Pontius Pilate is someone in whom many Christians are reminded of during their remembrance of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, governor of Judea. But Pontius Pilate was also a historical figure, and a man who has a lot more history to his name. We will examine how the historicity of Pontius Pilate ties in with the historical reliability of the New Testament, in specific, the Gospel of Luke.
[Matthew 27:22-24] Pilate asked them, “What should I do then with Jesus, who is called Messiah?” They all answered, “Crucify Him!” Then he said, “Why? What has He done wrong?” But they kept shouting, “Crucify Him!” all the more. When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that a riot was starting instead, he took some water, washed his hands in front of the crowd, and said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. See to it yourselves!”
Before 1961, there was no concrete archaeological evidence of the existence of Pontius Pilate, and many historians and laymen at the time proclaimed that this figure was merely mythological and did not actually exist in history, thus contradicting the word of the New Testament. Scholarship has gone a long way since then, and in 1961, this rock was found.
It translates to reading as follows:
To the Divine Augusti [this] Tiberieum…Pontius Pilate…prefect of Judea…has dedicated [this]
As you can see, many parts of the quotation are missing because the stone itself is only a remaining fragment of the entire thing. Historians have dated it contemporary to the time of Pontius Pilate, between 26-36 AD.
Furthermore, Pontius Pilate is recorded by the early historian Josephus (Jewish Antiquities 18.3.2), Tacitus whom was also an early historian of the time (Annals 15.44), and a contemporary historian named Philo of Alexandria in the 38th chapter of On The Embassy To Gauis. Add all this to the fact that Pilate is mentioned by the four Gospels as well (all first century documents) and in 1 Timothy 6:13, and it becomes immediately clear that Pontius Pilate is one of the most attested governors in the history of the Roman Empire, easily validating yet another Biblical fact on top of the countless that have presided before it.
But Pontius Pilate was perhaps, a different man then you may imagine. He was also unbelievably brutal, enraging the Jews and threatening to kill them at the start of his governorship and raiding the temple treasury when he needed some quick cash to build an aqueduct and develop a water supply in Jerusalem. Of course, the Jews were enraged by this and protested in masses. Pilate’s response? He hid some of his soldiers amongst the protesters, and then cause them to attack. Many people were killed.
There are few people who recognize this, but Pontius Pilate is mentioned in the narrative of the Gospels outside of the crucifixion narrative. In fact, it happens in Luke’s Gospel:
[Luke 13:1] At that time, some people came and reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.
According to Luke, Pilate slaughtered some Galileans whilst they were making sacrifices, perhaps in fear of a riot they could potentially give rise to. Luke corrects Pilate in his gruesome nature, consistent with the historical record, and the story itself is consistent with Pilate’s negativity against the Jews. The way Luke paints Pilate is consistent with the historical record, and thus historical credence and reliability is given to the Gospel of Luke, and overall the New Testament. These two evidences for the New Testament and its historicity (existence of Pilate as well as his character and the things he does) are further reason why we accept the true faith of Christianity.
I’d hate to post a blog telling people about the horrific nature of Pilate on Christmas, but perhaps we can remember the things Jesus went through on this day. Furthermore, check out this fantastic video by the YouTube channel Bible Project also relating to Luke’s Gospel! God Bless and have a very merry Christmas! Hopefully these proofs for the Bible can suffice as my Christmas gift to you, but your appreciation in what I post is all I need in return.
[Luke 2:11] Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord!