Tag Archives: Acts of Pilate

Was Pontius Pilate an Initiate?

Last blog, we looked at the meaning of the inscription INRI that Pontius Pilate wrote on a plaque and had placed on the cross above the head of Jesus. Who was this governor of Judea?

To answer this, we should review an apocryphal book entitled the Acts of Pilate. Here is a letter from Pilate to Emperor Tiberias. This is found in the Greek Acts of Peter and Paul and as an appendix to the Gospel of Nicodemus in Latin. The translation is from M. R. James:

There befell of late a matter which I myself brought to light (or, made trial of): for the Jews through envy have punished themselves and their posterity with fearful judgements of their own fault; for whereas their fathers had promises (al. had announced unto them) that their God would send them out of heaven his holy one who should of rightly be called their king, and did promise that he would send him upon earth by a virgin; he then (or this God of the Hebrews, then) came when I was governor of Judea, and they beheld him enlightening the blind, cleansing lepers, healing the palsied, driving devils out of men, raising the dead, rebuking the winds, walking upon the waves of the sea dry-shod, and doing many other wonders, and all the people of the Jews calling him the Son of God: the chief priests therefore, moved with envy against him, took him and delivered him unto me and brought against him one false accusation after another, saying that he was a sorcerer and did things contrary to law.

But I, believing that these things were so, having scourged him, delivered him unto their will: and they crucified him, and when he was buried they set guards upon him. But while my soldiers watched him he rose again on the third day: yet so much was the malice of the Jews kindled that they gave money to the soldiers, saying: Say ye that his disciples stole away his body. But they, though they took the money, were not able to keep silence concerning that which had come to pass, for they also have testified that they saw him arisen and that they received money from the Jews. And these things have I reported (unto thy mightiness) for this cause, lest some other should lie unto thee (Lat. lest any lie otherwise) and though shouldest deem right to believe the false tales of the Jews.

It is possible, even likely, that many (perhaps all?) of the early texts were altered (or forged) in order to persuade people.  In earlier ages, the role of scribe required the utmost integrity and ethically sound character. By the 2nd century AD, alteration of sacred texts was all too frequent.

New Testament Documents book coverF. F. Bruce, in his book The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? writes “About AD 150 Justin Martyr, addressing his Defence of Christianity to the Emperor Antoninius Pius, referred him to Pilate’s report, which Justin supposed must be preserved in the imperial archives. ‘But the words, “They pierced my hands and my feet,” ‘ he says, ‘are a description of the nails that were fixed in His hands and His feet on the cross; and after He was crucified, those who crucified Him cast lots for His garments, and divided them among themselves; and that these things were so, you may learn from the “Acts” which were recorded under Pontius Pilate.” Later he says: ‘That He performed these miracles you may easily be satisfied from the “Acts” of Pontius Pilate.”

Another historian, Johannes Quasten, in his bookPatrology, cites church father Tertullian who “refers twice to a report made by Pilate to Tiberius. According to him, Pontius Pilate informed the Emperor of the unjust sentence of death which he had pronounced against an innocent and divine person; the Emperor was so moved by his report of the miracles of Christ and his resurrection, that he proposed the reception of Christ among the gods of Rome. But the Senate refused (Apologeticum 5). In another place Tertullian says that the ‘whole story of Christ was reported to Caesar—at that time it was Tiberius—by Pilate, himself in his secret heart already a Christian’ (Apol. 21, 24).”

PatrologyIf we now turn to the Gospel of Judas, we find that the heresy hunters of the 2nd century, such as Irenaeus, were particularly upset by Gnostics and they felt this gospel could not be authentic because of the Gnostic tones in it. I quote from the above link for Roberts-Donaldson translation of this section from Irenaeus:

Others again declare that Cain derived his being from the Power above, and acknowledge that Esau, Korah, the Sodomites, and all such persons, are related to themselves. On this account, they add, they have been assailed by the Creator, yet no one of them has suffered injury. For Sophia was in the habit of carrying off that which belonged to her from them to herself. They declare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things, and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas.

Duccio Kiss of JudasWe find that in this story Judas was only following Christ’s instructions to “betray him.” Why? Christ knew his time was at hand. The time for the Greatest Cosmic Deed had come. The crucifixion had to take place. This God had to experience Death to become fully Human. This Son of Man had to become the Second Adam, to open a new path of Resurrection. The Cosmic significance of this event, with the cross placed on the skull of Adam, can be overwhelming. The Earth now begins her journey to become a new Sun.  Once the Earth and Sun were one and then they were separated. At this Turning Point in Time, the Earth was changed by the blood of this Human-God, Jesus-Christ, flowing into the soil on Golgotha.  Like homeopathy, this small amount of spiritualized blood began to transform. Judas fulfilled his terrible mission. So too did Pilate. To ensure that they fulfilled their respective missions, they were somewhat aware. No human being at this time could rise to the heights of consciousness to fully grasp this event. But Hellenism, the Essenes and the Gnostics had preserved enough, just enough, for some to grasp this Mystery of Golgotha.

G.W. Barkley
G.W. Barkley

Lastly, we look at G.W. Barkley’s book on Origen where we find Origen explains how we cannot fault Pilate who can be taken as “a prepared man.” Origen goes on to say, “Certainly he was the judge of the nation itself who sent him by his sentence ‘into the wilderness.’ But hear how he was washed and made clean. When he had said to the people, ‘Do you want me to release to you Jesus, who is called the Christ,’ and all the people had shouted out, saying, ‘If you release this one, you are not a friend of Caesar,’ then it says ‘Pilate demanded water and washed his hands before the people, saying, I am clean from his blood; you should see to it.’ Thus, therefore, by washing his hands he will appear to be made clean.” G.W. Barkley, Origen, Homilies on Leviticus: 1-16 (Fathers of the Church, 63; Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 2010), pg 204-205. Even Pilate’s wife, through a dream [the old way of spiritual inspiration], knew this man was innocent and that Pilate should remain ‘clean’ in the outcome. Many high ranking officials in this time had sought and received initiation into one or another Mystery. His washing of his hands after handling the freeing of either Jesus Christ or Jesus Barabbas could be seen as the action of a cultic priest after handling a sacrifice.

The Gospel of Nicodemus has an appendix entitle The Acts of Peter and Paul in which the words of Pilate’s letter to Emperor Claudius is contained as follows

Pontius Pilate unto Claudius, greeting.

There befell of late a matter which I myself brought to light (or, made trial of): for the Jews through envy have punished themselves and their posterity with fearful judgements of their own fault; for whereas their fathers had promises (al. had announced unto them) that their God would send them out of heaven his holy one who should of right be called their king, and did promise that he would send him upon earth by a virgin; he then (or this God of the Hebrews, then) came when I was governor of Judea, and they beheld him enlightening the blind, cleansing lepers, healing the palsied, driving devils out of men, raising the dead, rebuking the winds, walking upon the waves of the sea dry-shod, and doing many other wonders, and all the people of the Jews calling him the Son of God: the chief priests therefore, moved with envy against him, took him and delivered him unto me and brought against him one false accusation after another, saying that he was a sorcerer and did things contrary to law.

But I, believing that these things were so, having scourged him, delivered him unto their will: and they crucified him, and when he was buried they set guards upon him. But while my soldiers watched him he rose again on the third day: yet so much was the malice of the Jews kindled that they gave money to the soldiers, saying: Say ye that his disciples stole away his body. But they, though they took the money, were not able to keep silence concerning that which had come to pass, for they also have testified that they saw him arisen and that they received money from the Jews. And these things have I reported (unto thy mightiness) for this cause, lest some other should lie unto thee (Lat. lest any lie otherwise) and though shouldest deem right to believe the false tales of the Jews

Pilate likely had been initiated into a lesser Mystery and, perhaps, to an even higher degree. His inscription INRI shows remarkable insights into who Christ Jesus was but like other initiates of this time, he could not fathom the depth of what was about to take place, the Turning Point in Time, the Fulfillment of the Mysteries, The Great Mystery of All – the Mystery of Golgotha.

 

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