Question:What happened to Pontius Pilate after the death of
the Lord Jesus Christ?
We do not know where Pontius
Pilate was born. One tradition says that he was a member of the Pontii
tribe and of Samnite nobility.
The Samnites lived
in the southern region of Italy. Another tradition states that Pontius
Pilate was born in Germany and was a bastard son of Tyrus, king of Mayence.
Reportedly, his father sent him to Rome as a hostage. While there he
was charged with murdering someone and was sent to Pontus, which is on
the southeastern border of the Black Sea.
the traditions are in conflict and we do not really know where Pilate
was born or his life as a teenager or young adult. Supposedly, his name
was changed in Pontus to Pontius Pilate and he was eventually appointed
the sixth governor or procurator of Judea by Sejanus, a favorite of the
Roman emperor Tiberius. Pilate was unpopular with the Jewish population
because he hung worship images of the emperor throughout Jerusalem and
minted coins with the image of pagan symbols.
But now Pilate, the procurator of Judea, removed the army
from Cesarea to Jerusalem, to take their winter quarters there, in order
to abolish the Jewish laws. So he introduced Caesar’s effigies,
which were upon the ensigns, and brought them into the city; whereas
our law forbids us the very making of images; on which account the
former procurators were wont to make their entry into the city with such
ensigns as had not those ornaments. Pilate was the first who brought
those images to Jerusalem, and set them up there; which was done without
the knowledge of the people, because it was done in the nighttime; but
as soon as they knew it, they came in multitudes to Cesarea, and interceded
with Pilate many days, that he would remove the images; and when he would
not grant their requests, because it would tend to the injury of Caesar,
while yet they persevered in their request, on the sixth day he ordered
his soldiers to have their weapons privately, while he came and sat upon
his judgment seat, which seat was so prepared in the open place of the
city, that it concealed the army that lay ready to oppress them: and
when the Jews petitioned him again, he gave a signal to the soldiers
to encompass them round, and threatened that their punishment should
be no less than immediate death, unless they would leave off disturbing
him, and go their ways home. (59) But they threw themselves upon the
ground, and laid their necks bare, and said they would take their death
very willingly, rather than the wisdom of their laws should be transgressed;
upon which Pilate was deeply affected with their firm resolution to keep
their laws inviolable, and presently commanded the images to be carried
back from Jerusalem to Cesarea.
The New Testament gospel of Luke records that Pilate
had heard about Jesus and His miracles before He was brought before Pilate.
Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had
wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about
Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him. (NASB) Luke 23:8
Pilate was apparently not threatened by Jesus since
he had not taken action earlier.
But the Jewish leaders did
care. They wanted Jesus dead. As a result, pressure
was applied by the Jewish Sanhedrin (Luke 23:2-7) upon Pilate. It
appears that Pilate attempted to avoid a direct conflict with the
Jewish leaders by hoping that King Herod might release Jesus (Luke
was also applied by his wife to have nothing to do with Jesus. Tradition
states that her name was Claudia Procula.
While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife
sent him a message, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous
Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.” (NASB)
History records that Pilate avoided her counsel and crucified Jesus
Christ. His decision may have also been made to avoid
a bad report to Rome.
After Jesus died on the cross, the gospels record that Pilate
allowed several members of the Sanhedrin, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus,
to bury Jesus (Mark 15:43; John 3:1; 19:38-40). Pilate also stationed
a guard of Roman solders at the tomb after a large stone was rolled into
place at the opening to prevent anyone from taking the body (Matt. 27:65-66).
Yet, Jesus returned from death to life and left the tomb anyway (Matt.
Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the
first day of the week . . . And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred,
for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away
the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and
his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became
like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid;
for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He
is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where
He was lying." (NASB) Matt. 28:1-6
The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus records these words
Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it
be lawful to call him a man. For he was a doer of surprising feats -
a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over
to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ;
and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had
condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not
forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the
divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things
concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not
extinct to this day.
Later, Pilate in his own words stated that Jesus was crucified in his
official record, Acts of Pilate, which was
sent to Rome and archived there for others to read.
And that it was predicted that our Christ should heal
all diseases and raise the dead, hear what was said. There are these
words: “At His coming the lame shall leap as an hart, and the tongue
of the stammerer shall be clear speaking: the blind shall see, and the
lepers shall be cleansed; and the dead shall rise, and walk about.” And
that He did those things, you can learn from the Acts
of Pontius Pilate.
And the expression, “They pierced my hands and my
feet,” was used in reference to the nails of the cross which were
fixed in His hands and feet. And after He was crucified they cast lots
upon His vesture, and they that crucified Him parted it among them. And
that these things did happen, you can ascertain from the Acts
of Pontius Pilate.
According to Flavius Josephus, Pilate's supporter, Sejanus,
was murdered later. Without his protector in power, Pilate made a major
error and suppressed a small uprising in Samaria. The leader of the Samaritan
group had promised that "He would show them those sacred vessels
which were laid under that place, because Moses put them there."
Pilate sent his troops and defeated them before they arrived at Mt. Gerizim.
However, trouble followed as indicated in Josephus' following statement,
But when this tumult was appeased, the Samaritan senate
sent an embassy to Vitellius, a man that had been consul, and who was
now president of Syria, and accused Pilate of the murder of those that
were killed . . . So Vitellius sent Marcellus, a friend of his, to take
care of the affairs of Judea, and ordered Pilate to go to Rome, to answer
before the emperor to the accusation of the Jews. So Pilate, when he
had tarried ten years in Judea, made haste to Rome, and this in obedience
to the orders of Vitellius, which he dare not contradict; but before
he could get to Rome, Tiberius was dead.
Conclusion:Eusebius reported that Pontius Pilate
committed suicide during the reign of Caius or Emperor Caligula. Eusebius
records the following for us,
It is worthy of note that Pilate himself, who was governor
in the time of our Savior, is reported to have fallen into such misfortunes
under Caius, whose times we are recording, that he was forced to become
his own murderer and executioner; and thus divine vengeance, as it seems,
was not long in overtaking him. This is stated by those Greek historians
who have recorded the Olympiads, together with the respective events
which have taken place in each period.
The quote reveals that many Greeks considered Pilate's misfortunes to
be divine justice for the death of Jesus Christ. Tradition adds that
Pilate died in Vienne, France on the Rhone or on Mount Pilatus, Switzerland. The
Eastern Orthodox church believes that Pilate and his wife eventually
became Christians. That would be wonderful if true.
1. Wroe, Ann. Pontius Pilate.
The Modern Library.1999, p. 14.
2. McClintock and Strong. Cyclopedia
of Biblical Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature.1887, p. 199.
3. Britannica 2005.
4. Falvius Josephus. Antiquities
of the Jews 18.3.1.
5. McClintock and Strong. Cyclopedia
of Biblical Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature.1887, p. 201.
6. Flavius Josephus. Antiquities
of the Jews 18.3.3.
7. Justin Martyr. First Apology
8. Justin Martyr. First Apology
9. Flavius Josephus. Antiquities
of the Jews 18.4.1.
10. Flavius Josephus. Antiquities
of the Jews 18.4.2.
11. Flavius Josephus. Antiquities
of the Jews 18.4.2.
12. McClintock and Strong.
Cyclopedia of Biblical Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature.1887,