The Pilate Inscription at Caesarea

March 21, 2011

We arrived safely home Saturday from our Israel tour. It was a great trip and a wonderful opportunity for all of our group to learn more about the geographical setting of the events of Scripture. I agree with James Houston’s observation in his entry, “The Geographical Setting of the Bible”:

The geography of the Bible is relevant to biblical study because the acts of God with men are dealt with in a particular geographical setting and a specific historical context. (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 1:, p. 83).

We plan to continue to post some photos from this trip. Today’s photo is that of the “Pilate Inscription,” discovered at Caesarea in 1961.

Pilate Inscription at Caesarea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

One of the most sensational discoveries at Caesarea was this inscribed stone mentioning Pontius Pilate. Found in a step of the theater, it was originally part of a nearby temple honoring the emperor Tiberius. The stone was moved to the theater to repair a step after the temple fell into disuse. The Latin reads: “Pontius Pilate, the Prefect of Judea, has dedicated to the people of Caesarea a temple in honor of Tiberius” (BAR 08:03 May/June 1982).

John 18 records Pilate’s questioning of Jesus at his “trial:”

33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world- to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.

Pilate really did not want to crucify Jesus. His purpose in scourging Jesus was to satisfy the Jewish leaders and thereby avoid putting Jesus to death (John 19:1-6), but he underestimated their determination. John 19 continues,

7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

The display in Caesarea is a replica. The original is in the Israel Museum. Click on image for higher resolution.

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