Tag Archives: Initiate

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.

 

INRI and Pilate

Normally I hate to quote so much but this time it is important to set the scene as described in Matthew chapter 27:

“And when they had bound Him, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate, the governor. …

And Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked Him, saying, “Art thou the King of the Jews?” And Jesus said unto him, “Thou sayest.”  And when He was accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing.  Then said Pilate unto Him, “Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?”  And He answered him never a word, insomuch that the governor marveled greatly.

Now at that feast, the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would.  And they had then a notable prisoner called Barabbas.  Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, “Whom will ye that I release unto you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”

For he knew that for envy they had delivered Him.  When he had sat down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, “Have thou nothing to do with that just man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.”  But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.

The governor answered and said unto them, “Which of the two will ye that I release unto you?” They said, “Barabbas!”  Pilate said unto them, “What shall I do then with Jesus, who is called Christ?” They all said unto him, “Let him be crucified!”  And the governor said, “Why, what evil hath he done?” But they cried out the more, saying, “Let him be crucified!”

When Pilate saw that he could not prevail, but rather that a tumult was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person. See ye to it.”  Then answered all the people and said, “His blood be on us, and on our children!”  Then released he Barabbas unto them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto Him the whole detachment of soldiers.  And they stripped Him and put on Him a scarlet robe.  And when they had plaited a crown of thorns, they put it upon His head and a reed in His right hand, and they bowed their knees before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”  And they spat upon Him, and took the reed and smote Him on the head.  And after they had mocked Him, they took the robe off from Him and put His own raiment on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.

And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; him they compelled to bear His cross.  And when they had come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a Place of a Skull, they gave Him vinegar to drink mingled with gall. And when He had tasted thereof, He would not drink.  And they crucified Him and parted His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: “They parted My garments among them, and upon My vesture did they cast lots.”

And sitting down, they watched Him there, and set up over His head His accusation, written: This Is Jesus The King Of The Jews.

Then were there two thieves crucified with Him, one on the right hand and another on the left.  And those who passed by reviled Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Thou that destroyest the temple and buildest it in three days, save thyself! If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross!”  Likewise also the chief priests mocking Him, with the scribes and elders said, “He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.  He trusted in God; let Him deliver him now, if He will have him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

The thieves also, who were crucified with Him, cast the same in His teeth.  Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is to say, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, “This man calleth for Elijah.”  And straightway one of them ran and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed and gave Him to drink.  The rest said, “Let be; let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”

Jesus, when He had cried out again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom, and the earth quaked and the rocks rent. …

Now when the centurion, and those who were with him watching Jesus, saw the earthquake and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”

And many women were there beholding afar off, who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto Him, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s children. When the evening had come, there came a rich man of Arimathea named Joseph, who himself also was Jesus’ disciple.  He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.  And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher and departed.  And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the sepulcher.

Now the next day, that following the Day of the Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said while he was yet alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’  Command therefore that the sepulcher be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night and steal him away, and say unto the people, ‘He is risen from the dead,’ so that the last error shall be worse than the first.”  Pilate said unto them, “Ye have a watch. Go your way, make it as secure as ye can.”  So they went and made the sepulcher secure, sealing the stone and setting up a watch.”

Let’s look at two themes from this story:

  1. What was the significance of the plaque above Jesus where “INRI” was written by Pilate
  2. Who was Pilate?

INRI means Jesus Nazorite Rex Judeaorum which means Jesus the Nazorite, King of the Jews.  Many translations will read Jesus the Nazarean, King of the Jews. The Greek word is Nazoraios.  It does not mean from Nazareth but, rather, the one singled out. Such an inscription meant that Pilate knew something key about Jesus – that he belonged to the secret Jewish sect, the Essenes. Books of the Essene community in Qumran are discovered in 1947 and are today known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In this word Nazoraios, the Alpha and the Omega are the first two vowels as well as the first and the last.  Was Jesus, from approximately age 12 to age 30 part of the Essene sect? Did Pilate know this? Does the inscription INRI point us to this?

His wife is so deeply troubled by the unfolding of this event she sends word to Pontius “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” In some dreamlike way, could Pilate foresee that this man would need to die to save “the nation” but he does not want to be morally connected to those who condemned him?

Within the Gospel of Peter we find a narrative that places responsibility for the crucifixion not on Pontius Pilate but on Herod Antipas, one of three sons of Herod the Great. As a Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate would have been the region’s supreme judge, not ruler. He had the sole authority to order a criminal’s execution. His principle duty was to maintain law and order. Additionally his duties included mundane tasks such as tax collection and to oversee construction projects. He had up to 3000 soldiers at his command to enforce his orders.

It was in 26 A.D. that the Roman Emperor Tiberius had appointed Pontius Pilate as prefect of the Roman provinces of Judaea, Samaria and Idumæa succeeding Valerius Gratus. While the typical term for a Roman prefect was 1–3 years, Pilate would hold this post for 10 years. In my next post we’ll look more at this interesting historical figure, Pontius Pilate and ask, could he have been an initiate?

 

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