Archaeologists discovered that a ring found 50 years ago near Bethlehem belonged to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Jerusalem who ordered Jesus to be crucified.
Professor Gideon Foerster from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem led the dig that discovered the ring at the site of the Herodion fortress in the West Bank shortly after the Six Day War in 1967. Archaeologists were only recently able to decipher the name in Greek writing on the ring.
The Israel Antiquities Authority labs deciphered the name, after a meticulous cleansing of the ring and use of a special camera, as “Pilatus,” linking it to the Roman governor who ruled in Judah from 26 A.D. to 36 A.D. (RELATED: Biblical Lost City Discovered Near Jerusalem May Prove King David Existed)
“I don’t know of any other Pilatus from the period and the ring shows he was a person of stature and wealth,” said professor Danny Schwartz, according to Haaretz.
Researchers said the ring’s style indicates that it was a stamping ring, likely used by Pilate or one of his officials for signing Pilate’s name in day-to-day work, and that such rings were often carried by the Roman cavalry, in which Pilate served.
Archaeologists say that the Herodion fortress, where the ring was found, was not only used as a burial site but also likely used by Pilate as a government administrative headquarters.
“You can see he had a natural link to the Herodion,” said Hebrew University’s Dr. Roee Porath, who now leads the dig at the site. “Even for Herod it was more than just a tomb site with a palace. It was also a significant site of government. You can see the unusual significance this site had.”
Pilate was the fifth Roman leader in Judah, and he struggled to maintain peace in the area. The ancient Jewish historian Flavius Josephus recorded an incident in which Pilate sparked massive protests among the Jews by moving imperial medallions bearing busts of Caesar into Jerusalem, which violated Jewish laws against idols. Pilate threatened to slaughter the Jews if they did not stop protesting, but they did not relent.
“Hereupon the Jews, as it were at one signal, fell down in vast numbers together, and exposed their necks bare, and cried out that they were sooner ready to be slain, than that their law should be transgressed,” Josephus wrote.
Pilate had the medallions removed to restore peace. The governor was faced with another potential uprising when Jesus was brought before him, according to the New Testament.
The Gospel of Luke says that the chief Jewish priests and a crowd of their followers brought Jesus to Pilate and accused him of stirring an uprising among the people with his teachings. Pilate initially said he found no guilt in Jesus and, upon learning that Jesus was from an area under the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas, sent him to be questioned by Herod.
Herod’s questioning proved unfruitful, so he sent Jesus back to Pilate. Pilate insisted that he found no guilt in Jesus worthy of execution and that he would have Jesus released. The governor relented, however, at the peoples’ insistence and ordered Jesus to be crucified.
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