Pilate takes charge in the year 26.
March 28th 2003
Received by H.
My dear brother,
I would like to take up again, with this message, my account of the life of Jesus.
As you well know, we are still narrating the events of the year 26. In that year, an episode took place that would have great consequences for Jesus’ life: The change of the Roman governor of the province of Judea.
I have already explained that the Roman emperor Tiberius introduced a significant change in the handling of Roman provincial administration: while Augustus used to replace provincial chiefs every two or three years, Tiberius attempted to increase the stability of the administration by keeping prefects and legates one decade or even longer in their posts.
Valerius Gratus had served the emperor for one decade as the prefect of Judea, and in the year 26 the moment had come for him to be replaced and granted a “golden retirement” in the luxurious atmosphere of his native Rome. The period of Gratus’ rule had followed a relatively calm course, an exceptional achievement in such a rebellious and difficult province as Judea was. A great part of this success was due to the extraordinary sagacity with which Gratus managed to choose the Jewish high priests. Already in the beginning of his administration, he fired Annas (that man involved in the trial against the Master), who held the office of high priest, and the two successors he installed did not meet his expectations either. Finally he invested Annas’ son-in-law, Joseph Caiaphas, who would keep this position throughout the remainder of Gratus’ rule and even during all of Pilate’s government. So, it was Gratus who was able to establish a close cooperation between the Roman civil (or rather, military) authority and the Jewish religious leaders, all under the vigilant eye of the prefect of Judea.
But in autumn of 26, the moment had finally come for a change of command. Before the winter storms started, Pilate’s ship arrived at the port of Caesarea, the provincial capital. There, a cohort of the Roman regular army, comprising about 500 legionaries, received him. This was extraordinary because, as I have already told you on previous occasions, the Romans did not normally position regular troops in Judea, only auxiliary troops, mainly Phoenicians, Arabs and Samaritans — to the great disgust of the Jews. But you do understand that Pilate had to fulfill a mission of extreme importance for the strong man in Rome, his patron Sejanus: The collecting of secret funds for Sajanus’ machinations. Of course, it was all about the purchase of favors, bribes, and lastly, for the ambitious project of overthrowing Tiberius. Sejanus feared hostile reactions from the Jewish authorities as a result of his intent to cut a slice off their Temple’s revenues for his own pocket, and he wanted to make it very clear to them that this was a very serious situation, and that the new administrator would not be willing to negotiate, counting on highly trained troops to subdue any attempt at sedition.
[H.: So, Pilate was not in Jerusalem on the 1st of January of the year 26?]
No, as I have told you, he arrived in autumn in Palestine. I know that you are referring to a message received by Dr. Samuels, where this specific date is mentioned. But I have already told you once that the play on numbers contained in this message has to be handled with much care.
Much of what I have told you so far is only a repetition of what I have already described in other messages. I also mentioned Pilate’s first error in his long career as a Roman administrator: He sent new troops to Jerusalem, whose banners would arouse the public rage of the Holy City’s inhabitants. Now I wish to expand on this event.
As I have said, Pilate was received by a cohort of the regular army. This cohort was called “Cohors II Italica Civium Romanorum” and formed part of the tenth legion, Legio X Fretensis, stationed in Syria.
The tenth legion was founded by Octavian, later to be emperor Augustus, on the island of Sicily. Its original task was to maintain vigil over the Straits of Messina, that part of the Mediterranean which separates the “tip of the Italian boot” from the island — a maritime passage which the Romans called “mare fretense.” This was the origin of the legion’s denomination.
Later, the army moved to the Balkans, and in the course of the wars it ended up in Syria, where it set up its general headquarters, until the great war between Jews and Romans would break out.
Each legion had very distinctive insignia. They indicated their respective places of origin and the military feats of the unit. Having been established to watch over the marine passage of Messina, the 10th legion’s banners showed a Roman man-of-war, a trireme, that is to say, a galley with three decks of oars. During its campaign in the Balkans, it was assigned another emblem: The boar, because it was plentiful in those regions and served as a symbol of ferocity.
Now, I am sure that you can imagine the unpleasant surprise of the Jews in the Holy City: The Roman troops had entered the city under the cover of the night, and the following morning people suddenly saw the emblems — displaying a pig! — an impure animal — right in downtown Jerusalem, very close to the Temple!
The situation turned very dangerous, and rebellion was within a hair’s breadth from bursting out. Pilate acted quickly and in a prudent manner. He removed the compromising units and stationed them during the rest of his government in Caesarea, where the hellenized population took no offence at the image of a boar.
Well, so far thats today’s story. I hope you have enjoyed it. I wanted to put across some details that are not contained in the history books, and that may contribute to a better understanding of the atmosphere that prevailed in those times.
Yes, this cohort was the unit where Cornelius, the first Gentile Christian, served. Even more, he did participate in this shocking action — still as an “optio” or sergeant, but soon he would be promoted to the rank of a centurion. All this happened when Jesus lived in Galilee. The news of this event did not take long to reach those regions.
God bless you,
Judas of Kerioth.
© Copyright is asserted in this message by Geoff Cutler 2013