Pilate Inscription

Does this stone contain an inscription from Pontius Pilate?

In June 1961 Italian archaeologists led by Dr. Frova were excavating an ancient Roman theater near Caesarea Maritima and uncovered this interesting limestone block.

On the face is an inscription which is part of a larger dedication to Tiberius Caesar which clearly says that it was from "Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea."

It reads like this:

Line Two: (PON) TIUS

The Pilate Inscription is the only known occurrence of the name Pontius Pilate in any ancient inscription. Visitors to the Caesarea theater today see a replica, the original is in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. There have been a few bronze coins found that were struck form 29-32 AD by Pontius Pilate.

The Pontius Pilate Inscription is important in the study of Biblical Archaeology and confirms the Scriptures found in the Bible as historical.

Caesarea, Israel
New Testament Period
Pontius Pilate, (26-37 AD)
Limestone, inscribed
82.0 cm H, 65.0 cm W
Building Dedication
4 Lines of Writing (Latin)
Date of Discovery: 1961
Israel Museum (Jerusalem)
AE 1963 no. 104

Matthew 27:1-2 "When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: And when they had bound him, they led [him] away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor."

Luke 3:1-2 "Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness."

The Roman historian Tacitus mentions Pontius Pilate only in passing when noting "the execution of Christus, author of that sect, by the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius."

Heart Message

The Pilate Inscription

Could it have happened like this?

Along the Mediterranean coast in the provincial capital of Caesarea was the grand theater which hosted extremely popular events such as chariot racing and gladiator games.

A Dramatic Reenactment of Historical Events

Near a special section for dignitaries, in between flights of steps along a nearby aisle, was a landing area with damaged stones that honored guests would be stepping over on their way to and from their seats. It became an embarrassment, and could no longer be tolerated. If anyone of importance were injured, there would be a severe penalty for those in charge.

The orders came down. Make the necessary repairs. But the limestone of original construction was produced centuries ago and no longer available for any reasonable price. The question for the foreman was how to remedy the situation in a cost effective and timely manner without troubling his superiors.

“With no mountains to quarry, we will excavate from the glory of Rome’s past.” said he.

An unattended temple was under demolition to make room for gods more in vogue. A dedication stone from an unremembered governor to a now un-feared Caesar was located with good dimensions. But should such an official stone be used?

“Does Tiberius care from his grave?” the foreman mocked. “I serve a living Caesar whose friends will arrive this week for the games. That ancient Praefect of Judea has already been awarded more honor than any mortal deserves. Use the stone!” he laughed.

The workmen then cut the stone in half, using a two-foot by three-foot slab to repair the landing. The repair was good, lasting for hundreds of years. Guests traveled up and down the stairs, resting upon the repaired landing and taking in a momentary panoramic view they continued on their way up down.

Historical Fact

Centuries later, and having exchanged hands throughout the crusades, the city of Caesarea was finally destroyed in 1265. With the aqueducts disassembled and the city laid waste, the middle eastern winds buried Caesarea beneath eight centuries of sand dunes.

In 1959, a group of Italian-sponsored archaeologists began to excavate. Two years later a curious stone was uncovered on the landing, in between flights of stairs, bearing the name of Pontius Pilate, Praefectus of Judea, thus ending a long standing debate concerning whether a central character mentioned in the biblical narrative ever even existed.

That issue was settled. Yes he existed.

The Procurators of Judaea

The following list of the procurators of Judaea is based on Marquardt (Romische Staatsverwaltung, I, 409, 412) and Schurer (Geschichte des judischen Volkes (4), I, 485-585):

Coponius (6 AD to circa 10 AD)

M. Ambibulus (circa 10-13)

Annius Rufus (circa 13-15)

Valerius Gratus (circa 15-26)

Pontius Pilatus (26-35)

Marcellus (probably 35-38)

Maryllus (38-44)

C. Cuspins Fadus (44-46)

Tiberius Alexander (46-48)

Ventidius Cumanus (48-52)

M. Antonius Felix (52-60 or 61)

NOTE.-Marquardt gives his name as Claudius Felix, supposing that he was a freedman of Claudius and therefore took his nomen (Suetonius, Claudius xxviii; Victor, epitome iv, 8); but there is stronger evidence in support of the belief that Felix was a freedman of Antonia, Claudius' mother, like his brother Pallas (Tacitus, Annals xii.54; Josephus, Ant, XVI11, vi, 4; XX, vii, 1, 2; XX, viii, 9; BJ, II, xii, 8), and accordingly had received the praenomen and nomen of Antonia's father (Josephus, Ant, XVIII, vi, 6).

Portius Festus (61)

Albinus (62-64)

Gessius Florus (65-66)

The Jewish High Priests from 200 B.C to the Reign of Herod the Great

1. Simon II the Just, 220-190 B.C.
2. Onias III, 190-174 B.C.
3. Jason/Jeshua,175-172 B.C.
4. Menelaus, 172-162 B.C.
5. Alcimus, 162-156 B.C.
6. Jonathan, 153-142 B.C.
7. Simon, 142-135 B.C.
8. John Hyrcanus I, 134-104 B.C.
9. Aristobulus I, 104-103 B.C.
10. Alexander Jannaeus, 103-76 B.C.
11. Hyrcanus II, 76-67 B.C.
12. Aristobulus II, 67-63 B.C.
13. Hyrcanus II, 63-40 B.C.
14. Antigonus, 40-37 B.C.

The Jewish High Priests from Herod the Great to the Destruction of Jerusalem

15. Ananel, 37-36 B.C. (Appointed by Herod the Great)
16. Aristobulus III, 35 B.C.
17. Jesus, son of Phiabi, ? -22 B.C.
18. Simon, son of Boethus, 22-5 B.C.
19. Matthias, son of Theophilus, 5-4 B.C.
20. Joseph, son of Elam, 5 B.C.
21. Joezer, son of Boethus, 4 B.C.
22. Eleazar, son of Boethus, 4-1 B.C. - (Appointed by Herod Archelaus)
23. Jesus, son of Sie, 1 - 6 A.D.
24. Annas, 6-15 A.D. (Appointed by Quirinius)
25. Ishmael, son of Phiabi I, 15-16 A.D. (Appointed by Valerius Gratus)
26. Eleazar, son of Annas, 16-17 A.D.
27. Simon, son of Kamithos, 17-18 A.D.
28. Joseph Caiaphas, 18-37 AD.
29. Jonathan, son of Annas, 37 A.D. (Appointed by Vitellius)
30. Theophilus, son of Annas, 37-41 A.D.
31. Simon Kantheras, son of Boethus, 41-43 A.D. (Appointed by Herod Agrippa I)
32. Matthias, son of Annas, 43-44 A.D.
33. Elionaius, son of Kantheras, 44-45 A.D.
34. Joseph, son of Kami, 45-47 A.D. (Appointed by Herod of Chalcis)
35. Ananias, son of Nebedaius, 47-55 A.D.
36. Ishmael, son of Phiabi III, 55-61 A.D. (Appointed by Herod Agrippa II)
37. Joseph Qabi, son of Simon, 61-62 A.D.
38. Ananus, son of Ananus, 62 A.D.
39. Jesus, son of Damnaius, 62-65 A.D.
40. Joshua, son of Gamal iel, 63-65 A.D.
41. Matthias, son of Theophilus, 65-67 A.D.
42. Phinnias, son of Samuel, 67-70 A.D. (Appointed by The People)

Some dates cannot be known for certain.