Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries

A Ring Unearthed 50 Years Ago Likely Belonged To Pontius Pilate

Source:  https://www.ancient-origins.net/

Yet another archaeological find that coincides with the Biblical narration of Christ's Ordeal


A bronze ring discovered in an excavation in Israel 50 years ago has been identified as having belonged to the Roman governor of Jerusalem, Pontius Pilate, who according to the New Testament was forced to order the crucifixion of Jesus.

 Research into the ancient bronze ring was led by Professors Shua Amurai-Stark and Malcha Hershkovitz and their findings were published in the new issue of the  Israel Exploration Journal . The Israeli daily newspaper  Ha’aretz reported that the ring had been unearthed “at the Herodion excavation near Bethlehem during a dig led by Professor Gideon Forster from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem 50 years ago.”


The ring (right) was found at Herod’s fortress excavations 50 years ago.

(Left; Public Domain . Right; C. Amit, via Hebrew University)


High tech scrutiny finds inscription

The name was deciphered after the ring was handed over, with thousands of other artifacts, to the team of archaeologists, currently working on the historical site. Using “a special camera at the Israel Antiquities Authority labs” the letters on the ring were found to be Greek, saying “Pilato.” Professor Danny Schwartz of Hebrew University told Ha’aretz that Pilatus was “a rare name in Israel” and added “I don’t know of any other Pilatus from the period and the ring shows he was a person of stature and wealth.” The ring is known as “a sealing ring” and was used to ‘seal’ letters and to mark official correspondence with one’s personal molten wax insignia.

Imaging and associated sketches of sealing ring that is thought have belonged to Pontius Pilate (Drawing: J. Rodman; Photo: C. Amit, IAA Photographic Department, via Hebrew University)

Imaging and associated sketches of sealing ring that is thought have belonged to Pontius Pilate

(Drawing: J. Rodman; Photo: C. Amit, IAA Photographic Department, via Hebrew University)


Hallmark of the cavalry

Adding weight to the possibility that this ring belonged to the Pontius Pilate of the New Testament , who was the Roman governor of Jerusalem between the years 26 to 36 and allegedly ran Jesus’ trial, is the fact that these types of rings were a “hallmark” of the cavalry in the Roman era, to which Pilate belonged. Ha’aretz  reported, “Researchers believe it was used by the governor in day to day work, or belonged to one of his officials or someone in his court, who would use it to sign in his name.”

 The ruins of Herodion or Heroduim, the fortress of King Herod where the ring was found. (vadiml / Adobe)

The ruins of Herodion or Heroduim, the fortress of King Herod where the ring was found. ( vadiml / Adobe)

Pilate is a well-known historic powerful ruler and the historian Josephus recorded that he imported “iconic medallions” bearing the imperial bust of Caesar into Jerusalem, against Jewish law, but Pilate threatened protesters with mass slaughter, according to Ha’aretz. Another example of Pilate breaking traditions, according to Josephus, is when he used treasures from the holy temple to pay for renovations of the water system Herod had built in Jerusalem.

Ecco Homo (Behold, the Man) by Antonio Ciseri shows Pontius Pilot presenting Jesus to the masses. (Public Domain)

Ecco Homo (Behold, the Man) by Antonio Ciseri shows

Pontius Pilate presenting Jesus to the masses.  Public Domain )

 An article in World Israeli News informs that “this is not the first artifact discovered from this particular site that had been inscribed with the word ‘Pilatus.’ In the 1960s, Professor Gideon Forester Forster of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem “unearthed a stone decorated with the name.”


Distant Veneration

 While it is most likely that Pilate was a Roman citizen, born in central Italy, there is a tradition in Scotland that Pilate was born in Fortingall, a small village in the Perthshire Highlands, a claim shared by Forchheim in Germany and Tarragona in Spain.  An article on History Today , says “In the Gospel of Matthew, Pilate’s wife [Procla] warns her husband not to harm Jesus and for this she achieved sainthood among Orthodox Christians.” In the 6th century, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church  recognized Pilate as a saint and St Pilate’s Day is the 25th of June, a holy day shared with his wife and the saints Jude, Peter and Paul.

 Professor Kevin Butcher of the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Warwick, and the author of  The Further Adventures of Pontius Pilate , pointed out that people familiar with western Biblical traditions are often surprised at the thought of Pontius Pilate having been canonized, and may think this ‘holy’ accolade is ‘wholly’ tasteless; he was the man who famously cross-examined and crucified Jesus after all. “His dilemma,” according to Professor Butcher, “was to do either the ‘right’ thing or the ‘popular’ thing, which is every ruler’s quandary.”

 Maybe that is why so many people sympathize with Pilate: because we ‘all’ too have faced difficult choices and have made decisions that other people have judged to wrong.


Historical Information

                  Saint Procla

In the New Testament, the only reference to Pontius Pilate's wife exists in a single sentence by Matthew:

Having seated himself on the judgment seat, his wife sent (word) to him, saying, ‘Have nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream, because of him’."   (Matthew 27:19)

The Gospel narrative continues that Pilate was being pressured to sentence Christ to death, but "washed his hands", asserting that "I am innocent of this man's blood" :

20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and eliminate Jesus. 21 The governor answered and said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” They said, “Barabbas!” 22 Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”  They all said to him, “Crucify Him !” 23 Then the governor said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they cried out all the more, saying, “Crucify Him !” 24 When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a  tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You shall see.” 25 And all the people answered and said, “Let His blood be on us and on our children.” 26 So he released Barabbas to them; and after scourging Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.   (Matthew 27:20-26)

In the 3rd century, Origen suggested in his Homilies on Matthew  that the wife of Pilate had become a Christian, or at least that God sent her the dream mentioned by Matthew so that she would convert. This interpretation was shared by several theologians of Antiquity and the Middle Ages. The apocryphal Letter of Pilate to Herod, dating from around the 3rd–4th century, names Pilate's wife as Procla and connects to the story of Matthew 27:19. Pilate and his wife are here portrayed as Christian converts. The apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, also known as Acta Pilati, probably written around the middle of the 4th century, gives a more elaborate version of the episode of the dream than Matthew, and names Pilate's wife as Procula. Procula is recognized as a saint in two churches within the Eastern Christian tradition: the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, she is celebrated on 27 October. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church celebrates Pilate and Procula together on 25 June.

From :https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontius_Pilates_wife



Fr. Johannes Jacobse ​​​​​

Fr. Johannes (Hans) Jacobse, a native of Holland, is priest at St. Peter Orthodox Church in Bonita Springs, Florida. He is also a cultural critic and independent scholar. He edits the website Orthodoxy Today, discussing social and moral issues from an Orthodox Christian perspective. The success of Orthodoxy Today led to the founding of the American Orthodox Institute, a research and educational organization that engages the cultural issues of the day within the Orthodox Christian moral tradition. He is also editor of the website Another City along with Dr. Seraphim Bruce Foltz.

Fr. Hans is an expert and recognized authority on the impact of ideology and narrative on culture. His editorials and essays have been published by the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Duluth News Tribune, International Herald Tribune, Hellenic Voice, Breakpoint, Front Page Magazine, Institute for Religion and Democracy, Acton Institute, Discovery Institute, Town Hall, and more. 


Article published in English on: 3-12-2018.

Last update: 3-12-2018.