John 19:9-11 (ESV)
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.”
Jesus speaks with determined clarity when speaking to Pilate. Those seeking the death of Jesus cry out to Pilate, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” (John 19:12)
Pontius Pilate eventually gives in and agrees to have Jesus crucified.
It’s common for people today to question the historical events of the Bible. Since most of the events of the Bible happened between 2,000 and 4,000 years ago, it’s understandable that people wonder if it all really happened?
So, was there really a Pontius Pilate who lived in Israel during the 1st century as governor?
In 1961, readers of the Bible were shocked that an artifact had been discovered taking everyone back to those events of the first century Roman province of Judea.
A group of archaeologists, led by Dr. Antonio Frova were excavating an ancient Roman theater near Caesarea Maritima. Caesarea was a leading city in the first century located on the Mediterranean Sea. A limestone block was found there with a surprising inscription. The inscription, on three lines, reads:
…]S TIBERIVM …PON]TIVS PILATVS …PRAEF]ECTVS IVDA[EA]
The inscription is believed to be part of a larger inscription dedicating a temple in Caesarea to the emperor Tiberius. The inscription clearly reads, “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea.” The inscription is significant on several levels.
It makes sense for Pilate to be dedicating a temple in Caesarea Maritima. The prefect usually lived in Caesarea and only went to Jerusalem for special purposes. An inscription of Pilate found in Caesarea fits with the first century world described in the Bible.
The dating of the inscription, in connection with its mention of Tiberius (42 BC-37AD) places the governor Pontius Pilate at the same place and time as the Bible’s information about Jesus.
The vast significance of the Pilate Inscription is attached to the significance of the crucifixion of Jesus. The inscription does not prove the conversations between Pilate and Jesus. The inscription does not prove Pilate condemned Jesus to be crucified. The inscription does not prove the forgiveness of mankind’s sin through the death of Christ. The inscription does, however, put one of the central characters of the Easter story at the right place and right time as described by the Bible.
Dear Lord, we thank You for the great sacrifice You gave for each of us. Help us this Easter season share Your great love with those all around us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.