Caesarea Maritima: the Pilate inscription (2)



“… building in honor of … Tiberius … Pontius Pilate … Praefect of Judea.”

The significance of the Pilate stone found in Herod’s theater in Caesarea Maritima is essentially twofold: (1) it validates the existence of Pontus Pilate and (2) the Latin inscription refers to him the same way the New Testament speaks of him.

In years gone by it was common for skeptics of Scripture to claim that Pontius Pilate was a fictitious person, a mere literary creation. The discovery of the Pilate inscription laid that argument to rest.

The fact that the Pilate inscription refers to Pontius Pilate as “Praefect of Judea” is immensely significant as well. In his book Backgrounds of Early Christianity (pp.43-44), Everett Ferguson sums up some of that significance in the following words. Do note, all wording that appears in [ ] in this quote is my own.

“The smaller, troublesome provinces (such as Judea) that were under imperial control received for governor a member of the equestrian order who had a command of auxiliary troops, but not ordinarily legions. Following the terminology employed after Claudius [who reigned as emperor 41-54 A.D.] these men have been called procurators, for they were primarily finance officers. In the period before Claudius, however, their title was prefect, and the Greek term (hegemon) in the New Testament [and used in reference to Pilate in Luke 3.1] represents the Latin praefectus. The Pontus Pilate inscription from Caesarea now confirms that the official Latin title of Pilate as governor of Judea was praefectus. Although prefect emphasizes military command and procurator financial responsibility, the office combined military, financial, and judicial authority. In ordinary circumstances the governor of Judea was not subject to the legate in Syria, but in special circumstances the latter (as a higher-ranking official) could intervene.”

It is accuracy such as this, even in the smallest of details of that are historically verifiable, that shores up our confidence that documents contained in the New Testament are accurate and reliable, worthy of our complete confidence.

The photograph above is of the replica of the Pilate inscription that stands in Caesarea Maritima. An informative sign displayed near the replica reads:

“Pontus Pilate was a Roman prefect who presided over the trial of Jesus of Nazareth (Matt. 27.11-26). The content of the inscription and the use of the Latin language hint at the level of Romanization throughout the province, and in Caesarea, at the beginning of the 1st c. A.D.”

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