Pilate, Pontius

[(pon-shus peye-luht)]

The governor of the Jews (see also Jews) at the time of the Crucifixion of Jesus; he was an official of the Roman Empire, to which the Jewish nation belonged at that time. According to the Gospels, Pilate did not consider Jesus guilty and wanted to release him. Under pressure from the crowds in Jerusalem (see also Jerusalem), however, Pilate sentenced Jesus to death on the cross, having first washed his hands to indicate his lack of responsibility for Jesus' fate.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.