six years I have been the servant [of Jesus Christ], and he never did me any injury. How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?".

Martyrium Polycarpi

When Pontius Pilate asked Jesus if he was a king, he asked a question that has absorbed Christian and non-Christian thinkers alike since the first century. Is Christ a king? And if he is, what sort of kingdom does he rule? These questions had particular relevance and poignancy in the Roman Empire where the relationship between faith and power was constantly being renegotiated. After the decline of the Empire, a wide range of thinkers engaged the questions of Christ’s kingship and arrived at diverse - and often oppositional - philosophies concerning the political implications of Jesus’ life and teachings. Much debate has raged and much blood has been spilled over the issues which Jesus’ kingship pose, but no resolution seems forthcoming - or even possible. And so we must return - and continue to return - to the question posed by a Roman procurator to a Galilean peasant two millennia ago: So you are a king?
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Art Gallery of Ontario, Gandhi Memorial Museum, Malcove Collection, University of Toronto, Musée de la civilisation,

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