World History Tutorial
Where History Meets Faith: Pontius Pilate the Ruler of Judea
World history intersects with religious and archeological history at significant points.Pontius Pilate, the Governor of Judea is a political figure at the crossroads of history.
Pontius Pilate was a Roman Governor of the Jewish territory Judea. Pilate governed Judea under Roman Emperor Tiberious Caesar. Tiberius reigned over the Roman Empire from 14 to 37 AD.
The bible simultaneously records Pontius Pilate as Governor of Judea from 26 to 36 AD.
Pilate was a middle class Roman soldier. He rose to prominence in the Roman Empire by marriage to the fourteen year old granddaughter of Augustus Caesar. Pilate is best known as the judge of Jesus’s trial.
Jesus and Pilate
The Gospels portray Pilate as reluctant to try Jesus for the crime of treason. However, purely historical texts describe Governor Pilate as a cruel and ruthless ruler who routinely killed Jews without trial.
Both of those observations are accurate.Cornelius Tacitus, a well-known first century Roman historian, wrote about Jesus and Pontius Pilate:
“Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus”
(Annales, Historiae, Chapter 15, paragraphs 54 and 55).
Pilate’s main duties were to collect taxes and maintain order in the region of Judea. During his reign, Caesar Tiberius expanded the definition of treason to include any reference to a king other than the Roman emperor.
However, he also allowed Jews to freely practice their own religion, as long as they paid taxes.
This mix of political submission and religious freedom was designed to discourage rebellion in Jewish territories occupied by Rome.
Invariably, the objectives of rulers are often distorted by the private agendas of their middle managers.
Jewish religious leaders and Governor Pilate played roles in how Rome governed Judea.
Pilate was known to be ruthless and intolerant of Jews, but not so with Jesus of Nazareth. In the mind of Pilate, Jesus was no enemy of the Roman state because he told Jews to pay taxes to Caesar,and he also had dinner with tax collectors. In contrast, the ruling Jewish council was threatened by Jesus’s popularity.
The clash of Judeo-Roman political agendas eventually lead to Jesus’ trial and conviction for treason against the Roman Emperor. Inevitably and unforseeably, Jesus’ death by crucifixion changed the course of world history.
Pontius Pilate was recalled to Rome because of his failure to keep things quiet in Judea. Pilate was alternately too weak and too aggressive to govern effectively. In 39 AD,the new emperor, Caesar Caligula exiled Pilate. Pilate is reported to have died by suicide while in exile.
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