|Pontius Pilate Inscription, Caesarea Maritima (1996). |
Now located in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem
During the 1961 excavations of the Roman theater near Caesarea Maritima, archaeologists led by Dr. Antonio Frova uncovered a limestone block with an inscription that read:
…]S TIBERIVM 1.
…PRAEF]ECTVS IVDA[EA] 2.
The inscription is believed to be part of a larger inscription dedicating a temple to the emperor Tiberius in Caesarea 3. and read as follows with the surviving letters underlined:
“PONTIUS PILATE, THE PREFECT OF JUDEA, HAS DEDICATED TO THE PEOPLE OF CAESAREA A TEMPLE IN HONOR OF TIBERIUS” 4.
|Theater Caesarea Maritima where the inscription was found.Photo courtesy of Todd Bolen.|
While Pontius Pilate has been mentioned in ancient texts (John 19:6; Tacitus Ann. 15.44; Josephus J.W. 2.117–18; Ant. 17.55–64; 85–89; 18.3.3 §63; Philo Legat. 38.299–305) this was the first physical evidence that Pilate existed. It is known that Pilate lived in Caesarea and only went to Jerusalem on special occasions 5. so it is not surprising to find an inscription with his name on it in Caesarea.
The mention of Pilate with Tiberius (42 BC–37AD) puts Pontius Pilate in the same time period as Jesus, in the first century. While this discovery does not prove that Pilate spoke with Jesus or demonstrate that the crucifixion took place, it does support the historical reliability of the Bible in corroborating the existence of one of the major characters.
- 1. This word was not known to scholars but speculate that it was perhaps a temple built to honour the emperor Tiberius.
- 2. Antonio Frova, “L’Iscrizione Di Ponzio Pilato a Cesarea,” Rendiconti dell’Istitutio Lombardo 95 (1961): 419–34; Giordano dell’ Amore, Virginio Borroni, and Antonio Frova, Scavi di Caesarea Maritima (Milano: “L’Erma” di Bretschneider, 1966), 217; Joan E. Taylor, “Pontius Pilate and the Imperial Cult in Roman Judaea,” New Testament Studies 52 (2006): 564–75.
- 3. Alan R. Millard, “The Knowledge of Writing in Iron Age Palestine,” Tyndale Bulletin 46, no. 2 (1995): 206–214.
- 4. Robert J. Bull, “Caesarea Maritima: The Search for Herod’s City,” Biblical Archaeology Review 8, no. 3 (1982): 24–40; Robert J. Bull, “Pontius Pilate Inscription,” Biblical Archaeology Review 8, no. 5 (1982).
- 5. Taylor, “Pontius Pilate and the Imperial Cult in Roman Judaea,” 567, 570; Warren Carter, Pontius Pilate: Portraits of a Roman Governor, Interfaces Series (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical, 2003), 115.
David E. Graves, Key Themes of the New Testament: A Survey of Major Theological Themes (Moncton, N.B.: Graves, 2013), 153-54.
Caesarea Maritma Bibliography