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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Pilate Pontius

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The name of the Roman procurator of Judaea , Samaria, and Idumaea (a.d. 26-36), whose part in the crucifixion of Jesus is recounted in the Gospels, occurs four times elsewhere in the NT, and always in reflexions upon that event. Its first mention (Acts 3:13) is in the speech of Peter after the healing of the lame man at the Temple gate. There the emphasis is laid upon the sin of the Jews in denying Jesus and delivering Him up to Pilate, of whom it is said, in exoneration, that he was determined to let Him go. Some extenuation of their guilt, however, is found in the fact that they sinned in ignorance; and, as God has glorified Jesus and made their wickedness to serve the fulfilment of His purpose in Him, the hope of pardon is presented to them. With this reference may be taken that (Acts 13:28) in Paul’s address at Antioch in Pisidia, which somewhat resembles the earlier speech of Peter. Here, while the same view is taken of the Divine significance of Christ’s death and its fulfilment of prophecy, the sin of the Jews in not so strongly insisted upon, and on the other hand a less favourable conception of Pilate’s action seems to be implied. Of the Jews it is only asserted that, though they found no cause of death in Jesus, yet they desired Pilate that He should be slain; to Pilate no determination to release Him is ascribed, or even a disinclination to yield to their request. The Jews accused Christ wrongly through not understanding their own Scriptures; Pilate, so far as appears, callously put Him to death at their bidding. His guilt is accentuated in the remaining reference to him in Acts (Acts 4:27). The context is a prayer of the early believers on the release of Peter and John from prison, which proceeds upon a Messianic interpretation of Psalms 2 and its application to the death of Christ. Pilate is represented as a ruler of the earth who conspired with King Herod (Luke 23:12), the Gentiles, and the people of Israel against the Lord’s Anointed. Again his action is conceived as overruled by God for His own purpose; but his guilt is neither extenuated nor left to be inferred. It is explicitly stated and regarded as consisting, not merely in the sacrifice of an innocent person, but in an act of rebellion against God. This view of Pilate’s conduct, with regard to Christ, probably prevailed in the inner circles of the gospel, since it found expression so early in the intimacy of their religious fellowship. It would be strengthened by the appearance of Divine retribution in the disgrace that befell Pilate in a.d. 36, when he was recalled to Rome at the instigation of Vitellius, and in later years would help to mould the legends that gathered round his name. The last mention of him in the NT (1 Timothy 6:13) is unimportant, so far as he is concerned. It is an allusion to Christ’s virtual confession of His Messiahship in Pilate’s presence, when He claimed to be a king.

D. Frew.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Pilate Pontius'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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