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Pontius Pilate – Roman Governor of Judea

Learn Why Pontius Pilate Ordered Jesus' Execution

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Jesus Before Pontius Pilate

Circa 1455, Jesus appearing before Pontius Pilate and Caiaphas, while Barabbas the thief stands below. Original Publication: From the Book of Hours executed by Jean Fouquet for Etienne Chevalier.

Photo: Getty Images

Pontius Pilate was a key figure in the trial of Jesus Christ, ordering Roman troops to carry out Jesus' death sentence by crucifixion. As Roman governor and supreme judge in the province from 26-37 A.D., Pilate had the sole authority to execute a criminal. This soldier and politician found himself caught between the unforgiving empire of Rome and the religious scheming of the Jewish council, the Sanhedrin.

Pontius Pilate's Accomplishments:

Pilate was assigned to collect taxes, oversee building projects, and keep law and order. He maintained peace through brute force and subtle negotiation. Pontius Pilate's predecessor, Valerius Gratus, went through three High Priests before he found one to his liking: Joseph Caiaphas. Pilate retained Caiaphas, who apparently knew how to cooperate with the Roman overseers.

Pontius Pilate's Strengths:

Pontius Pilate was probably a successful soldier before he received this appointment through patronage. In the gospels, he is portrayed as finding no fault with Jesus and symbolically washes his hands of the matter.

Pontius Pilate's Weaknesses:

Pilate was afraid of the Sanhedrin and a possible riot. He knew Jesus was innocent of the charges against him yet gave in to the crowd and had Jesus crucified anyway.

Life Lessons:

What is popular is not always right, and what is right is not always popular. Pontius Pilate sacrificed an innocent man to avoid problems for himself. Disobeying God to go along with the crowd is a very serious matter. As Christians, we must be prepared to take a stand for God's laws.

Hometown:

Pilate's family is traditionally believed to have come from the region of Samnium in central Italy.

Referenced in the Bible:

Matthew 27: 2, 11, 13, 17, 19, 22-24, 58, 62, 25; Mark 15:1-15, 43-44; Luke 13:1, 22:66, 23:1-24, 52; John 18:28-38, 19:1-22, 31, 38; Acts 3:13, 4:27; 13:28; 1 Timothy 6:13.

Occupation:

Prefect, or governor of Judea under the Roman Empire.

Family Tree:

Matthew 27:19 mentions Pontius Pilate's wife, but we have no other information on his parents or any children.

Key Verses:

Matthew 27:24
So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves." (ESV)

Luke 23:12
And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other. (ESV)

John 19:19-22
Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but rather, 'This man said, I am King of the Jews.'" Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written." (ESV)

(Information in this article is compiled and summarized from livius.org and ecole.evansville.edu)

Old Testament People of the Bible (Index)
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