Pontius Pilate: Governor of Judea

pontius pilate

In Jesus’ day, any death sentence had to be approved by the Roman official in charge of the administrative district. Pontius Pilate was the governor of the province of Judea, where Jerusalem was located. When the Jewish leaders had Jesus in their power and wanted to kill him, they had to obtain Pilate’s permission. So it happened that early one morning Pilate found a crowd at his door demanding a man’s death.

Pilate’s relationship with the Jews had always been stormy. His Roman toughness and fairness had been weakened by cynicism, compromises, and mistakes. On several occasions, his actions had deeply offended the religious leaders. The resulting riots and chaos must have made Pilate wonder what he had gotten himself into. He was trying to control people who treated their Roman conquerors without respect. Jesus’ trial was another episode in Pilate’s ongoing problems.

For Pilate, there was never a doubt about Jesus’ innocence. Three separate times he declared Jesus not guilty. He couldn’t understand what made these people want to kill Jesus, but his fear of the pressure the Jews would place on him made him decide to allow Jesus’ crucifixion. Because of the people’s threat to inform the Emperor that Pilate hadn’t eliminated a rebel against Rome, Pilate went against what he knew was right. In desperation, he chose to do wrong.

We share a common humanity with Pilate. At times we know the right and choose the wrong. He had his moment in history and now we have ours. What have we done with our opportunities and responsibilities? What judgment have we passed on Jesus?


The ESV Study Bible, Large Print edition features the content of the award-winning ESV Study Bible with a highly readable, large-print type. Extensive study notes, charts, maps, and articles make this study Bible a valuable resource for serious readers, students, and teachers of God’s Word.

Strength and Accomplishment

  • Roman Governor of Judea

Weaknesses and Mistakes

  • He failed in his attempts to rule a people who were defeated militarily but never dominated by Rome.
  • His constant political struggles made him a cynical and uncaring compromiser, susceptible to pressure.
  • Although he realized Jesus was innocent, he bowed to the public demand for his execution.

Lessons from his Life

  • Great evil can happen when truth is at the mercy of political pressures.
  • Resisting the truth leaves a person without purpose or direction

Vital Statistics for Pontius Pilate

  • Where: Judea
  • Occupation: Roman governor of Judea.
  • Relative: Wife: unnamed
  • Contemporaries: Jesus, Caiaphas, Herod

Key Verses for Pontius Pilate

“ ‘What is truth?’ Pilate asked. With this, he went on again to the Jews and said ‘I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release “the king of the Jews”?’ “ (John 18:38, 39).

Pilate’s story is told in the Gospels. He is also mentioned in Acts 3:13; 4:27; 13:28; 1 Timothy 6:13).

Scripture Study Resources

ESV Study BibleStudy Bibles give you a deeper understanding of God’s Word with tools for life application like commentary, maps, charts, concordance, and study notes. Search our popular translations- NIV, ESV, NKJV, KJV and more!

Believer’s Bible Commentary: Second Edition – A Bible commentary is a written, systematic series of explanations and interpretations of Scripture. Commentaries often analyze or expound on individual books of the Bible, chapter by chapter and verse by verse. Some commentary works provide analysis of the whole of Scripture.

The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible – The best concordance for word study! This exclusive new edition of a legendary classic puts generations of biblical research at your fingertips. A valuable tool for pastors, teachers, and students of the Bible. 

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words – This classic word study resource allows you to study the meaning of biblical words in the original languages without spending years learning Greek or Hebrew. A great resource for students, seasoned pastors, and anyone who enjoys biblical word studies–even if they have little to no formal training in Hebrew or Greek.

Halley’s Bible Handbook – The beloved and classic Bible companion has been thoroughly updated, while retaining its time-honored features and Dr. Halley’s highly personal style, to offer even greater clarity, insight, and usefulness.


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