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Catholic Dictionary




The Roman procurator of Judaea from A.D. 26 to 36, appointed by Emperor Tiberius. Several times during his administration there had been turbulent demonstrations by the Jews when their traditions were violated or their rights infringed upon. These demonstrations irritated Tiberius, and Pilate was anxious to placate the Jews so that no further Judaean unrest would be reported to Rome. This was the political situation when Pilate was confronted by the irate delegation of priests and Pharisees demanding Christ's death. All four Evangelists testify that Pilate knew full well that the accused was innocent (Luke 23:4; John 18:38). He tried various stratagems in the hope that the charges would be reduced and the fury would abate. He offered to release Christ or Barabbas. He had Jesus flogged (Matthew 27:15-26; Luke 23:14-16). He set up the hand-washing ritual to emphasize his view of the charges in the hope that he could divert Jewish determination. but finally he capitulated and consented to the Crucifixion (Mark 15:15) rather than have the Emperor disturbed and his own administration threatened. (Etym. Latin Pontius Pilatus.)