How the Procurator Tried to Save Judas of Kerioth
[Kak prokurator pytalsia spasti Iudu iz Kiriafa]
How the Procurator Tried to Save Judas of Kerioth--The irony of the title echoes another of Bulgakov's works, the play Last Days (Pushkin). In the play the main character, Pushkin, never appears on stage. Much is made of the efforts of the Tsar and his secret service to "protect" Pushkin from death in the duel with D'Anthes. They "protect" him so well that he is killed. Pushkin's funeral, like Yeshua's, is conducted in secret to avoid public disturbance.
Yershalaim...vanished as if it had never existed This continues the theme that has reappeared repeatedly throughout the novel: people and places have vanished without a trace, just as occurred during Stalin's time.
Bald Skull--Golgotha is called the Place of the Skull, perhaps because a small cliff here looks like a skull. According to legend, Adam's skull was buried beneath the place of the cross. "Bald" is Bulgakov's invention and conjures an image of a bare hill as well as connecting the name with Bald Mountain.
oysters--Bulgakov may have taken this detail from Anatole France's Procurator of Judea. In his preparatory notes to the last edition, Bulgakov has a note: "Could Pilate have eaten oysters?" (See Ianovskaia, Tvorcheskii put' Mikhaila Bulgakova, 251 in Sokolov 547).
Falernum / Cecubum -- Bulgakov originally thought Falernum wine was red. When he learned it was dark amber, he changed the wine to Cecubum in most passages (but see the notes to Ch. 30). Falernian wine is still made today (see Gourmet? June 98). Possibly Cecubum was actually white as well.
"To us, to you, Caesar, father of the Romans, dearest and best of men!" This toast is historically accurate, a literal quotation from Buass'e G., Rimskaia religiia ot vremen Avgusta do Antoninov, per. Spiridonova (M. 1914, 103) but it would also sound contemporary to a Russian reader of Stalin's time. Much of what was typically to Russian in the 1930s is displaced to the Pilate chapters: interrogation and beating, political double-dealing, and spying. Pilate's reflexive response to the mention of Caesar is part of this pattern.
"He will be murdered tonight" Pilate is indirectly giving orders, as do other of Bulgakov's powerful figures in the plays Last Days (Pushkin) and Moliere (Cabal of Hypocrites). Pilate is here beginning the myth of Yeshua for his own reasons. On the one hand he wishes to somehow make up for the unjust execution of Yeshua, on the other he is making sure that Kaifa will have problems resulting from Iuda's death.