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 their High Priest, Caiaphas, on the day after Passover. It was Pilate's right to act as arbitrator in such cases, as Jesus was charged with heresy and for stirring up rebellion. Pilate questioned the man but found no evidence of what the Sanhedrin 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 more to do with Jesus or his fate.
However, as it was the Passover season, as per tradition there were two prisoners that 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 is said to have asked the crowd, "Who do you want me to release? Barabbas or Jesus who was called the Messiah?" The people of Jerusalem, at the instigation of the Pharisees, ordered Barabbas to be released. Pilate then asked them "Then what should I do with Jesus who was called the Messiah?" The priests persuaded the crowd to order Jesus to be crucified.
Upon hearing so, Pilate was 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 showed 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 was doomed to carry the crushing burden of sins that 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 himself 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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