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"The Pilate Inscription....Page 33

GoodNews Magazine

When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!" ...Matthew 27:24

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Once Jesus was arrested, on Caiaphas’s orders, He was tried before Caiaphas and later sent to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. The New Testament portrayal of Pilate agrees with other historical accounts.

“Philo and Josephus unite in attributing dire and evil practices to Pilate, so that a dark character is ascribed to him” (The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 1989,Vol. 3, p. 813).

Philo, the Alexandrian Jewish philosopher (20 B.C.–A.D. 50), described Pilate as “a man of a very inflexible disposition, and very merciless as well as very obstinate.” He says Pilate’s rule was characterized by “corruption, . . . insolence, . . . cruelty, . . . continual murders of people untried and uncondemned, and his never ending, and gratuitous, and most grievous inhumanity” (The Works of Philo translated by C.D. Yonge, “On the Embassy to Gaius,” pp. 301-302).

Years after Christ’s crucifixion Pilate was sent to Rome to undergo a humiliating trial after ordering the massacre of some Samaritan pilgrims. Eusebius, the fourth-century historian, notes that Pilate was found guilty and exiled. In his shame he later committed suicide. Such was the end of this proud and corrupt governor.

For centuries Pilate was known only from scant historical records and the Gospels. No direct physical evidence had been found. Then, in 1961, a stone plaque engraved with Pilate’s name and title was discovered in Caesarea, the Roman port and capital of Judea in Christ’s day.

“The two-foot by three-foot slab, now known as the Pilate Inscription,was . . . apparently written to commemorate Pilate’s erection and dedication of a Tiberium, a temple for the worship of Tiberias Caesar, the Roman emperor during Pilate’s term over Judea.

“The Latin inscription of four lines gives his title as ‘Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea,’a title very similar to that used of him in the Gospels (see Luke 3:1).

This was the first archaeological find to mention Pilate, and again testified to the accuracy of the Gospel writers. Their understanding of such official terms indicates they lived during the time of their use and not a century or two thereafter, when such terms would have been forgotten” (Randall Price, The Stones Cry Out, 1997, pp. 307-308).

Gruesome evidence of crucifixion

Until recently some scholars considered the description of Christ’s crucifixion to be false. They thought it was impossible for a human body to be held up by nails driven into the hands and feet since the flesh would eventually tear away.

Instead they thought the victims must have been bound by ropes. Yet, in 1968, the body of a crucified man dating to the first century was found in Jerusalem.

Here the true method of crucifixion was discovered: His ankles, not his feet, had been nailed and could easily support his weight.

Archaeologist Randall Price explains:

“This rare find has proved to be one of the most important archaeological witnesses to Jesus’crucifixion as recorded in the Gospels. First, it reveals afresh the horrors of the Roman punishment . . .

This method of execution forced the weight of the body to be placed on the nails, causing terribly painful muscle spasms and eventually death by the excruciating process of asphyxiation . . .

Second, it was once claimed that the Gospel’s description of the method of cruci- fixion was historically inaccurate . . . The discovery of the nail-pierced ankle bone refutes those who say nails could not have been used” (Price, pp. 309-310).

The Roman law of the time prescribed crucifixion as punishment for the most serious offenses, such as rebellion, treason and robbery.

A famous example of mass crucifixions took place in 71 B.C. when Spartacus led a slave rebellion against Rome. He ultimately failed, and the 6,000 captured slaves were crucified.

The Jews knew of crucifixions even before Roman rule, for around 87 B.C. the Jewish king Alexander Janneus had 800 rebellious Pharisees crucified.

Josephus, who witnessed the crucifixion of his fellow Jews during the siege of Jerusalem (A.D. 66-70), called it “the most wretched of deaths.”

It continued to be the punishment for high crimes until the time of Emperor Constantine, when it was finally abolished. a tree’ . . .).” (1985, “Cross, Crucify”).

Source:The Bible and Archaeology Sections 13-24... Good News Magazine

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