Pontius Pilate

Pontius Pilate

Overview

Pontius Pilatus known in the English-speaking world as Pontius Pilate (icon), was the fifth Prefect
Prefect
Prefect is a magisterial title of varying definition....

 of the Roman province of Judaea
Iudaea Province
Judaea or Iudaea are terms used by historians to refer to the Roman province that extended over parts of the former regions of the Hasmonean and Herodian kingdoms of Israel...

, from AD 26–36. He is best known as the judge at Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

' trial
Pilate's Court
In the Canonical gospels, Pilate's Court refers to the trial of Jesus in praetorium before Pontius Pilate, preceded by the Sanhedrin preliminary hearing. Finding that Jesus, being from Galilee, belonged to Herod Antipas' jurisdiction, Pilate decides to send Jesus to Herod. After questioning Jesus...

 and the man who authorized the crucifixion of Jesus
Crucifixion of Jesus
The crucifixion of Jesus and his ensuing death is an event that occurred during the 1st century AD. Jesus, who Christians believe is the Son of God as well as the Messiah, was arrested, tried, and sentenced by Pontius Pilate to be scourged, and finally executed on a cross...

. As prefect, he served under Emperor Tiberius
Tiberius
Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...

.

The sources for Pilate's life are the four canonical gospels, a brief mention by Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

, and an inscription known as the Pilate Stone
Pilate Stone
The Pilate Stone is the name given to a block of limestone with a carved inscription attributed to Pontius Pilate, a prefect of the Roman-controlled province of Judaea from 26-36...

, which confirms his historicity and establishes his title as prefect.
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Pontius Pilatus known in the English-speaking world as Pontius Pilate (icon), was the fifth Prefect
Prefect
Prefect is a magisterial title of varying definition....

 of the Roman province of Judaea
Iudaea Province
Judaea or Iudaea are terms used by historians to refer to the Roman province that extended over parts of the former regions of the Hasmonean and Herodian kingdoms of Israel...

, from AD 26–36. He is best known as the judge at Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

' trial
Pilate's Court
In the Canonical gospels, Pilate's Court refers to the trial of Jesus in praetorium before Pontius Pilate, preceded by the Sanhedrin preliminary hearing. Finding that Jesus, being from Galilee, belonged to Herod Antipas' jurisdiction, Pilate decides to send Jesus to Herod. After questioning Jesus...

 and the man who authorized the crucifixion of Jesus
Crucifixion of Jesus
The crucifixion of Jesus and his ensuing death is an event that occurred during the 1st century AD. Jesus, who Christians believe is the Son of God as well as the Messiah, was arrested, tried, and sentenced by Pontius Pilate to be scourged, and finally executed on a cross...

. As prefect, he served under Emperor Tiberius
Tiberius
Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...

.

The sources for Pilate's life are the four canonical gospels, a brief mention by Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

, and an inscription known as the Pilate Stone
Pilate Stone
The Pilate Stone is the name given to a block of limestone with a carved inscription attributed to Pontius Pilate, a prefect of the Roman-controlled province of Judaea from 26-36...

, which confirms his historicity and establishes his title as prefect. Based on these sources, it appears that Pilate was an equestrian of the Pontii family, and succeeded Valerius Gratus
Valerius Gratus
Valerius Gratus was the Roman Prefect of Iudaea province under Tiberius from 15 to 26 AD. He succeeded Annius Rufus and was replaced by Pontius Pilate....

 as prefect of Judaea in AD 26. Once in his post he offended the religious sensibilities of his subjects, leading to harsh criticism from Philo
Philo
Philo , known also as Philo of Alexandria , Philo Judaeus, Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, Yedidia, "Philon", and Philo the Jew, was a Hellenistic Jewish Biblical philosopher born in Alexandria....

 and Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

. According to Josephus, he was ordered back to Rome after harshly suppressing a Samaritan
Samaritan
The Samaritans are an ethnoreligious group of the Levant. Religiously, they are the adherents to Samaritanism, an Abrahamic religion closely related to Judaism...

 uprising, arriving just after the death of Tiberius (according to Flavius Josephus' Jewish Antiquities 18.89) which occurred on March 16 in the year 37. He was replaced by Marcellus
Marcellus, prefect of Judea
Marcellus was Roman Prefect of the province of Judea.He was a friend of Lucius Vitellius , who appointed him after sending Pilate to Rome to render account. It may be assumed, however, that Marcellus was not really a governor of Judea, but only a subordinate official of Vitellius...

.

In all four gospel accounts, Pilate appears in association with the responsibility for the death of Jesus. In the Gospel of Matthew
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...

, Pilate washes his hands to show that he was not responsible for the execution of Jesus and reluctantly sends him to his death. The Gospel of Mark
Gospel of Mark
The Gospel According to Mark , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Mark or simply Mark, is the second book of the New Testament. This canonical account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth is one of the three synoptic gospels. It was thought to be an epitome, which accounts for its place as the second...

, depicting Jesus as innocent of plotting against the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

, portrays Pilate as reluctant to execute Jesus. In the Gospel of Luke
Gospel of Luke
The Gospel According to Luke , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Luke or simply Luke, is the third and longest of the four canonical Gospels. This synoptic gospel is an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It details his story from the events of his birth to his Ascension.The...

, Pilate not only agrees that Jesus did not conspire against Rome, but Herod Antipas
Herod Antipas
Herod Antipater , known by the nickname Antipas, was a 1st-century AD ruler of Galilee and Perea, who bore the title of tetrarch...

, the Tetrarch
Tetrarchy
The term Tetrarchy describes any system of government where power is divided among four individuals, but usually refers to the tetrarchy instituted by Roman Emperor Diocletian in 293, marking the end of the Crisis of the Third Century and the recovery of the Roman Empire...

 of Galilee
Galilee
Galilee , is a large region in northern Israel which overlaps with much of the administrative North District of the country. Traditionally divided into Upper Galilee , Lower Galilee , and Western Galilee , extending from Dan to the north, at the base of Mount Hermon, along Mount Lebanon to the...

, also finds nothing treasonable in Jesus' actions.

Scholars have long debated how to interpret Pilate's portrayal in the sources. Some Biblical scholars have argued that the Gospel accounts are not historically accurate, with some believing Pilate was a mythical character. The discovery of the Pilate Stone
Pilate Stone
The Pilate Stone is the name given to a block of limestone with a carved inscription attributed to Pontius Pilate, a prefect of the Roman-controlled province of Judaea from 26-36...

 in 1961 confirmed his historicity.

Etymology of the cognomen


There are several possible origins for the cognomen
Cognomen
The cognomen nōmen "name") was the third name of a citizen of Ancient Rome, under Roman naming conventions. The cognomen started as a nickname, but lost that purpose when it became hereditary. Hereditary cognomina were used to augment the second name in order to identify a particular branch within...

 Pilatus. A commonly accepted one is that it means "skilled with the javelin
Javelin
A Javelin is a light spear intended for throwing. It is commonly known from the modern athletic discipline, the Javelin throw.Javelin may also refer to:-Aviation:* ATG Javelin, an American-Israeli civil jet aircraft, under development...

". The pilum
Pilum
The pilum was a javelin commonly used by the Roman army in ancient times. It was generally about two metres long overall, consisting of an iron shank about 7 mm in diameter and 60 cm long with pyramidal head...

(= javelin) was five feet of wooden shaft and two feet of tapered iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

. Pontius Pilate's family name signifies he was from the tribe Pontii, an ancient Samnite
Samnium
Samnium is a Latin exonym for a region of south or south and central Italy in Roman times. The name survives in Italian today, but today's territory comprising it is only a small portion of what it once was. The populations of Samnium were called Samnites by the Romans...

 name.

Historicity of Pilate



Little is known of Pilate. There is an old tradition linking the birthplace of Pilate with the small village of Bisenti
Bisenti
Bisenti is a town and comune in Teramo province in the Abruzzo region of eastern Italy.-Church:The old face of Bisenti is still preserved in the streets and squares of the historic center, where he rediscovers the colorful atmosphere, typical of a medieval village.On Piazza Vittorio Emanuele...

, Samnite territory
Samnium
Samnium is a Latin exonym for a region of south or south and central Italy in Roman times. The name survives in Italian today, but today's territory comprising it is only a small portion of what it once was. The populations of Samnium were called Samnites by the Romans...

, in today's Abruzzo
Abruzzo
Abruzzo is a region in Italy, its western border lying less than due east of Rome. Abruzzo borders the region of Marche to the north, Lazio to the west and south-west, Molise to the south-east, and the Adriatic Sea to the east...

 region of Central Italy. It has been asserted that Pilate may have been born in Fortingall
Fortingall
Fortingall is a small village in highland Perthshire, Scotland, in the glen of the River Lyon. Place-name Gaelic Fartairchill, 'church at the foot' . Its nearest sizable neighbours are Aberfeldy and Kenmore.According to legend it was the birthplace of Pontius Pilate...

, Perthshire
Perthshire
Perthshire, officially the County of Perth , is a registration county in central Scotland. It extends from Strathmore in the east, to the Pass of Drumochter in the north, Rannoch Moor and Ben Lui in the west, and Aberfoyle in the south...

, in Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, the illegitimate son of a Roman ambassador sent to pacify the Picts and a Pictish girl, but the Romans did not invade Britain until some years after Pilate's birth and appear to have had relatively little contact with that part of Scotland even then. There are however alleged ruins of a Roman house known as "The House of Pilate in Bisenti." Other places in Spain and Germany have also made similar claims about Pilate. Eusebius
Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea also called Eusebius Pamphili, was a Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist. He became the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine about the year 314. Together with Pamphilus, he was a scholar of the Biblical canon...

, quoting early apocryphal accounts, stated that Pilate suffered misfortune in the reign of Caligula
Caligula
Caligula , also known as Gaius, was Roman Emperor from 37 AD to 41 AD. Caligula was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Caligula's father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome's most...

 (AD 37–41), was exiled to Gaul and eventually committed suicide there in Vienne
Vienne, Isère
Vienne is a commune in south-eastern France, located south of Lyon, on the Rhône River. It is the second largest city after Grenoble in the Isère department, of which it is a subprefecture. The city's population was of 29,400 as of the 2001 census....

. The 10th century historian Agapius of Hierapolis, in his Universal History, says that Pilate committed suicide during the first year of Caligula's reign, i.e. AD 37/38.
Another legend places the place of his death to Mount Pilatus, in Switzerland. Hence the name of the light planes built in a nearby factory.
The first physical evidence relating to Pilate was discovered in 1961, when a block of limestone, the Pilate Stone
Pilate Stone
The Pilate Stone is the name given to a block of limestone with a carved inscription attributed to Pontius Pilate, a prefect of the Roman-controlled province of Judaea from 26-36...

, was found in the Roman theatre at Caesarea Maritima, the capital of the province of Judaea (Iudaea), bearing a damaged dedication by Pilate of a Tiberieum. This dedication states that he was [...]ECTVS IUDA[...] (usually read as praefectus Iudaeae), that is, prefect of Judaea. The early governors of Judaea were of prefect rank, the later were of procurator rank, beginning with Cuspius Fadus
Cuspius Fadus
Cuspius Fadus was an Ancient Roman eques and procurator of Iudaea Province in 44–46 AD.After the death of King Agrippa, in 44 AD, he was appointed procurator by Claudius. During his admi­nistration, peace was restored in the country, and the only disturbance was created by one Theudas, who came...

 in AD 44.

This inscription was discovered in Caesarea (Israel)
Caesarea (Israel)
Caesarea is a town in Israel located mid-way between Tel Aviv and Haifa , on the Israeli Mediterranean coast near the city of Hadera. The town was built by Herod the Great about 25-13 BCE as the port city of Caesarea Maritima. Modern Caesarea as of December 2007 has a population of 4,500 people...

 by a group led by Antonio Frova and has been dated to AD 26–37. Currently the inscription is housed in the Israel Museum
Israel Museum
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem was founded in 1965 as Israel's national museum. It is situated on a hill in the Givat Ram neighborhood of Jerusalem, near the Bible Lands Museum, the Knesset, the Israeli Supreme Court, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem....

, Jerusalem.

Titles and duties



Pontius Pilate's title was traditionally thought to have been procurator
Promagistrate
A promagistrate is a person who acts in and with the authority and capacity of a magistrate, but without holding a magisterial office. A legal innovation of the Roman Republic, the promagistracy was invented in order to provide Rome with governors of overseas territories instead of having to elect...

, since Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

 speaks of him as such. However, an inscription on a limestone block known as the Pilate Stone
Pilate Stone
The Pilate Stone is the name given to a block of limestone with a carved inscription attributed to Pontius Pilate, a prefect of the Roman-controlled province of Judaea from 26-36...

 — 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
Prefect
Prefect is a magisterial title of varying definition....

 of Judaea".

The title used by the governors of the region varied over the period of the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

. When Samaria
Samaria
Samaria, or the Shomron is a term used for a mountainous region roughly corresponding to the northern part of the West Bank.- Etymology :...

, Judea
Judea
Judea or Judæa was the name of the mountainous southern part of the historic Land of Israel from the 8th century BCE to the 2nd century CE, when Roman Judea was renamed Syria Palaestina following the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt.-Etymology:The...

 proper and Idumea were first amalgamated into the Roman Judaea Province (which some modern historians spell Iudaea), from AD 6 to the outbreak of the First Jewish Revolt in 66, officials of the Equestrian order
Equestrian (Roman)
The Roman equestrian order constituted the lower of the two aristocratic classes of ancient Rome, ranking below the patricians , a hereditary caste that monopolised political power during the regal era and during the early Republic . A member of the equestrian order was known as an eques...

 (the lower rank of governors) governed. They held the Roman title of prefect until Herod Agrippa I was named King of the Jews
Herodian Dynasty
The Herodian Dynasty was a Jewish dynasty of Idumean descent, client Kings of Roman Judaea Province between 37 BCE and 92 CE.- Origin :During the time of the Hasmonean ruler John Hyrcanus 134-104 BCE, Israel conquered Edom and forced the Edomites to convert to Judaism.The Edomites were integrated...

 by Claudius
Claudius
Claudius , was Roman Emperor from 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor. He was born at Lugdunum in Gaul and was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy...

. After Herod Agrippa's death in 44, when Iudaea reverted to direct Roman rule, the governor held the title procurator. When applied to governors, this term procurator, otherwise used for financial officers, connotes no difference in rank or function from the title known as prefect. Contemporary archaeological finds and documents such as the Pilate Inscription from Caesarea attest to the governor's more accurate official title only for the years 6 through 44: prefect
Prefect
Prefect is a magisterial title of varying definition....

. The logical conclusion is that texts that identify Pilate as procurator are more likely following Tacitus or are unaware of the pre-44 practice.

The procurators' and prefects' primary functions were military, but as representatives of the empire they were responsible for the collection of imperial taxes, and also had limited judicial functions. Other civil administration lay in the hands of local government: the municipal councils or ethnic governments such as — in the district of Judaea and Jerusalem — the Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
The Sanhedrin was an assembly of twenty-three judges appointed in every city in the Biblical Land of Israel.The Great Sanhedrin was the supreme court of ancient Israel made of 71 members...

 and its president the High Priest. But the power of appointment of the High Priest resided in the Roman legate of Syria
Syria (Roman province)
Syria was a Roman province, annexed in 64 BC by Pompey, as a consequence of his military presence after pursuing victory in the Third Mithridatic War. It remained under Roman, and subsequently Byzantine, rule for seven centuries, until 637 when it fell to the Islamic conquests.- Principate :The...

 or the prefect of Iudaea in Pilate's day and until 41. For example, Caiaphas
Caiaphas
Joseph, son of Caiaphas, Hebrew יוסף בַּר קַיָּפָא or Yosef Bar Kayafa, commonly known simply as Caiaphas in the New Testament, was the Roman-appointed Jewish high priest who is said to have organized the plot to kill Jesus...

 was appointed High Priest of Herod's Temple by Prefect Valerius Gratus
Valerius Gratus
Valerius Gratus was the Roman Prefect of Iudaea province under Tiberius from 15 to 26 AD. He succeeded Annius Rufus and was replaced by Pontius Pilate....

 and deposed by Syrian Legate Lucius Vitellius
Lucius Vitellius
Lucius Vitellius the Elder was the youngest of four sons of quaestor Publius Vitellius and the only one that did not die through politics. Under Emperor Tiberius, he was Consul in 34 and Governor of Syria in 35. He deposed Pontius Pilate in 36 after complaints from the people in Samaria...

. After that time and until 66, the Jewish client kings exercised this privilege. Normally, Pilate resided in Caesarea but traveled throughout the province, especially to Jerusalem, in the course of performing his duties. During the Passover
Passover
Passover is a Jewish holiday and festival. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt...

, a festival of deep national as well as religious significance for the Jews, Pilate, as governor or prefect, would have been expected to be in Jerusalem to keep order. He would not ordinarily be visible to the throngs of worshippers because of the Jewish people's deep sensitivity to their status as a Roman province.

Equestrians such as Pilate could command legionary forces but only small ones, and so in military situations, he would have to yield to his superior, the legate of Syria, who would descend into Palestine with his legions as necessary. As governor of Iudaea, Pilate would have small auxiliary forces of locally recruited soldiers stationed regularly in Caesarea and Jerusalem, such as the Antonia Fortress
Antonia Fortress
The Antonia Fortress was a military barracks built by Herod the Great in Jerusalem on the site of earlier Ptolemaic and Hasmonean strongholds, named after Herod's patron Mark Antony...

, and temporarily anywhere else that might require a military presence. The total number of soldiers at his disposal numbered in the range of 3000.

Pilate in the canonical Gospel accounts




According to the canonical
Biblical canon
A biblical canon, or canon of scripture, is a list of books considered to be authoritative as scripture by a particular religious community. The term itself was first coined by Christians, but the idea is found in Jewish sources. The internal wording of the text can also be specified, for example...

 Christian Gospels, Pilate presided at the trial of Jesus and, despite stating that he personally found him not guilty of a crime meriting death, handed him over to crucifixion. Pilate is thus a pivotal character in the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 accounts of Jesus.

According to the New Testament, Jesus was brought to Pilate by the Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
The Sanhedrin was an assembly of twenty-three judges appointed in every city in the Biblical Land of Israel.The Great Sanhedrin was the supreme court of ancient Israel made of 71 members...

, who had arrested Jesus and questioned him themselves. The Sanhedrin had, according to the Gospels, only been given answers by Jesus that they considered blasphemous pursuant to Mosaic law, which was unlikely to be deemed a capital offense by Pilate interpreting Roman law. The Gospel of Luke records that members of the Sanhedrin then took Jesus before Pilate where they accused him of sedition against Rome by opposing the payment of taxes to Caesar and calling himself a king. Fomenting tax resistance was a capital offense. Pilate was responsible for imperial tax collections in Judaea. Jesus had asked the tax collector Levi, at work in his tax booth in Capernaum, to quit his post. Jesus also appears to have influenced Zacchaeus, "a chief tax collector" in Jericho, which is in Pilate's tax jurisdiction, to resign. Pilate's main question to Jesus was whether he considered himself to be the King of the Jews, and thus a political threat. in the NIV
New International Version
The New International Version is an English translation of the Christian Bible. Published by Zondervan in the United States and by Hodder & Stoughton in the UK, it has become one of the most popular modern translations in history.-History:...

 translation states: "Are you the king of the Jews?" asked Pilate. "It is as you say," Jesus replied. However, quite a number of other translations render Jesus' reply as variations of the phrase: "Thou sayest it."(King James Version, Mark 15:2); "So you say." (Good News Bible
Good News Bible
The Good News Bible , also called the Good News Translation , is an English language translation of the Bible by the American Bible Society, first published as the New Testament under the name Good News for Modern Man in 1966...

, Mark 15:2). Whatever degree of confirmation modern interpreters would derive from this answer of Jesus, according to the New Testament, it was not enough for Pilate to view Jesus as a real political threat. In the same Gospel of Mark, 15 verse 5 of King James Version we read, that "Pilate marveled" ("was amazed" in Good News Bible
Good News Bible
The Good News Bible , also called the Good News Translation , is an English language translation of the Bible by the American Bible Society, first published as the New Testament under the name Good News for Modern Man in 1966...

).

Following the Roman custom, Pilate ordered a sign posted above Jesus on the cross stating "Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews" to give public notice of the legal charge against him for his crucifixion. The chief priests protested that the public charge on the sign should read that Jesus claimed to be King of the Jews. Pilate refused to change the posted charge, saying "What I have written, I have written." This may have been to emphasize Rome's supremacy in crucifying a Jewish king; it is likely, though, that Pilate was quite irritated by the fact that the Jewish leaders had used him as a marionette and thus compelled him to sentence Jesus to death contrary to his own will (according to Matthew 27:19, even Pilate's wife
Pontius Pilate's wife
Pontius Pilate's wife is unnamed in the New Testament, where she appears a single time in the Gospel of Matthew. Alternate Christian traditions have referred to her as Saint Procula or Saint Claudia, and the combinations Claudia Procles and Claudia Procula have been used...

 spoke to him on Jesus' behalf).

The Gospel of Luke
Gospel of Luke
The Gospel According to Luke , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Luke or simply Luke, is the third and longest of the four canonical Gospels. This synoptic gospel is an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It details his story from the events of his birth to his Ascension.The...

 also reports that such questions were asked of Jesus; in Luke's case it being the priests that repeatedly accused him, though Luke states that Jesus remained silent to such inquisition, causing Pilate to hand Jesus over to the jurisdiction (Galilee
Galilee
Galilee , is a large region in northern Israel which overlaps with much of the administrative North District of the country. Traditionally divided into Upper Galilee , Lower Galilee , and Western Galilee , extending from Dan to the north, at the base of Mount Hermon, along Mount Lebanon to the...

) of Herod Antipas
Herod Antipas
Herod Antipater , known by the nickname Antipas, was a 1st-century AD ruler of Galilee and Perea, who bore the title of tetrarch...

. Although initially excited with curiosity at meeting Jesus, of whom he had heard much, Herod (according to Luke) ended up mocking Jesus and so sent him back to Pilate. This intermediate episode with Herod is not reported by the other Gospels, which appear to present a continuous and singular trial in front of Pilate. Luke, however, made further reference to this involvement of Herod along with Pilate in Jesus' execution and linked it with the prophecy about the Messianic King found in Psalm 2
Psalm 2
Psalm 2 is the second Psalm of the Bible. It tells us that we can either defy God and perish, or submit to him and be blessed. Psalm 2 itself does not identify its author, but Acts 4:25-26 clearly attributes it to David.-In the original Hebrew:...

, as we can read in Luke's other book, Acts
ACTS
Acts or ACTS may refer to:Christianity* Acts of the Apostles , a genre of early Christian literature* Acts of the Apostles, the fifth book in the Bible's New Testament...

 4:24-28. This explains why he counted this episode important.

Unlike the synoptic gospels
Synoptic Gospels
The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are known as the Synoptic Gospels because they include many of the same stories, often in the same sequence, and sometimes exactly the same wording. This degree of parallelism in content, narrative arrangement, language, and sentence structures can only be...

, the Gospel of John
Gospel of John
The Gospel According to John , commonly referred to as the Gospel of John or simply John, and often referred to in New Testament scholarship as the Fourth Gospel, is an account of the public ministry of Jesus...

 gives more detail about that dialog taking place between Jesus and Pilate. In John, Jesus seems to confirm the fact of his kingship, although immediately explaining, that "[his] kingdom [was] not of this world"; of far greater importance for the followers of Christ is his own definition of the goal of his ministry on earth at the time. According to Jesus, as we find it written in John 18:37, Jesus thus describes his mission: " [I] came into the world ... to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to [my] voice", to which Pilate famously replied, "What is truth?" ...

Whatever it be that some modern critics want to deduce from those differences, the end result was the same for Jesus and Pilate, as it was in all the other three Gospels (Mathew, Mark, Luke). In the same chapter of John 18 verse 38 (King James Version, compare with other versions) the conclusion Pilate made from this interrogation: "I find in him no fault at all".

Pilate agrees to condemn Jesus to crucifixion, after the Jewish leaders explained to him that Jesus presented a threat to Roman occupation through his claim to the throne of King David as King of Israel in the royal line of David. The crowd in Pilate's courtyard, according to the Synoptics, had been coached by the Pharisees
Pharisees
The Pharisees were at various times a political party, a social movement, and a school of thought among Jews during the Second Temple period beginning under the Hasmonean dynasty in the wake of...

 and Sadducees
Sadducees
The Sadducees were a sect or group of Jews that were active in Ancient Israel during the Second Temple period, starting from the second century BC through the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. The sect was identified by Josephus with the upper social and economic echelon of Judean society...

 to shout against Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...

 adds that before condemning Jesus to death, Pilate washes his hands with water in front of the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood; you will see."

Responsibility for Jesus' death



In all gospel accounts, Pilate is reluctant to condemn Jesus, but is eventually forced to give in when the crowd becomes unruly and the Jewish leaders remind him that Jesus's claim to be king is a challenge to Roman rule and to the Roman deification of Caesar. Roman magistrates had wide discretion in executing their tasks, and some readers question whether Pilate would have been so captive to the demands of the crowd. Pilate was later recalled to Rome for his harsh treatment of the Jews.

With the Edict of Milan
Edict of Milan
The Edict of Milan was a letter signed by emperors Constantine I and Licinius that proclaimed religious toleration in the Roman Empire...

 in AD 313, the state-sponsored persecution of Christians
Persecution of Christians
Persecution of Christians as a consequence of professing their faith can be traced both historically and in the current era. Early Christians were persecuted for their faith, at the hands of both Jews from whose religion Christianity arose, and the Roman Empire which controlled much of the land...

 came to an end, and Christianity became officially tolerated as one of the religions of the Roman Empire. Afterwards, in 325 the First Ecumenical Council
First Council of Nicaea
The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in Nicaea in Bithynia by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325...

 at Nicaea promulgated a creed which was amended at the subsequent First Council of Constantinople
First Council of Constantinople
The First Council of Constantinople is recognized as the Second Ecumenical Council by the Assyrian Church of the East, the Oriental Orthodox, the Eastern Orthodox, the Roman Catholics, the Old Catholics, and a number of other Western Christian groups. It was the first Ecumenical Council held in...

 in 381. The Nicene Creed
Nicene Creed
The Nicene Creed is the creed or profession of faith that is most widely used in Christian liturgy. It is called Nicene because, in its original form, it was adopted in the city of Nicaea by the first ecumenical council, which met there in the year 325.The Nicene Creed has been normative to the...

 incorporated for the first time the clause was crucified under Pontius Pilate (which had already been long established in the Old Roman Symbol
Old Roman Symbol
The Old Roman Symbol, or Old Roman Creed, is an earlier and shorter version of the Apostles' Creed. It was based on the 2nd-century Rules of Faith and the interrogatory declaration of faith for those receiving Baptism , which by the 4th century was everywhere tripartite in structure, following The...

, an ancient form of the Apostles' Creed
Apostles' Creed
The Apostles' Creed , sometimes titled Symbol of the Apostles, is an early statement of Christian belief, a creed or "symbol"...

 dating as far back as the 2nd century AD) in a creed that was intended to be authoritative for all Christians in the Roman Empire.

Pilate's reluctance to execute Jesus in the gospels has been seen as reflecting the authors' agenda. It has thus been argued that gospel accounts place the blame on the Jews, not on Rome, in line with the authors' alleged goal of making peace with the Roman Empire and vilifying the Jews.

Pilate in Jewish literature


In chronicling the history of the Roman administrators in Judaea, ancient Jewish writers Philo
Philo
Philo , known also as Philo of Alexandria , Philo Judaeus, Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, Yedidia, "Philon", and Philo the Jew, was a Hellenistic Jewish Biblical philosopher born in Alexandria....

 and Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

 describe some of the other events and incidents that took place during Pilate's tenure. Both report that Pilate repeatedly caused near-insurrections among the Jews because of his insensitivity to Jewish customs.

Josephus notes that while Pilate's predecessors had respected Jewish customs by removing all images and effigies on their standards when entering Jerusalem, Pilate allowed his soldiers to bring them into the city at night. When the citizens of Jerusalem discovered these the following day, they appealed to Pilate to remove the ensigns of Caesar from the city. After five days of deliberation, Pilate had his soldiers surround the demonstrators, threatening them with death, which they were willing to accept rather than submit to desecration of Mosaic law. Pilate finally removed the images. The incident proved to be an early example of effective resistance to tyranny by aggressive, nonviolent means.

Philo describes a later, similar incident in which Pilate was chastened by Emperor Tiberius
Tiberius
Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...

 after antagonizing the Jews by setting up gold-coated shields in Herod
Agrippa I
Agrippa I also known as Herod Agrippa or simply Herod , King of the Jews, was the grandson of Herod the Great, and son of Aristobulus IV and Berenice. His original name was Marcus Julius Agrippa, so named in honour of Roman statesman Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, and he is the king named Herod in the...

's palace in Jerusalem. The shields were ostensibly to honor Tiberius, and this time did not contain engraved images. Philo writes that the shields were set up "not so much to honour Tiberius as to annoy the multitude." The Jews protested the installation of the shields at first to Pilate, and then, when he declined to remove them, by writing to Tiberius. Philo reports that upon reading the letters, Tiberius "wrote to Pilate with a host of reproaches and rebukes for his audacious violation of precedent and bade him at once take down the shields and have them transferred from the capital to Caesarea."

Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

 recounts another incident in which Pilate spent money from the Temple
Second Temple
The Jewish Second Temple was an important shrine which stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem between 516 BCE and 70 CE. It replaced the First Temple which was destroyed in 586 BCE, when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon...

 to build an aqueduct. When Jews again protested his actions, Pilate had soldiers hidden in the crowd of Jews while addressing them. After giving the signal, Pilate's soldiers randomly attacked, beat, and killed scores of Jews to silence their petitions.

In describing his personality, Philo writes that Pilate had "vindictiveness and furious temper," and was "naturally inflexible, a blend of self-will and relentlessness." He writes that Pilate feared a delegation that the Jews might send to Tiberius protesting the gold-coated shields, because "if they actually sent an embassy they would also expose the rest of his conduct as governor by stating in full the briberies, the insults, the robberies, the outrages and wanton injuries, the executions without trial constantly repeated, the ceaseless and supremely grievous cruelty."

Pilate's term as prefect of Judaea ended after an incident recounted by Josephus. A large group of Samaritan
Samaritan
The Samaritans are an ethnoreligious group of the Levant. Religiously, they are the adherents to Samaritanism, an Abrahamic religion closely related to Judaism...

s had been persuaded by an unnamed man to go to Mount Gerizim
Mount Gerizim
Mount Gerizim is one of the two mountains in the immediate vicinity of the West Bank city of Nablus , and forms the southern side of the valley in which Nablus is situated,...

 in order to see sacred artifacts allegedly buried by Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

. But at a village named Tirathana, before the crowd could ascend the mountain, Pilate sent in "a detachment of cavalry and heavy-armed infantry, who in an encounter with the firstcomers in the village slew some in a pitched battle and put the others to flight. Many prisoners were taken, of whom Pilate put to death the principal leaders and those who were most influential." The Samaritans then complained to Vitellius, Roman governor of Syria, who sent Pilate to Rome to explain his actions regarding this incident to Tiberius. However, by the time Pilate got to Rome, Tiberius had died.

Pilate in the apocrypha


Little enough is known about Pilate, but tradition has tried to fill the gap. A body of legend grew up around the dramatic figure of Pontius Pilate, about whom the Christian faithful hungered to learn more than the canonical Gospels revealed. Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiae
Church History (Eusebius)
The Church History of Eusebius, the bishop of Caesarea was a 4th-century pioneer work giving a chronological account of the development of Early Christianity from the 1st century to the 4th century. It was written in Koine Greek, and survives also in Latin, Syriac and Armenian manuscripts...

ii: 7) quotes some early apocryphal accounts that he does not name, which already relate that Pilate fell under misfortunes in the reign of Caligula
Caligula
Caligula , also known as Gaius, was Roman Emperor from 37 AD to 41 AD. Caligula was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Caligula's father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome's most...

 (37–41), was exiled to Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

 and eventually committed suicide there in Vienne
Vienne, Isère
Vienne is a commune in south-eastern France, located south of Lyon, on the Rhône River. It is the second largest city after Grenoble in the Isère department, of which it is a subprefecture. The city's population was of 29,400 as of the 2001 census....

.

Other details come from less creditable sources. His body, says the Mors Pilati ("Death of Pilate"), was thrown first into the Tiber
Tiber
The Tiber is the third-longest river in Italy, rising in the Apennine Mountains in Emilia-Romagna and flowing through Umbria and Lazio to the Tyrrhenian Sea. It drains a basin estimated at...

, but the waters were so disturbed by evil spirits that the body was taken to Vienne and sunk in the Rhône
Rhône River
The Rhone is one of the major rivers of Europe, rising in Switzerland and running from there through southeastern France. At Arles, near its mouth on the Mediterranean Sea, the river divides into two branches, known as the Great Rhone and the Little Rhone...

: a monument at Vienne, called Pilate's tomb, is still to be seen. As the waters of the Rhone likewise rejected Pilate's corpse, it was again removed and sunk in the lake at Lausanne
Lausanne
Lausanne is a city in Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and is the capital of the canton of Vaud. The seat of the district of Lausanne, the city is situated on the shores of Lake Geneva . It faces the French town of Évian-les-Bains, with the Jura mountains to its north-west...

. The sequence was a simple way to harmonise conflicting local traditions.

The corpse's final disposition was in a deep and lonely mountain tarn
Tarn (lake)
A tarn is a mountain lake or pool, formed in a cirque excavated by a glacier. A moraine may form a natural dam below a tarn. A corrie may be called a cirque.The word is derived from the Old Norse word tjörn meaning pond...

, which, according to later tradition, was on a mountain, still called Pilatus (actually pileatus or "cloud capped"), overlooking Lucerne
Lucerne
Lucerne is a city in north-central Switzerland, in the German-speaking portion of that country. Lucerne is the capital of the Canton of Lucerne and the capital of the district of the same name. With a population of about 76,200 people, Lucerne is the most populous city in Central Switzerland, and...

. Every Good Friday
Good Friday
Good Friday , is a religious holiday observed primarily by Christians commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. The holiday is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of...

, the body is said to reemerge from the waters and wash its hands.

There are many other legends about Pilate in the folklore of Germany, particularly about his birth, according to which Pilate was born in the Franconian city of Forchheim
Forchheim (Oberfranken)
Forchheim is a large town in Upper Franconia in northern Bavaria, and also the seat of the administrative district of Forchheim. Forchheim is a former royal city, and is sometimes called the “Gateway to the Franconian Switzerland”, as the region is known. Its population, as of October 2008, was...

 or the small village of Hausen
Hausen
-Places in Switzerland:*Hausen am Albis, in the Canton of Zurich*Hausen bei Brugg, in the Canton of Aargau-Bavaria:*Hausen, Miltenberg, in the Miltenberg district*Hausen, Lower Bavaria, in the Kelheim district*Hausen, Upper Franconia, in the Forchheim district...

 only 5 km away from it. His death was (unusually) dramatised in a medieval mystery
Mystery play
Mystery plays and miracle plays are among the earliest formally developed plays in medieval Europe. Medieval mystery plays focused on the representation of Bible stories in churches as tableaux with accompanying antiphonal song...

 play cycle from Cornwall, the Cornish Ordinalia
Ordinalia
The Ordinalia are three medieval mystery plays written in Cornish from the late fourteenth century. The three plays are Origo Mundi, , Passio Christi and Resurrexio Domini...

.

Pilate's role in the events leading to the crucifixion lent themselves to melodrama, even tragedy, and Pilate often has a role in medieval mystery play
Mystery play
Mystery plays and miracle plays are among the earliest formally developed plays in medieval Europe. Medieval mystery plays focused on the representation of Bible stories in churches as tableaux with accompanying antiphonal song...

s.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

, Claudia Procula is commemorated as a saint, but not Pilate, because in the Gospel accounts Claudia urged Pilate not to have anything to do with Jesus. In some Eastern Orthodox traditions, Pilate committed suicide out of remorse for having sentenced Jesus to death.

In Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

, near Lucerne
Lucerne
Lucerne is a city in north-central Switzerland, in the German-speaking portion of that country. Lucerne is the capital of the Canton of Lucerne and the capital of the district of the same name. With a population of about 76,200 people, Lucerne is the most populous city in Central Switzerland, and...

, is Mount Pilatus. An old tradition is that Pilate went here and was banished to the mountain as a punishment for his crime against Christ.

Gospel of Peter



The fragmentary apocryphal Gospel of Peter
Gospel of Peter
The Gospel According to Peter , commonly called the Gospel of Peter, is one of the non-Canonical gospels which were rejected by the Church Fathers and the Catholic Church's synods of Carthage and Rome, which established the New Testament canon, as apocryphal...

 exonerates Pilate of responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus, placing it instead on Herod
Herod Antipas
Herod Antipater , known by the nickname Antipas, was a 1st-century AD ruler of Galilee and Perea, who bore the title of tetrarch...

 and the Jews, who unlike Pilate refuse to "wash their hands". After the soldiers see three men and a cross miraculously walking out of the tomb they report to Pilate who reiterates his innocence: "I am pure from the blood of the Son of God". He then commands the soldiers not to tell anyone what they have seen so that they would not "fall into the hands of the people of the Jews and be stoned".

Acts of Pilate



The 4th century apocryphal text that is called the Acts of Pilate
Acts of Pilate
The Acts of Pilate , also called the Gospel of Pilate, is a book of New Testament apocrypha. The dates of its accreted sections are uncertain, but scholars agree in assigning the resulting work to the middle of the fourth century...

presents itself in a preface (missing in some MSS) as derived from the official acts preserved in the praetorium
Praetorium
- Etemology :The praetorium, also spelled prœtorium or pretorium, was originally used to identify the general’s tent within a Roman Castra, Castellum, or encampment. The word originates from the name of the chief Roman magistrate, known as Praetor...

at Jerusalem. Though the alleged Hebrew original of the document is attributed to Nicodemus
Nicodemus
Saint Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, who, according to the Gospel of John, showed favour to Jesus...

, the title Gospel of Nicodemus for this fictional account only appeared in mediaeval times, after the document had been substantially elaborated. Nothing in the text suggests that it is in fact a translation from Hebrew or Aramaic.

This text gained wide credit in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, and has considerably affected the legends surrounding the events of the crucifixion, which, taken together, are called the Passion
Passion (Christianity)
The Passion is the Christian theological term used for the events and suffering – physical, spiritual, and mental – of Jesus in the hours before and including his trial and execution by crucifixion...

. Its popularity is attested by the number of languages in which it exists, each of these being represented by two or more variant "editions": Greek (the original), Coptic, Armenian and Latin versions. The Latin versions were printed several times in the 15th and 16th centuries.

One class of the Latin manuscripts contain as an appendix or continuation, the Cura Sanitatis Tiberii, the oldest form of the Veronica
Saint Veronica
Saint Veronica or Berenice, according to the "Acta Sanctorum" published by the Bollandists , was a pious woman of Jerusalem who, moved with pity as Jesus carried his cross to Golgotha, gave him her veil that he might wipe his forehead...

 legend.

The Acts of Pilate consist of three sections, whose styles reveal three authors, writing at three different times.
  • The first section (1–11) contains a fanciful and dramatic circumstantial account of the trial of Jesus, based upon .
  • The second part (12–16) regards the Resurrection
    Resurrection
    Resurrection refers to the literal coming back to life of the biologically dead. It is used both with respect to particular individuals or the belief in a General Resurrection of the dead at the end of the world. The General Resurrection is featured prominently in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim...

    .
  • An appendix, detailing the Descensus ad Infernos was added to the Greek text. This legend of a Harrowing of Hell
    Harrowing of Hell
    The Harrowing of Hell is a doctrine in Christian theology referenced in the Apostles' Creed and the Athanasian Creed that states that Jesus Christ "descended into Hell"...

    has chiefly flourished in Latin, and was translated into many European versions. It doesn't exist in the eastern versions, Syriac and Armenian, that derive directly from Greek versions. In it, Leucius and Charinus, the two souls raised from the dead after the Crucifixion, relate to the Sanhedrin
    Sanhedrin
    The Sanhedrin was an assembly of twenty-three judges appointed in every city in the Biblical Land of Israel.The Great Sanhedrin was the supreme court of ancient Israel made of 71 members...

     the circumstances of Christ's descent to Limbo
    Limbo
    In the theology of the Catholic Church, Limbo is a speculative idea about the afterlife condition of those who die in original sin without being assigned to the Hell of the damned. Limbo is not an official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church or any other...

    . (Leucius Charinus
    Leucius Charinus
    Leucius, called Leucius Charinus by the Patriarch Photios I of Constantinople in the ninth century, is the name applied to a cycle of what M. R. James termed "Apostolic romances" that seem to have had wide currency long before a selection were read aloud at the Second Council of Nicaea and rejected...

     is the traditional name to which many late apocryphal Acta of Apostles is attached.)


Eusebius (325), although he mentions an Acta Pilati that had been referred to by Justin
Justin
Justin is a given name. It may refer to:People* Justin , a common given name* Justin , 3rd century Roman historian* Justin I , or Flavius Iustinius Augustus, an Eastern Roman Emperor who ruled from 518 to 527...

 and Tertullian
Tertullian
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian , was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and...

 and other pseudo-Acts of this kind, shows no acquaintance with this work. Almost surely it is of later origin, and scholars agree in assigning it to the middle of the 4th century. Epiphanius
Epiphanius of Salamis
Epiphanius of Salamis was bishop of Salamis at the end of the 4th century. He is considered a saint and a Church Father by both the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches. He gained a reputation as a strong defender of orthodoxy...

 refers to an Acta Pilati similar to this, as early as 376, but there are indications that the current Greek text, the earliest extant form, is a revision of an earlier one.

Justin the Martyr - The First and Second Apology of Justin
Chapter 35-"And that these things did happen, you can ascertain from the Acts of Pontius Pilate."

The Apology letters were written and addressed by name to the Roman Emperor Pius and the Roman Governor Urbicus. All three of these men lived between 138-161.

Minor Pilate literature



There is a pseudepigrapha letter reporting on the crucifixion, purporting to have been sent by Pontius Pilate to the Emperor Claudius, embodied in the pseudepigrapha known as the Acts of Peter and Paul
Acts of Peter and Paul
The Acts of Peter and Paul is a late text from the New Testament apocrypha, thought to date from after the 4th century. An alternate version exists, known as the Passion of Peter and Paul, with variances in the introductory part of the text.-Synopsis:...

, of which the Catholic Encyclopedia
Catholic Encyclopedia
The Catholic Encyclopedia, also referred to as the Old Catholic Encyclopedia and the Original Catholic Encyclopedia, is an English-language encyclopedia published in the United States. The first volume appeared in March 1907 and the last three volumes appeared in 1912, followed by a master index...

states, "This composition is clearly apocryphal though unexpectedly brief and restrained." There is no internal relation between this feigned letter and the 4th-century Acts of Pilate
Acts of Pilate
The Acts of Pilate , also called the Gospel of Pilate, is a book of New Testament apocrypha. The dates of its accreted sections are uncertain, but scholars agree in assigning the resulting work to the middle of the fourth century...

(Acta Pilati).

This Epistle or Report of Pilate is also inserted into the Pseudo-Marcellus Passio sanctorum Petri et Pauli
Passio sanctorum Petri et Pauli
The pseudepigraphical Passio sanctorum Petri et Pauli is a late version of the martyrdoms of the two apostles, which claims to have been written by a certain Marcellus, thus the anonymous author, of whom nothing further is known, is referred to as the "pseudo-Marcellus"...

("Passion of Saints Peter and Paul"). We thus have it in both Greek and Latin versions.

The Mors Pilati ("Death of Pilate") legend is a Latin tradition, thus treating Pilate as a monster, not a saint; it is attached usually to the more sympathetic Gospel of Nicodemus of Greek origin. The narrative of the Mors Pilati set of manuscripts is set in motion by an illness of Tiberius, who sends Volusanius to Judaea to fetch the Christ for a cure. In Judaea Pilate covers for the fact that Christ has been crucified, and asks for a delay. But Volusanius encounters Veronica
Saint Veronica
Saint Veronica or Berenice, according to the "Acta Sanctorum" published by the Bollandists , was a pious woman of Jerusalem who, moved with pity as Jesus carried his cross to Golgotha, gave him her veil that he might wipe his forehead...

 who informs him of the truth but sends him back to Rome with her Veronica of Christ's face on her kerchief, which heals Tiberius. Tiberius then calls for Pontius Pilate, but when Pilate appears, he is wearing the seamless robe of the Christ and Tiberius' heart is softened, but only until Pilate is induced to doff the garment, whereupon he is treated to a ghastly execution. His body, when thrown into the Tiber, however, raises such storm demons that it is sent to Vienne (via gehennae
Gehenna
Gehenna , Gehinnom and Yiddish Gehinnam, are terms derived from a place outside ancient Jerusalem known in the Hebrew Bible as the Valley of the Son of Hinnom ; one of the two principal valleys surrounding the Old City.In the Hebrew Bible, the site was initially where apostate Israelites and...

) in France and thrown to the Rhone. That river's spirits reject it too, and the body is driven east into "Losania", where it is plunged in the bay of the lake near Lucerne
Lucerne
Lucerne is a city in north-central Switzerland, in the German-speaking portion of that country. Lucerne is the capital of the Canton of Lucerne and the capital of the district of the same name. With a population of about 76,200 people, Lucerne is the most populous city in Central Switzerland, and...

, near Mont Pilatus — originally Mons Pileatus or "cloud-capped", as John Ruskin
John Ruskin
John Ruskin was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, also an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist. He wrote on subjects ranging from geology to architecture, myth to ornithology, literature to education, and botany to political...

 pointed out in Modern Painters — whence the uncorrupting corpse rises every Good Friday to sit on the bank and wash unavailing hands.

This version combined with anecdotes of Pilate's wicked early life were incorporated in Jacobus de Voragine
Jacobus de Voragine
Blessed Jacobus de Varagine or Voragine was an Italian chronicler and archbishop of Genoa. He was the author, or more accurately the compiler, of Legenda Aurea, the Golden Legend, a collection of the legendary lives of the greater saints of the medieval church that was one of the most popular...

's Golden Legend
Golden Legend
The Golden Legend is a collection of hagiographies by Jacobus de Voragine that became a late medieval bestseller. More than a thousand manuscripts of the text have survived, compared to twenty or so of its nearest rivals...

, which ensured a wide circulation for it in the later Middle Ages. Other legendary versions of Pilate's death exist: Antoine de la Sale
Antoine de la Sale
Antoine de la Sale or la Salle was a French writer.-Family and Early Years:He was born in Provence, probably at Arles, the illegitimate son of Bernardon de la Salle, a celebrated Gascon mercenary, mentioned in Froissart's Chronicles. His mother was a peasant, Perrinette Damendel.-At the Court of...

 reported from a travel in central Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 on some local traditions asserting that after death the body of Pontius Pilate was driven until a little lake near Vettore Peak (2478 m in Sibillini Mounts
Sibillini Mounts
thumb|300px|A summer view of the Monti Sibillini.The Sibillini Mountains are a mountain group in Italy, part of the central Apennines. Situated between eastern Umbria and the Marche, they are mostly composed of limestone rocks, formed in the Mesozoic and Cenozoic on the bottom of an extinct sea...

 ) and plunged in. The lake, today, is still named Lago di Pilato.

In the Cornish cycle of mystery play
Mystery play
Mystery plays and miracle plays are among the earliest formally developed plays in medieval Europe. Medieval mystery plays focused on the representation of Bible stories in churches as tableaux with accompanying antiphonal song...

s, the "death of Pilate" forms a dramatic scene in the Resurrexio Domini cycle. More of Pilate's fictional correspondence is found in the minor Pilate apocrypha, the Anaphora Pilati (Relation of Pilate), an Epistle of Herod to Pilate, and an Epistle of Pilate to Herod, spurious texts that are no older than the 5th century.

Veneration


The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is the predominant Oriental Orthodox Christian church in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Church was administratively part of the Coptic Orthodox Church until 1959, when it was granted its own Patriarch by Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of All...

 recognized Pilate as a saint in the 6th century, based on the account in the Acts of Pilate
Acts of Pilate
The Acts of Pilate , also called the Gospel of Pilate, is a book of New Testament apocrypha. The dates of its accreted sections are uncertain, but scholars agree in assigning the resulting work to the middle of the fourth century...

, as it does his wife, Claudia Procula, whose strange dream of Christ induced her to try to stop his crucifixion
Crucifixion of Jesus
The crucifixion of Jesus and his ensuing death is an event that occurred during the 1st century AD. Jesus, who Christians believe is the Son of God as well as the Messiah, was arrested, tried, and sentenced by Pontius Pilate to be scourged, and finally executed on a cross...

.

Portrayals


Plays and films dealing with life of Jesus Christ often include the character of Pontius Pilate due to the central role he played in the final days of Christ's life. Writers have found various reasons to make Pilate a main character and to fill in any unknown details of his life. Pilate has been portrayed in a number of different ways by various writers:
  1. A weak and harried bureaucrat
    Bureaucracy
    A bureaucracy is an organization of non-elected officials of a governmental or organization who implement the rules, laws, and functions of their institution, and are occasionally characterized by officialism and red tape.-Weberian bureaucracy:...

  2. A hard governor who rules with an iron fist
  3. A man who clearly sees how the story of Jesus will affect human history
  4. A man who regrets his role in Jesus' death (to greater or lesser extents, depending on the work)
  5. A man who is oblivious to the significance of the Galilean
    Galilee
    Galilee , is a large region in northern Israel which overlaps with much of the administrative North District of the country. Traditionally divided into Upper Galilee , Lower Galilee , and Western Galilee , extending from Dan to the north, at the base of Mount Hermon, along Mount Lebanon to the...

     he condemns to death
  6. A tired governor who doesn't care and wants Jesus out of his hands
    • Pilate appears in the Mystery Plays and Passion Plays, the most notable being in the Cornish cycle in which he is summoned to Rome by Tiberius
      Tiberius
      Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...

       and sentenced to death
      Death Sentence
      Death Sentence is a short story by the American science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov. It was first published in the November 1943 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and reprinted in the 1972 collection The Early Asimov.-Plot summary:...

       for killing Jesus because this crime cannot be contained by earth, sea or water and so immediately proceeds (body and soul, rather than just soul) to hell
      Hell
      In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

      .
    • In the Vestibule of Hell in Dante
      DANTE
      Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe is a not-for-profit organisation that plans, builds and operates the international networks that interconnect the various national research and education networks in Europe and surrounding regions...

      's Divine Comedy
      The Divine Comedy
      The Divine Comedy is an epic poem written by Dante Alighieri between 1308 and his death in 1321. It is widely considered the preeminent work of Italian literature, and is seen as one of the greatest works of world literature...

      , a figure is seen "who made the great refusal". This is interpreted to be either Pontius Pilate or Pope Celestine V
      Pope Celestine V
      Pope Saint Celestine V, born Pietro Angelerio , also known as Pietro da Morrone was elected pope in the year 1294, by the papal election of 1292–1294, the last non-conclave in the history of the Roman Catholic Church...

      .

  • Pontius Pilate is portrayed in Mikhail Bulgakov
    Mikhail Bulgakov
    Mikhaíl Afanásyevich Bulgákov was a Soviet Russian writer and playwright active in the first half of the 20th century. He is best known for his novel The Master and Margarita, which The Times of London has called one of the masterpieces of the 20th century.-Biography:Mikhail Bulgakov was born on...

    's The Master and Margarita
    The Master and Margarita
    The Master and Margarita is a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov, woven around the premise of a visit by the Devil to the fervently atheistic Soviet Union. Many critics consider the book to be one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, and one of the foremost Soviet satires, directed against a...

    as being ruthless, complex, and yet human; the novel describes his meeting with Jesus the Nazarene, his recognition of an affinity with and spiritual need for him, and his reluctant but resigned and passive handing over of him to those who wanted to kill him. Here Pilate exemplifies the statement "Cowardice is the worst of vices", and thus serves as a model, in an allegorical interpretation of the work, of all the people who have "washed their hands" by silently or actively taking part in the crimes committed by Joseph Stalin
    Joseph Stalin
    Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

    .
    • This novel inspired the song "Sympathy for the Devil
      Sympathy for the Devil
      "Sympathy for the Devil" is a song by The Rolling Stones which first appeared as the opening track on the band's 1968 album Beggars Banquet. It was written by Mick Jagger credited to Jagger/Richards...

      " by The Rolling Stones
      The Rolling Stones
      The Rolling Stones are an English rock band, formed in London in April 1962 by Brian Jones , Ian Stewart , Mick Jagger , and Keith Richards . Bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts completed the early line-up...

      . The title of this song, and its lyrics, seem to be derived from Bulgakov's portrayal of the Devil. Pilate is referenced in the verse: "And I was around when Jesus Christ / had his moment of doubt and pain / made damn sure that Pilate / washed his hands, and sealed his fate".
    • The Master and Margarita and Pilate are also referred to in the Pearl Jam
      Pearl Jam
      Pearl Jam is an American rock band that formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1990. Since its inception, the band's line-up has included Eddie Vedder , Jeff Ament , Stone Gossard , and Mike McCready...

       song "Pilate", on the album Yield
      Yield (album)
      Yield is the fifth studio album by the American alternative rock band Pearl Jam, released on February 3, 1998. Following a short tour for its previous album, No Code , Pearl Jam went into the studio in 1997 to record its follow-up...

      .
  • Pilate appears in three stories in Karel Čapek
    Karel Capek
    Karel Čapek was Czech writer of the 20th century.-Biography:Born in 1890 in the Bohemian mountain village of Malé Svatoňovice to an overbearing, emotional mother and a distant yet adored father, Čapek was the youngest of three siblings...

    's collection Apocryphal Tales. In "Pilate's Evening", the weary governor wonders why Jesus' friends and relatives did not come to try and save him, and wishes that they had. "Pilate's Creed" features a dialogue between Pilate and Joseph of Arimathea
    Joseph of Arimathea
    Joseph of Arimathea was, according to the Gospels, the man who donated his own prepared tomb for the burial of Jesus after Jesus' Crucifixion. He is mentioned in all four Gospels.-Gospel references:...

    . Their argument reflects the conflict between sceptical humanism
    Humanism
    Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

     (Pilate's famous "What is truth?") and religious
    Religion
    Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

     certainty (Joseph's reply, "The truth in which I believe"). "The Crucifixion" features a world-weary Pilate disgusted with the political machinations that led to Jesus' condemnation.
  • Simon Perry's historical thriller All Who Came Before (2011), is structured around a plot to assassinate the Prefect of Judea, Pilatus. The plot follows the resistance figure, Barabbas
    Barabbas
    Barabbas or Jesus Barabbas is a figure in the Christian narrative of the Passion of Jesus, in which he is the insurrectionary whom Pontius Pilate freed at the Passover feast in Jerusalem.The penalty for Barabbas' crime was death by crucifixion, but according to the four canonical gospels and the...

    , who is driven to commit acts of terror when witnessing the fruit of Pilatus' actions. Although Pilate himself appears only briefly at the climax, his fingerprints are woven through the novel.
  • In Roger Caillois
    Roger Caillois
    Roger Caillois was a French intellectual whose idiosyncratic work brought together literary criticism, sociology, and philosophy by focusing on subjects as diverse as games, play and the sacred...

    ' short novel Pontius Pilate (1961), Pilate is portrayed as a vacillating colonial administrator who, during the day after Jesus' arrest, receives advice from his wife, from Judas Iscariot
    Judas Iscariot
    Judas Iscariot was, according to the New Testament, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. He is best known for his betrayal of Jesus to the hands of the chief priests for 30 pieces of silver.-Etymology:...

     and from a Chaldaean
    Chaldea
    Chaldea or Chaldaea , from Greek , Chaldaia; Akkadian ; Hebrew כשדים, Kaśdim; Aramaic: ܟܐܠܕܘ, Kaldo) was a marshy land located in modern-day southern Iraq which came to briefly rule Babylon...

     friend who has amassed an immense knowledge of the world's various religions. In the end, he is shown as "a man who despite every hindrance succeeded in being brave".
  • In The Flame and the Wind, a novel by John Blackburn
    John Blackburn (author)
    John Fenwick Blackburn was a British novelist who wrote thrillers, horror novels, and The Flame and the Wind , an unusual historical novel set in Roman times, in which a nephew of Pontius Pilate tries to discover the facts about the crucifixion of Jesus.His horror novels are often structured as...

    , the aged Pilate is wracked by guilt over Jesus' death and directs his heir to find out if Jesus was really the Son of God
    Son of God
    "Son of God" is a phrase which according to most Christian denominations, Trinitarian in belief, refers to the relationship between Jesus and God, specifically as "God the Son"...

    .
  • In the Anatole France
    Anatole France
    Anatole France , born François-Anatole Thibault, , was a French poet, journalist, and novelist. He was born in Paris, and died in Saint-Cyr-sur-Loire. He was a successful novelist, with several best-sellers. Ironic and skeptical, he was considered in his day the ideal French man of letters...

     short story The Procurator of Judaea, Pilate has retired to Sicily
    Sicily
    Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

     to become a gentleman
    Gentleman
    The term gentleman , in its original and strict signification, denoted a well-educated man of good family and distinction, analogous to the Latin generosus...

     farmer
    Farmer
    A farmer is a person engaged in agriculture, who raises living organisms for food or raw materials, generally including livestock husbandry and growing crops, such as produce and grain...

    . This story is an example of the "oblivious" interpretation of Pilate. He has forgotten everything about Jesus and the part that he (Pilate) played in his trial.
  • The Dutch
    Netherlands
    The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

     writer Simon Vestdijk
    Simon Vestdijk
    Simon Vestdijk was a Dutch writer.Born in the small town of Harlingen, Vestdijk studied medicine in Amsterdam, but turned to literature after a few years as a doctor. He became one of the most important 20th-century writers in the Netherlands. His prolificness as a novelist was legendary, but he...

    's 1938 novel De nadagen van Pilatus (The Last Days of Pilate) presents an account of Pilate's life after the crucifixion.
  • Ann Wroe's Pontius Pilate: The Biography of an Invented Man is an attempt to provide the obscure official with a biography suitable to the man who is so influential to the Christian story. **The Royal Shakespeare Company
    Royal Shakespeare Company
    The Royal Shakespeare Company is a major British theatre company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. The company employs 700 staff and produces around 20 productions a year from its home in Stratford-upon-Avon and plays regularly in London, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and on tour across...

     debuted a performance piece called The Pilate Workshop in the summer of 2004, which attempted to cast Wroe's research in the form of a mystery play.
  • Pilate is mentioned in the theme song for Marvel Comics
    Marvel Comics
    Marvel Worldwide, Inc., commonly referred to as Marvel Comics and formerly Marvel Publishing, Inc. and Marvel Comics Group, is an American company that publishes comic books and related media...

    ' Nextwave
    Nextwave
    Nextwave is a comic book series by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen, published by Marvel Comics between 2006 and 2007.-Concept:The series was written exclusively in two-issue story arcs, a choice deliberately bucking the trend in modern American comics toward decompression...

     series in a list of enemies, along with a monster, a pirate, an electric emu
    Emu
    The Emu Dromaius novaehollandiae) is the largest bird native to Australia and the only extant member of the genus Dromaius. It is the second-largest extant bird in the world by height, after its ratite relative, the ostrich. There are three subspecies of Emus in Australia...

    , a giant sky-rat, and a midget
    Midget
    A midget is a short person with relatively average bodily proportions in comparison with other human beings. The term is often improperly used to describe a person with the medical condition dwarfism. The two terms are often used synonymously because both terms originate as words defining small...

     Hitler.
  • Retired California
    California
    California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

     politician James R. Mills wrote a novel titled Gospel According to Pontius Pilate in 1978. Pilate is described as an ordinary, cynical politician whose primary concern is to keep the local population content and maintain social order, rather than particular sense of rightness.
  • In the rock opera
    Rock opera
    A rock opera is a work of rock music that presents a storyline told over multiple parts, songs or sections in the manner of opera. A rock opera differs from a conventional rock album, which usually includes songs that are not unified by a common theme or narrative. More recent developments include...

     Jesus Christ Superstar
    Jesus Christ Superstar
    Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber, with lyrics by Tim Rice. The musical started off as a rock opera concept recording before its first staging on Broadway in 1971...

    , Pilate has three songs. In "Pilate's Dream", he foresees that history will mention his name and leave him the blame of Jesus' death. In the song "Pilate and Christ", an arrogant and mocking Pilate perhaps realizing manipulation by the Sanhedrin, tries to prevent Jesus' death by sending Jesus to Herod. "You're Herod's race! You're Herod's case!". In the song "Trial Before Pilate", a sympathetic Pilate pleads with Jesus to speak to him, saying that he believes the accused has "done no wrong" but "ought to be locked up" for insanity. Receiving no answer from the silent Jesus, Pilate eventually grows exasperated and tells him, "Die if you want to, you misguided martyr
    Martyr
    A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

    ." Barry Dennen
    Barry Dennen
    Barry Dennen is an American actor, singer, and writer.Dennen was born in Chicago, Illinois. In New York City from 1960 to 1963, he had a relationship with Barbra Streisand, including living together for a year, during which time he helped her develop the nightclub act that began her successful...

     played Pilate on the "Brown Album", on Broadway and in the 1973 film version of the musical, directed by Norman Jewison
    Norman Jewison
    Norman Frederick Jewison, CC, O.Ont is a Canadian film director, producer, actor and founder of the Canadian Film Centre. Highlights of his directing career include In the Heat of the Night , The Thomas Crown Affair , Fiddler on the Roof , Jesus Christ Superstar , Moonstruck , The Hurricane and The...

    , with Fred Johanson taking the role in the 2000 re-make, directed by Gale Edwards
    Gale Edwards
    Gale Edwards is an Australian theatre director, who has worked extensively throughout Australia and internationally. She has also directed for television and film. She began her career at Adelaide youth theatre company Energy Connection...

    .
  • The Collection of Short Stories The Night Chicago Died by Tom Wessex contains a story entitled "An Afternoon on Skull Hill", in which the author supposes that Gestas
    Gestas
    The impenitent thief was one of the two thieves who was crucified alongside Jesus. According to the Gospels, he taunted Jesus about not saving himself, while the penitent thief asked for mercy. The impenitent thief is given the apocryphal name Gestas, which first appears in the Gospel of Nicodemus,...

    , one of the thieves crucified with Christ, was in fact Pilate's illegitimate son.
  • Pontius Pilate is mentioned in the drama The Crucible
    The Crucible
    The Crucible is a 1952 play by the American playwright Arthur Miller. It is a dramatization of the Salem witch trials that took place in the Province of Massachusetts Bay during 1692 and 1693. Miller wrote the play as an allegory of McCarthyism, when the US government blacklisted accused communists...

    by Arthur Miller
    Arthur Miller
    Arthur Asher Miller was an American playwright and essayist. He was a prominent figure in American theatre, writing dramas that include plays such as All My Sons , Death of a Salesman , The Crucible , and A View from the Bridge .Miller was often in the public eye,...

    . Protagonist John Proctor yells "Pontius Pilate! God will not let you wash your hands of this!", to Reverend Hale as Proctor's wife is being arrested.
  • In Nicolas Notovith's "The Lost Years of Jesus" (1894), an apocryphal Gospel he claims to have found in the Leh lamasery, Ladak, Pilatus is seen as an evil man and the Jews as mild and compassionate.
  • In the 2004 Superman
    Superman
    Superman is a fictional comic book superhero appearing in publications by DC Comics, widely considered to be an American cultural icon. Created by American writer Jerry Siegel and Canadian-born American artist Joe Shuster in 1932 while both were living in Cleveland, Ohio, and sold to Detective...

     storyline "For Tomorrow", a story with strong messianic
    Messiah
    A messiah is a redeemer figure expected or foretold in one form or another by a religion. Slightly more widely, a messiah is any redeemer figure. Messianic beliefs or theories generally relate to eschatological improvement of the state of humanity or the world, in other words the World to...

     themes, a priest dying of cancer (and a confidant of Superman) is transformed into a biological war machine
    Equus (comics)
    Equus is a fictional comic book supervillain, a cyborg mercenary in the DC Comics universe who serves as an opponent of Superman. Created by writer Brian Azzarello and artist Jim Lee, he first appeared in Superman #206 , which was published in June 2004 as part of the "For Tomorrow"...

    , codenamed "Pilate", and rampages through a paradise dimension created by Superman. He retains enough of his humanity to regret his murders and sacrifices himself.
  • In Jeffrey Archer's 1980 collection of short stories A Quiver Full of Arrows
    A Quiver Full of Arrows
    A Quiver Full of Arrows is a 1980 collection of twelve short stories by British writer and politician Jeffrey Archer.-The Chinese Statue:...

    , one of the stories, "The First Miracle" tells of how a 12-year-old Pontius Pilate meets Joseph
    Saint Joseph
    Saint Joseph is a figure in the Gospels, the husband of the Virgin Mary and the earthly father of Jesus Christ ....

     and Mary as they arrive in Bethlehem
    Bethlehem
    Bethlehem is a Palestinian city in the central West Bank of the Jordan River, near Israel and approximately south of Jerusalem, with a population of about 30,000 people. It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian National Authority and a hub of Palestinian culture and tourism...

    , and gives them the food that his mother had sent him to buy.
  • In Toni Morrison
    Toni Morrison
    Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, editor, and professor. Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed characters. Among her best known novels are The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon and Beloved...

    's book Song of Solomon
    Song of Solomon
    The Song of Songs of Solomon, commonly referred to as Song of Songs or Song of Solomon, is a book of the Hebrew Bible—one of the megillot —found in the last section of the Tanakh, known as the Ketuvim...

    , Pilate is the name of Macon Dead's sister
  • Friedrich Nietzsche
    Friedrich Nietzsche
    Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist...

     wrote that Pilate is the one powerful personality in the Gospels.
  • Hungarian psychologist Péter Popper wrote a novel in 1997 Peloni or the Testament of Pilate in which Pilate portrays himself as a cultivated Roman bewildered by Judea and the Jews, who experienced some of the divine power of Jesus and executed him on Jesus's own impulse.
  • Pilatus is the central figure in The Karma Killers a 2009 novel by Angelo Paratico
  • In the 2006 musical event Pilate is portrayed by Keith Allen http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0795422/

Portrayals in film

  • In the 1935 film The Last Days of Pompeii
    The Last Days of Pompeii (1935 film)
    The Last Days of Pompeii is an RKO Radio Pictures film starring Preston Foster and directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack and Merian C. Cooper, creators of the original King Kong...

    , Pilate (played by Basil Rathbone
    Basil Rathbone
    Sir Basil Rathbone, KBE, MC, Kt was an English actor. He rose to prominence in England as a Shakespearean stage actor and went on to appear in over 70 films, primarily costume dramas, swashbucklers, and, occasionally, horror films...

    ) is portrayed as a man consumed with guilt over having crucified Jesus
    Jesus
    Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

    .
  • Richard Boone
    Richard Boone
    Richard Allen Boone was an American actor who starred in over 50 films and was notable for his roles in Westerns and for starring in the TV series Have Gun – Will Travel.-Early life:...

     played a calm and stern, though, slightly guilt-ridden Pilate in The Robe
    The Robe (film)
    The Robe is a 1953 American Biblical epic film that tells the story of a Roman military tribune who commands the unit that crucifies Jesus. The film was made by 20th Century Fox and is notable for being the first film released in the widescreen process CinemaScope.It was directed by Henry Koster...

    (1953). His action in condemning Jesus
    Jesus
    Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

     is particularly singled out as unjust by the principal character Marcellus.
  • Frank Thring
    Frank Thring
    Frank William Thring was an Australian character actor.-Early life:Thring was born in Melbourne and educated at the Melbourne Grammar School. His father, Frank W. Thring, was the head of Efftee Studios, in Melbourne, in the 1920s, and is said to be the inventor of the clapperboard...

     portrayed a somewhat jaded though shrewd Pilate in Ben-Hur
    Ben-Hur (1959 film)
    Ben-Hur is a 1959 American epic film directed by William Wyler and starring Charlton Heston in the title role, the third film adaptation of Lew Wallace's 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. The screenplay was written by Karl Tunberg, Gore Vidal, and Christopher Fry. The score was composed by...

    (1959). He is a good friend of Judah Ben-Hur's Roman adoptive father Quintus Arrius, but he reminds Ben-Hur that he wields the emperor's own authority to keep peace in Judea.
  • Hurd Hatfield
    Hurd Hatfield
    William Rukard Hurd Hatfield was an American actor.-Biography:The son of William Henry Hatfield , an attorney who served as deputy attorney general for New York, and his wife, the former Adele Steele, Hatfield was born in New York City, and was educated at Columbia University before travelling to...

     portrayed Pilate in Nicholas Ray
    Nicholas Ray
    Nicholas Ray was an American film director best known for the movie Rebel Without a Cause....

    's film King of Kings (1961). The film portrays an overtly militaristic Pilate — his caravan is attacked by Barabbas
    Barabbas
    Barabbas or Jesus Barabbas is a figure in the Christian narrative of the Passion of Jesus, in which he is the insurrectionary whom Pontius Pilate freed at the Passover feast in Jerusalem.The penalty for Barabbas' crime was death by crucifixion, but according to the four canonical gospels and the...

     and his followers in the movie — and he is also characterised as being vain and aloof. His interest in the life and actions of Jesus
    Jesus
    Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

     before his trial and crucifixion, listening to detailed reports, is fanciful historically.
  • Jean Marais
    Jean Marais
    -Biography:A native of Cherbourg, France, Marais starred in several movies directed by Jean Cocteau, for a time his lover, most famously Beauty and the Beast and Orphée ....

     portrayed Pilate in Irving Rapper's
    Irving Rapper
    Irving Rapper was a British film director. His most successful body of work is 10 films he made while under contract with Warner Brothers....

     film Pontius Pilate
    Pontius Pilate (film)
    Pontius Pilate is a Italian drama film from 1962, directed by Gian Paolo Callegari and Irving Rapper, written by Oreste Biancoli, starring Jean Marais and Jeanne Crain....

    (1962).
  • Telly Savalas
    Telly Savalas
    Aristotelis "Telly" Savalas was an American film and television actor and singer, whose career spanned four decades. Best known for playing the title role in the 1970s crime drama Kojak, Savalas was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Birdman of Alcatraz...

     portrayed Pilate in George Stevens
    George Stevens
    George Stevens was an American film director, producer, screenwriter and cinematographer.Among his most notable films were Diary of Anne Frank , nominated for Best Director, Giant , winner of Oscar for Best Director, Shane , Oscar nominated, and A Place in the Sun , winner of Oscar for Best...

    ' film The Greatest Story Ever Told
    The Greatest Story Ever Told
    The Greatest Story Ever Told is a 1965 American epic film produced and directed by George Stevens and distributed by United Artists. It is a retelling of the story of Jesus Christ, from the Nativity through the Resurrection. This film is notable for its large ensemble cast and for being the last...

    (1965) as a gruff strongman
    Strongman (politics)
    A strongman is a political leader who rules by force and runs an authoritarian regime. The term is often used interchangeably with "dictator," but differs from a "warlord".A strongman is not necessarily always a formal head of government, however...

    . Although Pilate would prefer to crucify Barabbas rather than Jesus, he is not portrayed as being especially sympathetic towards Jesus. As Jesus is led out to crucifixion, Pilate is portrayed as thinking the words of the Apostles' Creed
    Apostles' Creed
    The Apostles' Creed , sometimes titled Symbol of the Apostles, is an early statement of Christian belief, a creed or "symbol"...

    : "suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried." Angela Lansbury
    Angela Lansbury
    Angela Brigid Lansbury CBE is an English actress and singer in theatre, television and motion pictures, whose career has spanned eight decades and earned her more performance Tony Awards than any other individual , with five wins...

     played his wife Claudia Procula
    Pontius Pilate's wife
    Pontius Pilate's wife is unnamed in the New Testament, where she appears a single time in the Gospel of Matthew. Alternate Christian traditions have referred to her as Saint Procula or Saint Claudia, and the combinations Claudia Procles and Claudia Procula have been used...

     in one of the many cameo roles in the film.
  • Barry Dennen
    Barry Dennen
    Barry Dennen is an American actor, singer, and writer.Dennen was born in Chicago, Illinois. In New York City from 1960 to 1963, he had a relationship with Barbra Streisand, including living together for a year, during which time he helped her develop the nightclub act that began her successful...

    , in Norman Jewison
    Norman Jewison
    Norman Frederick Jewison, CC, O.Ont is a Canadian film director, producer, actor and founder of the Canadian Film Centre. Highlights of his directing career include In the Heat of the Night , The Thomas Crown Affair , Fiddler on the Roof , Jesus Christ Superstar , Moonstruck , The Hurricane and The...

    's musical Jesus Christ Superstar
    Jesus Christ Superstar
    Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber, with lyrics by Tim Rice. The musical started off as a rock opera concept recording before its first staging on Broadway in 1971...

    (1973), portrayed a cruel Pilate who after suffering a prophetic dream (which in the Gospel of Matthew
    Gospel of Matthew
    The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...

     is dreamed by Pilate's wife) is very reluctant to put Christ to death, but succumbs to mob pressures.
  • Rod Steiger
    Rod Steiger
    Rodney Stephen "Rod" Steiger was an Academy Award-winning American actor known for his performances in such films as On the Waterfront, The Big Knife, Oklahoma!, The Harder They Fall, Across the Bridge, The Pawnbroker, Doctor Zhivago, In the Heat of the Night, and Waterloo as well as the...

     portrayed Pilate in Franco Zeffirelli
    Franco Zeffirelli
    Franco Zeffirelli KBE is an Italian director and producer of films and television. He is also a director and designer of operas and a former senator for the Italian center-right Forza Italia party....

    's TV miniseries Jesus of Nazareth (1977). In this version, Pilate is angered by Jesus' refusal to defend himself. After condemning Jesus to death, Pilate is told by one of his aides that he cannot release Barabbas, "an assassin and enemy of Rome." Pilate replies, "I wonder...Who is the real enemy?" In Anthony Burgess
    Anthony Burgess
    John Burgess Wilson  – who published under the pen name Anthony Burgess – was an English author, poet, playwright, composer, linguist, translator and critic. The dystopian satire A Clockwork Orange is Burgess's most famous novel, though he dismissed it as one of his lesser works...

    's novel Man of Nazareth
    Man of Nazareth
    Man of Nazareth is a historical novel by Anthony Burgess based on his screenplay for Franco Zeffirelli's TV miniseries Jesus of Nazareth...

    , based on Jesus of Nazareth, Pilate is portrayed as being more sympathetic towards Jesus, recognising the validity of his doctrine and even telling Jesus he is free to go, although Jesus tells Pilate he has to condemn him to death.
  • In the comedy film Monty Python's Life of Brian
    Monty Python's Life of Brian
    Monty Python's Life of Brian, also known as Life of Brian, is a 1979 British comedy film written, directed and largely performed by the Monty Python comedy team...

    (1979), Pilate is portrayed by Michael Palin
    Michael Palin
    Michael Edward Palin, CBE FRGS is an English comedian, actor, writer and television presenter best known for being one of the members of the comedy group Monty Python and for his travel documentaries....

     as a foolish man who has trouble pronouncing the letter "r" (pronouncing it like a "w"
    Rhotacism
    Rhotacism refers to several phenomena related to the usage of the consonant r :*the excessive or idiosyncratic use of the r;...

    ). He is also unable to remember who is in his prisons, and seems to be easily offended, as in the scene where he feels his guards are "insulting" his friend Biggus Dickus when they laugh at his name. Pilate later chides the Jewish crowds for laughing at Biggus Dickus' lisp, telling them "This man commands a cwack legion!" and "He wanks as high as any in Wome!" It has also been speculated that his impediment is the reason the crowd chose Barabbas
    Barabbas
    Barabbas or Jesus Barabbas is a figure in the Christian narrative of the Passion of Jesus, in which he is the insurrectionary whom Pontius Pilate freed at the Passover feast in Jerusalem.The penalty for Barabbas' crime was death by crucifixion, but according to the four canonical gospels and the...

     over Jesus in the Passion narrative
    Passion (Christianity)
    The Passion is the Christian theological term used for the events and suffering – physical, spiritual, and mental – of Jesus in the hours before and including his trial and execution by crucifixion...

    .
  • David Bowie
    David Bowie
    David Bowie is an English musician, actor, record producer and arranger. A major figure for over four decades in the world of popular music, Bowie is widely regarded as an innovator, particularly for his work in the 1970s...

     portrayed Pilate in Martin Scorsese
    Martin Scorsese
    Martin Charles Scorsese is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, actor, and film historian. In 1990 he founded The Film Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to film preservation, and in 2007 he founded the World Cinema Foundation...

    's The Last Temptation of Christ
    The Last Temptation of Christ (film)
    The Last Temptation of Christ is a 1988 drama film directed by Martin Scorsese. It is a film adaptation of the controversial 1953 novel of the same name by Nikos Kazantzakis. It stars Willem Dafoe as Jesus Christ, Harvey Keitel as Judas Iscariot, Barbara Hershey as Mary Magdalene, David Bowie as...

    (1988), based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis
    Nikos Kazantzakis
    Nikos Kazantzakis was a Greek writer and philosopher, celebrated for his novel Zorba the Greek, considered his magnum opus...

    . In the film, Pilate is portrayed as world-weary and somewhat sympathetic towards Jesus, but believes he has to die to preserve the local status quo.
  • In the 1999 film Jesus
    Jesus (1999 film)
    Jesus is a Biblical telefilm that retells the story of Jesus. It was shot in Morocco and Malta. It stars Jeremy Sisto as Jesus, Jacqueline Bisset as Mary of Nazareth, Debra Messing as Mary Magdalene and Gary Oldman as Pontius Pilate.-Overview:...

    , Pilate is played by Gary Oldman
    Gary Oldman
    Gary Leonard Oldman is an English actor, voice actor, filmmaker and musician.A member of the 1980s Brit Pack, Oldman came to prominence via starring roles in British films Meantime , Sid and Nancy and Prick Up Your Ears , with his performance in the latter bringing him his first BAFTA Award...

     as a cynical manipulator of the events surrounding Christ's death.
  • In the 2000 re-make of Jesus Christ Superstar
    Jesus Christ Superstar
    Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber, with lyrics by Tim Rice. The musical started off as a rock opera concept recording before its first staging on Broadway in 1971...

     for video, Pilate was played by Dutch-born actor Fred Johanson. Johanson's portrayal was different from Dennen's, as he was portrayed as a more Nazi-style macho figure, the costume utilized was noted by critics to be similar to that of Street Fighter villain M. Bison
    M. Bison
    M. Bison, known in Japan as Vega, is a video game character created by Capcom. First introduced in Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, he is a recurring character in the Street Fighter series of fighting games, acting as the final boss and primary antagonist of the Street Fighter II and Street...

    .
  • In Mel Gibson
    Mel Gibson
    Mel Colm-Cille Gerard Gibson, AO is an American actor, film director, producer and screenwriter. Born in Peekskill, New York, Gibson moved with his parents to Sydney, Australia when he was 12 years old and later studied acting at the Australian National Institute of Dramatic Art.After appearing in...

    's The Passion of the Christ
    The Passion of the Christ
    The Passion of the Christ is a 2004 American drama film directed by Mel Gibson and starring Jim Caviezel as Jesus. It depicts the Passion of Jesus largely according to the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John...

    (2004), Pilate is played by Bulgarian actor Hristo Shopov
    Hristo Shopov
    Hristo Naumov Shopov is a Bulgarian actor. Shopov's father, Naum Shopov, is a famous Bulgarian actor as well.He is most noted for his portrayal of Pontius Pilate in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. He has become one of Bulgaria's most successful actors, making his debut in 1981 with...

    . Pilate speaks fluent Aramaic as well as Latin
    Latin
    Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

     (his first language) in this film. He is extremely reluctant to sentence Jesus to death and appears very sympathetic to him. This is partly because of his wife Claudia's strange dreams and the value he places on superstition. As a result, he only condemns Jesus to death when he feels that he has no other option. He is visibly shocked and frightened of the Jewish mob's relentlessness when he is asked to crucify Jesus and release Barabbas
    Barabbas
    Barabbas or Jesus Barabbas is a figure in the Christian narrative of the Passion of Jesus, in which he is the insurrectionary whom Pontius Pilate freed at the Passover feast in Jerusalem.The penalty for Barabbas' crime was death by crucifixion, but according to the four canonical gospels and the...

    .

Primary sources


The references to Pilate, outside the New Testament:
  • Josephus
    Josephus
    Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

    , Antiquities of the Jews
    Antiquities of the Jews
    Antiquities of the Jews is a twenty volume historiographical work composed by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus in the thirteenth year of the reign of Roman emperor Flavius Domitian which was around 93 or 94 AD. Antiquities of the Jews contains an account of history of the Jewish people,...

  • Josephus
    Josephus
    Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

    , The Wars of the Jews
    The Wars of the Jews
    The Jewish War , in full Flavius Josephus's Books of the History of the Jewish War against the Romans , also referred to in English as The Wars of the Jews and The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, is a book written by the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus.It is a description of Jewish...

  • Philo
    Philo
    Philo , known also as Philo of Alexandria , Philo Judaeus, Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, Yedidia, "Philon", and Philo the Jew, was a Hellenistic Jewish Biblical philosopher born in Alexandria....

    , Legatio ad Gaium (Embassy to Gaius)
  • Tacitus
    Tacitus
    Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

    , Annals
    Annals (Tacitus)
    The Annals by Tacitus is a history of the reigns of the four Roman Emperors succeeding Caesar Augustus. The surviving parts of the Annals extensively cover most of the reigns of Tiberius and Nero. The title Annals was probably not given by Tacitus, but derives from the fact that he treated this...


Secondary sources

  • Bond, Helen K., Pontius Pilate in History and Interpretation (2004).
  • Carter, Warren, Pontius Pilate: Portraits of a Roman Governor (2003).
  • Taylor, Joan E. "Pontius Pilate and the Imperial Cult in Roman Judaea," New Testament Studies 52 (2006) 555-582.
  • Wroe, Ann, Pilate: The Biography of an Invented Man (1999).

External links