Pontius Pilate Overview
Pontius Pilate will forever go down in history as the man who ordered the
crucifixion of Jesus, persuaded by the Jewish authorities against his will.
Pontius Pilate was the Roman procurator in Judea from 26 to 36 A.D. (Luke 3
Non-Christian authors (Tacitus, Philo, and Flavius Josephus) mention not only
his name but also many details concerning his person and his rule. In a letter
from Agrippa I, cited by Philo, his character is severely judged. It speaks of
unlimited harshness, pride, violence, greed, insults, continual executions
without trial, and endless and unbearable cruelty. His insensitive policies
brought Pilate into conflict with the Jews. They were continually offended with
Pilate’s statues which the Jews considered idolatry (Exod. 20:4). The Jews
opposed the entry into Jerusalem of soldiers with banners bearing the likeness
of the emperor, and also to the placing of shields inscribed with the Roman
emperor's name inside Herod's palace. The Jews finally appealed to the Emperor
Tiberius and they succeeded in obtaining withdrawal of the idols.
His use of temple funds to finance the building of an aqueduct also created
hostility and bad relations. Finally, after brutally slaughtering the
Samaritans, Pilate was sent back to Rome by Vitellius, the legate in Syria, to
answer for his conduct.
In the New Testament Pontius Pilate first appears during the time of the
Passover Feast in Jerusalem and is confronted with the person of Jesus, who is
accused of treason and blasphemy by the Jewish authorities, and Pilate must act
as Jesus' judge. The Gospel recounts the trial in detail. Although Pilate is
convinced of Jesus' innocence, he is forced to order Jesus to be crucified. By
washing his hands and declaring he is innocent of the blood of Jesus, he tries
to evade any responsibility.
Another harsh action by Pilate is referred to in Luke 13.
A large assortment of legendary material dealing with Pontius Pilate is found in
later literature. Justine the Martyr, Tertullian, and Eusebius refer to an
official report compiled by Pilate and sent to Emperor Tiberius which probably
gave rise to the Acta (or Gesta) Pilati (or the Gospel of
Nicodemus), which claims to be a version of that report (not earlier than
the 4th cent.). Details found in Eusebius claim that Pilate committed suicide.
Others say he was executed by Nero, according to one tradition. Another
tradition says that He finally accepted Jesus and was executed by Tiberius. His
wife, by whom he is warned in Matt. 27: 19, is called Procla or Claudia Procula
in a legend where she is represented as a follower of Christ.
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The main historical sources about the life of Pontius Pilate were:
- Josephus (75-94 A.D. approx.)
- The New Testament
(50-100 A.D. approx.)
- Jewish and Christian Tradition
- Archaeology: inscriptions, coins, written text.
Bibliography on Pontius Pilate
by Wroe, 432 Pages, Pub. 2001
Pontius Pilate a Novel
by Maier, 384 Pages
Bible History Online
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