reigned 26 -36 AD
Roman Politician who handed Jesus over to be crucifiedby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Trapped between conflicting thoughts, he made the decision of the century, or of all time. He was to decide whether or not to crucify Jesus Christ. Caught between his belief that Jesus was innocent, the anger of the Jews, and the fear of being deprived of his position, it was a dangerous decision.
Pilate's life before and after his position as Judea's prefect (AD 26- 36) is unknown. Pontius Pilate's family name shows that he was from the tribe of pontii which is one of the most famous of the Samnite family names. And he was called 'Pilate' from the Latin pileatus, which means "wearing the pileus", which was the "cap or badge of a manumitted slave, as indicating that he was a "freedman", or the descendant of one. Pontius Pilate was appointed as the prefect of Judea by Tiberius Caesar. There are legends concerning where he was born. Fortingall in Perthshire, Scotland, Tarraco (now it is Trarragona) in Spain, and Forchheim and its suburb Hausen in Germany all have legends about him.
Not much information is known about him but there are six people that wrote about the time when he was the prefect of Judea. Those sources are Josephus, Philo, and the four New Testament gospel authors, all of whom were first century writers. Philo described him as "a man of inflexible disposition, harsh and obdurate," and he is further characterized as a person of cruel, selfish and malicious intent as well as ready to use brutal force to keep order. A corresponding example is when he butchered a group of Samaritan pilgrims at Mount Gerizim. There are very little of his positive reputations, so to speak.
Philo of Alexandria recorded one incident where Pilate set up gilded shields in Jerusalem. Those shields were commonly used to honor people such as the emperor. They usually contained an image and inscription. So as not to offend the Jews, these shields contained no images. They were set up in Herod’s palace, which was the most fitting place in Jerusalem. But the problem lay with the wording of the inscription. The inscription would have contained both Pilate’s and Tiberius’s name. An official inscription of Tiberius’s name would contain a reference to the divine Augustus, and some Jews may have found that offensive, especially in the holy city. From his actions it can be deduced that he was trying not to offend the Jews, since he took off the images.
The source that has the most information by far is Flavius Josephus who created two works, Antiquities of the Jews and Jewish War. Josephus described four incidents in all. One of them is where Pilate had his soldiers bring their standards into Jerusalem. On them were the regular ensigns of the emperor, which were considered idolatrous by the Jews. It was done by night, but it was soon discovered, and Jews came to Caesarea to petition him to remove the ensigns. For five days Pilate didn't listen to them, but the next day he let them in to listen to their complaint. He had them surrounded by soldiers and threatened to kill them unless they stopped troubling him. The Jews then threw themselves on the ground, bared their necks, and said that they would rather die than have their law violated. Pilate then relented and took down the ensigns.
A third incident that Josephus wrote about is where Pilate built an aqueduct for the city using corbon (temple money). Building an aqueduct was good, but the argument was probably concerning the use of the temple money. A crowd came together to protest, but Pilate had soldiers dress as civilians and at a signal had them beat the crowd. The soldiers beat the crowd so severely that the riot was quelled.
The fourth incident written by Josephus concerns the Samaritans. A religious fanatic stirred the Samaritans to climb Mt. Gerizim with him, and they assembled in a village nearby. They were armed, and Pilate probably mistook it for a rebellion. He had his men block their route. Some were killed, many were taken prisoner, and the leaders put to death. This was the last recorded incident of his rule as prefect of Judea, for the Samaritans complained to Vitellius who was the legate of Syria. Vitellius ordered Pilate to go to Rome, but by the time Pilate got there, Tiberius was already dead. The new emperor, Gaious, did not reappoint Pilate but what actually happened during the trial is unknown. Pilate may have accepted another commission.
Pilate (Pilatus, in Latin) was probably Italian-born Roman citizen whose family was wealthy enough for the middle class. As mentioned in the New Testament, Pontius Pilate had a wife (Mark 27:19) and went to Caesarea and lived with her, Claudia Procula. As a prefect, appointed by Tiberius Caesar and governed Judea for 10 years, 26-36, he was in charge of collecting taxes and maintaining orders. His abnormally long period of reign covers the whole active ministry of John the Baptist and of Jesus Christ. When he was dispatched to the Black Sea region for a fight, he was successful and received the name, Pontius, after the Black Sea region of Pontus.
Nothing is known of Pilate prior to his arrival in Judea. According to the Gospels, after arresting Jesus and having a trial themselves, the Sanhedrin brought Jesus before Pilate. They accused him of stirring up the nation, refusing to pay taxes to Caesar, and claiming to be king. Pilate questioned him in private and then declared to the crowd that he found no fault in Jesus.
The Sanhedrin then said that Jesus was stirring up the nation, starting in Galilee. Hearing that Jesus was from Galilee, Pilate sent him to Herod Antipas to be tried, not wanting to kill Jesus himself. Herod Antipas anticipated the meeting with Jesus but finding nothing interesting, sent him back to Pilate.
To further try to escape from judging Jesus, Pilate appealed to the tradition to let a prisoner free every Passover. But the crowd shouted for the release of the murderous Barabbas instead of Jesus. Pilate let his soldiers do what they wanted, to Jesus. They whipped him, mocked him, beat him, had him put on the purple robe of mockery, and put a crown of thrones on him. Hoping that the Sanhedrin would feel pity, Pilate brought Jesus out in front of the Jews but the only response he got was to crucify him.
Pilate still wanted to release Jesus but was told by the Jews that if he did, he was an enemy of Caesar. That decided it. Pilate called for water and washed his hands in the presence of the people, saying that Jesus' blood was not on his hands. Then he handed Jesus over to the Jews to be crucified. He ordered an inscription to be put on the cross of Jesus in three languages, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. After Jesus died, Pilate gave up the body to Joseph of Arimathea. Matthew 27:24 describes as follows – “When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd.” “I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!".”
Although he claimed that he has nothing to do with death of Jesus Christ, the whole point was that Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.” (The Apostles’ Creed).
His rule was brought to an end for his brutal handling of a crowd of Samaritan pilgrims at Mount Gerizim. Pilate was forced to go to Rome to defend himself against the accusations that rose up after the Samaritan incident. Before Pilate reached Rome, Tiberius died. Pilate apparently was banished to Vienne in Gaul. According to tradition, he committed suicide.Caligula banished Pilate to Vienne in Gaul, where he committed suicide in AD 41.
There are few written records about life of Pontius Pilate. Ironically though, he is involved in the most crucial event, crucifixion of Jesus Christ, which has had vast impact on life. In brief, there can be different views about his issue concerning death of Jesus Christ. The most important thing is, however, Jesus suffered and died from his final decision, even though he maintained that he has no responsibility of Jesus’death.
1. When was Pontius Pilate born?
11 years before Jesus’ death
2. What kind of group did urge Pilate to decide the death penalty for
3. Who wrote about Pontius Pilate?
4. Why was Barabbas not crucified?
It was Passover
He was innocent
He ran away
Jews requested it 0
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