Pontius Pilate was the Roman Governor or more accurately, procurator of Judea from 26CE to 36CE. Judea had become a Roman province shortly after the death of Herod the Great in 4BCE. The Roman capital of Judea was not Aelia Capitolina (Jerusalem), but Caesarea Maritima, (Caesarea), about 60 kilometres north of Tel Aviv, Israel).

There is little known about Pilate from written records. Almost all we know is found in the four Gospels and the writings of Josephus. The only archaeological evidence for his existence is his name written on this stone discovered in Caesarea in 1969CE.

But supposing archaeologists had discovered something more -the wax tablets on which Pontius Pilate had written his diary during his troubled years in Judea....


NOTE
Where a word or words are indecipherable because of wear or damage to the tablet,
they are shown thus: [..........]. Where the word is uncertain it is shown thus: [word?].



THE TEXT


CAESAREA MARITIMA kal maias DCCLXXVIII auc

We have been in Caesarea Maritima for almost a month. We seem to have settled in quite well, all things considered. Claudia is getting used to the idea. I have a perfect [assistant?], Marcus. He's efficient, organised and has a much better understanding of the Judean province than I shall ever have. He speaks the [local?] Aramaic and Greek. He is proving to be to be invaluable.

Today I received a delegation, if that is what you call it. It was five officials from the office of the high priest in Aelia Capitolina. They were demanding that I hand over control of the high priest's [vestments?] I reminded them that it was not an issue for discussion. They had [..............] from Aelia Capitolina just to ask for a key to the high priest's wardrobe! Crazy people!

I then attended to other more important matters; letters to Rome, to my family in Samnium and to Sejanus.


CAESAREA MARITIMA non. iunus DCCLXXVIII auc

The standards are finished at last. They have done a good [job?]. I made arrangements for us to go to Aelia C. and [supervise?] them being fixed in place. Marcus suggested we do this overnight to avoid [................] problems. I plan to arrive the day before and probably stay in the Antonia about ten days.

I am looking forward to seeing the standards in place, but not looking forward to Aelia C. It's too noisy and [...............].


AELIA CAPITOLANA prid. id. iunius DCCLXXVIII auc

I simply cannot understand these Judeans. They have been protesting incessantly about the standards which, I'm told, offend their religion. I didn't appreciate Marcus's rather irritating, "I told you so" expression, either! We have hardly slept. Claudia and I have been woken every morning, to a loud, slow chant in the [local Aramaic?]. The protesters have been lying prostrate on the ground for four days. I have decided to let sleepng dogs lie.

This protest is now into its fourth day and I am fast losing my [patience?] [...........] remove the standards [.....................] Marcus said the troops were getting restless and anxious to [..................] In the early part of this afternoon I called in the cohorts and we agreed to play the same waiting game. It depends on how long we can put up with their chanting. Gratus warned me when I took over here about the stubborn Judeans. It's been a long day. I am very tired [.............]


CAESAREA MARITIMA ix kal. julius DCCLXXVIII auc

The protesters have followed us here! I have to hand it to them them for [tenacity?]. These Judeans certainly are determined [.....................] I cannot think of any other people in the Empire like them. [.................]

Tomorrrow I have decided to hear their objections in the [arena?] Marcus has the troops on stand-by. We have a [...............] plan.


CAESAREA MARITIMA viii kal. julius DCCLXXVIII auc

Marcus and I celebrated this evening on a job well done. The protest is over, the crowd has gone and we can sleep.

A message from Rome saved the day, advising that the standards be taken down. The message was conveyed to the [...............] and they [...............] dispersed. It was all very orderly. The Pax Romana has returned to [.................]


[......................................] viii id. [mars?] DCCLXXIX auc

This morning we were faced by an angry mob protesting again about the Temple [funds?] being used for the [new?] aqueduct. I must say Marcus did very well.

He had his men infiltrate the crowd dressed as Judeans. At a pre-arranged [signal?] they proceeded to set about the mob with clubs and beat some Roman common sense into them. It was all over within [fifteen minutes?]. I hope this is the end of it all.

My patience is finished with these people. Next time the outcome will not be [........................] This evening we allowed ourselves a modest celebration on a job well done.


CAESAREA MARITIMA [.......................] DCCLXXXIV auc

After some careful thought, I have decided to honour the Emperor. I have arranged for several shields to be fixed to Herod's palace in Aelia C. There should be no objections.The shields are coated with gold. They have no images, merely a dedication inscription, which simply says [Pilate gives thanks to Tiberius?]. I have had ten made.

This morning I organised a century to take the shields to Aelia C. and put them in place.


AELIA CAPITOLINA [..................................] auc

I have again spent most of today listening to complaints about the shields. Antipas, Philip and two other princes of this province the gods abandoned years ago, spent over an hour trying to persuade me to remove the shields. I refused. I told them the shields are dedicated. They said they would appeal to the Emperor.

They can appeal to whoever they like. My patience has run out.


CAESAREA MARITIMA [..............................] auc

I have been a little depressed after the letter from Tiberias. The shields have been removed and, as the Emperor suggested, are now back here in the temple of Augustus.

I suppose I'm fortunate. I am still the procurator. [...........] to find anyone else to do the job.

Now, I want more than anything, to be away from here. But, it's no use feeling sorry for myself. There will no doubt be opportunity to [get my own back?] on these Judeans.


CAESAREA MARITIMA vi ante diem. kal. aprilis dcclxxxi auc

Tomorrow we leave for Aelia C. Another of these Judean festivals. They call it pesach. They celebrate the time they were freed from slavery by someone called Moses.

Marcus gave me the good news that they had arrested bar-Abbas this afternoon. He's one of the Fourth Philosophy leadership. We have been after him for sometime. I look forward to seeing him crucified.


AELIA CAPITOLINA [.............................] dcclxxxi auc

Marcus reported today that a preacher from the north had caused a disturbance in the Temple and we ought to be prepared for trouble. I told him we're always prepared for trouble. It is Judea!

Claudia told me later the preacher is a carpenter who had done some healing, curing diseases. But then this is the land of [eccentrics?], from wild men in the wilderness to crazy high priests in the Temple. In fact, if I stay here much longer, I'll probably be [included?] with them!


AELIA CAPITOLINA non. aprilis dcclxxxi auc

It has been a very long day. Before sunrise I was woken by Marcus who told me the High Priest wanted to see me outside.

They had a prisoner with them and wanted me to authorise the death sentence, just like that. I took the prisoner inside for questioning. It turned out he was the preacher Claudia had mentioned. Yeshua bar-Joseph, he had the same first name as bar-Abbas.

I admit I was impressed with him. He was not what I expected. We talked briefly about the nature of truth. I didn't understand why he'd been brought to me. He was as innocent as the new day. I discovered he was from Galiliee and as Herod was in Aelia C. I sent the preacher to him, telling him to deal with it.

But he was back within the hour with the High Priest and [.................] baying for his blood. I don't mind admitting, I was being manipulated.

I offered to release him. Tradition has it at this festival a prisoner gets released. I asked them which Yeshua they wanted. They chose bar-Abbas. I was trapped. I gave in, the prospect of mass demonstrations, anarchy in the streets and more letters to the emperor was too high a price to pay. Better one dead than thousands. Who knows? We crucified him at the third hour this morning and he was dead by the ninth.

It's very late and all I can see is his face looking at me out of this lamp-flame and me asking him, What is truth?


AELIA CAPITOLINA viii id. aprilis dcclxxxi auc

Another bizarre day in this [hell-hole?]. The high priest has requested an armed guard on the preacher's tomb! They are worried his followers may steal the body. I ask you! It was one of his followers that asked to bury him! They can have the body if they want it. As long as we don't have [..............................] is a resurrection [rumour?].

Tomorrow I return to Caesarea Maritima, away from here and these mad, mad people.



 

What is truth? 1890 / Nikolaievich Ge / Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow


All rights reserved 2001 Bryce Cooke THE PILATE DIARIES  / Cat's Whiskers Media Limited / Last update: 15 June 2007


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