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Pontius Pilate

Pontius Pilate was the governor of the small Roman province of Judea from 26 CE until 37, although Tacitus believed him to be the procurator of that province. His biographical details before and after this time are unknown.

Pilate is famous primarily as a crucial character in the New Testament account of Jesus, but most of our knowledge of him comes from the account of the Romano-Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.

Pilate is said to have displayed a serious lack of empathy for Jewish sensibilities, for example by displaying Roman religious symbols and by appropriating Temple funds for the construction of an aqueduct. He then responded harshly to the resulting unrest, possibly because, due to political machinations, the powerful neighboring Roman province of Syria was unable to provide him military support.

In approximately 36, Pilate used arrests and executions to quash a Samaritan religious uprising. After complaints to the Roman legate of Syria, Pilate was recalled to Rome.

In the New Testament account, Pilate hesitates to condemn Jesus until "the Jews" insist, after which Jesus is sentenced to crucifixion under the sign, "Jesus Christ, King of the Jews". This account is often considered to be an effort by early Christian polemicists to curry favor with Rome by placing the blame for Jesus' execution on the Jews.

In 1961, a block of limestone was found in the Roman theatre at Caesarea, the capital of the province of Judea, bearing a damaged dedication by Pilate of a Tiberieum. This dedication states that he was prefectus -- or governor of Judea. The word Tiberieum is otherwise unknown: some scholars speculate that it was some kind of structure, perhaps a temple, built to honor the emperor Tiberius. This inscription is currently in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.



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