Is the Bible historically accurate?(Part 14B)(The Conspirator Part 5)

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Last night I had the opportunity to go back and forth with a couple of bloggers on the Arkansas Times Blog and this is some of their comments:

(username Norma Bates) noted with sarcasm:

Though biblical scholars have grappled with the contradictions and inconsistencies in the four “original” gospels for two thousand years, YOU have tidied it all up nicely on your site and solved all that nonsense with your impeccable sources!

I’m impressed.

(username RevMojoryson) noted:

Wiki has this on the Caiaphas ossuary:
This ossuary appeared authentic and contained human remains. An Aramaic inscription on the side was thought to read “Joseph son of Caiaphas” and on the basis of this the bones of an elder man were considered to belong to the High Priest Caiaphas.[1][3] Since the original discovery this identification has been challenged by some scholars on various grounds, including the spelling of the inscription, the lack of any mention of Caiaphas’s status as High Priest, the plainness of the tomb.

I responded:

Patrick Zukeran of Probe Ministries has noted:

The first challenge to address is how to account for the differences among the four Gospels. They are each different in nature, content, and the facts they include or exclude. The reason for the variations is that each author wrote to a different audience and from his own unique perspective. Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience to prove to them that Jesus is indeed their Messiah. That’s why Matthew includes many of the teachings of Christ and makes numerous references to Old Testament prophecies. Mark wrote to a Greek or Gentile audience to prove that Jesus is the Son of God. Therefore, he makes his case by focusing on the events of Christ’s life. His gospel moves very quickly from one event to another, demonstrating Christ’s lordship over all creation. Luke wrote to give an accurate historical account of Jesus’ life. John wrote after reflecting on his encounter with Christ for many years. With that insight, near the end of his life John sat down and wrote the most theological of all the Gospels.

Imagine if four people wrote a biography on your life: your son, your father, a co-worker, and a good friend. They would each focus on different aspects of your life and write from a unique perspective. One would be writing about you as a parent, another as a child growing up, one as a professional, and one as a peer. Each may include different stories or see the same event from a different angle, but their differences would not mean they are in error. When we put all four accounts together, we would get a richer picture of your life and character. That is what is taking place in the Gospels.

What we do expect from the Gospels is confirmation by archaeology and that is exactly what we get. The critics have scoffed at the historical figures mentioned in the Bible, but not only do we have the high priest Caiaphas confirmed but we also have Pilate confirmed in an amazing discovery in 1961. Take a look at my latest post which centers in on the objections of Norma Bates and RevMojoryson.

This is a quick summary of the Bible’s reliability by a famous and well-respected former atheist. Please check out his website (http://www.leestrobel.com) for hundreds of FREE high quality videos investigating the critical aspects of our faith.

The Bible and Archaeology – Is the Bible from God? (Kyle Butt 42 min)

You want some evidence that indicates that the Bible is true? Here is a good place to start and that is taking a closer look at the archaeology of the Old Testament times. Is the Bible historically accurate? Here are some of the posts I have done in the past on the subject: 1. The Babylonian Chronicleof Nebuchadnezzars Siege of Jerusalem2. Hezekiah’s Siloam Tunnel Inscription. 3. Taylor Prism (Sennacherib Hexagonal Prism)4. Biblical Cities Attested Archaeologically. 5. The Discovery of the Hittites6.Shishak Smiting His Captives7. Moabite Stone8Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III9A Verification of places in Gospel of John and Book of Acts., 9B Discovery of Ebla Tablets10. Cyrus Cylinder11. Puru “The lot of Yahali” 9th Century B.C.E.12. The Uzziah Tablet Inscription13. The Pilate Inscription14. Caiaphas Ossuary14 B Pontius Pilate Part 214c. Three greatest American Archaeologists moved to accept Bible’s accuracy through archaeology.

The Pilate Inscription

Caesarea, Israel
New Testament Period
Pontius Pilate, (26-37 AD)
Limestone, inscribed
82.0 cm H, 65.0 cm W
Building Dedication
4 Lines of Writing (Latin)
Date of Discovery: 1961
Israel Museum (Jerusalem)
AE 1963 no. 104

Inscription by Pontius Pilate

It wasn’t long ago when many scholars were questioning the actual existence of a Roman Governor with the name Pontius Pilate, the procurator who ordered Jesus’ crucifixion. In June 1961 Italian archaeologists led by Dr. Frova were excavating an ancient Roman amphitheatre near Caesarea-on-the-Sea (Maritima) and uncovered this interesting limestone block. On the face is a monumental inscription which is part of a larger dedication to Tiberius Caesar which clearly says that it was from “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea.”

It reads:


Line One:
  TIBERIEUM,, Line Two:  (PON) TIUS Line Three:  (PRAEF) ECTUS IUDA (EAE)

This is the only known occurrence of the name Pontius Pilate in any ancient inscription. Visitors to Caesarea’s theater today see a replica, the original is in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. It is interesting as well that there have been a few bronze coins found that were struck form 29-32 AD by Pontius Pilate.

Who was Pontius Pilate?

Pontius Pilate’s family name, Pontius, indicates that he was of the tribe of Pontii. It was one of the most famous of the ancient Samnite names. The surname or cognomen Pilatus indicates the familia, or branch of the gens Pontius. The name is uncertain, though some think it may have meant “armed with the pilum” (a spear or javelin). One interesting note is about another man in Roman history bearing the name. Lucius Pontius Aquila was a friend of Cicero and one of the assassins of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March (44 BC) when the would-be king was murdered.

The only information regarding Pontius Pilate is the New Testament and two Jewish writers: Josephus and Philo of Alexandria. By far our greatest amount of information comes from the Jewish writer Flavius Josephus who composed his two great works, the Antiquities of the Jews and the Jewish War, towards the end of the first century. There are also several “less reliable” traditions and legends. One early German legend says that Pilate was an illegitimate son of Tyrus, king of Mayence, who had Pilate taken to Rome as a prisoner. After he had apparently committed a murder he was sent to Pontus, where he enlisted in the Roman Army and proved himself by winning many victories against the barbarous tribes in the north.

Tacitus, when speaking of the cruel punishments inflicted by Nero upon the Christians, tells us that Christ, from whom the name “Christian” was derived, was put to death when Tiberius was emperor by the procurator Pontius Pilate (Annals xv.44). Apart from this reference and what is told us in the New Testament, all our knowledge of him is derived from two Jewish writers, Josephus the historian and Philo of Alexandria.

The Roman Procurator

Tiberius Caesar, who succeeded Augustus in AD 14, appointed Pontius Pilate as governor of Judea in 26 AD. Pilate arrived and made his official residence in Caesarea Maritima, the Roman capital of Judea. Pilate was the 5th procurator of Judea. The province of Judea, formerly the kingdom of Archelaus, was formed in 6 AD when Archelaus was exiled and his territory transformed into a Roman province. Although it included Samaria and Idumaea, the new province was known simply as Judea or Judaea. It generally covered the S. half of Palestine, including Samaria. Judea was an imperial province (i.e. under the direct control of the emperor), and was governed by a procurator.

The procurator was devoted to the emperor and directly responsible to him. His primary responsibility was financial. The authority of the Roman procurators varied according to the appointment of the emperor. Pilate was a procurator cum porestate, (possessed civil, military, and criminal jurisdiction). The procurator of Judea was somehow under the authority of the legate of Syria. Usually a procurator had to be of equestrian rank and experienced in military affairs.

Under the rule of a procurator cum porestate like Pontius Pilate, the Jews were allowed as much self-government as possible under imperial authority. The Jewish  judicial system was run by the Sanhedrin and court met in the “hall of hewn stone”, but if they desired to inflict the death penalty, the sentence had to be given and executed by the Roman procurator.

Pontius Pilate and the Jews

According to history Pilate made an immediate impression upon the Jews when he moved his army headquarters from Caesarea to Jerusalem. They marched into the city with their Roman standards, bearing the image of the “divine emperor” and set up their headquarters right in the corner of the Temple in a palace-fortress called “Antonia,” which outraged the Jews. Pilate quickly learned their zealous nature and political power within the province and, according to Josephus, ordered the standards to be returned to Caesarea (Josephus Ant. 18.3.1-2; Wars 2.9.2-4).

Pilate made some other mistakes according to history before the time when he ordered the crucifixion of Jesus. One time he placed on the walls of his palace on Mt. Zion golden shields bearing inscriptions of the names of various gods. Tiberius had to personally order the removal of the shields. Another time Pilate used Temple revenue to build his aqueduct. There is another incident only recorded in the Bible where Pilate ordered the slaughter of certain Galileans (Luke 13:1) who had supposedly been offering sacrifices in the Temple. Here are some details:

“On one occasion, when the soldiers under his command came to Jerusalem, he caused them to bring with them their ensigns, upon which were the usual images of the emperor. The ensigns were brought in privily by night, put their presence was soon discovered. Immediately multitudes of excited Jews hastened to Caesarea to petition him for the removal of the obnoxious ensigns. For five days he refused to hear them, but on the sixth he took his place on the judgment seat, and when the Jews were admitted he had them surrounded with soldiers and threatened them with instant death unless they ceased to trouble him with the matter. The Jews thereupon flung themselves on the ground and bared their necks, declaring that they preferred death to the violation of their laws. Pilate, unwilling to slay so many, yielded the point and removed the ensigns.”

(The Standards- Josephus, War 2.169-174, Antiq 18.55-59)


“At another time he used the sacred treasure of the temple, called corban (qorban), to pay for bringing water into Jerusalem by an aqueduct. A crowd came together and clamored against him; but he had caused soldiers dressed as civilians to mingle with the multitude, and at a given signal they fell upon the rioters and beat them so severely with staves that the riot was quelled.”

(The Aqueduct- Josephus, War 2.175-177, Antiq 18.60-62)).


“Philo tells us (Legatio ad Caium, xxxviii) that on other occasion he dedicated some gilt shields in the palace of Herod in honor of the emperor. On these shields there was no representation of any forbidden thing, but simply an inscription of the name of the donor and of him in whose honor they were set up. The Jews petitioned him to have them removed; when he refused, they appealed to Tiberius, who sent an order that they should be removed to Caesarea.”

(from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia)

The Trial of Jesus and Pontius Pilate

Pilate had traveled to Jerusalem in order to maintain order during the huge festival of Passover. This festival was always a problem time for the Romans, especially since Jewish resentment had always run especially high during national or religious holidays.

According to the Scriptures the Jewish authorities brought Jesus to Pontius Pilate and began prosecution by saying,

“Luke 23:1-2 Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him to Pilate. And they began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.”

The main charges brought before Pilate about Jesus were political and not religious. Jesus was accused of being a political threat to Rome and to Caesar’s authority.

Pilate spoke with Jesus (see John 18:33-19:12) and considered the charges being brought against Jesus.

1. He subverts the nation
2. He opposes payment of taxes
3. He claims to be a King

These were, of course, false accusations because Jesus refused the title of king in a political sense, and did not oppose paying taxes. He criticized the leaders on religious issues, not political.

Pilate’s verdict on all three counts were “I find no case against Him.”  For whatever reason Pilate tried to avoid judging Jesus. He wanted to give the responsibility to the Jewish authorities, then he tried to detour the responsibility to Herod. He also tried to invoke the custom of releasing a prisoner in honor of the Jewish Passover and let the multitudes decide, but they chose a murderous criminal named Barabbas. Finally he had Jesus scourged in hope that the Jewish Sanhedrin would feel pity.

John 19:15-16 “But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!” Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away.”

Pilate did not want to be responsible for the death of Jesus, and he would not until the Jewish rulers threatened to report him to Caesar, which they had done before. They cried “let His blood be upon us and on our children” (Matt 27:25) and how fearfully this was fulfilled. (See Masada)

When all else failed Pilate washed his hands of the whole situation in the presence of all the people and turned Jesus over to his soldiers for crucifixion and ordered a sign made for Jesus’ cross. The sign on the vertical beam of the cross read in Greek, Latin and Hebrew: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” The Sanhedrin were outraged and the chief priests came to Pilate and said:

John 19:21-23 “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘He said, “I am the King of the Jews.” ‘ “Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

What Happened to Pontius Pilate?

Scripture gives us no further information concerning Pilate, but Josephus, the Jewish historian records that Pilate, the Roman procurator of Judea succeeded Gratus. According to Josephus (Ant, XVIII, iv, 2) Pilate held office in Judea for 10 years. Afterwards he was removed from office by Vitellius, the legate of Syria, and traveled in haste to Rome to defend himself before Tiberius against certain complaints. Before he reached Rome the Tiberius had died and Gaius (Caligula) was on the throne, AD 36. Josephus adds that Vitellius came in the year 36 AD to Judea to be present at Jerusalem at the time of the Passover. This would indicate that Pilate had already left for Rome.

Josephus (Ant, XVIII, iv, 1, 2) gives an account of what really happened to Pontius Pilate and his removal from office. A religious fanatic arose in Samaria who promised the Samaritans that if they would assemble on Mt. Gerizim, he would show them the sacred vessels which Moses had hidden there. A great multitude of people came to the “sacred mountain” of the Samaritans ready to ascend the mountain, but before they could they were attacked by Pilate’s cavalry, and many of them were slaughtered. The Samaritans therefore sent an embassy to Vitellius, the legate of Syria, to accuse Pilate of murdering innocent people. Vitellius, who wanted to maintain friendship with the Jews, removed Pilate from office and appointed Marcellus in his place.

Pilate was ordered to go to Rome and answer the charges made against him before the emperor. Pilate set out for Rome, but, before he could reach it, Tiberius had died.

From this point onward history knows nothing more of Pilate.

Tradition and Legend

Eusebius (4th cent AD) tells us (Historia Ecclesiastica, II), based on the writings of certain Greek historians, that Pilate soon afterward, “wearied with misfortunes,” had killed himself. (Hist. Eccl. 2.7.1).

Various apocryphal writings have come down to us, written from the 3rd-5th centuries AD, giving legendary details about Pontius Pilate becoming a Christian, and his wife, traditionally named Claudia Procula, was a Jewish proselyte at the time of the death of Jesus and afterward became a Christian.

There are other traditions mentioned in the false Gospels (non-canonical Apocryphal Gospels) concerning Pontius Pilate.

Church tradition portrayed Pilate in very favorable terms. In the second century Gospel of Peter, Jesus is condemned not by Pilate but by Herod Antipas. Tertullian asserted that Pilate was a Christian at heart and that he wrote a letter to Tiberius to explain what had happened at Jesus’ trial (Apology 21).  The fourth or fifth century Gospel of Nicodemus (which contains the Acts of Pilate), does not make Pilate a Christian, but depicts him as more friendly towards Jesus than any of the canonical gospels. Pilate was soon canonized by the Coptic and Ethiopic churches.

The Biblical Comparison

The Bible clearly mentions Pontius Pilate as the Roman procurator of Judea at the time of Jesus Christ. Since this dedication stone found in Caesarea Maritima was the first inscription mentioning his actual name, and that he indeed was the Roman procurator who had made his official residence in Caesarea, the discovery of The Pilate Inscription is a monumental discovery that verifies again that the Bible is a Book of history.
The Evidence of Archaeology

The evidence of archaeology helps to give us:

1. Confidence that the places and people mentioned in the Bible are accurate, even though those places and people existed thousands of years in the past.

2. Confidence that the details of the Biblical accounts have not changed over the centuries since it was written as we have a “fixed fact” in history.

3. Confidence that everything that the Lord speaks will be fulfilled in its time.

Isa 46:8-10 “Remember this, and show yourselves men; Recall to mind, O you transgressors. Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’ 

Written by Rusty Russell (Bible History Online)


Webmaster: rusty@bible-history.com

o 8 of 14

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I went to see the movie “The Conspirator” the other night and I really enjoyed it. Since then I have been digging up facts about the trial and the people involved in the trial. ROGER NORTON wrote a good piece on Surratt and you can find it below and at this link:

JOHN SURRATT
John Surratt in his early 20’s and early 70’s
John Harrison Surratt, Jr. was born on April 13, 1844, on property his father, John Harrison Surratt, Sr., had inherited from his foster parents in what is now a section of Washington known as Congress Heights. John was Mary Surratt’s youngest child.
John Surratt’s brother, Isaac, and sister, AnnaWhen the Civil War broke out in 1861, John was a student at St. Charles College. In August of 1862 John’s father died. John, Jr., who was home at the time (probably on summer break) did not return to school. He was named Surratsville postmaster on September 1, 1862, and served in that role until November 17, 1863, when he was replaced by Andrew V. Robey. After his father’s death, John became a messenger for the Confederacy. He carried dispatches to Confederate boats on the Potomac River. Additionally, he sent to the South information regarding troop movements of Union soldiers stationed in the Washington, D.C. area and elsewhere. He enjoyed this lifestyle and often carried the messages in his boots or in the planks of his buggy. He liked outfoxing the federal detectives.Dr. Samuel Mudd introduced John Wilkes Booth to Surratt in Washington on December 23, 1864. When Surratt heard of Booth’s plot to kidnap President Lincoln, he willingly joined Booth’s group of conspirators. On the night of Wednesday, March 15, 1865, Surratt met with Booth and other conspirators at Gautier’s Restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue to discuss the possible abduction of the president. According to Surratt, he then took part in a failed attempt to kidnap Lincoln on March 17, 1865. ** (Although many assassination books include this story, it probably never really took place. The president was invited to attend a play at the Campbell Hospital just outside Washington, but he remained in the city to make a speech to the 140th Indiana Regiment. Booth had learned beforehand about the change in Lincoln’s schedule.) According to Surratt, his role in Booth’s group ended with this unsuccessful kidnap attempt.Surratt’s whereabouts on the night of the assassination have been the subject of historical speculation. Surratt, himself, said he was in Elmira, New York, and that he then fled to Canada after hearing news of Lincoln being shot by Booth. He was hiding in Canada when his mother was hanged on July 7, 1865.
On September 15, 1865, Surratt fled to England and later to Rome. He joined the Papal Zouaves. When his location was discovered he went to Alexandria, Egypt. There he was arrested on November 27, 1866. Surratt was brought back to the United States and went on trial for murder on June 10, 1867. The jury heard 80 witnesses for the government and 90 witnesses for the defense. The trial ended August 10 with the jury deadlocked (four votes for guilt and eight votes for innocence). Eventually, Surratt was freed in the summer of 1868. He had benefited from the fact that he had been tried by a civil court. To read an excellent account of the trial, please see the article entitled The Case of John Harrison Surratt, Jr. by John F. Doyle in the March 2000 edition of the Surratt Courier. Surratt became a teacher in Rockville, Maryland. At the courthouse there on December 6, 1870, he delivered a 75 minute public lecture on the conspiracy. Adults paid fifty cents to attend; children paid a quarter. He admitted his role in the abduction plot, but denied any part in the assassination. He blamed his mother’s execution on Louis Weichmann, the government’s star witness at the 1865 conspiracy trial. He called Weichmann a “perjurer.” He said his friends had kept from him the news of the seriousness of his mother’s plight in Washington. Additionally, Surratt said the Confederate government was not involved in the plot. CLICK HEREto read the transcript of Surratt’s lecture.During December 1870 Surratt gave a second lecture at the Cooper Union in New York City and a third one at Concordia Hall in Baltimore, but these events were not well attended. Surratt attempted to give a fourth lecture in Washington, D.C. on December 30, 1870, but enraged citizens forced its cancellation. It’s possible Surratt wouldn’t have given the lecture anyway as he had been arrested the day before in Richmond and charged with selling tobacco without a license in 1869.

Later Surratt secured a job as a teacher in St. Joseph Catholic School in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Some time after 1872 he was hired by the Baltimore Steam Packet Company. As time went by, he rose to freight auditor and treasurer of the company. In 1872 Surratt married Mary Victorine Hunter, a second cousin of Francis Scott Key. The couple lived in Baltimore and had seven children.

John Surratt outlived all connected with the assassination. His address was 1016 W. Lanvale Street in Baltimore. He died of pneumonia at 9:00 P.M. on Friday, April 21, 1916, at the age of 72. He was buried in the New Cathedral Cemetery in Baltimore.

NOTE: The photograph at the top right is from the Surratt House Museum. For more details on Surratt’s escape, capture, and trial please see Alfred Isacsson’s book entitled The Travels, Arrest, and Trial of John H. Surratt (Middletown, New York, Vestigium Press, 2003). Additionally, for MUCH more information, please see The Last Lincoln Conspirator: John Surratt’s Flight from the Gallows by Andrew Jampoler (Annapolis, Naval Institute Press, 2008). The picture of Surratt below came from Mr. Jampoler’s book.

** Verifying information about Booth’s March 17 kidnap plans was told by the late Lincoln assassination scholar, Dr. James O. Hall, during an interview published in the April, 1990, edition of the Journal of the Lincoln Assassination. Dr. Hall said that E.L. Davenport, an actor in the play at Campbell Hospital, recalled how Booth had arrived at the hospital and asked about Lincoln’s whereabouts on the afternoon of March 17.

I would like to say thank you to Laurie Verge, the Surratt House Museum Director, for her help with certain dates and other particulars on this page.

JOHN SURRATT AS AN OLDER MAN (The Mariners’ Museum)
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