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Pontius Pilate

Updated on December 23, 2009

Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judaea from 26 A.D. to 36 A.D.

Little is known of the origins or early life of Pilate. In 26 A.D. he was appointed procurator, or governor, of Judaea by the Roman emperor Tiberius. Information about Pilate's administration, provided by the New Testament and by the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus and the philosopher Philo of Alexandria, indicates that he was probably efficient but also ruthless and tactless. For example, he appropriated Temple funds for the construction of an aqueduct. He also disregarded the Jews' religious scruples against images by bringing the Roman imperial standards into Jerusalem.

Pilate's role in the trial and conviction of Jesus is related in the New Testament. Jesus was brought before Pilate on the charge that He claimed to be the Messiah. Pilate, after questioning Jesus, declared Him innocent but nevertheless gave Him up for crucifixion. The Gospel of Matthew (27:11-25) relates that Pilate washed his hands to signify his own innocence in the death of Jesus.

Several years later, Pilate was removed from office after the massacre of a group of Samaritans. He was recalled to Rome to stand trial. His ultimate fate is unknown, but according to legend he was banished and subsequently committed suicide. Although writers in many fields discuss Pilate, there is no complete record on which to base a reliable biography.

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