(Πόντιος Πίλατος, Graecized from the Latin Pontius Pilatus), the Roman procurator or resident as governor of Judaea during the period of our Lord's public ministry and passion, and chiefly known in history from his connection with the Crucifixion. In the following account we combine Scriptural notices with information from other ancient resources and modern examination.
I. His Name. — His praenomen or first name is unknown. His nomen or family name indicates that he was connected, by descent or adoption, with the gens of the Pontii, first conspicuous in Roman history in the person of C. Pontius Telesinus, the great Samnite general. The cognomen Pilatus has received two explanat tions.
(1.) As armed with the pilum or javelin (comp. "pilata agmina," Virg. AEn. 12:121);
(2.) As contracted from pileatus. The fact that the pileus or cap was'the badge of manumitted slaves (comp. Suetonius, Nero, c. 57;
Tiber. c. 4), makes it probable that the epithet marked him out as a libertus, or as descended from one.
II. His Office. — Pilate was the sixth Roman procurator of Judaea (Mt 27:2; Mr 15:1; Lu 3:1; Joh 18:29). under whom our Lord taught, suffered, and died (Ac 3:13; Ac 4:27; Ac 13:28; 1Ti 6:13). The testimony of Tacitus on this point is no less clear than it is important; for it fixes beyond a doubt the time when the foundations of our religion were laid. "The author of that name (Christian) or sect was Christ, who was capitally punished in the reign of Tiberius by Pontius Pilate" (Auctor nominis ejus Christus, Tiberio imperitante, per Procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio affectus est). Aprocurator (ἐπίτροπος, Philo, Leg. ad Caium, and Josephus, War, 2:9, 2; but less correctly ἡγεμών, Mt 27:2; and Josephus, Ant. 18:3, 1) was generally a Roman knight, appointed to act under the governor of a province as collector of the revenue, and judge in causes connected with it. Strictly speaking,procuratores Ccesaris were only required in the imperial provinces, i.e., those which, according to the constitution of Augustus, were reserved for the special administration of the emperor, without the intervention of the senate and people, and governed by his legate. In the senatorial provinces, governed by proconsuls, the corresponding duties were discharged by quaestors. Yet it appears that sometimes procuratores were appointed in those provinces also, to collect certain dues of the fiscus (the emperor's special revenue), as distinguished from those of the cerarium (the revenue administered by the senate). Sometimes in a small territory, especially in one colntiguous to a larger province, and dependent upon it, the procurator was head of the administration, and had full military and judicial authority, though he was responsible to'the governor of the neighboring province. Thus Judaea was attached to Syria upon the deposition of Archelaus (A.D. 6), and a procurator appointed to govern it, with Caesarea for its capital. Already, during a temporary absence of Archelaus, it had been in charge of the procurator Sabinus; then, after the ethnarch's banishment, came Coponius; the third procurator was M. Ambivius; the fourth Annius Rufus; the fifth Valerius Gratus; and the sixth Pontius Pilate (Josephus, Ant. 18:2, 2), who was appointed A.D. 25-6, in the twelfth year of Tiberius. He held his office for a period of ten years (Josephus, Ant. 18:10, 2). The agreement on this point between the accounts in the New Testament and those supplied by Josephus is entire and satisfactory. It has been exhibited in detail by the learned, accurate, and candid Lardner (t 1503-89, Lond. 1827). These procurators had their headquarters at Caesarea, which is called by Tacitus Judeece caput; but they took up their temporary abode at Jerusalem on occasion of the great feasts, as a measure of precaution against any popular outbreak. SEE PROCURATOR.
III. His Life. —
1. Of the early history of Pilate we know nothing; but a German legend fills up the gap strangely enough. Pilate is the bastard son of Tyrus, king of Mayence. His father sends him to Rome as a hostage. There he is guilty of a murder; but being sent to Pontus, rises into notice as subduing the barbarous tribes there, receives in consequence the new name of Pontius, and is sent to Judaea. It has been suggested that the twenty-second legion, which was in Palestine at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, and was afterwards stationed at Mayence, may have been in this case either the bearers of the tradition or the inventors of the fable (comp. Vilmar, Deutsche Nationalliteratur, i, 217).
2. His Official Career. — (1.) His Administration in General. — One of Pilate's first acts was to remove the headquarters of the army from Caesarea to Jerusalem. The soldiers of course took with them their standards, bearing the image of the emperor, into the Holy City. Pilate had been obliged to send them in by night, and there were no bounds to the rage of the people on discovering what had thus been done. They poured down in crowds to Caesarea, where the procurator was then residing, and besought him to remove the images. After five days of discussion he gave the signal to some concealed soldiers to surround the petitioners and put them to death unless they ceased to trouble him; but this only strengthened their determination, and they declared themselves ready rather to submit to death than forego their resistance to an idolatrous innovation. Pilate then yielded, and the standards were by his orders brought down to Caesarea (Josephus, Ant. 28, 3,12; War, ii. 9, 2-4). No previous governor had ventured on such an outrage. Herod the Great, it is true, had placed the Roman eagle on one of his new buildings; but this had been followed by a violent outbreak, and the attempt had not been repeated (Ewald, Geschichte, 4, 509). The extent to which the scruples of the Jews on this point were respected by the Roman governors is shown by the fact that no effigy of either god or emperor is found on the money coined by them in Judaea before the war under Nero (ibid. v, 33, referring to Deuteronomy Saulcy, Recherches sur la Numismatique judaique, pt. viii, ix). Assuming this, the denarius with Casar's image and superscription of Matthew 23 must have been a coin from the Roman mint, or that of some other province. The latter was probably current for the common purposes of life. The shekel alone was received as a Temple-offering. See ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION.
Coin of Judaea struck under Pontius Pilate.
Obverse: Τιβερίου Καίσαρος ("Of Tiberius Caesar"), with the legend r 16, i.e. A.D. 99, the year of our Lord's crucifixion. Reverse: Ι᾿ουλία Καίσαπος ("Julia [mother] of Caesar"), with three ears of corn tied together. Probably a quadrans, equivalent to two "mites" (Mt 11:29).
On two other occasions Pilate nearly drove the Jews to insurrection; the first when, in spite of this warning about the images, he hung tip in his palace at Jerusalem some gilt shields inscribed with the names of deities, which were only removed by an order from Tiberius (Philo, Ad Caium, § 38, ii, 589); the second when be appropriated the revenue arising from the redemption of vows (Corban: comp. Mark vii, 11) to the construction of an aqueduct. This order led to a riot, which he suppressed by sending among the crowd soldiers with concealed daggers, who massacred a great number, not only of rioters, but of casual spectators (Josephus, War, ii, 9. 4). Ewald suggests that the Tower of Siloam (Lu 13:4) may have been part of the same works, and that this was the reason why its fall was looked upon as a judgment (Gesch. vi, 40). The Pharisaic reverence for whatever was set apart for the Corban (Mr 7:11), and their scruples as to admitting into it anything that had an impure origin (Mt 27:6); may be regarded, perhaps, as outgrowths of the same feeling. See CORBAN.
To these specimens of his administration, which rest on the testimony of profane authors, we must add the slaughter of certain Galilaeans, which was told to out Lord as a piece of news (ἀπαγγέλλοντες Lu 13:1), and on which he founded some remarks on the connection between sin and calamity. It must have occurred at some feast at Jerusalem, in the outer court of the Temple, since the blood of the worshippers was mingled with their sacrifices; but the silence of Josephus about it seems to show that riots and massacres on such occasions were so frequent that it was needless to recount them all. Ewald suggests that the insurrection of which Mark speaks (xv, 7) must have been that connected with the appropriation of the Corban (supra), and that this explains the eagerness with which the people demanded Barabbas's release. He infers further, From Barabbas's name, that he was the son of a rabbi ,Abba was a rabbinic title of honor), and thus accounts for the part taken in his favor by the members of the Sanhedrim. See BARABBAS.
(2.) His special Connection with Jesus. — It was the custom for the procurators to reside at Jerusalem during the great feasts, to preserve order, and accordingly, at the time of our Lord's last Passover, Pilate was occupying his official residence in Herod's palace; and to the gates of this palace Jesus, condemned on the charge of blasphemy, was brought early in the morning by the chief priests and officers of the Sanhedrim, who were unable to enter the residence of a Gentile, lest they should be defiled, and unfit to eat the Passover (Joh 18:28). Pilate therefore came out to learn their purpose, and demanded the nature of the charge. At first they seem to have expected that lie would have carried out their wishes without further inquiry, and therefore merely described our Lord as a κακοποιὀς (disturber of the public peace); but as a Roman procurator had too much respect for justice, or at least understood his business too well to consent to such a condemnation, and as they knew that he would not enter into theological questions, any more than Gallio afterwards did on a somewhat similar occasion (Ac 18:14), they were obliged to devise a new charge, and therefore interpreted our Lord's claims in a political sense, accusing him of assuming the royal title, perverting the nation, and forbidding the payment of tribute to Rome (Lu 23:3; an account plainly presupposed in John 28:33). It is evident that from this moment Pilate was distracted between two conflicting feelings: a fear of offending the Jews, who had already grounds of accusation against him, which would be greatly strengthened by any show of lukewarmness in punishing an offence against the imperial government, and a conscious conviction that Jesus was innocent, since it was absurd to suppose that a desire to free the nation from Roman authority was criminal in the eyes of the Sanhedrim. Moreover, this last feeling was strengthened by his own hatred of the Jews, whose religious scruples had caused him frequent trouble, and by a growing respect for the calm dignity and meekness of the sufferer. First he examined our Lord privately, and asked him whether he were a king. The question which he in return put to his judge, "Sagest thou this of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?" seems to imply that there was in Pilate's own mind a suspicion that the prisoner really was what lie was charged with being; a suspicion which shows itself again in the later question, "Whence art thou?" (Joh 19:8), in the increasing desire to release him (ver. 12), and in the refusal to alter the inscription on the cross (ver. 22). In any case Pilate accepted as satisfactory Christ's assurance that his kingdom was not of this world, that is, not worldly in its nature or objects, and therefore not to be founded by this world's weapons, though he could not understand the assertion that it was to be established by bearing witness to the truth. His famous reply, "What is truth?" was the question of a worldly-minded politician, skeptical because he was indifferent, one who thought truth an empty name, or at least could not see "any connection between ἀληθεια and βασιλεία, truth and policy" (Dr.
C. Wordsworth, Contra. ad loc.). With this question he brought the interview to a close, and came out to the Jews and declared the prisoner innocent. To this they replied that his teaching had stirred up all the people from Galilee to Jerusalem. The mention of Galilee suggested to Pilate a new way of escaping from his dilemma, by sending on the case to Herod Antipas, tetrarch of that country, who had come up to Jerusalem to the feast, while at the same time this gave him an opportunity for making overtures of reconciliation to Herod, with whose jurisdiction he had probably in some recent instance interfered. But Herod, though propitiated by this act of courtesy, declined to enter into the matter, and merely sent Jesus back to Pilate dressed in a shining kingly robe (ἐσθν'τα λαμράν, Lu 23:11), to express his ridicule of such pretensions, and contempt for the whole business. So Pilate was compelled to come to a decision, and first, having assembled the chief priests and also the people, whom he probably summoned in the expectation that they would be favorable to Jesus, he announced to them that the accused had done nothing worthy of death, but at the same time, in hopes of pacifying the Sanhedrim, he proposed to scourge him before he released him. But as the accusers were resolved to have his blood, they rejected this concession, and therefore Pilate had recourse to a fresh expedient. It was the custom for the Roman governor to grant every year, in honor of the Passover, pardon to one condemned criminal. The origin of the practice is unknown, though we may connect it with the fact mentioned by Livy (v, 13) that at a Lectisternium "vinctis quoque dempta vincula." Pilate therefore offered the people their choice between two, the murderer Barabbas, and the prophet whom a few days before they had hailed as the Messiah. To receive their decision he ascended the βἢμα, a portable tribunal which was carried about with a Roman magistrate to be placed wherever lie might direct, and which in the present case was erected on a tessellated pavement (λιθόστρωτον) in front of the palace, and called in Hebrew Gabbatha, probably from being laid down on a slight elevation (גָּבהּ, "to be high"). As soon as Pilate had taken his seat, he received a mysterious message from his wife, according to tradition a proselyte of the gate (θεοσεβής), named Procla or Claudia Procula (Evang. Nicod. ii), who had "suffered many things in a dream," which impelled her to entreat her husband not t, condemn the Just One. But he had no longer any choice in the matter, for the rabble, instigated of course by the priests, chose Barabbas for pardon, and clamored for the death of Jesus; insurrection seemed imminent, and Pilate reluctantly yielded. But before issuing the fatal order he washed his hands before the multitude, as a sign that he was innocent of the crime, in imitation probably of the ceremony enjoined in Deuteronomy 21, where it is ordered that when the perpetrator of a murder is not discovered, the elders of the city in which it occurs shall wash their hands, with the declaration, "Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it." Such a practice might naturally be adopted even by a Roman, as intelligible to the Jewish multitude around him. As in the present case it produced no effect, Pilate ordered his soldiers to inflict the scourging preparatory to execution; but the sight of unjust suffering so patiently borne seems again to have troubled his conscience, and prompted a new effort in favor of the victim. He brought him out bleeding from the savage punishment, and decked in the scarlet robe and crown of thorns which the soldiers had put on him in derision, and said to the people, "Behold the man!" hoping that such a spectacle would rouse them to shame and compassion. But the priests only renewed their clamors for his death, and, fearing that the political charge of treason might be considered insufficient, returned to their first accusation of blasphemy, and quoting the law of Moses (Le 24:16), which punished blasphemy with stoning. declared that he must die "because he made himself the Son of God." But this title υἱὸβ θεοὕ augmented Pilate's superstitious fears, already aroused by his wife's dream (ηἄλλον ἐφοβήθη, Joh 19:7); he feared that Jesus might be one of the heroes or demigods of his own mythology; he took him again into the palace, and inquired anxiously into his descent ("Whence art thou?") and his claims, but, as the question was only prompted by fear or curiosity, Jesus made no reply. When Pilate reminded him of his own absolute power over him, he closed this last conversation with the irresolute governor by the mournful remark: "Thou couldst have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above; therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin." God had given to Pilate power over him, and power only, but to those who delivered him up God had given the means of judging of his claims; and therefore Pilate's sin, in merely exercising this power, was less than theirs who, being God's own priests, with the Scriptures before them, and the word of prophecy still alive among them (Joh 11:50; Joh 18:14), had deliberately conspired for his death. The result of this interview was one last effort to save Jesus by a fresh appeal to the multitude; but now arose the formidable cry, "If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend," and Pilate, to whom political success was as the breath of life, again ascended the tribunal, and finally pronounced the desired condemnation.
The proceedings of Pilate in our Lord's trial supply many interesting illustrations of the accuracy of the evangelists, from the accordance of their narrative with the known customs of the time. Thus Pilate, being only a procurator, had no quaestor to conduct the trial, and therefore examined the prisoner himself. Again, in early times Roman magistrates had not been allowed to take their wives with them into the provinces, but this prohibition had fallen into neglect, and latterly a proposal made by Caecina to enforce it had been rejected (Tacit. Ann. iii, 33, 34). Grotius points out that the word ἀνέπεμψεν, used when Pilate sends our Lord to Herod (Lu 23:7), is "propria Romani juris vox: nam remittitur reus qui alicubi comprehensus mittitur ad judicem aut originis aut habitationis" (see Alford, ad loc.). The tessellated pavement (λιθόστρωτον) was so necessary to the forms of justice, as well as the βἢμα, that Julius Caesar carried one about with him on his expeditions (Sueton. Jul. c. 46). The power of life and death was taken from the Jews when Judaea became a province (Josephus, Ant. xx, 9, 1). Scourging before execution was a well- known Roman practice.
So ended Pilate's share in the greatest crime which has been committed since the world began. That he did not immediately lose his feelings of anger against the Jews who had thus compelled his acquiescence, and of compassion and awe for the Sufferer whom he had unrighteously sentenced, is plain from his curt and angry refusal to alter the inscription which he had prepared for the cross (ὃ γέγραφα, γέγραφα), his ready acquiescence in the request made by Joseph of Arimathsea that the Lord's body might be given up to him rather than consigned to the common sepulchre reserved for those who had suffered capital punishment, an his sullen answer to the demand of the Sanhedrim that the sepulchre should be guarded. (Mt 23:39, ἔχετε κουστωδιαν ὑπἁγετε, ἀσφαλίσασθε ώς οἴδατε. Ellicott would translate this, "Take a guard," on the ground that the watchers were Roman soldiers, who were not under the command of the priests. But some might have been placed at their disposal during the feast, and we should rather expect λὰβετε if the sentence were imperative.)
(3.) His Eventual Fate. — Here, as far as Scripture is concerned, our knowledge of Pilate's life ends. But we learn from Josephus (Ant. xviii, 4, 1) that his anxiety to avoid giving offence to Caesar did not save him from political disaster. The Samaritans were unquiet and rebellious. A leader of their own race had promised to disclose to them the sacred treasures which Moses was reported to have concealed in Mount Gerizim. Pilate led his troops against them, and defeated them easily enough. The Samaritans complained to Vitellius, now president of Syria, and he sent Pilate to Rome to answer their accusations before the emperor (ibid. 2). When lie reached Rome he found Tiberius dead and Caius (Caligula) on the throne, A.D. 36. Eusebius adds (Mist. Eccl. ii, 7) that soon afterwards. "wearied with misfortunes," he killed himself. As to the scene of his death there are various traditions. One is that he was banished to Vienna Allobrogum (Vienne on the Rhone), where a singular monument, a pyramid on a quadrangular base, fifty-two feet high, is called Pontius Pilate's tomb (Smith, Dict. of Class. Geog. art. Vienna). Another is that he sought to hide his sorrows on the mountain by the lake of Lucerne, now called Mount Pilatus; and there, after spending years in its recesses, in remorse and despair rather than penitence, plunged into the dismal lake which occupies its summit. According to the popular belief, "a form is often seen to emerge from the gloomy waters, and go through the action of one washing his hands; and when he does so dark clouds of mist gather first round the bosom of the Infernal Lake (such it has been styled of old), and then, wrapping the whole upper part of the mountain in darkness, presage a tempest or hurricane, which is sure to follow in a short space" (Scott, Anne of Geierstein, ch. i). (See below.)
Pilate's wife is also, as might be expected, prominent in these traditions. Her name is given as Claudia Procula (Niceph. Mist. Eccl. i, 30). She had been a proselyte to Judaism before the crucifixion (Evang. Alicod. c. 2). Nothing certain is known as to her history, but the tradition that she became a Christian is as old as the time of Origen (Hom. in Matthew 35). The Greek Church has canonized her. The dream has been interpreted by some as a divine interposition; by others as a suggestion of the devil, who wished to prevent the Saviour's death; by others as the unconscious reflection of her interest in the reports which had reached her regarding Jesus. The description of Jesus as "that just man" (τψ῞ δικαίψ ἐκείνψ), it is remarked by Schaff. recalls the celebrated unconscious prophecy of Plato, in his Republic, as to the δίκαιος who was, after enduring all possible sufferings, to restore righteousness. In the earlier periods, and indeed so long as the commonwealth subsisted, it was very unusual for the governors of provinces to take their wives with them (Senec. Deuteronomy Controv. 25), and in the strict regulations which Augustus introduced lie did not allow the favor, except in peculiar and specified circumstances (Seuton. Aug. 24). The practice, however, grew to be more and more prevalent, and was customary in Pilate's time. It is evident from Tacitus that at the time of the death of Augustus, Germanicus had his wife Agrippina with him in Germany (Annal. i, 40, 41; comp. iii, 33-59; Josephus, Ant. xx, 10, 1; Ulpian, iv, 2). Indeed, in the beginning of the reign of Tiberius, Germanicus took his wife with him into the East. Piso, the prefect of Syria, took his wife also along with him at the same time (Tacit. Annal. ii, 54. 55). "But," says Lardner (i, 152), "nothing can render this (the practice in question) more apparent than a motion made in the Roman senate by Severus Caesina, in the fourth consulship of Tiberius, and second of Drusus Caesar (A.D. 21), that no magistrate to whom any province was assigned should be accompanied by his wife, except the senate's rejecting it, and that with some indignation" (Tacit. Annal. iii, 33, 34). The fact mentioned incidentally, or rather implied, in Matthew, being thus confirmed by full and unquestionable evidence, cannot fail to serve as a corroboration of the evangelical history. (Comp. Paulus, Comm. iii, 723; Kuinöl, In loc. Mat.; Gotter, Deuteronomy Conjugis Pilati Somnio. Jena, 1704; Kluge, Deuteronomy Somnio Uxoris Pil. Hal. 1720; Herbart, Examen Somnii Uxoris Pil. Oldenb. 1735.)
IV. His Character. — The character of Pilate may be sufficiently inferred from the sketch given above of his conduct at our Lord's trial. By some he has been depicted as one of the worst of tyrants; by others, who have passed to the opposite extreme, his faults have been unduly palliated or denied. Tertullian speaks of him as virtually a Christian at heart ("jam pro sua conscientiâ Christianum," Apol. c. 21); and the Ethiopian Church has even made him a saint. We have no reason to suppose that, so far as his general administration went, it differed greatly from that of the other Roman governors of Judaea. He was a type of the rich and corrupt Romans of his age; a worldly-minded statesman, conscious of no higher wants than those of this life, yet by no means unmoved by feelings of justice and mercy. His conduct to the Jews, in the instances quoted from Josephus, though severe, was not thoughtlessly cruel or tyrannical, considering the general practice of Roman governors, and the difficulties of dealing with a nation so arrogant and perverse. Certainly there is nothing in the facts recorded by profane authors inconsistent with his desire, obvious from the Gospel narrative, to save our Lord. But all his better feelings were overpowered by a selfish regard for his own security. He would not encounter the least hazard of personal annoyance in behalf of innocence and justice; the unrighteous condemnation of a good man was a trifle in comparison with the fear of the emperor's frown and the loss of place and power. While we do not differ from Chrysostom's opinion that he was παράνομος (Chrysost. i, 802, Adv. Judoeos, vi), or that recorded in the Apostolical Constitutions (v, 14), that he was ἄνατὸπος we yet see abundant reason for our Lord's merciful judgment, "He that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin." At the same time his history furnishes a proof that worldliness and want of principle are sources of crimes no less awful than those which spring from deliberate and reckless wickedness. The unhappy notoriety given to his name by its place in the two universal creeds of Christendom is due, not to any desire of singling him out for shame, but to the need of fixing the date of our Lord's death, and so bearing witness to the claims of Christianity as resting on a historical basis (August. Deuteronomy Fide et Symb. c. v, vol. vi, p. 156; Pearson, On the Creed, p. 239, 240, ed. Burt, and the authorities quoted in note c).
That the conduct of Pilate was highly criminal cannot be denied. But his guilt was light in comparison with the atrocious depravity of the Jews, especially the priests. His was the guilt of weakness and fear, theirs the guilt of settled and deliberate malice. His state of mind prompted him to attempt the release of an accused person in opposition to the clamors of a misguided mob; theirs urged them to compass the ruin of an acquitted person by instigating the populace, calumniating the prisoner, and terrifying the judge. If Pilate yielded against his judgment under the fear of personal danger, and so took part in an act of unparalleled injustice, the priests and their ready tools originated the false accusation, sustained it by subornation of perjury, and when it was declared invalid enforced their own unfounded sentence by appealing tot he lowest passions. Pilate, it is clear, was utterly destitute of principle. He was willing, indeed, to do right, if lie could do right without personal disadvantage. Of gratuitous wickedness he was perhaps incapable, certainly in the condemnation of Jesus he has the merit of being for a time on the side of innocence. But he yielded to violence, and so committed an awful crime. In his hands was the life of the prisoner. Convinced of his innocence, he ought to have set him at liberty, thus doing right regardless of consequences. But this is an act of high virtue which we hardly require at the hands of a Roman governor of Judaea; and though Pilate must bear the reproach of acting contrary to his own declared convictions, yet lie may equally claim some credit for the apparently sincere efforts which lie made in order to defeat the malice of the Jews and procure the liberation of Jesus.
If now we wish to sum up the judgment of Pilate's character, we easily see that he was one of that large class of men who aspire to public offices, not from a pure and lofty desire of benefiting the public and advancing the good of the world, but from selfish and personal considerations, from a love of distinction, from a love of power, from a love of self-indulgence; being destitute of any fixed principles, and having no aim but office and influence, they act right only by chance and when convenient, and are wholly incapable of pursuing a consistent course, or of acting with firmness and self-denial in cases in which the preservation of integrity requires the exercise of these qualities. Pilate was obviously a man of weak, and therefore, with his temptations, of corrupt character. The view given in the Apostolical Constitutions (v, 14), where unmanliness (ἀνανδρία) is ascribed to him, we take to be correct. This want of strength will readily account for his failing to rescue Jesus from the rage of his enemies, and also for the acts of injustice and cruelty which he practiced in his government-acts which, considered in themselves, wear a deeper dye than does the conduct which he observed in surrendering Jesus to the malice of the Jews. This same weakness may serve to explain to the reader how much influence would be exerted on this unjust judge, not only by the stern bigotry and persecuting wrath of the Jewish priesthood, but especially by the not concealed intimations which they threw out against Pilate that, if he liberated Jesus, he was no friend of Tiberius, and must expect to have to give an account of his conduct at Rome. That this was no idle threat, nothing beyond the limits of probability, Pilate's subsequent deposition by Vitellius shows very plainly; nor could the procurator have been ignorant either of the stern determination of the Jewish character, or of the offence he had by his acts given to the heads of the nation, or of the insecurity, at that very hour, when the contest between him and the priests was proceeding regarding the innocent victim whom they lusted to destroy, of his own position in the office which he held, and which, of course, he desired to retain. On the whole, then, viewing the entire conduct of Pilate, his previous iniquities as well as his bearing on the condemnation of Jesus — viewing his own actual position and the malignity of the Jews — we cannot, we confess, give our vote with those who have passed the severest condemnation on this weak and guilty governor.
The number of dissertations on Pilate's character and all the circumstances connected with him, his "facinora," his "Christum servandi studium," his wife's dream, his supposed letters to Tiberius, which have been published during the last and present centuries, is quite overwhelming. On this point the student may consult with advantage dean Alford's Commentary; Ellicott, Historical Lectures on the Life of our Lord, sect. vii; Neander's Life of Christ, § 285 (Bohn); Ewald, Geschichte, v, 30, etc. See also Miller, Deuteronomy enixiss. Pil. Christ. servand. stud. (Hamb. 1751); Tobler, in Pfenniger, Samml. z. christl. Mag. III, ii, (Zurich, 1782); Niemeyer, Charakt. i, 129 sq.; Paulus, Comment. iii, 697 sq.; Lücke, on John six. Comp. Schuster, in Eichhorn's Biblioth. d. bibl. Lit. x, 823; Olshausen, in answer to Tholuck's low valuation of Pilate, Comment. ii,
504 sq. The reader will find a discriminating analysis in Stier, Reden Jesu, vi, 318-382 (ii, 619 sq. of the American translation), and in Dr. Hanna's Last Day of Our Lord's Passion, p. 77-148. See also the Zeitschr. f. wissensch. Theol. 1871, vol. iv.
V. Apocryphal Accounts. — We learn from Justin Martyr (Apol. i, 76, 84), Tertullian (Apol. c. 21), Eusebius (Hist. Eccles. ii, 2), and others, that Pilate made an official report to Tiberius of our Lord's trial and condemnation; and in a homily ascribed to Chrysostom, though marked as spurious by his Benedictine editors (Hon. viii, in Pasch. viii, 968, D.), certain ὐπομνήματα (Aeta, or Commentarii Pilati) are spoken of as wellknown documents in common circulation. That he made such a report is highly probable, and it may have been in existence in Chrysostom's time; but the Acta Pilati now extant in Greek, and two Latin epistles from him to the emperor (Fabric. Apocr. i, 237, 298; iii, 111, 456), are certainly spurious. The number of extant "Acta Pilati," in various forms, is so Urge as to show that very early the demand created a supply of documents manifestly spurious, and we have no reason for looking on any one of those that remain as more authentic than the others. The taunt of Celsus that the Christians circulated spurious or distorted narratives under this title (Origen, c. Cels.), and the complaint of Eusebius (Hilt. Eccles. ix, 5) that the heathens made them the vehicle of blasphemous calumnies, show how largely the machinery of falsification was used on either side. Such of these documents as are extant are found in the collections of Fabricius, Thilo, and Tischendorf. Some of them are but weak paraphrases of the Gospel history. The most extravagant are perhaps the most interesting, as indicating the existence of modes of thought at variance with the prevalent traditions. Of these anomalies the most striking is that known as the Paradosis Pilati (Tischendorf, Evang. Apoc. p. 426). The emperor Tiberius, startled at the universal darkness that had fallen on the Roman empire on the day of the crucifixion, summons Pilate to answer for having caused it. He is condemned to death, but before his execution he prays to the Lord Jesus that he may not be destroyed with the wicked Hebrews, and pleads his ignorance as an excuse. The prayer is answered by a voice from heaven, assuring him that all generations shall call him blessed. and that he shall be a witness for Christ at his second coming to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. An angel receives his head, and his wife dies filled with joy, and is buried with him. Startling as this imaginary history may be, it has its counterpart in the traditional customs of the Abyssinian Church, in which Pilate is recognised as a saint and martyr, and takes his place in the calendar on the 25th of June (Stanley, Eastern Church, p. 13; Neale,
Eastern Church, i, 806). The words of Tertullian, describing him as "jam pro sua conscientia Christianus" (Apol. c. 21), indicate a like feeling, and we find traces of it also in the Apocryphal Gospel, which speaks of him as "uncircumcised in flesh, but circumcised in heart" (Evang. Nicod. i, 12, in Tischendorf, Evang. Apoc. p. 236).
According to another legend (Mrs Pilati, in Tischendorf's Evang. Apoc. p. 432), Tiberius, hearing of the wonderful works of healing that had been wrought in Judaea, writes to Pilate, bidding him to send to Rome the man that had this divine power. Pilate has to confess that he has crucified him; but the messenger meets Veronica, who gives him the cloth which had received the impress of the divine features, and by this the emperor is healed. Pilate is summoned to take his trial, and presents himself wearing the holy and seamless tunic. This acts as a spell upon the emperor, and he forgets his wonted severity. After a time Pilate is thrown into prison, and there commits suicide. His body is cast into the Tiber, but as storms and tempests followed, the Romans take it up and send it to Vienne. It is thrown into the Rhone; but the same disasters follow, and it is sent on to Losania (Lucerne or Lausanne?). There it is sunk in a pool, fenced round by mountains, and even there the waters boil or bubble strangely. The interest of this story obviously lies in its presenting an early form (the existing text is of the 14th century) of the local traditions which connect the name of the procurator of Judaea with the Mount Pilatus that overlooks the lake of Lucerne. The received explanation (Ruskin, Modern Painters, v, 128) of the legend, as originating in a distortion of the descriptive name Mons Pileatus (the "cloud-capped"), supplies a curious instance of the genesis of a myth from a false etymology; but it may be questioned whether it rests on sufficient grounds, and is not rather the product of a pseudocriticism, finding in a name the starting-point, not the embodiment of a legend. Have we any evidence that the mountain was known as "Pileatus" before the legend? Have we not, in the apocryphal story just cited, the legend independently of the name? (comp. Vilmar, Deutsche Nationalliteratur, i, 217). The extent to which the terror connected with the belief formerly prevailed is somewhat startling. If a stone were thrown into the lake, a violent storm would follow. No one was allowed to visit it without a special permission from the authorities of Lucerne. The neighboring shepherds were bound by a solemn oath, renewed annually, never to guide a stranger to it (Gessner, Descript. Mont. Pilat. [Zurich, 1555], p. 40). The spell was broken in 1584 by Johannes Müller, curd of Lucerne, who was bold enough to throw stones and abide the consequences (Golbery, Univers pittoresque de la Suisse, p.327). It is striking that traditions of Pilate attach themselves to several localities in the south of France (comp. Murray's Hand-book for France, Route 125).
But whatever we may think of these legends, or even of the apocryphal works that have come down to our own times, there can be little doubt that the original documents referred to by the early Church fathers were genuine (Hencke, Opusc. A cad. p. 201 sq.). Such is the opinion of Winer (Realwörterb.). Lardner, who has fully discussed the subject, decides that "it must be allowed by all that Pontius Pilate composed some memoirs concerning our Saviour, and sent them to the emperor" (vi. 610). Winer adds," What we now have in Greek under this title (Pilate's Report; see Fabricii Apocr. i, 237, 239; iii, 456), as well as the two letters of Pilate to Tiberius, are fabrications of a later age." So Lardner: "The Acts of Pontius Pilate, and his letter to Tiberius, which we now have, are not genuine, but manifestly spurious." We have not space here to review the arguments which have been adduced in favor of and against these documents; but we must add that we attach some importance to them, thinking it by no means unlikely that, if they are fabrications, they are fabricated in some keeping with the genuine pieces, which were in some way lost, and the loss of which the composers of our actual pieces sought as well as they could to repair. If this view can be sustained, then the documents we have may serve to help us in the use of discretion to the substance of the original Acts. At all events, it seems certain that an official report was made by Pilate; and thus we gain another proof that "these things were not done in a corner." Those who wish to enter into this subject should first consult Lardner (ut sup.), and the valuable. references he gives. See also Altman, Deuteronomy Epist. Pil. ad Tiber. (Bern. 1755); Van Dale, Deuteronomy Orac. p. 609 sq.; Schmidt, Einleitung ins N. T. ii, 249 sq. Of especial value is Hermansson, Deuteronomy Pontio Pilot. (Upsala, 1624); also Burger, Deuteronomy Pontio Pilat. (Misen. 1782). The latest work on the subject is that of Lipsius, Die Pilatus-Acten, kritisch untersucht (Kiel, 1871). See ACTS OF PILATE.
On the general subject of this article, the reader may refer to Germar, Docetur ad loca P. Pilati facinora coet. (Thorun, 1785); Lengheimich, Deuteronomy Pilati patris: (s. I. 1677); Gotter, Deuteronomy Conjugis Pilati Somnio (Jen. 1704); Kluge, Deuteronomy Somnio Uxoris Pilati (Hal. 1720); Herbart, Examen Somnii Ux. Pil. (Oldenb. 1735); Distell, Deuteronomy Solute Uxoris Pilati (Alt. 1772); Moonier, Deuteronomy Pilati in Causa Servat. agendi ratione (1825); Warneck, Pont. Pil. ein Gemälde (Goths, 1867); Theol. and Lit.Tournal. April, 1861. Hase, in his
Leben Jesu, p. 203, 205 (third ed.), affords valuable literary references on this, as on so many other N.T. subjects. See also the monographs referred to by Volbeding, Index Programmatum, p. 58, 59. See JESUS CHRIST.
Pilate's Staircase. This celebrated staircase is contained within a little chapel near the church of St. John Lateran, at Rome. It consists of twenty- eight white marble steps, and it is alleged by Romanists that this is the holy staircase which Christ several times ascended and descended when he appeared before Pilate, and that it was carried by angels from Jerusalem to Rome. Multitudes of pilgrims at certain periods crawl up the steps of this staircase on their knees, with rosaries in their hands, and kissing each step as they ascend. On reaching the top, the pilgrim must repeat a short prayer. The performance of this ceremony is regarded as peculiarly meritorious, and entitling the devout pilgrim to a plenary indulgence. It was during this act of devotion that Martin Luther, then a monk, was startled by the remembrance of the text, "The just shall live by faith." He instantly saw the folly of such performances; and fleeing in shame from the place, became from that time a zealous reformer. By the Romanists this staircase is called Scala Santa, or holy staircase.