Pilate and the New Testament
102: New Testament Survey
in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people
came to the decision to put Jesus to death. They bound
him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.
Pilate is perhaps the most villainous of all the characters in
the Bible. Despite the fact that he is mentioned in each
of the four gospel accounts, very little time is spent discussing
him. This paper
will endeavor to probe various historical sources to uncover a
deeper understanding of the man Pontius Pilate.
only mention of Pontius Pilate in pagan Latin text is in Tacitus' Annals
of Imperial Rome. In
it, Tacitus describes Emperor Nero's attempts to blot out
notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called). Their
originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius' reign by the
governor of Judaea [sic],
Pontius Pilatus. But in spite of this temporary setback
the deadly superstition had broken out afresh, not only in Judaea
[sic] (where the mischief had started) but even in Rome. All
degraded and shameful practices collect and flourish in the capital.
After examining this
text, it can easily be confirmed that Pilate was indeed the governor
of Judea as is stated in Matthew 27:2. He served as governor
from AD 26 to AD 36, and was the military governor of the Roman
controlled province of Judaea or Judea, with
its capital at the Roman built city of Caesarea. He was placed
as governor (sometimes called procurator or prefect)
by the Emperor Tiberius in the twelfth year of his reign. Almost
immediately, there was great trouble as a result.
the middle of the night, Pilate covertly conveyed images (or standards)
of Tiberius Caesar to Jerusalem. The Jews were aghast at
the audacity of their unwelcome governor to "trample" on
their religious laws by setting up graven images in the Holy City. Despite
the pleadings of the Jews, Pilate refused to listen to them. Instead,
he sent troops to surround the Jews and threatened to "cut
them into pieces unless they accepted the images of Caesar." To
his surprise, the Jews "fell to the ground in a body and bent
their necks [to receive decapitation], shouting that they were
ready to be killed rather than transgress the Law." Amazed
at their religious fervor, Pilate removed the images of Caesar
another episode, Pontius Pilate spent a secret Jewish treasure
known as Corban by building an aqueduct. A riot ensued in
Jerusalem over the expenditure of the sacred treasure. To
quell the riot, Pilate mixed his soldiers with the riotous mob, "wearing
civilian clothing over their armour [sic], and with orders
not to draw their swords but to use clubs on the obstreperous." When
he gave the order to attack, his soldiers clubbed many of the Jews
to death. The ensuing panic and evacuation of the area caused
many of the Jews to be trampled to death. Thus,
Pilate was feared as a heavy-handed governor.
to the historian Eusebius, Pilate was never able to "wash
his hands" of the execution of Jesus Christ. In
fact, he was perplexed by it to the extent that he issued a report
about the supernatural nature of Christ and His resurrection to
the Emperor Tiberius. Eusebius states, "Tiberius referred
the report to the senate, which rejected it. …for
the old law still held good that no one could be regarded by the
Romans as a god unless by vote and decree of the senate." Nevertheless,
the life of Pontius Pilate would be forever changed by the infamous
decree to crucify Jesus.
Pontius Pilate is blamed for the execution of our Savior Jesus
Christ, his life was a strange twist of fate. He was sent
to the dusty and arid lands of Judea to fulfill God's plan of Salvation
for humanity. Aside from the Biblical evidence and scant
outside evidence, little is known of him. Even less is known
about his death. One legend records that Pilate committed
suicide over a forged Memoranda
of Pilate which blasphemed
Christ and was spread throughout all of Judea. According
to Eusebius, Pilate "paid the penalty of his malignity."
legends or traditions record that he became a Christian (ironically)
and was executed by the Roman Senate. Because of this tradition,
he is considered a martyr by the Coptic Church and was venerated
as a saint. His feast day is June 25.
Pontius Pilate" has a rather strange ring to it, only God
can judge the soul. Such was the life and death of one of
the world's most infamous villains.
21:1-26, Mark 15:6-15, Luke 22:66-23:25, John 18:28-19:16.
Annals of Imperial Rome
, Translated by Michael Grant, London:
Penguin, 1971, 365, footnote one.
Pilate," Encarta 98 Desk Encyclopedia, Microsoft Corporation,
, Translated by G. A. Williamson, Revised by
E. Mary Smallwood, London: Penguin, 1981, Appendix A, 465.
History of the Church from Christ to Constantine
by G. A. Williamson, Revised and Edited by Andrew Louth, London:
Penguin, 1989, 26.
98 Desk Encyclopedia.