Contact me         Home

Herods Palace

Text Transcribed by Hatfield, R.O., The Letters of Pontius Pilot, Edited by W. P. CROZIER, retrieved December, 18, 2001 from
Photograph Roy, R. Holy Land Tour 2000: Day 2, retrieved December 18, 2001 from

Transcribed by Hatfield, R.O. 'The Letters of Pontius Pilot'
Pontius Pilot "In the Palace of Herod, Caesarea
We are duly installed and I am hard at work. I sit from morning to night, studying reports from every quarter of Judaea, going into accounts, listening to petitions. I really believe that for the last twelve months Valerius must have saved up every difficult and disagreeable question for me to settle. There is no end to the disputes between Greeks and Jews, Samaritans and Jews, Idumaens and Jews, and Jews and Jews. All of them are described as important; there is a fine crop of trouble for me, however I decide them. I suppose that I shall do the same by my successor when my turn comes(4)".


"My reception was fairly good, but the non-Jews were much more cordial than the Jews. The Jews in the streets were cool and unresponsive. Marcius says that Valerius has ruled them so gently that they see no reason to hope for much from me. 'They will be more enthusiastic,' he added, 'about your successor.' When I reached the palace I found the high officials gathered to welcome me: my own staff, representatives of the two Herods, and the High Priest from Jerusalem. The High Priest is one Joseph Caiaphas. He is a tall man, imposing in appearance, suave in manner and, I should say, of supple mind. I observed that his mere presence made a great impression on every one. There had been great discussion whether he would come to Caesarea or wait at Jerusalem until I paid my first visit there. Had he not come, I should certainly have taken it amiss, for it would have been a plain sign of hostility(4)".


"On the other hand, he came alone. No ex-High Priest, and there are several living, came with him. Especially, neither Annas nor any of his sons was there. This Annas and his sons, I should tell you, are the most powerful of the priestly families at Jerusalem. For years they have either held the highest offices or made it difficult for anyone else to hold them. Old Annas himself was High Priest when Valerius came here and Valerius found him impossible; he merely wants the protection of Rome so that he can go his own way in everything. Valerius transferred the office to a member of another family, but the experiment was a failure: then he appointed one of Annas's sons, but that was like having the old man back again. Once more he appointed a rival priest and once more the rival was not strong enough. So he chose Caiaphas, who is Annas's son-in-law, hoping that the ambitious crew would regard this as enough of prestige and influence for the family and that Caiphas would be willing and able to hold his own against them. It is not, do you think? A bad arrangement. Caiaphas keeps the peace with us and the office in the family; Annas and his sons stand a little farther off and hold the support of those who think Caiaphas is too subservient. At heart, all of them alike, office-holders and office-speakers, accept the Romans - for the present. The last thing that any of them wants is a clash with Rome that would destroy their own power(4)".


"Caiaphas, at the public ceremony, merely said, 'The Jews greet the representative of Caesar.' A chilly welcome, but afterwards, in private, he was more communicative. He told me that he regarded it as his duty to work with the Romans. He said that his people, as he hoped I knew, were passionately attached to their independence, but that he and the great Jewish families recognized that they could not struggle against Rome. He said that the thing that he always feared was a popular rising which he and his friends could not check in time. 'This country,' he said, 'is very difficult to control. It is full of mountainous and desolate tracts in which evil-disposed or ambitious persons cannot be prevented from gathering together and from which they can sally out to make trouble in the towns.' There had, after the death of Herod, been several instances of adventurers who gathered a band of people about them and actually set themselves up for King. One of them might be a mere bandit; another might be a political rebel against any sort of foreign rule; a third might presume to lay down the law about religion. In any event there was danger. The common people were extremely ignorant - I was amused to see the contempt with which he spoke of them - and any sort of leader with a gift of action or of speech meant to them some one who might restore the liberties which they had once enjoyed. 'Besides,' he said, speaking very quietly, 'you have to remember that all Jews believe that some day - a distant day, I am afraid (this with a smile) - a deliverer will arise who will restore the ancient glories of our people.' I do not pretend to understand their religion, but I gathered that the coming of this deliverer (Messiah he called him) would be incompatible with government by Rome, or by any other power. I must ask Alexander about this. The voice of Caiaphas was equable, almost casual, as he talked to me. I take it that he and his friends will support no rivals, be they Kings or Messiahs, who endanger their authority under Caesar's governor. (4)".


"I thanked Caiaphas and asked him where Annas was. He replied that Annas had a cold, and in any event seldom left home. He would present himself to me at Jerusalem. I said that Annas had several sons, one of whom had been High Priest.* He answered that it would not be seemly for them to come in the absence of their father. I imagine that the old man completely overshadows them. (4)".


  • "*Eleazar, appointed by Valerius Gratus. In all five sons of Annas at one time or another held the office of High Priest. Annas himself was High Priest for nine years and Caiaphas for eleven.
Caiaphas and I understand each other, I think, but I shall need to watch him. The position is extraordinary; I wish that you were here to study it. As I look out from the palace, I see below me this town which, apart from Jews, is full of Greeks, Egyptians and the rest. Away to the south is a strip of plain along the sea. Behind it are foothills and then, rising behind them, a barrier of mountains, bare and rugged, among which dwell the real Jews, stiff-necked and obstinate. They are surrounded by enemies - Samaritans to the north, Idumaeans to the south, Romans at the points of military vantage and Greeks everywhere, and they do not desire to have them other than enemies. The very troops, the auxiliaries, by which we hold them down, are recruited from these enemies on their own soil, for they themselves will not serve in the army and we - wrongly, as I think - exempt them. They shut themselves up in their Jerusalem and, still more, in their Temple, unchanging and, at heart, unyielding.

I have had no letter from you, my friend, since I came here. Take heed; I shall not write again until I hear from you(4)".


  (4) Text Hatfield, R.O., The Letters of Pontius Pilot, Edited by W. P. CROZIER, retrieved December 18, 2001 from
(5) Photograph Roy, R. Holy Land Tour 2000: Day 2, retrieved December 18, 2001 from

go back                       forward