Some ten years ago, two colleagues approached me with a request: could I read the general introduction to ancient history they had once written and was about to be reprinted? They wanted to seize the opportunity to remove all errors they might have made, and invited me to point out everything I could possible find.
Christ, from whom the sect of the Christians has its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate.
But Tacitus is wrong. An inscription from Caesarea, found in 1961, is our evidence. It contains several lacunae, but Pilate’s title is clearly legible:
|[dis avgvsti]S TIBERIEVM
[… po]NTIVS PILATVS
|To the august gods, this temple of Tiberius, … Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judaea, erected and inaugurated.|
There is no doubt about it: Pilate was a praefectus (a soldier), not a procurator (a civil official). This is not a mere triviality: the trial of Jesus was a matter of military urgency, not a civil trial.