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Pontius Pilate – The Man Who Sentenced Jesus Christ to Death

Pontius Pilate is one of the most controversial and at the same time mysterious figures in human history. He was entrusted with a unique mission to create a world religion. Just think, if Jesus Christ had not been crucified, would Christianity exist at all today? At least on this scale?

Pilate Pontius was a Roman prefect of Judea who is famous for condemning Christ to death. Unfortunately, historians have little confirmed information about the man who, according to the Gospel of Matthew, washed his hands before sending Christ to the cross.

Bust of Pontius Pilate
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Bust of Pontius Pilate

There is little archaeological evidence of the existence of the governor. An inscription was discovered in the 1970s in the Roman city of Caesarea, in present-day Israel. Most of what is being said about this historical figure are legends and unconfirmed stories that stand on the borderline between history and faith.

Painting of the Roman city of Caesarea
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Painting of the Roman city of Caesarea

The intrigues surrounding Pontius Pilate are many – they tell of a secret connection with Judas and the other apostles, or even of undisclosed secret conversations with Jesus Christ.

According to the four Gospels, Pilate condemns Jesus after charges from the Jews. Thus, the New Testament casts all the blame for the crucifixion of Christ on the Jews. This way, the Romans removed any possible blame from their hands and acted as if they were the people that would try to stop the crucifixion if there was any chance.

The Authors of the Four Gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
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The Authors of the Four Gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

Greek and Roman sources, however, speak of another version and complement the image of Pilate Pontius. He was cruel, ruthless, and knew how to do his job. He ruled one of the most turbulent provinces of the Roman Empire – Judea, for 10 years which was an incredibly long period for these times. This gives enough evidence for his incredible leadership skills.

 


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Pontius Pilate in Judea

When he arrived in Judea, Pilate’s duties were primarily military. He maintained a peaceful environment in the Roman province. It is good to know that Caesarea Maritima was the capital and not Jerusalem as you may think.

Like every Roman, Pita Pontius was an extremely religious person. Two were the hallmarks of the Romans – they were merciless warriors during a battle and extremely pious regarding observance of ordinances to their gods.

Jupiter, King of the Gods in Ancient Roman Mythology
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Jupiter, King of the Gods in Ancient Roman Mythology

For the Romans, religion was the pivot in their existence, and Pilate was no different from that description. For all the rulers of the empire, the cult of gods and politics were completely merged.

Among the few shreds of evidences of Pilate’s rule is an inscription erected in Caesarea during the time of Emperor Tiberius. Coins minted during this time also proves that Pontius Pilate is a historical figure. According to Roman sources, Pilate is far from the Christian image attributed to him in the Bible. He knew how to terrify the crowd and have order in a certain territory.

Pontius Pilate, 26-36 AD. Bronze lepton, struck 30-31 AD.
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Pontius Pilate, 26-36 AD. Bronze lepton, struck 30-31 AD.

His first actions as a prosecutor in Judea almost ended in a bloody bath. His orders were for Roman soldiers to be sent to Jerusalem. However, the flags they carried violated the first two of the Ten Commandments. The offended Jews protested in front of Pilate which made him plan ways to scare them off.

Moses presents the Ten Commandments
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Moses presents the Ten Commandments

The Roman quelled the discontent by staging a collision. Pilate ordered his soldiers to draw their swords as soon as he brought the Jews into his palace. His hopes were that they would flee. On the contrary, the Jews fell to their knees without trying to fight back or escape.

The meaning behind this was that they would rather perish than accept that the Romans could bring flags that offend Moses’ law. As his primary task was to maintain peace among the population, Pilate receded.

The Role of Pilate in the History of Jesus

The truth is that Jesus was not the first Messiah to appear in Judea. There were others before him, with other new religious beliefs. The Romans knew about them and always followed them. The trial of Jesus began on the basis of accusations, sent by leading figures in society. This proves that the aristocracy in Jerusalem had a finger in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Jesus and the Twelve Apostles
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Jesus and the Twelve Apostles

After the Last Supper, Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. There are many different versions of the actual conviction of Christ. According to one, he was convicted on the very next day on the orders of Pilate. After the verdict, Pilate washed his hands and read a few prayers to the gods, which was common practice for Roman rulers to start the day.

The Last Supper
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The Last Supper

According to another, there were several trials before the actual conviction. More interestingly, it is said that Pilate almost agreed to release Jesus during one of the trials. Other sources claim that Pilate believed that Jesus was innocent and even said it when they arrested him. According to other stories, Pilate did not embrace the truth that Jesus was innocent simply because he was too afraid for himself and his position in the Roman Empire.

The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ
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The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ

Little do we actually know about Pontius Pilate but what we do know is that he existed and was the prefect of Judea at the time when Jesus was convicted and crucified. It is all up to historians and archeologists to reveal the real truth behind one of the most important events in human history.

Pontius Pilate’s Disappearance

There is almost nothing said about Pilate after his 10-year rule of Judea. He was sent back to Rome where he literally disappeared. Nothing was ever written about him after his return.

Some believe that he was executed by Emperor Caligula or was exiled after his latest years of rule were unsuccessful. Other stories tell that he eventually accepted Christianity and even tried to turn the emperor towards that same faith. For all we know, he could have even received another position and continued his life in the Roman Empire.

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