Free Republic
Browse · Search
Religion
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

History of Pontius Pilate: his background before Good Friday
Bill Pietro ^ | April 9, 2014 | Bill Petro

Posted on 04/09/2014 2:23:40 PM PDT by NYer

PONTIUS PILATE

His name provides two valuable clues to his background and ancestry. The family name, Pontius was that of a prominent clan among the Samnites, hill cousins of the Latin Romans. They had almost conquered Rome in several fierce wars. The Pontii were of noble blood, but when Rome finally absorbed the Samnites, their aristocracy was demoted to the Roman equestrian or middle-class order, rather than the senatorial order. It is Pilate’s personal name Pilatus that proves almost conclusively that he was of Samnite origin. Pilatus means “armed-with-a-javelin”. The pilum or javelin was six feet long, half wooden and half pointed iron shaft, which the Samnite mountaineers hurled at their enemies with devastating effect. The Romans quickly copied it, and it was this pilum in fact, that made the Roman Empire possible.

By the way, the picture above “Ecce Homo” (Behold the Man) of Pilate gesturing to Jesus, by Italian painter Antonio Ciseri hangs in the Pitti Palace in Florence. I saw it there one Easter Day.

Some historians feel that Pilate rose to prominence and perhaps gained the governorship of Judea under the sponsorship of Sejanus. Some may recall that name from the BBC television rendition of “I, Claudius,” where the role was played by Star Trek’s Patrick Stewart. In Imperial Rome, Lucius Aelius Sejanus was, like Pilate, of the equestrian order. He was the prefect, or head of the Praetorian Guard, the personal body guard of the emperor. Sejanus was an ambitious man. He had the complete trust of the emperor Tiberius, who at this time was living in self-exile on the island of Capri while engaging in various debaucheries. It is quite likely that at this time Pilate was admitted to the inner circle of ‘amici Caesaris‘ or friends of Caesar, an elite fraternity of imperial advisers open only to senators or equestrians high in imperial service. This fact would play a part in the later trial against Jesus.

The emperor was getting old and paranoid. Sejanus took advantage of this and offered up to Caesar the names of senators he claimed were not loyal to Rome. Tiberius would convict them of maiestas, or treason. Their property and wealth were forfeit, and they usually committed suicide to avoid bringing public shame upon their name. Sejanus hoped to consolidate his power as well as advance himself in the confidence of the emperor, hoping perhaps to become co-consul with Tiberius. However his boldness did not go unnoticed and through the efforts of the future emperors Caligula and Claudius, the plots of Sejanus were made known to the emperor, and Sejanus himself was convicted of maiestas. His allies as well became suspect.

It is unlikely that Pilate was an incompetent official, for he ruled Judea from A.D. 26 to 36. It is doubtful that the emperor Tiberius, who insisted on good principal administration, would have retained Pilate for so long, the second longest tenure of any first-century Roman governor in Palestine. Never the less, the governorship of Judea was a most taxing experience and, aside from Good Friday, it seems from our sources Philo and Josephus that there were a number of other incidents in which Pilate blundered.

In what came to be called “the affair of the Roman standards,” Pilate’s troops once marched into Jerusalem carrying medallions with the emperor’s image or bust among their regimental standards. This provoked a five-day demonstration by the Jews at the Provincial capital, Caeserea, which protested these effigies as a violation of Jewish law concerning engraven images. Pilate finally relented and ordered the offensive standards removed.

Later, he built an aqueduct from cisterns near Bethlehem to improve Jerusalem’s water supply, but paid for it with funds from the Temple treasury. This sparked another riot, which was put down only after bloodshed, even though Pilate had cautioned his troops not to use swords.

On another occasion, Pilate set up several golden shields in his Jerusalem residence that, unlike the standards, bore no images, only a bare inscription of dedication to Tiberius. Nevertheless, the people protested, but this time Pilate refused to remove them. The Jews, with the help of Herod Antipas, formally protested to Tiberius. In a very testy letter, the emperor ordered Pilate to transfer the shields to a temple in Caserea, and ominously warned him to uphold all the religious and political customs of his Jewish subjects. This last episode occurred just five months before Good Friday.

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian



TOPICS: Catholic; History; Judaism; Religion & Politics
KEYWORDS: aeliussejanus; billpietro; catholic; claudius; godsgravesglyphs; goodfriday; history; pontiuspilate; tiberius

1 posted on 04/09/2014 2:23:40 PM PDT by NYer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Tax-chick; GregB; Berlin_Freeper; SumProVita; narses; bboop; SevenofNine; Ronaldus Magnus; tiki; ...

Ping!


2 posted on 04/09/2014 2:24:09 PM PDT by NYer ("You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears." James 4:14)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer

It was not “Palestine” in 26-36 AD.


3 posted on 04/09/2014 2:29:18 PM PDT by massgopguy (I owe everything to George Bailey)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: NYer

Thanks for the link, NYer. Saved it off for this site.

A question or point of discussion for any Christian historian out there -

I read Bill O’Reilly’s and Martin Dugard’s book - Killing Jesus. It had a section of what had happened to many of the players, including Pontius Pilate.

A couple of stories said Pilate fell out of favor with Rome and was forced to kill himself. One, however, said Pilate and his wife Claudia later converted to Christianity and were martyred.

Hear anymore about this last scenario?


4 posted on 04/09/2014 2:40:49 PM PDT by NEWwoman (God Bless America)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer; zot

Since Pontius was a pilot, what type of airplane did he fly?


5 posted on 04/09/2014 2:53:15 PM PDT by GreyFriar ( Spearhead - 3rd Armored Division 75-78 & 83-87)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: onedoug

ping


6 posted on 04/09/2014 2:54:18 PM PDT by windcliff
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: GreyFriar

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370


7 posted on 04/09/2014 3:00:27 PM PDT by A Cyrenian (Don't worry about stuffing the bus or filling the fridge. Try filling the Church.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: NYer

The folks who defend Christian iconography as not being a violation of the commandments really need to read some of these historical accounts. There was really not much “wiggle room” for the Jews when it came to images.


8 posted on 04/09/2014 3:07:15 PM PDT by Boogieman
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Boogieman

what do you mean?


9 posted on 04/09/2014 3:14:22 PM PDT by MNDude
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Boogieman

“What is truth?” John 18:38


10 posted on 04/09/2014 3:19:18 PM PDT by tophat9000 (Are we headed to a Cracker Slacker War?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: GreyFriar
Since Pontius was a pilot, what type of airplane did he fly?

Wrong type of pilot. He was a boat pilot taking galleys up and down the Tiber River.

11 posted on 04/09/2014 3:28:00 PM PDT by teacherwoes (Alethephobia-fear of hearing the truth)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: NYer

Thank You!


12 posted on 04/09/2014 3:29:42 PM PDT by Chainmail (A simple rule of life: if you can be blamed, you're responsible.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: MNDude

Well, whenever a debate crops up around here about that topic, there are always some who claim that the scope of the commandment against images was very narrow. However, if you read historical accounts, like this one with the story of the Roman standards, it is clear that in ancient times it was really not viewed that way.


13 posted on 04/09/2014 4:17:32 PM PDT by Boogieman
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: teacherwoes

He was an “O.G.” (Original Gondolier)


14 posted on 04/09/2014 4:19:15 PM PDT by Boogieman
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: NYer

Where there is greatness, great government or power, even great feeling or compassion, error also is great. We progress and mature by fault.... Perfect freedom has no existence. A grown man knows the world he lives in, and for the present, the world is Rome.... But when I go up those stairs I become the hand of Caesar, ready to crush all those who challenge his authority. There are too many small men of envy and ambition who try to disrupt the government of Rome.


15 posted on 04/09/2014 4:23:11 PM PDT by PlateOfShrimp
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NEWwoman
A couple of stories said Pilate fell out of favor with Rome and was forced to kill himself. One, however, said Pilate and his wife Claudia later converted to Christianity and were martyred.

FWIW, I came across the following:

The Mystery of Pilate's End

Pontius Pilate is known to have been a Roman governor of Judaea from about A.D. 26-36, which is a long tenure for a post that normally lasted only 1-3 years. Maier uses this observation to support his concept of Pilate as a less than awful prefect (Praefectus Iudaeae). Pilate was recalled after he was said to have slaughtered thousands of Samaritan pilgrims (one of the four incidents of maladministration). Pilate's fate would have been decided under Caligula, since Tiberius died before Pilate reached Rome. We don't really know what happened to Pontius Pilate -- other than that he was not reinstated in Judaea. Maier thinks Caligula used the same clemency he used for others accused under Tiberius of treason, although popular versions of what happened to Pilate are that he was sent into exile and committed suicide or that he committed suicide and his body was tossed in the Tiber. Maier says Eusebius (4th century) and Orosius (5th century) are the earliest sources for the idea that Pontius Pilate took his own life. Philo, who was a contemporary of Pontius Pilate, does not mention a punishment under Caligula or suicide.

Source

16 posted on 04/09/2014 4:24:20 PM PDT by NYer ("You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears." James 4:14)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: NYer

Thanks for the reply and the research. :)


17 posted on 04/09/2014 7:58:00 PM PDT by NEWwoman (God Bless America)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: Boogieman
Sorry -- there's no similarity. Those Roman standards weren't just images; they were idols to Caesar (worshipped as a "god" remember) and treated as such. Josephus records that Titus' men took their standards into the Temple and offered sacrifice to them there.

Also, the Jews worshipped a God who had not yet revealed himself in visible form. We worship a God who has made himself known visibly in Jesus Christ; who is, as Col 1:15 says, the "image (Gr eikon) of the invisible God".

18 posted on 04/10/2014 5:32:02 AM PDT by Campion
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: Campion

“Those Roman standards weren’t just images; they were idols to Caesar (worshipped as a “god” remember) and treated as such.”

See, it sounds like you are taking the narrow interpretation I was talking about, but it is incorrect. The historical accounts, and the archaeological record do not agree with it. Anywhere else we look in the near east, there are statues and idols aplenty to be found if you just dig around a bit. In Israel, it’s a different story. We do find some pagan idols, but beyond that, there are no idols, monuments, or public works with statuary adornment to be found.

What we do find are inscriptions, mosaics, paintings, and some shallow reliefs, but not sculptures and standing images, which agrees quite well with the literal reading of the Biblical account.

“Also, the Jews worshipped a God who had not yet revealed himself in visible form. We worship a God who has made himself known visibly in Jesus Christ; who is, as Col 1:15 says, the “image (Gr eikon) of the invisible God”.”

Yet, we still do not know what even that visible form of God looked like with any certainty, and furthermore, the prohibitions from the Bible do not allow any exceptions for making images of things even if you do know what they look like.


19 posted on 04/10/2014 6:59:29 AM PDT by Boogieman
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: GreyFriar

Thanks for the ping.


20 posted on 04/11/2014 5:38:37 PM PDT by zot
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: NYer
Punches Pilate is an old one-frame joke from Hatlo (anyone else remember "They'll Do It Every Time"?). :') Thanks NYer.

21 posted on 04/12/2014 11:07:27 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

The only chronological record of Pilate’s appointment is found in Josephus who says:

“(Tiberius)...sent Valerius Gratus to be procurator of Judea, and to succeed Annus Rufus...When Gratus had done those things, he went back to Rome, after he had tarried in Judea eleven years, when Pontius Pilate became his successor...So Pilate, when he had tarried ten years in Judea, made haste to Rome...but before he could get to Rome, Tiberius was dead.”

Sejanus and the Chronology of Christ’s death
By Gary DeLashmutt
http://www.xenos.org/essays/sejanus.htm


22 posted on 04/12/2014 11:27:47 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Religion
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson