The tragedy of Calvary: or the minute details of Christ's life from Palm Sunday morning till the resurrection and ascension taken prophecy, history, revelations and ancient writings
by Meagher, Jas. L. (James Luke), 1848-1920
Pilate's chief fame rests on his condemnation of the Saviour, not because of his personality, but on account of the Person brought before him. He is looked on as being infamous, because of that injustice. But we must consider the office he held, the Jews who demanded it, the times in which he lived, and his ignorance of the Jewish religion.
In the times immediately following Pilate's day appeared many Acts of Pilate. Celsus, one of the seventy-two disciples, who fell away from the Church and denied Christ's divinity, taunted Christians with circulating spurious Acts of Pilate. 1 Eusebius complains that heathens used these writings to mock Christians and blaspheme Christ, and he shows us that they existed in the time of the Apostles. Some of these Acts have survived, and they resemble the Gospel narratives. Some writers hold them to be authentic, while others says they are spurious. We will give the information found in some of the most authentic.
The Paradosis Pilati 2 states that Tiberius, startled at the universal darkness which fell on the world at the death of Christ, summoned Pilate for having caused it, and condemned him to death. But before his execution, Pilate prays to the Lord Jesus that he may not be condemned with the wicked Jews, and a voice from heaven assures him that generations will call him blessed, that he will be a witness of the innocence of Christ, and that he will judge the twelve tribes of Israel at the second coming of the Lord. At his execution an angel received his head, his wife dies of joy and is buried with him. The Abyssinian Church recognizes him as a saint and martyr, and holds his feast on the 25th of June. 3 Tertullian says of him, "In his conscience he was already a Christian." 4 The Gospel of Nicodemus says that he "was uncircumcised in the flesh but circumcised in heart." 5
According to another legend, Tiberius, who was sick, on hearing the wonderful healing powers of Jesus, wrote to Pilate and ordered him to send to Rome the man he had heard about, who did such wonderful works, and he sent a messenger to Jerusalem who meets Veronica, and she gives him the cloth with the impression of the Lord's face imprinted on it. This being applied to the sick emperor healed him. Tiberius summoned Pilate for trial, and he presents himself before the Caesar wearing the seamless garment of the Saviour. This acts as a spell on the emperor's mind, he forgets his severity, and in place of putting Pilate to death he casts him into prison, where he commits suicide.
His body is cast into the Tiber, but storms follow, and the Romans take it up and send it to Vienna and throw it into the Rhone. But the same disasters follow, and they take it up and send it to Lucerne where it is sunk in a lake. One of the mountains overlooking Lake Lucerne is called Mount Pilatus, and evidently gave rise to the legend of Pilate's burial. But Ruskin 6 says that the story originated from a distortion of the name of the mountain it being called by the Romans " Mons Pileatus," " the cloud-capped."
Justin Martyr mentions the Acts of Pilate, and Eusebius, the celebrated historian, tells us 7 that the emperor Maximin allowed, or ordered a book called the Acts of Pilate, composed by pagans, under this title, to be published in parts of the empire, and taught in the schools, and that these Acts were filled with impious statements against Christ and the Christians. But this cannot be the Acts of Pilate given in Nicodemus's Gospel, for the latter contains nothing against Christ—on the contrary, the statements resemble very much the authentic history as given in the New Testament, relating in detail the story of the trial.
The preface states that it was written in Hebrew, but was soon translated into Greek, Latin, Coptic, and other tongues; various opinions prevail regarding the authenticity of these works. But when we find that the details of the trial before Pilate, as given in these Acts, was fore told by the prophets, we must conclude that they actually took place, although not given in the Gospels. For the writers of the latter confined themselves to a general history of Christ, without going into minute details. The early Church writers did not look on Pilate as being very guilty, the Fathers hold him guiltless. The Catacomb inscriptions do not condemn him, and the Coptic Church also venerates him as a saint.
1 Origen, C. Cels.
2 Tischendorf, Evang. Apoc 26.
3 Stanley, Eastern Church, p. 13 ; Neal, Eastern Church, v. i. p. 806.
4 Apol. C. 21,
5 Evan. Nicod. i. 12.
6 "Modern Painters," v. v., p. 128.
7 Book ix., C. V.
7 Book ix., C. V.