Researchers have deciphered an inscription on a bronze ring found in Israel 50 years ago suggesting the ring belonged to Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator in Jerusalem who allegedly ordered the crucifixion of Jesus.
In the late 1960s, archaeologists led by Professor Gideon Forster from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem discovered an ancient bronze sealing ring at the Herodion excavation near Bethlehem, along with thousands of other artifacts, which were recently handed over to a new team in charge of the historical site.
Using “a special camera at the Israel Antiquities Authority labs” the team of archaeologists —led by Professors Shua Amurai-Stark and Malcha Hershkovitz — were able to decipher the Greek inscription on the ring, which reads “Pilatus.”
According to Professor Danny Schwartz of Hebrew University, Pilatus was “a rare name in Israel,” which raises the probability that its owner was the figure described in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
“I don’t know of any other ‘Pilatus’ from the period and the ring shows he was a person of stature and wealth,” Schwartz said.
Sealing rings were used to “seal” letters and mark official correspondence with a personal insignia impressed into molten wax. Such rings were a “hallmark” of the cavalry in the Roman era, to which Pilate belonged, which lends further credence to the hypothesis that it belonged to the Pontius Pilate of the New Testament.
“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,” Ha’aretz reported.
The new find may provide further proof of certain details surrounding Jesus’ death. Little written evidence apart from the New Testament texts attests to the identity of the Roman procurator described as ordering Jesus’ execution during the reign of the emperor Tiberias Caesar.
Up until 1961, there was no real archaeological evidence that Pilate, the fifth procurator of Judaea who governed Jerusalem between the years 26 to 36AD, had ever existed. The records of his administration had completely disappeared, leaving “no papyri, no rolls, no tablets, no (authentic) letters to Rome.”
In 1961, however, a team of Italian archaeologists unearthed a plaque fragment at Caesarea Maritima, an ancient Roman city along the Mediterranean coast of Israel. The plaque, which contained a Latin inscription, was embedded in a section of stairs leading to Caesarea’s Amphitheatre.
A portion of the inscription reads as follows:
“Pontius Pilatus, Prefect of Judea, has dedicated to the people of Caesarea a temple in honor of Tiberius.”
The biblical figure of Pontius Pilate is remembered in a particular way for being unconvinced of Jesus’ guilt and yet “washing his hands” of the responsibility for his execution, proclaiming his innocence for the shedding of Christ’s blood.
The ancient Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed still recited by Christians today reads: “For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”
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