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by Wayne Blank
Pontius Pilate was the sixth Roman procurator, or governor, of Judea, from about 26 to 36 A.D. His administrative center was at Caesarea (the photograph at left shows his name inscribed on a stone slab in the city). His governorship was contemporary with the ministry of John The Baptist, and then of Jesus Christ (see The Fateful Night).
Pilate was no friend of the Jews - "mutual contempt" could be an apt summary of their relationship. He apparently avoided visits to Jerusalem as much as possible. Pilate was a highly political man, and the Jews there seemed to know how their threatened complaints to Pilate's superiors in Rome could get the governor to act in their favor - the release of a convicted murderer in place of Jesus Christ is a glaring example.
For whatever it may be worth, Pilate did repeatedly try to have Jesus released because he knew that He was completely innocent of any crime. Pilate's wife also tried to get Jesus released. She sent him the message, "Don't have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of Him." (Matthew 27:19). Pilate's wife may well have been among the first generation of Christians.
It was Pilate who had the sign placed over the cross. This was the Roman custom, normally used to publicly declare the crime for which the person was crucified. In Jesus' case, Pilate had the sign say, "This is Jesus, The King of the Jews." (Matthew 27:37) - which was no crime at all, as Pilate was fully aware. It was merely a sarcastic comment aimed at the religious authorities who had Jesus unjustly condemned to death for their own petty political reasons.
Pilate is not mentioned in The Bible any further, other than regarding his involvement in The Crucifixion. Secular history records that, about 36 A.D., the governor of Syria brought some sort of accusations against Pilate, which resulted in his being sent away to Vienne in Gaul. There, according to tradition, Pontius Pilate committed suicide.
Fact Finder: What was the name of the other high Roman official who was in Jerusalem at the time of The Crucifixion?