Pontius Pilate was an obscure Roman governor ruling in an obscure Roman province in the first century. Yet he’s the most widely known Roman governor ever, with a name more familiar than most emperors. He’s not known for any accomplishments, but rather for ordering the most infamous execution in human history—the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Was Pontius Pilate a fabricated individual in fabricated stories about Jesus, as some critics of the Bible would have us believe? That argument lost much of its credibility when a stone bearing his name, part of an inscription dedicating a temple to the Roman Emperor Tiberius, was found in 1961 at Caesarea Maritima, administrative capital and military headquarters for the Roman province of Judea.
Now additional evidence of Pilate’s existence has been announced—a copper alloy ring discovered at Herod the Great’s mountain fortress of Herodion (also called the Herodium) a few miles from Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
The ring was originally excavated in 1969, but only after a recent thorough cleaning and photographic examination was it found to bear the Greek inscription PILATO—a Greek translation of a form of the Latin name Pilate.
An analysis of the ring by several scholars was published in the prestigious Israel Exploration Journal in late 2018 under the headline, “Ring of Roman Governor Pontius Pilate Who Crucified Jesus Found in Herodion Site in West Bank.”
One puzzling aspect of the find is why a wealthy and powerful political figure such as Pilate would own a ring that is relatively cheap and crude?
One of the archaeologists who contributed to the article theorized that perhaps Pilate wore an expensive gold ring for ceremonial and official duties, but a more simple ring like this for everyday wear.
Other suggestions were that it belonged to a family member, a person under his command, or one of his freed slaves. Another hypothesis is that it belonged to a regional administrator in Pilate’s government who used the ring to stamp document seals and other items that were being sent to the Roman governor.
Regardless, this ring supports exactly what we read in the Gospels—that at the time of Jesus Christ there really was a Roman governor in Judea named Pilate. He is one of dozens of figures mentioned in the Bible whose existence has been proven by archaeology.