Documents for the Study of the Gospels

By David R. Cartlidge; David L. Dungan | Go to book overview

A Letter from Pilate to Claudius
and The Trial of Pilate in Rome

Introduction: The letter appears in several places in the late literature of the early Church and in medieval texts. We have used the text in The Acts of Peter and Paul 40–42. Although the letter is late, as early as Tertullian (late second-century) there is mention of a dispatch from Pilate to Tiberius (Tertullian, Apol. 5:21) which is of such character that Tertullian regards Pilate as a converted Christian. The letter of which Tertullian spoke may be akin to the following letter.

The subsequent account of the arrest, trial, and death of Pilate is from The Paradosis (handing over) of Pilate. Both the letter and The Paradosis are considered by some to be earlier than the Acts of Pilate which may have its roots in such literature.

We have included this comparatively late literature to illustrate the tendency to whitewash Pilate and the Romans and to lay more and more blame for the death of Jesus upon the Jews.


A Letter from Pilate to Claudius

40. Pontius Pilate to Claudius, greeting.1

Something recently occurred which I myself uncovered. For the Jews through envy have taken vengeance upon themselves and their posterity with a fearful judgment.

Their fathers of course had received a promise that God would send them his Holy One from Heaven, one who correctly would be called their king; this Holy One, God had promised to send to earth through a virgin. He came to Judea when I was governor.

41. They (the Jews) saw him give sight to the blind, cleanse lepers, heal paralytics, exorcise demons, raise the dead, command the winds, walk upon a rough sea, and do many other miracles. And all the Jewish folk said him to be the very Son of God.

Therefore, the High Priests, moved by envy, seized him and delivered him to me. Piling lie upon lie, they said he was a sorcerer and that he had broken their law.

42. I believed this, ordered him whipped, and handed him over to their will. And they crucified him. When he was buried, they placed a guard over

1. The letter of course should have been addressed to Tiberius.

-82-

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