Pontius Pilate Biography
Pontius Pilate was the fifth prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, Samaria and Idumæa. He was appointed in his position by the Roman Emperor Tiberius. We know about his life from the four canonical gospels, Philo of Alexandria, Josephus, a brief mention by Tacitus, and an inscription known as the Pilate Stone, which authenticates his existence and ascertains his title as the prefect and that he was the judge at the trial of Jesus, and was in fact the prominent man who ordered his crucifixion. Although he is mentioned in the gospels to have pleaded for the innocence of Jesus and for him to be spared of execution in front of the important Jewish leaders and Roman authorities but the crowd was getting unruly and things were getting out of his hands, which is why he succumbed to the pressure and placed Jesus’ execution in effect. He is mentioned in the mythological history as a weak man who yielded to the Jewish establishment’s pressure on him to carry out Jesus’ execution. Italian archeologist Dr. Antonio Frova, during a 1961 excavation in Caesarea Maritima, discovered a piece of limestone emblazoned with Pilate’s name in Latin, linking him to Emperor Tiberius’s reign, which truly validates his historical existence.
- Not much is documented about Pilate’s birth and early life but it is presumed that he was born in the small village of Bisenti, which is now in central Italy. There are ruins of his house in the village. But there are also other assumptions as to where he was born, some of these assumed places are: Fortingall in Scotland, Tarragona in Spain, Forchheim in Germany, etc. But the most accurate suggestion is still considered to be Central Italy.
- In 26 A.D., Pilate was appointed as the prefect of the Roman provinces of Judaea, Samaria and Idum�a. The usual term for a Roman prefect was 1–3 years but he held his post for 10 years.
- He was appointed in his position after Valerius Gratus. His main tasks were military, but as legislative body of the empire he was accountable for colleting colonial taxes and had some restricted judicial role as well.
- He had small auxiliary armed force of locally employed soldiers stationed at all times in Caesarea and Jerusalem, and provisionally anywhere else that might need military. He had around 3000 soldiers at his disposal at all times.
- Pilate mostly lived in Caesarea but travelled to Jerusalem, so as to perform his duties properly. During the Passover, a festival of prominence for the Jews, he, as the prefect, used to be in Jerusalem to maintain the order.
- Pilate’s most vital liability was that of maintaining law and order in his province and he had the power of a supreme judge, which gave him the sole power to preside over and to order a criminal’s execution.
- The canonical Christian Gospels state that Pilate supervised the trial of Jesus and, regardless of saying that in his opinion he found him not guilty of a crime worthy of a death sentence, sentenced him to be crucified.
- Pilate faced a clash between the Roman Empire and the Sanhedrin Jewish council because Jesus claimed he was the King of the Jews. Pilate asked Jesus if he is the king of Jews and he replied ‘If you say so’.
- This was considered an act of treason by the Roman government as it was thought as a challenge to Roman rule and to the Roman veneration of Caesar. It was claimed, by the Jewish leaders, as a political threat.
- In the Gospel version of The Trial of Jesus, Philo and Joseph, it is said that Pilate was unjust. All four of the Gospels portray him as a weak man who yielded to the Jewish establishment’s pressure.
- Matthew 27:19 explains Pilate’ innocence: So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves."
- After Jesus’ crucifixion, Pilate ordered ‘INRI’ be emblazoned on Jesus's crypt. In Latin, ‘INRI’ meant Jesus's name and his title of King of the Jews. It is said that it was meant mockingly, to ridicule Jesus’ supercilious claim.
- Pilate’s sentencing Jesus’ crucifixion is considered to be the most important event in his life. Besides being the prefect of the Roman provinces of Judaea, Samaria and Idum�a, he is a critical character in the New Testament accounts of Jesus.
- It is known that Pilate died in 37 A.D. but it not known for certain that under what circumstances did he die. According to some myths, the Roman emperor Caligula ordered him to death by execution or suicide.
- He chose to go into exile and kill himself and these myths also state that after he committed suicide, his body was thrown into the Tiber River.
- Some myths believe that towards the end of his life, Pilate was converted to Christianity and was later canonized.
- He is considered a saint by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
- Italian archeologist Dr. Antonio Frova, during a 1961 excavation in Caesarea Maritima, discovered a piece of limestone emblazoned with Pilate’s name in Latin, linking him to Emperor Tiberius’s reign.
- There is a legend that places his death at Mount Pilatus, in Switzerland.
- Some say that he was exiled to Gaul and eventually committed suicide there in Vienne.
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