Pontius Pilatus, better known as Pontius Pilate (? - 39 A.D.) was stationed as regional governor (prefect) of the Roman-ruled Judea from the year 26 B.C. to 36 A.D. According to Biblical text and supported by historic record, Jesus of Nazareth was brought before him by the Pharisees and High Priest Caiaphas on the day after Passover; it was Pilate's right to act as arbitrator in such cases, as Jesus had been charged with heresy and for stirring up rebellion. Pilate questioned the man, yet found no evidence of what the Sanhedrin had accused him of. As such, he had Jesus scourged and imprisoned, with the intent of releasing him. That night Pilate's wife, Claudia Procula, had a disturbing dream, and warned him to have nothing to do with Jesus or his fate.
However, as it was the Passover season, as was custom two prisoners would be presented before the people, who would decide who should be let go. Jesus of Nazareth and an accused murderer named Jesus Barabbas were brought forth for this occasion. Pilate asked the Jewish crowd, "Who do you want me to release? Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?" The Jews, at the instigation of the Pharisees, ordered Barabbas to be released. Pilate then asked them "Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?" The priests persuaded the crowd to order Jesus to be crucified.
Upon hearing so, Pilate is said to have had a bowl of water brought forth. He washed his hands in it before the crowd, saying "I am innocent of this man's blood, see to it yourselves."
Pilate was removed from his post three years later and recalled to Rome after he had shown great brutality in crushing an uprising. Pilate was succeeded by the Roman Marcellus.
In Hell, Pilate's cowardice contributed to the suffering of One for the sins of many. For this Lucifer designed his just but horrific punishment: in Limbo Pilate is doomed to carry the crushing burden of sins Jesus once had to bear.
- In The Inferno, some believe that Pontius Pilate is mentioned to be among those on the Shores of Acheron, in the Vestibule of Hell (where Opportunists who never chose sides in life were punished by manifestations of their guilty conscience). However, the text is ambiguous.
- Some historians doubt the account of Pilate "washing his hands" of Jesus's innocent blood. Tensions were high in Jerusalem during the Passover season due to the occupation of the Romans. Jesus's teachings and his earlier action of throwing over the tables in front of the Temple made him a potential political enemy to both the Pharisees, and to Pilate as regional governor. He may not have seen a moral dilemma in having a potential rebel leader executed before a riot began in the city.
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