Middle class Roman with military and administrative experience who in AD 26 was appointed procurator/governor of Judea. He appointed the High Priest and controlled the Temple funds – funds he tried to divert to help out with building an aqueduct into Jerusalem – failed due to Jewish uprising.
Jews given special dispensation to worship in the Temple in Jerusalem and sacrificed for Caesar not to Caesar (this was to maintain peace – SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT for a fanatical religious Nation)
Philo (Jewish philosopher) – Pilate was harsh, spiteful and brutal.
Josephus (Jewish historian) – said Pilate antagonized the Jews almost as soon as he was appointed.
Pilate had done that by allowing Roman regimental standards into Jerusalem and he had brought some golden shields, perhaps dedicated to Caesar, into his residence – the Jews said the Holy City had been desecrated and eventually they were removed – SO THERE HAD BEEN LOTS OF TROUBLE FOR PILATE ALREADY and this was Passover!
In 1961 a stone slab was discovered at Caesarea bearing the name Pontius Pilate – one of the few pieces of evidence outside the Bible for the life and work of this complex man. Tacitus a Roman writer refers to the execution of Jesus by Pilate.
Pilate’s final blunder was to seize a number of Samaritans for some false rumour and have them killed and he was eventually recalled to Rome to answer to Caesar – we do not know the outcome of that event and there are many stories about Pilate’s life and death (but all without evidence or foundation).
Apart from this we have many biblical references – mainly in the 4 gospels but also he is mentioned in Acts and Timothy.
PILATE I read a so called Autobiography of Pilate - which might or might not show us something more about the man himself:
Question is - Was he a real Villain or was he just a weak and unscrupulous Roman official?
Look at the Biblical Evidence – on each table there is an envelope with difference passages from Gospels that mention Pilate’s movements during the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Open envelope and read few verses indicated and report back on ‘What is Pilate doing in that passage?’
Feedback from Groups – 15-20 mins
Question 1: In what situation might we ‘wash our hands’ of something/someone and why?
Picture Quest 2: Pilate asks Jesus: ‘What is Truth?’ Look at this picture and discuss what you might say to someone asking you the same question. (read some helpful references about Truth).
Picture Quest 3: Pilate says to the Crowd: ‘Behold the Man’. Jesus was indeed the Man and God himself – Discuss how Jesus might have felt at this moment. (Jn 1:29 Jthe B ‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World’ – Jesus the Lamb was just about to do just that!)
Lastly – Pilate’s wife, Matt 27:15-23:
Details: Possibly related to Caesar Augustus, possibly named Claudia Procula, possibly the figure on the picture of Behold the Man. That Pilate’s wife should interrupt the sitting of a court is a token of the urgency of her message. But Pilate does not listen, and comes to the wrong judgement - the spectacularly wrong judgement - for which he will be famous throughout history. Ironically, his wife, who has no public wife, this political non person, has better judgement that her husband the Roman Procurator.
Does Pilate’s wife stand for all those powerful Roman women, who lived in the background, but nevertheless, spoke up for Christianity?
In the 3rd Cen Origen suggested in his writings that the wife of Pilate had become a Christian or at least that God sent her the dream so that she would convert. This interpretation was held in the Middle Ages.
Pilate’s wife is a major character in a York Mystery Play where her dream is dictated by the devil. This is in effect saying that if Jesus dies he, the devil, will lose control of men’s souls. So, the devil tells the sleeping wife that Jesus is innocent and that if condemned, she and Pilate will lose their privileged position.
Quest: Was Pilate’s wife being used by the devil to stop the crucifixion or was it just simply that God gave her these prophetic words – of Jesus’ innocence - to ring down the centuries as the real Truth?
Quest: What would have happened if Pilate had listened to his wife and let Jesus go free instead of saving his own skin?
Finally – PILATE ON TRIAL - THE JURY IS OUT - so can we decide, in our groups, if Pilate is a real Villain or just a weak and unscrupulous Roman Official?