A Roman Prefect’s Question-What Is Truth?

James Seward -- What Is Truth

Perhaps, the most famous question asked of Jesus, the Nazarene Teacher, on the day of his death.  It was asked by a Roman.

As the accused Nazarene Teacher stood before Pontius Pilate, the Roman Prefect wanted to know how the man before him understood his place in Roman society.  He had heard from the man’s accusers.  He had heard over the last three years fantastic reports of what this man had done—his teachings on universal brotherhood, healing the sick, associating with the outcasts of society—the lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, etc.—and raising the dead just a few days ago in Bethany. The report of this Man chasing the moneychangers and merchants from the temple had made an impression on this Roman.

Pilate even suspected his own wife, Claudia, and some of his personal guard of being followers of this man, this teacher, this advocate for peace, especially peace with the Romans, this teacher of love for all men and women.  Pilate was impressed by the man’s calmness and serenity of spirit which he had not seen much of in this most wretched post of the empire.

The Man stated that his kingdom was not of this world and had no political ambitions on this planet traversing the cosmos. His kingdom proposed no threat to Roman rule. He had come from his kingdom to proclaim the truth, and if truth was in the heart, then the person would hear and accept his teachings.

Pilate said unto him, “What is truth?”

Did Pilate ever find the answer to his question?  Let’s take a look at this Roman.

Pilate was Prefect of Judea, Rome’s most troubling province, from 26-36 AD. Little is known of Pilate’s early life.  The traditional assertion was that he was the son of a Roman official and a local Pictish (Scottish) girl in Scotland. Or he was born in Italy or Germany.

Pilate must have been from the equestrian ranks. This order included the knights and cavalry—in other words the middle class of Roman society.  The order was just below the Senate and members could aspire to the Senate.

Duties: maintain law and order, judicial authority, collection of taxes, general oversight of the High Priesthood.  However, during his long term, Pilate left Caiaphas in office. Caiaphas was the last appointment of Gratus, Pilate’s predecessor.

Pilate’s official residence and seat of power was in Caesarea.  He came to Jerusalem for special events and Jewish feast days.

Pilate must have had some military experience or personal influence with Emperor Tiberius to receive an appointment.  Perhaps Claudia Procula, Pilate’s wife, was the daughter of Julia, Augustus Caesar’s daughter. She was adopted by Tiberius.

The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus describes Pilate as ruthless, harsh, insensitive and cunning.  Pilate treated the Temple Treasury as a private bank account with Caiaphas’ approval or his fear of removal from office.  Perhaps, this is why Caiaphas was allowed to remain in office.

It seems that Pilate’s brutal assault on a group of cultic Samaritans who wanted to climb Mount Gerizim to find the mythical lost treasure of Moses, which Moses had buried, was the final straw on the dromedary’s back in AD 36.  The public outcry was intense.

Vitellius, the legate of Syria and Pilate’s superior, had Pilate sent to Rome to appear before Tiberius to placate the Samaritans.  The region was becoming a cauldron of unrest.  The zealots were increasing in number daily.

Before Pilate reached Rome Tiberius died (March 16, AD37).  Gaius Caligula became Emperor, and Pilate disappeared from written history.

What happened to Pilate and Claudia?  Tradition has it that Pilate committed suicide.  Claudia became a devout follower of the Way.

Did Pilate ever find the answer to his question?  Perhaps when in the darkened streets of Rome the voices of the innocent blood of the many that were killed under his reign drove him mad, he remembered the words of the Nazarene Teacher from years before.

Perhaps Pilate and Claudia travelled with Joseph of Arimathea and Mary Magdalene to Britain to found a dynasty. Pilate and Joseph had some type of relationship in that Pilate released the body of the Nazarene Teacher to his care on that late Friday afternoon. In a future post we will examine this thesis.

Truth!  It is not a commodity which can be traded in this world.  Perhaps truth is a relationship with ourselves and to the cosmos which swirls about us as we travel the road of life.

For truth is freedom.  Freedom from superstition and ignorance is a noble pursuit on this planet traversing the cosmos.

G. D. Williams       © 2011

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