The political situation in 26 A.D. - Publius Pontius Pilatus continued.
March 26th, 2002
Received by H.
Hello, my dear brother.
In my last message, I talked about Pilate’s family background, and how Sejanus sent him to Judea as the prefect, intending to safeguard a constant flow of money to his private vaults.
Now I would like to detail a little bit on Pilate’s attitude during his administration.
In the year 26, Pilate arrived at Caesarea to start his work as the administrator. Soon he made his first severe error. He sent a new detachment of soldiers to Jerusalem to relieve the troops stationed there. And, as was the habit, the new troops took with them their standards, images offensive to the Jews. Worst of all, the troops arrived at night, so the whole population suspected that Pilate had ordered this procedure, to introduce “that insult” secretly and to take the population by surprise on the following day.
Immediately, a delegation of Jews went to Caesarea, the prefect’s residence, requesting the removal of the banners, but Pilate initially refused to do so. For five days they implored the prefect, but he ordered his solders to surround the delegation, threatening them with death. The Jews, however, knelt down and bared their necks, showing them so that the soldiers could cut them, declaring that they preferred death to the alternative of living with such an insult against their people and religion. Only then did Pilate understand the graveness of the situation, and he gave in.
Pilate had not provoked the Jews intentionally, but his dealing was rather due to his lack of preparation and his total ignorance of the customs in the country he had to administer. However, of course, the incident did not increase his consideration for the Jews. Pilate could not understand that the banners which had not caused any scandal in Caesarea incited angry reactions from the Jerusalem population. But of course, Caesarea was a totally romanized city, having a culture entirely different from Jerusalem. The prefect did not know this. In short, Pilate changed the troops with their banners, and peace reigned again.
Another incident caused by Pilate was that of the honorary shields. It was a very common habit in antiquity to place golden shields on the administrative buildings, such as the stronghold Antonia in Jerusalem, in honor of the emperor. Usually, these shields bore the emperor’s portrait and an inscription. But Pilate had already learned something. The shields that he sent to place there did not bear any portrait, in order not to offend the Jews, for whom any reproduction of a person or of an animal constituted an infraction of the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20:4 and Deuteronomy 5:8 read:
“Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth.”
This is why Pilate’s shields only showed the inscription:
TI. CAESARI DIVI AVGVSTI F. DIVI IVLI NEPOTI AVGVSTO PONTIFICI MAXIMO (To Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus, grandson of the divine Julius, the venerable high priest).
But Pilate once again made a mistake. Some Jews felt offended by the fact that people were called “divine,” that Tiberius was called “high priest,” etc., and again popular anger exploded. This time, Pilate stayed firm, since giving in almost meant an insult against the emperor, but the Jews sent a delegation to Tiberius, who personally ordered the removal of the shields.
There are many more incidents, but I will only mention one more: Pilate started an ambitious project, the construction of an aquaduct. And for this purpose he demanded money from the Temple treasury, which was a completely fair action since the surplus of the Temple treasury was supposed to be used for the common welfare of the people. In spite of that, and in spite of the collaboration of the Temple authorities led by Yosef Kayafa (Caiaphas), people became enraged once again. However, this time their fury was not aimed against the project, which would benefit them. Instead their fury was aimed at the considerable sums that never ended up financing the construction, but rather finished in the private purses of Sejanus, Pilate and Caiaphas, or rather, of the house of Annas, to which Caiaphas belonged. It was the popular clamor against corruption. You know the situation very well, when public goods are deviated for the ends of illicit personal enrichment of some people. This practice is still very much in vogue.
But what we can say is that the fact that Pilate maintained his position as prefect of Judea during so many years indicates that he led his administration more or less satisfactorily for Rome.
We have heard that Sejanus fell into disgrace in the year 31 and was executed together with all his family, as was the habit. After that Tiberius began a campaign of cleansing, an exhaustive investigation into the traitor’s connections and tentacles. Many people would perish during this persecution, although Tiberius showed much moderation. But you can imagine that from this date on Pilate lived in constant fear. Every day he expected the emperor’s executioners for his connections with Sejanus, but they never came.
Pilate’s edginess culminated with his action against the so-called “Samaritan rebellion,” in the year 36, his last year as the prefect in Judea. An impostor had encouraged people to meet at Mount Gerizim, because he would dig out from the earth the sacred vessels that Moses himself had hidden at that place. Many people who followed his call came armed. Pilate feared a rebellion and ordered his soldiers to attack. Several people died, many more were taken prisoner, and the leaders were executed.
The Samaritans considered Pilate’s action as brutal and exaggerated, and they complained to the legate of Syria, Vitellius, Pilate’s immediate superior. They affirmed that it had been a peaceful assembly without political intentions. Vitellius informed the emperor, and Tiberius called Pilate back to Rome.
Pilate obeyed, but before arriving at the capital, Tiberius had died, and a new emperor, Gaius (Caligula), occupied the throne.
There are the most fantastic legends regarding Pilate’s final destiny. Some say that he was executed and thrown into the Tiber; others say that he was exiled to what today is France, etc. Some churches even canonized him as a saint, together with his wife, Claudia Procula. However, what really happened was that Caligula, busy with his own actions to lay the foundation of his power, did not show much interest in Pilate’s case, and simply replaced him with another administrator. Pilate was acquitted of all charges against him, and retired from public life. With fear still in his bones, he decided to move away from Rome, where danger always lurked, and he bought a property in the country and a luxurious villa with his vast fortune. To be more exact, he moved to the region of Campania, the plains around Naples and the Mount Vesuvius. There, he lived in tranquility and luxury until his death. Yes, he died before the catastrophe of Pompeii, Herculanaeum and Stabiae would happen.
And since you are very curious, I will tell you that Pilate now is living in the spiritual heavens, dedicated to his studies, but without major spiritual enlightenment. Yes, he had stayed for some time in the hells. His attitude towards Jesus, at the present time, is indifference. He is only surprised that superstitions even continue in the spirit world. In his present condition he feels quite happy and is not open to our teachings.
I would like to add some words on the story of the Master’s “trial.” I will not enlarge upon it, this I will do at the correct moment.
The gospel story showing Pilate as a benign person keen to set Jesus free, is simply wrong. It was written, or amended, when there existed already considerable tensions between Jews (and Judeo-Christians) and the Gentile church. The purpose of this “amendment” was that of inculpating the Jews with the responsibility of the Master’s death, as “murderers of God,” shouting “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” You have to understand, too, that it would have been very risky for Christians to attack their Roman sovereigns openly, accusing them of the Master’s murder.
This, then, was Pilate: trying to keep the country calm but acting with all his brutality when his personal interest was affected.
Well, my brother, this is all for today. As I have promised you, now we will return to the Master’s life and deeds.
I wish you a good day. May God bless you always.
© Copyright is asserted in this message by Geoff Cutler 2013