The Historicity of Pontius Pilate-Part IV

Continuing with the discussion of Philo,  there is a brief reference by Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews.  There Josephus tells of Philo’s selection by the Alexandrian Jewish community as their principal representative before the Roman Emperor Gaius  known more popularly as Caligula. He says that Philo agreed to represent the Alexandrian Jews in regard to civil disorder that had developed  in Alexandria.  Josephus describes Philo as being skilled in philosophy, and that he was brother to an official called Alexander the Alabarch, that is a customs official. According to Josephus, Philo and the larger Jewish community refused to treat the emperor as a god, to erect statues in honor of the emperor, and to build altars and temples to the emperor. Josephus says Philo believed that God actively supported this refusal.

Josephus’ complete comments about Philo:

“There was now a tumult arisen at Alexandria, between the Jewish inhabitants and the Greeks; and three ambassadors were chosen out of each party that were at variance, who came to Gaius. Now one of these ambassadors from the people of Alexandria was Apion, who uttered many blasphemies against the Jews; and, among other things that he said, he charged them with neglecting the honors that belonged to Caesar; for that while all who were subject to the Roman empire built altars and temples to Gaius, and in other regards universally received him as they received the gods, these Jews alone thought it a dishonorable thing for them to erect statues in honor of him, as well as to swear by his name. Many of these severe things were said by Apion, by which he hoped to provoke Gaius to anger at the Jews, as he was likely to be. But Philo, the principal of the Jewish embassage, a man eminent on all accounts, brother to Alexander the Alabarch,  and one not unskillful in philosophy, was ready to betake himself to make his defense against those accusations; but Gaius prohibited him, and bid him begone; he was also in such a rage, that it openly appeared he was about to do them some very great mischief. So Philo being thus affronted, went out, and said to those Jews who were about him, that they should be of good courage, since Gaius’s words indeed showed anger at them, but in reality had already set God against himself.”

The strongest evidence for the historicity of Pilate, however, is the so-called Pilate Stone, which was discovered in 1961 by archaeologist Dr. Antonio Frova in the amphitheater at Caesarea Maritima. The artifact is now in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem as inventory Number AE 1963 no. 104. This stone confirms the historicity, as well as the rank of Pontius Pilate as Prefect. The stone has been dated to 30 AD.  The stone bears the inscription which translated is:

To the Divine Augusti [this] Tiberieum …Pontius Pilate …prefect of Judea …has dedicated [this]

A photograph of the Pilate Stone can bee seen at the following website:

Note how clearly the word “Pilatus” can be read in the second line.


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