Updated: Jun 5
***Updates based on The Chosen Season 3 included below the original article.
Circling back to my series exploring how Angel Studio's The Chosen adapts biblical characters from the Gospels, I wanted to take a moment to look at how this popular Bible show depicts its Roman characters. In particular, we'll be looking at the two Romans who get real character development: Quintus, one of the show's main villains, and Gaius, who plays an important role in Matthew's story. Although "Quintus" and "Gaius" are not names found within the Gospel accounts, as we analyze their depiction in light of relevant Gospel stories, we'll see that there is good reason to think that The Chosen is nevertheless adapting Roman figures found within the biblical narratives.
Quintus, the Narcissistic Roman Praetor
Quintus is one of the very first characters The Chosen introduces to us, and he is also, hands down, the most over the top villain of the show. I was watching the show with a few of my youth ministry students and almost as soon as he arrived on screen, they immediately started commenting on how obvious it was that he was the villain. From his bald head (nothing personal against bald people - it's just a trope), to his sneering expression, to his arrogant drawl, to the almost flippant way he flaunts his ability to kill others - the show is at great pains to telegraph to us that Quintus is bad news.
Yet despite how over the top Quintus' villainy in The Chosen initially appears, if you pay close attention to his actions, you may notice that he actually isn't quite as irredeemable as he is presented. Quintus may make other Romans like Gaius tremble in fear, but, throughout the entire first season of The Chosen, do we ever actually see him engage in serious violence? As far as I can recall, other than being a jerk, the only morally dubious enterprise that Quintus is responsible for is the exorbitant taxation of the Jewish people - and in that regard he's really just as much of a pawn as the soldiers that he commands.
Although Quintus is generally depicted as proud and ruthless, The Chosen gives viewers a couple of subtle hints that we should sympathize with him. Most importantly, Quintus is the first character in the show to appreciate Matthew's quirky personality and unique talents. While this appreciation is colored by cynicism and arrogant condescension, it still suggests that his character has a degree of humanity. The other hint The Chosen gives us comes through one of Quintus' interactions with Matthew. Given his pomposity, we might have assumed that Quintus was completely confident in himself, but in a moment of limited but surprising vulnerability he reveals to Matthew a lifelong rivalry with another Roman official. True, Quintus only reveals this so he can get Matthew's advice on how to flex on his rival, but, even so, it suggests a degree of humanity that we may not have initially expected from the cackling sociopath that Quintus first appeared to be.
Gaius, the Gruff and Practical Centurion
While The Chosen presents Quintus as an outright villain with just the slightest hints of humanity, the characterization of Gaius, Matthew's Roman handler, is much more balanced. On the one hand, Gaius is gruff and shows bewilderment and contempt toward Matthew for his personal eccentricities and toward the Jews for their very different way of living. On the other hand, the bond that develops between him and Matthew over the course of The Chosen's first season makes it clear that Gaius has not only humanity but also genuine compassion. I'm thinking particularly of the scene when Gaius discovers that Matthew is a permanent outcast from his family because of his role as tax collector. The way that Gaius responds - decrying the way Matthew is being treated by his family and asserting that they should feel the honor instead - communicates a genuine care for Matthew's self-esteem.
Even when Gaius urges Matthew to not leave his tax booth and follow Jesus, The Chosen seeks to make his character balanced. We know that his advice is wrong; obviously if Matthew continued serving as a tax collector and didn't follow Jesus, he would be missing out. But Gaius isn't a villainous tempter who is holding Matthew back from salvation just because. He's a practical man who knows that, from an economic standpoint, Matthew has an amazing gig - his job as a tax collector is lucrative and fits perfectly with his talents. Giving it up is foolish from within Gaius' framework, and so when he urges Matthew not to, he thinks he is being caring, even if the audience knows that he's wrong.
Roman Officials & Centurions in the Gospels
As I noted above, there are good reasons to think that Quintus and Gaius are The Chosen's adaptation of biblical characters, even if their names aren't found in the Gospel accounts. Here are a few of the Gospel stories that we can expect to see tied to their characters:
After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well. [Luke 7:1-10 (ESV)]
When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” [John 18:1-11 (ESV)]
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. [John 19:23-34 (ESV)]
When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”[Matthew 27:54 (ESV)]
Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. [Mark 15:43-45 (ESV)]
Adaptations often consolidate the Roman soldiers interacting with Jesus in these stories into a single character and I wouldn't be surprised to see The Chosen do the same. Given how Gaius has been presented a flawed but sympathetic figure, I wouldn't be surprised if he plays this role. He's been close enough to the stories of Jesus to reach out for help in a moment of desperate faith if someone he cares about is hurting. But we have also seen that Gaius is a very pragmatic character. In the face of a clear miracle, it's still unlikely that he will abandon Roman service. Even if service to Rome means participating in the torture and crucifixion of the man who helped him, he will keep serving - until, of course, the crucifixion makes him realize that Jesus was indeed the son of God.
Quintus doesn't fit into these stories quite so obviously. The Chosen has spent too much energy building Quintus up as a villain to have him converted quickly by a miracle. What seems more likely is that he will continue to be a villain for most of the series, pursuing Jesus and persecuting his followers. That said, it's still possible that Quintus will undergo a heel-face turn, revealing the power of grace. He could end up being the officer in charge of the group of Roman and Jewish soldiers that Judas leads to Jesus (John 18:1-11). In that case, the impetus of his conversion would probably come when Jesus lays the whammy on the soldiers by declaring "I am." Quintus wouldn't immediately turn - he'd still finish the job and probably be present with Pilate during Jesus' trial. But the power of the moment could shake his self confidence. The little hints of humanity that the show has been planting could pay off when he finally puts his faith in the Chosen.
So, those are my predictions for the biblical roles that are being played by Quintus and Gaius. Like Matthew, they will end up mostly being misunderstood and hurt people who just need acceptance. Even Quintus, the show's villain, will be easy for viewers to forgive if his misdeeds continue to be constrained to general jerkiness and economic extortion. But I could definitely be wrong there. I could also see a version of this story where Quintus doubles down in his wickedness as the season goes along and is never redeemed. I guess we'll have to wait for The Chosen season two to find out more about what trajectory his character will take!
***The Chosen Season 3 Updates***
Gaius and His Servant/Son in The Chosen Season 3
Since Season 1, most of us have been suspecting that Gaius would play the role of the Centurion with a sick servant who gets healed by Jesus, but The Chosen Season 3 all but confirms it. The show drips information about Gaius and his family situation slowly over the course of the entire season.
Gaius is clearly convicted by the Sermon on the Mount in Episode 1. In Episode 2, after reading Gaius' expression and recognizing that he must have a problem in his personal life, Atticus warns him that secrets like murders become known eventually. In Episode 4, Simon Peter and Gaius meet out in the city at night. Since we know that Simon is out due to a crisis in his family life, we naturally gather that the same is true for Gaius. During this interaction, when Gaius explains to Simon the importance of apologizing in marriage, there's a clear implication that he has had to learn this lesson the hard way. Gaius goes on to admit in Episode 5 that Simon shouldn't be coming to him for marital advice.
Episode 5 is also when Gaius' servant/child is first introduced. When Simon asks Gaius if he has kids, he initially replies that he has two, before qualifying that one is his son and one is the son of his servant. When Gaius explains that they treat the servant as a son, Simon taunts him, asking if he wants a medal. Gaius says he doesn't want a medal and begins to say what he wants- and then stops short. Over the course of Episodes 5 and 6, we see Gaius wistfully watch Jesus healing others - a clear hint of what he wants but isn't willing to express. Finally, in Episode 7 when Simon stumbles into the Roman Quarter and Gaius is forced to take him into his home to protect him, we see what the show has been slowly hinting at: his servant boy is sick in bed. Gaius' wife wonders whether Simon is the Jewish doctor that Gaius has mentioned (i.e. Jesus). Later, Gaius confides in Simon about how the child actually is his son - an illegitimate child he had with his servant before she died. Although Gaius hasn't claimed the child as his own and he and his wife have an unspoken agreement to not discuss the matter, we learn that Gaius has been plagued with guilt over his treatment of the mother and the boy.
I don't think the choice of having Gaius' servant also be his illegitimate child is just intended to amp up the drama of the situation. It seems clear that The Chosen is harmonizing the story about the Centurion with a child healed by Jesus (Luke 7:1-10) with the story about an official with a child healed by Jesus (John 4:46-54). This is certainly not a novel interpretation. After all, there are several striking similarities between the two stories. Both stories involve:
Someone of rank (a centurion/an official) from Capernaum
A child with a fever nearing death
Attention drawn to how Jesus healed the child remotely
A note about how the child was already healed by the time people returned
Attention drawn to the importance of faith
Still, it's worth noting that there are discrepancies between the stories that have caused many interpreters to question whether they refer to the same event:
The term "official" may not have been a natural word to use for a centurion
In one story Jesus is in Capernaum; in the other story, he is in Canna
In one story, the child is a servant; in the other story, he is the man's son
In one story, the centurion sends messengers to Jesus and remains with the child; in the other, the father comes to Jesus himself
In one story, the centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant remotely; in the other story, the father asks Jesus to come heal his son in person but Jesus chooses to heal remotely for his own reasons
In the one story, Jesus is enthusiastic about the centurion's faith from the beginning; in the other story, he seems to question the father's faith and we're told the father only comes to believe in him after seeing that his son was healed
From the standpoint of interpretation, I personally lean toward the view that these are two different stories. However, from the perspective of adaptation, it makes sense to consolidate the stories and I think The Chosen can probably smooth over many of the discrepancies, just as it already has smoothed over the servant/son discrepancy by making the child both a servant and a son. Perhaps Gaius will first send messengers who meet Jesus in Cana and then come himself to meet Jesus on the edge of Capernaum. This might also explain why the account involving the messengers refers to the child as a servant and the account involving the father speaking to Jesus himself refers to the child as his son: Gaius may not yet be ready to claim the boy as his own when he sends the messengers but by the time he goes to meet Jesus he may be done with the pretense. Jesus might praise the faith of Gaius in front of the Jewish messengers but, when Gaius meets with him personally, he may challenge Gaius to adopt a faith that isn't based on visible signs. We'll have to see what the show does.
There's one other interesting thing to note about Gaius' portrayal in Season 3 of The Chosen in relation to his biblical precedent. Luke tells us that the centurion is beloved by the Jewish elders because he built their synagogue. I suspect that Gaius' role in rebuilding the synagogue cistern in Episodes 4-5 of Season 3 is intended to fulfill that line. Of course, it's possible that the show will aim for a more literal fulfillment of the line and have Gaius build an actual synagogue but I think having Gaius build the cistern is sufficient. We've also seen Gaius interact a bit with Jairus and Yussif and they are aware of his role in the building of a new cistern, so I wouldn't be surprised if they play the role of the Jewish elders who come first to ask Jesus to heal his servant.
Quintus in The Chosen Season 3
In Seasons 1 & 2 of The Chosen, Quintus generally seems to have things under control. By contrast, in Season 3 we are reminded that Quintus has someone above him (i.e., Pilate) whose judgment he fears. Moreover, when Atticus and Pilate meet to discuss Quintus, we learn that Pilate has concerns about Quintus being too forceful in maintaining order. That got me thinking. In the original article above, I floated the idea that Quintus may be involved in apprehending Jesus in the events leading up to the crucifixion. Initially, that might not seem like a realistic scenario. After all, as a Praetor, apprehending a criminal would be below Quintus. More importantly, as the Praetor of Capernaum, there wouldn't be a reason for Quintus to be on duty in Jerusalem. But what if Pilate's patience with Quintus wears thing? We still have a few seasons until Jesus' arrest. In that time I could imagine a scenario in which Quintus displeases Pilate for his handling of the Tent City situation and gets demoted and withdrawn to Jerusalem. If that happened, his animosity toward Jesus would surely be magnified, such that he might be eager to oversee the torture and humiliation of Jesus described in the Gospels (Mark 15:16-20).
Atticus Aemillius in The Chosen Season 3
Atticus continues to play a background role in The Chosen Season 3, following people around and spying. It's still hard to peg what exactly his motives are, but he seems to have at least some sympathy with the followers of Jesus. First, he skillfully manipulates Quintus into sparing the inhabitants of the Tent City and then he warns Simon Z about the Zealot assassins that are following him. He also spies on the operations of Shmuel and Yanni in Jerusalem. While there isn't a clear biblical precedent for his character, I've got a theory for why he is being introduced. In the Gospels, we're told about various meeting that happen among the Roman or Jewish leaders, at which none of Jesus' followers could have been present. Perhaps Atticus has been introduced to serve as an explanation for how the writers of the Gospels got information about what was said by Roman and Jewish leaders behind closed doors.
Quintus, Gaius, & Atticus in The Chosen and in Scripture (FAQ)
Who was Gaius in the Bible?
The Bible briefly mentions several men named Gaius, none of which are identified as Roman centurions. When the cult of Artemis riots in Ephesus, we are told that a man named Gaius is among the Christians dragged out for judgment (Acts 19:28-30). This same Gaius eventually goes on to accompany Paul in some of his travels (Acts 20:1-6). Paul mentions a man named Gaius who is hosting him in his letter to the Romans (Romans 16:23) and in his letter to the Corinthians a man named Gaius that he baptized (1 Corinthians 1:14). John's third letter is written to an elder named Gaius (3 John 1:1). The name "Gaius" was common among ancient Romans, and so it's entirely possible that these figures are all different people, but it's also possible that some of these references are to the same person.
The Bible also mentions several unnamed Roman centurions and officers (e.g., Luke 7:1-10, Matthew 27:54, Mark 15:43-45, and John 4:46-54). Given how common the name "Gaius" was in ancient Rome, it is entirely possible that one of these figures was named Gaius.
In The Chosen, Gaius is a Roman soldier who is stationed in Capernaum and charged with guarding Matthew's tax booth. He builds a friendship with Matthew and promoted on account of Matthew's usefulness to Rome. Over the course of Season 3, we learn that Gaius has a sick servant/illegitimate child, which suggests that he is both the Roman centurion with a sick servant (Luke 7:1-10) and the official with a sick son (John 4:46-54).
Does Gaius follow Jesus in the Bible?
Assuming that Gaius is the centurion with a sick servant and the official with a sick child (see above), the Bible suggests that he will come to have faith in Christ, although there is no reason to think that he will leave his position as a centurion. In Luke 7:1-10 Jesus praises the faith of the Centurion, saying, "not even in Israel have I found such faith" (ESV). In John 4:46-54, we are told "he [the official] himself believed, and all his household" (ESV). The note in John's Gospel is particularly significant, because in the context "believe" seems to mean saving faith and not just belief that Jesus can perform signs.
In The Chosen, by the end of Season 3 there are signs that Gaius is beginning to believe in Jesus. He witnesses several miracles and appears to be affected by what he sees. He has also told his wife about a Jewish doctor that might be able to help their servant. Nevertheless, it seems like Gaius has not yet come to the point of truly trusting in Jesus by the end of Season 3.
Who is Dominus Quintus in the Bible?
The Bible does not refer to anyone named Dominus Quintus. We are rarely told about upper-level Roman officials, other than Pilate, Herod, and Herod's children.
In The Chosen, Quintus (often referred to as "dominus," that is, "lord" or "master") is a Roman Praetor who governs the Roman forces in the city of Capernaum. His character is invented to serve as one of the main antagonists in Season 1 and as a significant character in other seasons.
Who is Atticus Aemilius Pulcher in the Bible? Is there a chortes urbanae in the Bible?
The Bible does not refer to anyone named Atticus Aemilius Pulcher. We are never told about Roman investigators (cohortes urbanae).
In The Chosen, Atticus Aemilius Pulcher is introduced in Season 2, Episode 4 as a Roman investigator or "cohortes urbanae" attempting to combat extremist Jewish zealots. After tracking down Simon the Zealot, he takes interest in the disciples of Jesus and begins to follow them. Over the course of Season 3 we learn that Atticus is a personal friend of Pontius Pilate. He treats the disciples in a favorable way and prevents Quintus from harming the Tent City. We also see him spying on the Pharisees. It is possible that The Chosen has introduced Atticus to provide an explanation for how the Gospel writers got information about the inner-workings of the Roman government and the Pharisees (see more above).
Did Quintus question Jesus?
In the Bible, there is no indication that Jesus was formally questioned by Roman authorities other than Pilate.
In The Chosen, during Season 2, Episode 7, Quintus detains Jesus and questions him. He concludes that Jesus is not a threat and releases him.
A New Resource for Studying The Chosen
If you're like me, watching The Chosen is about more than entertainment. Bible movies & shows like The Chosen provide us with fresh eyes to see the significance of the Bible and the beauty of the Gospel. That's why I'm excited to share with you a new resource that I've created to help you study biblical adaptations & reflect on how they apply to everyday life. Come and See is a devotional journal designed specifically for studying Bible movies and shows like The Chosen. It includes sections for you to take notes on each episode's plot, your favorite quotes, personal connections, questions, and, of course, Scripture references. Whether you're studying on your own or with your small group or ministry, Come and See is a perfect resource to help you dig deeper into The Chosen.
FYI: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Click here for my affiliation policy.
If you liked this post, you might want to check out some of my other posts on The Chosen and Bible adaptation. I have Bible studies/discussion guides for each episode of The Chosen Seasons 1-3, blogs exploring how The Chosen adapts key biblical figures, and articles exploring the controversial nature of adaptation. I hope you enjoy them!
The Chosen Season 4
The Chosen Season 3
Adapting Biblical Characters Series
Thomas & Ramah in The Chosen & Scripture ***Season 3***
Yussif, Jairus, & Shmuel in The Chosen ***Season 3***
Quintus, Gaius, Atticus, and the Romans in The Chosen ***Season 3 Update***
Little James in The Chosen & Scripture ***Season 3***
Pontius Pilate & his Wife in The Chosen ***Season 3***
Judas in The Chosen ***Season 3 Update***
Matthew in The Chosen ***Season 3 Update***
Simon and Andrew in The Chosen ***Season 3 Update***
Exploring The Chosen with Youth or Small Group [Discussion Guides]
How to Discuss The Chosen - and Why
Episode 1 Guide: Homecoming
Episode 2 Guide: Two by Two
Episode 3 Guide: Physician, Heal Thyself
Episode 4 Guide: Clean Part 1
Episode 5 Guide: Clean Part 2
Episode 6 Guide: Intensity in Tent City
Episode 7 Guide: Ears to Hear
Episode 8 Guide: The Feeding of the 5,000
Season 2 Reflection P1: What is The Chosen Season 2 about?
Season 2 Reflection P2: What was The Chosen Season 2 about? (Plots & Theme)
Episode 1 Guide: The Beloved Disciple
Episode 2 Guide: Philip, Nathanael, & Matthew
Episode 3 Guide: Life Among the Disciples of Jesus
Episode 4 Guide: Simon the Zealot & the Man at the Bethesda Pool
Episode 5 Guide: Mary's Demons & the Destiny of John the Baptist
Episode 6 Guide: Mercy and Not Sacrifice
Episode 7 Guide: Quintus Returns
Episode 8 Guide: Judas, Matthew, & the Sermon on the Mount
Episode 1 Guide: Mary Magdalene, Lilith, and the Redeemer
Episode 2 Guide: Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus, and Shabbat
Episode 3 Guide: Depicting Jesus in Art, Film, and TV
Episode 4 Guide: When Jesus Met Simon (Peter)
Episode 5 Guide: Mary, Mother of Jesus
Episode 6 Guide: Jesus, Shmuel, & the Pharisees
Episode 7 Guide: Did Nicodemus Follow Jesus?
Episode 8 Guide: The Woman at the Well, Eden, & Zohara
The Chosen Controversies Series
Themes & Theology of The Chosen [Exclusive for BMC Members]
Episode 1: What do we do when we are scared?
Episode 2: What is Shabbat for?
Episode 3: Who is Jesus?
Episode 4: What kind of man are you?
Beyond The Chosen
The Chosen: 9 Good Friday & Easter Episodes ***Season 3 Update***
Other Bible Adaptations
Recap & Review: His Only Son