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Discussion 6 to Meditation 249
Ignoring the challenge*: More piffle and waffle, misunderstanding and misdirection, obfuscation and evasion

By Anthony DeLucchi

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"I don't think my correspondent deliberately lied when he claimed documentary evidence existed. He sincerely believed it, having heard it from a Sunday School teacher, or from his Pastor in a sermon, or some other "credible" source. It's just one of those factoids, that if repeated often enough within a community becomes generally accepted truth."

This is just a tame catch-all ditty sung by any person who wishes to deny the truth of Christianity. These same boffins will rush to flood the argument with older untraceable “evidence” such as myths and legends of other beliefs which in some way mirror or show a slight resemblence to the Christian “myth”.

You ask me quite smugly to “prove” the evidence of Pontius Pilate, and the "trial" of an imaginary "revolutionary" Jesus of Nazareth.

You can keep your Canadian dollars. Pontius Pilate existed, he was the Roman Prefect of Judae.There are more than enough sources to verify this. You too, have the internet, not so? If I mention the "famous" Jewish historian Josephus of around the same time frame, this would also be brought into questionable doubt as the answer you would put foreword would be that he, this is, Josephus, was either a figment of some papist imagination, or this "misinformed historian" was merely copying previous writings which he did not experience. Even his piece on the Temple of Herod the Great then becomes questionable.

Here let me ask you a question. If this Jesus and his twelve merry men did not exist, nor did this crucifixtion occur, where on earth did these pesky Christians come from? Some bright public relations operator in Jerusalem in the time of Augustus Caesar imagined a film script, but seeing as the film industry had not started he decided to scribble this all down onto the back of some dead sheep, and voilà, the birth of Christianity. Come on be real.

I am not decrying your agnostism, this is your perogative, all I am attempting to point out is, there is just not enough evidence to disprove Christianity. In saying this I would add, there is more evidence proving his existence than disproving it. Herod existed, herods daughter Salome, existed, Augustus Caesar existed, Pontius Pilate existed, the Jewish High Priest Joseph Caiaphas existed.

Inscription by Pontius Pilate

It wasn't long ago when many scholars were questioning the actual existence of a Roman Procurator with the name Pontius Pilate, the procurator who ordered Jesus' crucifixion. In June 1961 Italian archaeologists led by Dr. Frova were excavating an ancient Roman amphitheatre near Caesarea-on-the-Sea (Maritima) and uncovered this interesting limestone block. On the face is a monumental inscription which is part of a larger dedication to Tiberius Caesar which clearly says that it was from "Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea."

It reads:

Who was Pontius Pilate?

Pontius Pilate's family name, Pontius, indicates that he was of the tribe of Pontii. It was one of the most famous of the ancient Samnite names. The surname or cognomen Pilatus indicates the familia, or branch of the gens Pontius. The name is uncertain, though some think it may have meant "armed with the pilum" (a spear or javelin). One interesting note is about another man in Roman history bearing the name. Lucius Pontius Aquila was a friend of Cicero and one of the assassins of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March (44 BC) when the would-be king was murdered.

The only information regarding Pontius Pilate is the New Testament and two Jewish writers: Josephus and Philo of Alexandria. By far our greatest amount of information comes from the Jewish writer Flavius Josephus who composed his two great works, the Antiquities of the Jews and the Jewish War, towards the end of the first century. There are also several "less reliable" traditions and legends. One early German legend says that Pilate was an illegitimate son of Tyrus, king of Mayence, who had Pilate taken to Rome as a prisoner. After he had apparently committed a murder he was sent to Pontus, where he enlisted in the Roman Army and proved himself by winning many victories against the barbarous tribes in the north.

Tacitus, when speaking of the cruel punishments inflicted by Nero upon the Christians, tells us that Christ, from whom the name "Christian" was derived, was put to death when Tiberius was emperor by the procurator Pontius Pilate (Annals xv.44). Apart from this reference and what is told us in the New Testament, all our knowledge of him is derived from two Jewish writers, Josephus the historian and Philo of Alexandria.

The Roman Procurator

Tiberius Caesar, who succeeded Augustus in AD 14, appointed Pontius Pilate as governor of Judea in 26 AD. Pilate arrived and made his official residence in Caesarea Maritima, the Roman capital of Judea. Pilate was the 5th procurator of Judea. The province of Judea, formerly the kingdom of Archelaus, was formed in 6 AD when Archelaus was exiled and his territory transformed into a Roman province. Although it included Samaria and Idumaea, the new province was known simply as Judea or Judaea. It generally covered the S. half of Palestine, including Samaria. Judea was an imperial province (i.e. under the direct control of the emperor), and was governed by a procurator.

The procurator was devoted to the emperor and directly responsible to him. His primary responsibility was financial. The authority of the Roman procurators varied according to the appointment of the emperor. Pilate was a procurator cum porestate, (possessed civil, military, and criminal jurisdiction). The procurator of Judea was somehow under the authority of the legate of Syria. Usually a procurator had to be of equestrian rank and experienced in military affairs.

Under the rule of a procurator cum porestate like Pontius Pilate, the Jews were allowed as much self-government as possible under imperial authority. The Jewish judicial system was run by the Sanhedrin and court met in the "hall of hewn stone", but if they desired to inflict the death penalty, the sentence had to be given and executed by the Roman procurator.

Pontius Pilate and the Jews

According to history Pilate made an immediate impression upon the Jews when he moved his army headquarters from Caesarea to Jerusalem. They marched into the city with their Roman standards, bearing the image of the "divine emperor" and set up their headquarters right in the corner of the Temple in a palace-fortress called "Antonia," which outraged the Jews. Pilate quickly learned their zealous nature and political power within the province and, according to Josephus, ordered the standards to be returned to Caesarea (Josephus Ant. 18.3.1-2; Wars 2.9.2-4).

Pilate made some other mistakes according to history before the time when he ordered the crucifixion of Jesus. One time he placed on the walls of his palace on Mt. Zion golden shields bearing inscriptions of the names of various gods. Tiberius had to personally order the removal of the shields. Another time Pilate used Temple revenue to build his aqueduct. There is another incident only recorded in the Bible where Pilate ordered the slaughter of certain Galileans (Luke 13:1) who had supposedly been offering sacrifices in the Temple. Here are some details:   

"On one occasion, when the soldiers under his command came to Jerusalem, he caused them to bring with them their ensigns, upon which were the usual images of the emperor. The ensigns were brought in privily by night, put their presence was soon discovered. Immediately multitudes of excited Jews hastened to Caesarea to petition him for the removal of the obnoxious ensigns. For five days he refused to hear them, but on the sixth he took his place on the judgment seat, and when the Jews were admitted he had them surrounded with soldiers and threatened them with instant death unless they ceased to trouble him with the matter. The Jews thereupon flung themselves on the ground and bared their necks, declaring that they preferred death to the violation of their laws. Pilate, unwilling to slay so many, yielded the point and removed the ensigns."

(The Standards- Josephus, War 2.169-174, Antiq 18.55-59)

"At another time he used the sacred treasure of the temple, called corban (qorban), to pay for bringing water into Jerusalem by an aqueduct. A crowd came together and clamored against him; but he had caused soldiers dressed as civilians to mingle with the multitude, and at a given signal they fell upon the rioters and beat them so severely with staves that the riot was quelled."

(The Aqueduct- Josephus, War 2.175-177, Antiq 18.60-62)).

"Philo tells us (Legatio ad Caium, xxxviii) that on other occasion he dedicated some gilt shields in the palace of Herod in honor of the emperor. On these shields there was no representation of any forbidden thing, but simply an inscription of the name of the donor and of him in whose honor they were set up. The Jews petitioned him to have them removed; when he refused, they appealed to Tiberius, who sent an order that they should be removed to Caesarea."

(from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia)

What Happened to Pontius Pilate?

Scripture gives us no further information concerning Pilate, but Josephus, the Jewish historian records that Pilate, the Roman procurator of Judea succeeded Gratus. According to Josephus (Ant, XVIII, iv, 2) Pilate held office in Judea for 10 years. Afterwards he was removed from office by Vitellius, the legate of Syria, and traveled in haste to Rome to defend himself before Tiberius against certain complaints. Before he reached Rome the Tiberius had died and Gaius (Caligula) was on the throne, AD 36. Josephus adds that Vitellius came in the year 36 AD to Judea to be present at Jerusalem at the time of the Passover. This would indicate that Pilate had already left for Rome.

Josephus (Ant, XVIII, iv, 1, 2) gives an account of what really happened to Pontius Pilate and his removal from office. A religious fanatic arose in Samaria who promised the Samaritans that if they would assemble on Mt. Gerizim, he would show them the sacred vessels which Moses had hidden there. A great multitude of people came to the "sacred mountain" of the Samaritans ready to ascend the mountain, but before they could they were attacked by Pilate's cavalry, and many of them were slaughtered. The Samaritans therefore sent an embassy to Vitellius, the legate of Syria, to accuse Pilate of murdering innocent people. Vitellius, who wanted to maintain friendship with the Jews, removed Pilate from office and appointed Marcellus in his place.

Pilate was ordered to go to Rome and answer the charges made against him before the emperor. Pilate set out for Rome, but, before he could reach it, Tiberius had died.

I know this is long winded and not in my own obscure style of writing but this is just one.

A little more:

Joseph Caiaphas was the high priest of Jerusalem who, according to Biblical accounts, sent Jesus to Pilate for his execution.

As high priest and chief religious authority in the land, Caiaphas had many important responsibilities, including controlling the Temple treasury, managing the Temple police and other personnel, performing religious rituals, and--central to the passion story--serving as president of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish council and court that reportedly considered the case of Jesus.

The high priest had another, more controversial function in first-century Jerusalem: serving as a sort of liason between Roman authority and the Jewish population. High priests, drawn from the Sadducean aristocracy, received their appointment from Rome since the time of Herod the Great, and Rome looked to high priests to keep the Jewish populace in line. We know from other cases (such as one incident in 66 C.E.) that Roman prefects might demand that high priests arrest and turn over Jews seen as agitators.

Caiaphas was the son-in-law of Annas, high priest from 6 to 15 C.E. and head of a family that would control the high priesthood for most of the first century. Annas is also mentioned in Biblical accounts. It is possible that he, as a high priest emeritus, might have served at the side of Caiaphas in the Sanhedrin called to resolve the fate of Jesus.

Although little is known of Caiaphas, historians infer from his long tenure as high priest, from 18 to 36 C.E., that he must have worked well with Roman authority. For ten years, Caiaphas served with Roman prefect Pontius Pilate. The two presumably had a close relationship. It is likely that Caiaphas and Pilate had standing arrangements for how to deal with subversive persons such as Jesus.

Caiaphas's motives in turning Jesus over to Pilate are a subject of speculation. Some historians suggest that he had little choice. Others argue that Caiaphas saw Jesus as a threat to the existing religious order. He might have believed that if Jesus wasn't restrained or even executed that the Romans might end their relative tolerance of Jewish institutions.

High priests, including Caiaphas, were both respected and despised by the Jewish population. As the highest religious authority, they were seen as playing a critical role in religious life and the Sanhedrin. At the same time, however, many Jews resented the close relationship that high priest maintained with Roman authorities and suspected them of taking bribes or practicing other forms of corruption.

In the year 36 C.E., both Caiaphas and Pilate were dismissed from office by Syrian governor, Vitellius, according to Jewish historian Josephus. It seems likely that the cause of their dismissal was growing public unhappiness with their close cooperation. Rome might have perceived the need for a conciliatory gesture to Jews whose sensibilities had been offended by the two leaders. Josephus described the high priests of the family of Annas as "heartless when they sit in judgment."

Unlike other Temple priests, Caiaphas, as a high priest, lived in Jerusalem's Upper City, a wealthy section inhabited by the city's powers-that-be. His home almost certainly was constructed around a large courtyard.

Archaeologists discovered in 1990 in a family tomb in Abu Tor, two miles south of Jerusalem, an ossuary, or bone box, containing on its side the name of Joseph Caiaphas, written in Aramaic. The ossuary is assumed to be genuine.         

Me again.

Now these fellows existed. The portuguese fisherman was just Milligan-type humour thrown in, just to show that I am not so “fundamentistic” that I cannot laugh at myself. Okay so these guys were there, sorry no photographs, why would Jesus not have existed? The fact that whether he was or is the Messiah is another issue completely. As to the trial of Christ, well, 4 guys, Matthew, Luke, Mark and John, are witness to this, a taxman, a doctor, probably a lawyer and a mystic attest to this and four guys witnessing an event is much better than a friend of my mothers neighbours' aunty. But then again you did make a “hedged” bet, because anything I might put foreword, even Christ Himself, you would doubt, you are after all, agnostic.




* An editorial choice of title, not Mr. DeLucchi's choice.