Pontius Pilate

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Pontius Pilate (Latin Pontius Pilatus, Greek: Πόντιος Πιλᾶτος, Pontios Pīlātos) was the fifth prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, from AD 26–36.

His name suggests he was of the tribe of Pontii from the highly respected familia gens Pontius. Besides the New Testament and two Jewish writers: Josephus[1] and Philo of Alexandria.[2]

Tacitus, when writing of punishments inflicted by Nero when Rome burned, tells us that a Christ, was put to death by the procurator Pontius Pilate when Tiberius was emperor (Annals xv.44).

He served under Emperor Tiberius, and is best known for presiding over the trial of Jesus and ordering his crucifixion.

In 1961, archaeologists led by Antonio Frova discovered in Israel a block of limestone imbedded in a section of steps leading to an Amphitheater in the Roman city Caesarea. The inscription includes the following:

"Pontius Pilatus, Prefect of Judea has dedicated to the people of Caesarea a temple in honor of Tiberius."[3]

Emperor Tiberius reigned from 14 to 37 AD, which verifies the New Testament account that records Pontius Pilate ruling as governor from 26 to 36 AD.

The early governors of Judaea were of prefect rank, but later were of procurator rank.

Tacitus, a first century Roman historian, also mentioned Pontius Pilate:

"Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus..."[4]

Besides Tacitus others like Philo of Alexandria, and Josephus also speak of him as well as the four canonical gospels; the Gospel of Nicodemus; the Gospel of Marcion; and other apocryphal works.

Pontius Pilate's title was traditionally thought to have been procurator, since Tacitus speaks of him as such. However, an inscription on the limestone block known as the Pilate Stone — a dedication to Tiberius Caesar Augustus — that was discovered in 1961 in the ruins of an amphitheater at Caesarea Maritima refers to Pilate as "Prefect of Judaea".

When applied to governors, this term procurator, otherwise used for financial officers which was a chief roll of Pilate in Judea, connotes no difference in rank or function from the title known as "prefect".

The procurators' and prefects' primary functions were military, but as representatives of the empire they were responsible for the collection of imperial taxes. It cost money to maintain a peacekeeping force in Judea.

He had limited judicial functions which would include usurpation or rebellion against the local government.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved April 15, 2014. Defines "Procurator". with the addition of "From a recently discovered inscription in which Pontius Pilate is mentioned, it appears that the title of the governors of Judea was also "praefectus"."

A promagistrate (Latin: pro magistratu) is a person who acts in and with the authority and capacity of a magistrate, but without holding a magisterial office. A procurator, a posting originally as a financial manager in a province, was a position which held no magisterial power.

The question is although general magistrate power was not granted to praefectus until Claudius in 44 AD did Pilate have procurator status. We know he minted coins and collected taxes.

Was Pilate an exception to the rule? We know while the typical term for a Roman prefect was 1–3 years, Pilate was to hold his post as the fifth Roman procurator for 10 years. In assuming his position, Pontius Pilate succeeded Valerius Gratus.

As a Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate was granted the power of a supreme judge, in certain criminal matters but he was a Roman representative, not the ruler of the nation. Pilates appointment was undoubtedly because of his popularity with Tiberius and his personal knowledge of religious laws. He was married to Tiberius' favorite granddaughter, Claudia Procula.

There are countless books that say that Pilate was the Procurator of Rome.

Non-canonical Christian literature such as the Gospel of Peter or the Acta Pilati mentioned by Eusebius, Justin and Tertullian exonerated Pilate. But there is a lot more written about him in history in both Latin and Greek. He was considered a saint for centuries and still has churches named after him and his wife.

Blaming Pilate is a fairly recent historical shift. There is Gospel of Nicodemus and tons of material sources but lots of ideas were inserted in the Middle ages. Reading fragments in the Latin and Greek and Aramaic is one of the best sources if you can get access but if you publish the truth which often bucks present churchanity theology expect opposition.

Fact or fiction is often a matter of opinion in orthodox religious educational institutions.

Fragments which are often older and less tampered with are an amazing source of information which is why the Dead Sea Scrolls were kept from academia for so long.

Our thinking about Pilate and about Christ has been tampered with so much few actually know what he was all about and fewer will allow there minds to look at all things anew.

You can see right in the Bible Pilate is defending Christ and proclaiming he was the rightful king and not wanting to crucify this "just person" who had "no fault in him".[5]

But still people hold to the fiction that it was Pilate's authority that convicted Jesus sending him to the cross by his authority and judgement.

Pilate allowed the Pharisees to choose who would die on the cross clearly hoping and thinking that Jesus would be spared.[6] this is clear in the Biblical text by his "superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS." Luke 23:38.

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Footnotes

  1. "On one occasion, when the soldiers under his command came to Jerusalem, he caused them to bring with them their ensigns, upon which were the usual images of the emperor. The ensigns were brought in privily by night, put their presence was soon discovered. Immediately multitudes of excited Jews hastened to Caesarea to petition him for the removal of the obnoxious ensigns. For five days he refused to hear them, but on the sixth he took his place on the judgment seat, and when the Jews were admitted he had them surrounded with soldiers and threatened them with instant death unless they ceased to trouble him with the matter. The Jews thereupon flung themselves on the ground and bared their necks, declaring that they preferred death to the violation of their laws. Pilate, unwilling to slay so many, yielded the point and removed the ensigns." The Standards- Josephus, War 2.169-174, Antiq 18.55-59.
    "At another time he(Pilate) used the sacred treasure of the temple, called corban (qorban), to pay for bringing water into Jerusalem by an aqueduct. A crowd came together and clamored against him; but he had caused soldiers dressed as civilians to mingle with the multitude, and at a given signal they fell upon the rioters and beat them so severely with staves that the riot was quelled." The Aqueduct- Josephus, War 2.175-177, Antiq 18.60-62.
  2. "Philo tells us (Legatio ad Caium, xxxviii) that on other occasion he dedicated some gilt shields in the palace of Herod in honor of the emperor. On these shields there was no representation of any forbidden thing, but simply an inscription of the name of the donor and of him in whose honor they were set up. The Jews petitioned him to have them removed; when he refused, they appealed to Tiberius, who sent an order that they should be removed to Caesarea." International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia.
  3. The Stones Cry Out, Price, pp 307-308.
  4. Tacitus, Annales, Historiae, Chapter 15, paragraphs 54.
  5. Matthew 27:24 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but [that] rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed [his] hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye [to it].
    John 19:4 Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.
  6. Matthew 27:17 Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?
    John 19:12 And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.
    John 19:15 But they cried out, Away with [him], away with [him], crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.