Erich Lessing

Rare archaeological attestation of a New Testament figure is found in the Latin inscription on this first-century C.E. stone, found reused in the remains of a fourth-century theater in the port city of Caesarea. Used as a step in the theater, the stone originally came from a first-century temple dedicated to the Roman emperor Tiberius. Missing only its first word, the inscription reads: “… the Tiberium, which Pontius Pilate, the Prefect of Judea, gave [and] dedicated.”

History actually records Pilate as an irresponsible and excessive ruler (see “The Dark Side of Pilate”). But in the fourth century, as Christianity became an accepted religion under Emperor Constantine, Roman Christians needed to elevate a Roman figure from the New Testament as a model for their own faith. Pilate fit the bill, Jensen suggests. A sympathetic gentile who even, according to legend, became a believer, Pilate was seen as a precursor of Constantine himself.