Pontius Pilate: A Cruel Roman or Victim of Circumstances?

Pontius Pilate was a Roman prefect of Judaea and he is more famous (or should I say infamous) for presiding over the trial of Jesus and giving the orders for his crucifixion. According to the past accounts of his life Pilate was a Roman knight belonging to the Samnite clan of Pontii (this gave him the name Pontius). He was close to Sejanus, favourite of Roman emperor Tiberius. It was through the intervention of Sejanus that Pilate became the prefect of Judaea. His position as a prefect are confirmed by a Casarea inscription. He was always protected by Sejanus but he had incurred enmity with the Jews for insulting their religious sensibilities and insulting them. He hung the images of Roman emperor all through Jerusalem for the sake of worshipping. Upon his orders coins bearing the image of pagan religious symbols began to be minted.

Pontius Pilate: A man of Vacillating Character

In 31 AD Sejanus fell from his position of power and this made Pilate vulnerable. He had to remain idle to survive amongst the Jews. He was under pressure due to sharp criticisms from the Jews. The Jews in their turn capitalized this vulnerability and obtained the death sentence of Jesus. It was not long after that Samaritans reported about Pilate to Vitellius (who was the Legate of Syria), when the former attacked Mount Gerizim in 36 AD. He was asked to come back to Rome. In Rome he was charged and stood trial against charges of oppression, cruelty and executing men without proper trials. It is known that Pilate killed himself in 39 AD on orders from the Roman emperor Caligula.

Inscriptions of Pontius Pilate

It is a pity that the judgements of Pilate have to be made on the basis later Jewish or early Christian writings such as Josephus and the New Testament. Josephus’ reference of Pilate seems to be consistent. He is depicted as a strict, authoritarian and headstrong Roman leader who had both practicality and rationality but never knew how far he should go in any given situation. He started out a riot between Samaritans and Jews. He tried to abolish the privileges enjoyed by the Jews. Pilate ordered the troops to set camp in Jerusalem and sent images of the emperor attached against their banners. When the Jews demonstrated in Caesarea or Pilate’s city of residence he threatened to kill them unless they stopped demonstrations. When the Jews showed readiness to die for their cause he had the images removed. Josephus concludes that Pilate has inferential judgement that could be affected by firm resolution.

Pilate ordered crucifixion of Jesus Christ to please Jews

Even the New Testament suggests that Pilate had a weak and vacillating personality. He decided to crucify Jesus and pardon Barabbas just to please the Jewish mass. Soon his wife told him about her dream and Pilate transferred his responsibility to the emperor. Though it is known that Pilate was later remorseful of Jesus’ crucifixion and even took up Christianity and became saint.

All that can be said is Pontius Pilate was more a victim of the circumstances and a weak character man then being cruel or biased.


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3 thoughts on “Pontius Pilate: A Cruel Roman or Victim of Circumstances?

  1. Re. Pontius Pilate: A Cruel Roman or Victim of Circumstances?
    Please resolve your assertions: “It is known that Pilate killed himself in 39 AD on orders from the Roman emperor Caligula.” and “Though it is known that Pilate was later remorseful of Jesus’ crucifixion and even took up Christianity and became saint.”,.., -as it hardly seems to me that the Church would condone his suicide (if true) and besides, he is regarded as the man who gave order to crucify ‘Jesus Christ’. The Church’s recognition, acknowledgement of Sainthood hardly makes
    sense to me.
    Would that the Subject/Title of this Blog be: ‘Barabbas: A Cunning Christian Switch or A Planted Erroneous Documentation’? Answering Your question leads nowhere, -answering My question leads to Barabbas’ true identity and actual role, -including everyone else’s, especially Saul of Tarsus (the persecutor of ‘Christians’ -at a time when there was not ‘Christ’).

  2. @bloggesterroland It is true that Pontius never wanted to crucify Jesus. He was not an enemy of Jesus in any sense. He crucified to pacify the Jewish crowd gathered during the trial. Just after he had finished the verdict his wife came running to aware him of Jesus’ fame and about her dream. From then onwards Pontius grew remorseful of his decision. This remorse translated him into being a follower of Christ’s teachings. Caligula on the other hand had a mind of his own. When he came to the throne he wanted to get rid of the existing royalties and thus Pontius was convicted and then ordered to commit suicide.

    Though Pontius ordered Christ’s crucification most of the times he is described as a victim of the circumstances. Thus the Christians were ready to pardon him. They rather accused the Jews of ending Christ’s life.

  3. This is the New Testament verse that shows Pilate to be cruel:
    There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. (Luke 13:1) Also, Jesus was considered to be a Galilean from Nazareth.

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