In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Pontius Pilate

  • Introduction
  • Entries on Pilate in Reference Works
  • Pilate in Mark’s Gospel
  • Pilate in Luke-Acts
  • Pilate in John’s Gospel
  • Pilate in First Timothy
  • Pilate and Historical Jesus

Biblical Studies Pontius Pilate
Warren Carter, Anna Bowden, Annelies Moeser, Kendi Mohn, Jill Engelhardt
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 July 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0283


Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea (26–37 CE) who crucified Jesus. There is little information about his life prior to this governorship. His appointment suggests elite status (equestrian), some notable civic and military service, and some patronage from the emperor Tiberius or from someone in Tiberius’s circle. He was recalled from his office in January 37 CE after protests, but Tiberius died in early 37. Pilate disappears from the historical record. Sources for his governorship include Philo and Josephus, though both have particular agendas. The Gospels focus on his role in crucifying Jesus. Interpretations have often focused on theological matters while neglecting the power dynamics of Roman imperial rule that shape the scenes. Pilate has long captured the imagination of interpreters and he has made regular appearances in various media—literature, dramas, and films.

Entries on Pilate in Reference Works

Reference works provide in lesser (Bond 2009, Powell 2011) or greater (Schwartz 1992) detail overviews of basic questions concerning what is known about Pilate including sources, Gospel presentations, and subsequent ecclesial traditions.

  • Bond, Helen K. “Pilate, Pontius.” In The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Vol 4. Edited by Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, 525–527. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2009.

    Article covers Pilate’s background, his governorship (emphasizing his military role), Jewish sources and main incidents, New Testament sources which are interpreted as placing primary responsibility on the Jewish leaders, and the end of his office and development of ecclesial traditions.

  • Powell, Mark. “Pilate, Pontius.” In The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. Edited by Mark Allan Powell, 805–807. New York: HarperOne, 2011.

    Summarizes the scenes and perspectives of Philo and Josephus; repeats the unsustainable commonplace that the Gospels present Pilate as weak.

  • Schwartz, Daniel R. “Pontius Pilate.” In Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 5. Edited by David Noel Freedman, 395–401. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

    Wide-ranging article covering the dates of Pilate’s governorship, title, and responsibilities as a governor, sources, interaction with Rome during his rule, interactions marked by some friction with his Jewish subjects, key incidents and events including his execution of Jesus for rebellion, and the end of his governorship and the ecclesial traditions that develop thereafter. Useful bibliography.

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