LETTER OF HEROD TO PILATE THE GOVERNOR
Herod to Pontius Pilate the Governor of Jerusalem, Peace:
1. I am in great anxiety. I write these things to you, that when you have heard them you may be grieved for me. For as my daughter Herodias, who is dear to me, was playing upon a pool of water that had ice upon it, it broke under her and all her body went down, and her head was cut off and remained on the surface of the ice. And behold, her mother is holding her head upon her knees in her lap, and my whole house is in great sorrow.
2. For I, when I heard of the man Jesus, wished to come to you, that I might see him alone and hear his word, whether it was like that of the sons of men.
3. And it is certain that because of the many evil things which were done by me to John the Baptist, and because I mocked the Christ, behold I receive the reward of unrighteousness, for I have shed much blood of others’ children upon the earth. Therefore the judgments of God are righteous, for every man receives according to his thought. But since you were worthy to see that God-man, therefore it is appropriate for you to pray for me.
Of course, the author of this epistle was not Herod the Great who caused the massacre of the children at Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16), but by his son Herod Antipas, also known as Herod the Tetrarch.
4. My son Azbonius also is in the agony of the hour of death.
5. And I too am in affliction and great trial, because I have the dropsy and am in great distress, because I persecuted the introducer of baptism by water, which was John. Therefore, my brother, the judgments of God are righteous.
For this Herod’s imprisonment and beheading of John the Baptist, see Luke 3:1, 19; Matthew 14:1-10.
6. And my wife, again, through all her grief for her daughter, is become blind in her left eye, because we desired to blind the Eye of righteousness.
7. There is no peace to the doers of evil, says the Lord. For already great affliction comes upon the priests and upon the writers of the law because they delivered unto you the Just One.
Compare with: “[There is] no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.” (Isaiah 48:22); “[There is] no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” (Isaiah 57:21)
8. For this is the consummation of the world, that they consented that the Gentiles should become heirs. For the children of light will be cast out, for they have not observed the things which were preached concerning the Lord and concerning his Son.
9. Therefore gird up your loins, and receive righteousness, you with your wife remembering Jesus night and day; and the kingdom shall belong to you Gentiles, for we the chosen people have mocked the Righteous One.
The phrase “gird up your loins,” meaning “prepare for action,” seems to have been a popular expression (see Luke 12:35), and cannot be a reference to New Testament books written later, such as Ephesians 6:14, or I Peter 1:13.
10. Now if there is place for our request, O Pilate, because we were at one time in power, bury my household carefully, for it is right that we should be buried by you rather than by the priests, whom, after a little time, as the Scriptures say, at the coming of Jesus Christ, vengeance shall overtake.
11. Fare you well, with Procla your wife.
12. I send you the earrings of my daughter and my own ring, that they may be for you a memorial of my decease. For already do worms begin to issue from my body, and lo, I am receiving temporal judgment, and I am afraid of the judgment to come. For in both we stand before the works of the living God; but this judgment, which is temporal, is for a time, while that to come is judgment forever.
If the phrase “already do worms begin to issue from my body” is meant to refer to Acts 12:23, it is a palpable anachronism, for that verse refers to Herod Agrippa I.
LETTER OF PILATE TO HEROD
Pilate to Herod the Tetrarch, Peace:
1. Know and see, that in the day when you delivered Jesus to me, I took pity on myself and testified by washing my hands that I was innocent concerning him who rose from the grave after three days, and had performed your pleasure in him, for you wanted me to be associated with you in his crucifixion.
2. But I now learn from the executioners and from the soldiers who watched his sepulchre that he rose from the dead. And I have especially confirmed what was told me: that he appeared bodily in Galilee, in the same form, and with the same voice, and with the same doctrine, and with the same disciples, not having changed in anything, but preaching with boldness his resurrection and an everlasting kingdom.
The phrase “not having changed in anything” is more literally translated “not having renewed anything.”
3. And behold, heaven and earth rejoice; and behold, Procla my wife is believing in the visions which appeared unto her when you sent that I should deliver Jesus to the people of Israel, because of the ill-will they had.
See Matthew 27:19; Gospel of Nicodemus 2:2.
4. Now when Procla, my wife, heard that Jesus was risen and had appeared in Galilee, she took with her Longinus the centurion and twelve soldiers, the same who had watched at the sepulchre, and went to greet the face of Christ, as if to a great spectacle, and saw him with his disciples.
The original manuscript says “his wife,” a manifest error by a copyist. Nicodemus 7:8 mentions Longinus as the centurion who with a spear pierced the side of Jesus.
5. Now while they were standing and wondering, and gazing at him, he looked at them and said to them, What is it? Do you believe in me? Procla, know that in the covenant God gave to the fathers, it is said that everybody who had perished should live by means of my death, which you have seen. And now you see that I live, whom you crucified. And I suffered many things, till I was laid in the sepulchre. But now, hear me and believe in my Father — God who is in me. For I loosed the cords of death and broke the gates of Hades, and my coming shall be in the future.
6. And when Procla my wife and the Romans heard these things, they came and told me weeping, for they also were against him when they devised the evils they had done unto him. So that I also was on the couch of my bed in affliction, and put on a garment of mourning, and took unto me fifty Romans with my wife and went into Galilee.
7. And when I was going in the way I testified these things: that Herod did these things by me, that he took counsel with me, and constrained me to arm my hands against him, and to judge him that judges all, and to whip the Just One, Lord of the just.
In verse 1, Pilate began to disassociate himself from Herod in the crucifixion; now he completes the break.
8. And when we drew near to him, O Herod, a great voice was heard from heaven, and dreadful thunder, and the earth trembled and gave forth a sweet smell, like to which was never perceived even in the temple of Jerusalem.
9. Now while I stood in the way, our Lord saw me as he stood and talked with his disciples. But I prayed in my heart, for I knew that it was he whom you delivered to me, that he was Lord of created things and Creator of all.
10. But we, when we saw him, all of us fell upon our faces before his feet. And I said with a loud voice, I have sinned, O Lord, in that I sat and judged you, who avenges all in truth. And lo, I know that you are God, the Son of God, and I beheld your humanity but not your divinity. But Herod, with the children of Israel, constrained me to do evil unto you. Have pity, therefore, on me, O God of Israel!
11. And my wife in great anguish, said, God of heaven and of earth, God of Israel, do not reward me according to the deeds of Pontius Pilate, nor according to the will of the children of Israel, nor according to the thought of the sons of the priests, but remember my husband in your glory!
12. Now our Lord drew near and raised up me and my wife, and the Romans. I looked at him and saw there were on him the scars of his cross.
That the post-resurrection body of Jesus bore the scars of the cross is mentioned in John 20:27.
13. And he said, That which all the righteous fathers hoped to receive, and saw not — in your time the Lord of Time, the Son of Man, the Son of the Most High, who is forever, arose from the dead and is glorified on high by all that he created, and established for ever and ever.
The extracts which follow seem to have been inserted by some copyist. It is supposed that Justinus was Justus of Tiberias, of whom Josephus speaks as a historian of his time. Photius questioned the genuineness of this extract because Justus did not mention Christ. Most commentators understand the Theodorus mentioned to be the Emperor Tiberius.
1. Justinus, one of the writers in the days of Augustus and Tiberius and Gaius, wrote in his third discourse: Now Mary the Gailaean, who bore the Christ who was crucified in Jerusalem, had not been with a husband. And Joseph did not abandon her, but continued in sanctity without a wife, he and his five sons by a former wife; and Mary continued without a husband.
2. Theodorus wrote to Pilate the Governor: Who was the man against whom there was a complaint before you, that he was crucified by the men of Palestine? If many demanded this righteously, why did you not consent to their righteousness? And if they demanded this unrighteously, how did you transgress the law and command what was far from righteousness? Pilate sent to him: — Because he wrought signs I did not wish to crucify him, but since his accusers said, He calls himself a king, I crucified him.
3. Josephus says: Agrippa the king was clothed in a robe woven with silver, and saw the spectacle in the theater of Caesarea. When the people saw that his raiment flashed, they said to him, Until now we feared you as a man; from now on you are exalted above the nature of mortals. And he saw an angel standing over him, and he smote him to death.
This extract from Josephus is abridged from the account of Eusebius in his History of the Christian Church. The figures 1, 2, 3, indicate the extracts which were appended to this epistle.
THE REPORT OF PILATE THE GOVERNOR
Concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, which was sent to Augustus Caesar in Rome. In those days when our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified under Pontius Pilate, the governor of Palestine and Phoenicia, the things here recorded came to pass in Jerusalem and were done by the Jews against the Lord. Pilate therefore sent the same to Caesar in Rome, along with his private report, writing thus:
The above is part of the original manuscript. However, Augustus Caesar must be an error, for he ruled the Roman Empire at the time of the birth of Christ (Luke 2:1); it was Tiberius Caesar who ruled when Pilate judged Christ. (Claudius Caesar ruled in the time period of Acts 11:28, 18:2.)
1. To the most potent, august, divine and awesome Augustus Caesar, from Pilate, the administrator of the Eastern Province:
2. I have received information, most excellent one, in consequence of which I am seized with fear and trembling. For in this province which I administer, one of whose cities is called Jerusalem, the whole multitude of Jews delivered to me a certain man called Jesus, and brought many accusations against him, which they were unable to establish by consistent evidence.
3. But they charged him with one heresy in particular, namely, that Jesus said the Sabbath was not a rest, nor to be observed by them. For he performed many cures on that day, and made the blind see and the lame walk, raised the dead, cleansed lepers, healed the paralytic who were wholly unable to move their body or brace their nerves but could only speak and discourse, and he gave them power to walk and run, removing their infirmity by his word alone.
See Nicodemus 1:4.
4. There is another very mighty deed which is strange to the gods we have: he raised up a man who had been dead four days, summoning him by this word alone, when the dead man had begun to decay and his body was corrupted by the worms which had been bred, and had the stench of a dog; but, seeing him lying in the tomb, he commanded him to run, nor did the dead man at all delay, but as a bridegroom out of his chamber, he went forth from his tomb filled with abundant perfume.
An elaboration of the story of the raising of Lazarus, see John 11:11-16 and Nicodemus 5:45.
5. Moreover, even such as were strangers and clearly demoniacs, who had their dwelling in deserts and devoured their own flesh, and wandered about like cattle and creeping things, he turned into inhabiters of cities, and by a word rendered them rational and prepared them to become wise and powerful, and illustrious, taking their food with all the enemies of the unclean spirits which were destructive in them, and which he cast into the depth of the sea.
See Matthew 8:28-32; Mark 5:1-15; Luke 8:26-35.
6. And again, there was another who had a withered hand, and not only the hand but rather the half of the body of the man was like a stone, and he had neither the shape of a man nor the symmetry of a body; even him he healed with a word and rendered whole.
An elaboration of Mark 3:2.
7. And a woman also, who had an issue of blood for a long time, and whose veins and arteries were exhausted, and who did not bear a human body, being like one dead and daily speechless, so that all the physicians of the district were unable to cure her. There remained to her not a hope of life, but as Jesus passed by she mysteriously received strength by his shadow falling on her from behind. She touched the hem of his garment and immediately, in that very hour, strength filled her exhausted limbs, and as if she had never suffered anything, she began to run along towards Capernaum, her own city, so that she reached it in a six days’ journey.
See Matthew 9:20-22; Nicodemus 5:26.
8. I have made known these things I have recently been informed of, and which Jesus did on the Sabbath. And he did other miracles greater than these, so that I have observed greater works of wonder done by him that by the gods whom we worship.
9. But Herod and Archelaus and Philip, Annas and Caiaphas, with all the people, delivered him to me, making a great tumult against me in order that I might try him. Therefore, I commanded him to be crucified, when I had first whipped him, though I found no cause in him for evil accusations or dealings.
10. Now when he was crucified, there was darkness over all the world, and the sun was obscured for half a day, and the stars appeared, but no lustre was seen in them; and the moon lost its brightness, as though tinged with blood; and the world of the departed was swallowed up, so that the very sanctuary of the temple, as they call it, did not appear to the Jews themselves at their fall, but they perceived a chasm in the earth and the rolling of successive thunders.
An elaboration of the accounts in Matthew 27:45, 51-53. See also Nicodemus 8:1, 2.
11. And amid this terror the dead appeared rising again, as the Jews themselves bore witness and said that it was Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the twelve patriarchs, and Moses, and Job, who had died before, as they say, some three thousand five hundred years.
12. And there were very many whom I myself saw appearing in the body, and they made lamentation over the Jews, because of the transgression which was committed by them, and because of the destruction of the Jews and of their law.
13. The terror of the earthquake continued from the sixth hour of the preparation until the ninth hour; and when it was evening on the first day of the week, there came a sound from heaven, and the heaven became seven times more luminous than on all other days. And at the third hour of the night the sun appeared more luminous that it had ever shone, lighting up the whole hemisphere.
14. And as lightning-flashes suddenly come forth in a storm, so there were seen men, lofty in stature and surpassing in glory, a countless host crying out, and their voice was heard as that of exceedingly loud thunder: Jesus that was crucified is risen again. Come up from Hades, you that were enslaved in the subterranean recesses of Hades.
For Christ’s liberation of the righteous souls from hades, see Nicodemus 13-21.
15. And the chasm in the earth was as if it had no bottom, but it was so that the very foundations of the earth appeared, with those that shouted in heaven, and walked in the body among the dead that were raised.
16. And he who raised up all the dead and bound in Hades said, Say to my disciples, he goes before you into Galilee, and there you will see him.
17. And all that night the light did not cease shining. And many of the Jews died in the chasm of the earth, being swallowed up, so that in the morning most of those who had been against Jesus were not to be found.
18. Others saw the apparition of men rising again whom none of us had ever seen.
19. Only one synagogue of the Jews was left in Jerusalem itself, for they all disappeared in that ruin.
20. Therefore being astounded by that terror, and being possessed with the most dreadful trembling, I have written what I saw at that time and sent it to your excellency; and I have inserted what was done against Jesus by the Jews, and sent it to your divinity, my lord.
THE REPORT OF PONTIUS PILATE, GOVERNOR OF JUDEA, WHICH WAS SENT TO TIBERIUS CAESAR IN ROME
1. To the most potent, august, dreadful, and divine Augustus, from Pontius Pilate, administrator of the Eastern Province:
This manuscript is almost identical with the one about Pilate’s report mistakenly said to be addressed to Augustus Caesar.
2. Though possessed with much fear and trembling, I have undertaken to communicate to your goodness by this my writing, most excellent king, the present state of affairs, as the result has shown.
3. For as I administered this province, my lord, according to the command of your serenity, which is one of the eastern cities called Jerusalem, wherein the temple of the nation of the Jews is erected, all the multitude of the Jews assembled and delivered up to me a certain man called Jesus, bringing many endless accusations against him, but they could not convict him in anything. But they had one heresy against him, that he said the Sabbath was not their proper rest.
4. Now that man wrought many cures and good works: he caused the blind to see, he cleansed lepers, he raised the dead, he healed paralytics who could not move at all, but had only voice, and all their bones in their places; and he gave them strength to walk and run, enjoining it by his word alone.
5. And he did another yet more mighty work, which would have been strange even among our gods: he raised from the dead one Lazarus, who had been dead four days, commanding by a word alone that the dead man should be raised, when his body was already corrupted by worms which bred in his wounds. And he commanded the fetid body in the grave to run, and as a bridegroom from his chamber so he went forth from his grave, full of sweet perfume.
6. And some who were grievously afflicted by demons and had their dwellings in desert places and devoured the flesh of their own limbs, and went up and down among creeping things and wild beasts, he caused to dwell in cities in their own houses and by a word made them reasonable, and caused to become wise and honorable those who were vexed by unclean spirits, and the demons that were in them he sent out into a herd of swine into the sea and drowned them.
7. Again, another who had a withered hand and lived in suffering, and had not even the half of his body sound, he made whole by a word alone.
8. And a woman who had an issue of blood for a long time, so that because of the discharge all the joints of her bones were seen and shone through like glass, for all the physicians had dismissed her without hope and had not cleansed her, for there was in her no hope of health at all; but once, as Jesus was passing by she touched from behind the hem of his garments, and in that very hour the strength of her body was restored, and she was made whole as if she had no affliction, and began to run fast towards her own city of Paneas.
9. And these things happened thus, but the Jews reported that Jesus did them on the Sabbath. And I saw that greater marvels had been wrought by him than by the gods whom we worship.
10. Then Herod and Archelaus and Philip, and Annas and Caiaphas, with all the people, delivered him up to me to put him on his trial. And because many raised a tumult against me, I commanded that he should be crucified.
11. Now when he was crucified, darkness came over all the world; the sun was altogether hidden, and the sky appeared dark while it was yet day, so that the stars were seen, though still they had their lustre obscured.
12. I suppose your excellency is not unaware that in all the world they lighted their lamps from the sixth hour until evening. And the moon, which was like blood, did not shine all night long, although it was at the full, and the stars and Orion made lamentation over the Jews because of the transgression committed by them.
13. And on the first day of the week, about the third hour of the night, the sun appeared as it never shone before, and the whole heaven became bright.
14. And as lightnings come in a storm, so certain men of lofty stature, in beautiful array and of indescribable glory, appeared in the air, and a countless host of angels crying out and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men: Come up from Hades, you who are in bondage in the depths of Hades.
15. And at their voice all the mountains and hills were moved, and the rocks were rent, and great chasms were made in the earth so that the very places of the abyss were visible.
16. And amid the terror dead men were seen rising again, so that the Jews who saw it said, We beheld Abraham and Isaac, and Jacob, and the twelve patriarchs, who died some two thousand five hundred years before, and we beheld Noah clearly in the body.
17. And all the multitude walked about and sang hymns to God with a loud voice, saying, the Lord our God, who has risen from the dead, has made alive all the dead, and Hades he has spoiled and slain.
18. Therefore, my lord king, all that night the light did not cease. But many of the Jews died, sunk and swallowed up in the chasms that night, so that not even their bodies were to be seen. Now I mean, that those of the Jews suffered who spoke against Jesus. Only one synagogue remained in Jerusalem, for all the synagogues which had been against Jesus were overwhelmed.
19. Through that terror, therefore, being amazed and being seized with great trembling, in that very hour I ordered what had been done by them all to be written, and I have sent it to your mightiness.
THE EPISTLE OF PONTIUS PILATE
Which he wrote to the Roman Emperor concerning our Lord Jesus Christ.
Pontius Pilate to Tiberius Caesar the Emperor, Greeting:
1. About Jesus Christ, whom I fully made known to you in my last letter, a bitter punishment has at length been inflicted by the will of the people, although I was unwilling and apprehensive. In good truth, no age ever had or will have a man so good and upright.
2. But the people made an amazing effort, and all their scribes, chiefs and elders agreed to crucify this ambassador of truth, although their own prophets, like the Sibyls with us, advised to the contrary; and when he was hanged supernatural signs appeared, and in the judgment of philosophers menaced the whole world with ruin.
Sibyls were women soothsayers, or fortune-tellers.
3. His disciples flourish, and by their behavior and continence of life do not repudiate their master; on the contrary, in his name they are most beneficent.
4. Had I not feared a sedition might arise among the people, who were almost furious, perhaps this man would have yet been living with us.
See Nicodemus 6:1, 8, 9.
5. Although, being rather compelled by fidelity to your dignity, then led by my own inclination, I did not strive with all my might to prevent the sale and suffering of righteous blood, guiltless of every accusation, unjustly indeed, through the maliciousness of men, and yet, as the Scriptures interpret, to their own destruction.
6. Farewell. The 5th of the Calends of April.
THE TRIAL AND CONDEMNATION OF PILATE
Commonly called “the Paradosis of Pilate.” It may be regarded as the historical continuation of the preceding, which it usually follows in the manuscripts, without any title.
1. Now when the letters came to the city of the Romans, and were read to Caesar with many standing there, they were all terrified, because through the transgression of Pilate, the darkness and the earthquake had happened to all the world. And Caesar, being filled with anger, sent soldiers and commanded that Pilate should be brought as a prisoner.
2. And when he was brought to the city of the Romans, and Caesar heard that he was come, he sat in the temple of the gods above the senate, and with all the army, and with all the multitude of his power, and commanded that Pilate should stand in the entrance.
3. And Caesar said to him, Most impious one, when you saw such great signs done by that man, why did you dare to do thus? By daring to do an evil deed you have ruined all the world.
4. And Pilate said, King and Autocrat, I am not guilty of these things, but it is the multitude of the Jews who are precipitate and guilty.
5. And Caesar said, And who are they? Pilate said, Herod, Archelaus, Philip, Annas and Caiaphas, and all the multitude of the Jews.
6. Caesar said, For what cause did you execute their purpose?
7. And Pilate said, Their nation is seditious and insubordinate, and not submissive to your power.
8. And Caesar said, When they delivered him to you, you ought to have made him secure and sent him to me, and not consented to them to crucify such a man, who was just and wrought such great and good miracles, as you said in your report. For by such miracles Jesus was revealed to be the Christ, the King of the Jews.
9. And when Caesar said this and himself named the name of Christ, all the multitude of the gods fell down together, and became like dust where Caesar sat with the senate. And all the people who stood near Caesar were filled with trembling because of the utterance of the word and the fall of their gods, and they all went away, every man to his house, seized with fear and wondering at what had happened.
10. And Caesar commanded Pilate to be safely kept, so that he might know the truth about Jesus.
11. And on the next day when Caesar sat in the capitol with all the senate, he undertook to question Pilate again. And Caesar said, Say the truth, most impious one, for through your impious deed which you committed against Jesus, even here the doing of your evil works were manifested, in that the gods were brought to ruin. Say then, who is he that was crucified, for his name destroyed all the gods?
12. Pilate said, His records definitely are true, for even I myself was convinced by his works that he was greater than all the gods whom we venerate.
13. And Caesar said, For what cause then did you perpetrate against him such daring and doing, not being ignorant of him, or assuredly designing some mischief to my government?
14. And Pilate said, I did it because of the transgression and sedition of the lawless and ungodly Jews.
See the Letter of Pilate to Herod.
15. And Caesar was filled with anger and held a council with all his senate and officers, and ordered a decree to be written against the Jews thus: To Licianus who holds the first place in the East Country. Greeting:
16. I have been informed of the audacity perpetrated very recently by the Jews inhabiting Jerusalem and the cities round about, and their lawless doing, how they compelled Pilate to crucify a certain god called Jesus, through which great transgression of theirs the world was darkened and drawn into ruin.
17. Determine therefore, with a body of soldiers, to go to them there at once and proclaim their subjection to bondage by this decree. By obeying and proceeding against them, and scattering them abroad in all nations, enslave them, and by driving their nation from all Judea as soon as possible show, wherever this has not yet appeared, that they are full of evil.
18. And when this decree came into the East Country, Licianus obeyed through fear of the decree and laid waste all the nation of the Jews, and caused those who were left in Judea to go into slavery with them who were scattered among the Gentiles, so it might be known by Caesar that these things had been done to please him by Licianus against the Jews in the East Country.
19. And again Caesar resolved to have Pilate questioned, and commanded a captain, Albius by name, to cut off Pilate’s head, saying, As he laid hands upon a just man who is called Christ, he also shall fall in like manner and find no deliverance.
20. And when Pilate came to the place he prayed in silence, saying, O Lord, do not destroy me with the wicked Hebrews, for I should not have laid hands upon you, but for the nation of lawless Jews, because they provoked sedition against me; but you know that I did it in ignorance.
21. Therefore do not destroy me for this my sin, nor be mindful of the evil that is in me, O Lord, and in your servant Procla who stands with me in this the hour of my death, whom you taught to prophesy that you must be nailed to the cross. Do not punish her too in my sin, but forgive us, and number us in the portion of your just ones.
22. And behold when Pilate had finished his prayer, there came a voice from heaven, saying, All generations and the families of the Gentiles will call you blessed, because under you were fulfilled all these things that were spoken by the prophets concerning me; and you yourself must appear as my witness at my second coming, when I shall judge the twelve tribes of Israel and them that have not confessed my name.
23. And the Prefect cut off the head of Pilate, and behold, an angel of the Lord received it.
24. And when his wife Procla saw the angel come and receive his head, she also, being filled with joy, immediately gave up the ghost and was buried with her husband.
The Synaxaria of the Greek Orthodox Church, under October 28, intimate the commemoration of Procla, the wife of Pilate. The Ethiopian calendar inserts “Pilate and his wife Procla” under June 25. The reason for putting these names among the saints is, that Pilate by washing his hands attested the innocence of Jesus, while Procla sought to dissuade her husband from complying with the Jews. The above story makes of Pilate almost a martyr; and Tertullian makes him almost a saint.
THE DEATH OF PILATE, WHO CONDEMNED JESUS
1. Now whereas Tiberius Caesar, emperor of the Romans, was suffering from a grievous sickness, and hearing that there was at Jerusalem a certain physician, Jesus by name, who healed all diseases by his word alone; not knowing that the Jews and Pilate had put him to death, he thus ordered one of his attendants, Volusianus by name, saying, Go as quickly as you can across the sea and tell Pilate, my servant and friend, to send me this physician to restore me to my original health.
2. And Volusianus, having heard the order of the emperor, immediately departed and came to Pilate, as it was commanded him. And he told the same Pilate what had been committed to him by Tiberius Caesar, emperor of the Romans, Your lord, having heard that in this city there is a physician who heals diseases by his word alone, earnestly entreats you to send him to him to heal his disease.
3. And Pilate was greatly terrified on hearing this, knowing that through envy he had caused him to be slain.
4. Pilate answered the messenger, saying thus, This man was a malefactor, and a man who drew after himself all the people; so, after counsel taken of the wise men of the city, I caused him to be crucified.
5. And as the messenger returned to his lodgings he met a certain woman named Veronica, who had been acquainted with Jesus, and he said, O woman, there was a certain physician in this city, who healed the sick by his word alone, why have the Jews slain him?
According to Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History (1.7, c. 18), Veronica is the woman Christ healed of the “issue of blood” as recorded in Matthew 9:20-22 and Luke 8:43-48. See also Nicodemus 5:26.
6. And she began to weep, saying, Ah me, my lord, it was my God and my Lord whom Pilate through envy delivered up, condemned, and commanded to be crucified.
Compare with the confession of faith in Christ by Thomas: “And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)
7. Then he, grieving greatly, said, I am exceedingly sorry that I cannot fulfil that for which my lord has sent me.
8. Veronica said to him, When my Lord went about preaching, and I was very unwillingly deprived of his presence, at least the figure of his likeness might give me consolation.
9. And when I was taking the canvas to the painter to be painted, my Lord met me and asked where I was going. And when I had made known to him the cause of my journey, he asked me for the canvas, and gave it back to me printed with the likeness of his venerable face.
According to the usual tradition, Veronica stepped from the crowd as Jesus passed by, wearing the crown of thorns and carrying his cross to Calvary. She pressed her veil or kerchief to his bleeding face, and it thereafter bore a miraculous impression of his features.
It is the subject of a celebrated painting titled “St. Veronica’s Handkerchief” by the Austrian artist Gabriel Max. Reproductions are widely available, but the original is in a private collection in Prague and valued at $25,000. A unique feature of the painting is an optical illusion in which Christ’s eyes at first glance seem closed and then, to the viewer’s amazement, they seem to open.
10. Therefore, if your lord will devoutly look upon the sight of this, he will immediately enjoy the benefit of health.
11. He asked, Is a likeness of this kind to be procured with gold or silver?
12. No, she said, but with a pious sentiment of devotion. Therefore, I will go with you and carry the likeness to Caesar to look upon, and will return.
13. So Volusianus came with Veronica to Rome, and said to Tiberius the emperor, Jesus, whom you have long desired, Pilate and the Jews have surrendered to an unjust death, and through envy fastened to the wood of the cross.
14. Therefore, a certain matron has come with me bringing the likeness of the same Jesus, and if you will devoutly gaze upon it, you will presently obtain the benefit of your health.
15. So Caesar caused the way to be spread with cloths of silk, and ordered the portrait to be presented to him; and as soon as he had looked upon it, he regained his original health.
16. Then Pontius Pilate was apprehended by command of Caesar and brought to Rome. Caesar, hearing that Pilate had come to Rome, was filled with exceeding wrath against him and caused him to be brought to him.
17. Now Pilate brought with him the seamless coat of Jesus, and wore it when before the emperor.
Compare with: “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also [his] coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be…” (John 19:23, 24)
Speculations about what happened to this coat is the stuff of legends; that it might have come into Pilate’s possession is plausible.
18. As soon as the emperor saw him he laid aside all his wrath and rose to him, and was unable to speak harshly to him in anything, for he who in his absence seemed so terrible and fierce now in his presence was found comparatively gentle.
19. And when he had dismissed him, he soon became terribly inflamed against him, declaring himself wretched because he had not expressed to him the anger of his bosom.
20. And immediately he had him recalled, swearing and protesting that he was a child of death and unfit to live upon earth. But when he saw him he instantly greeted him, and laid aside all the fury of his mind.
21. All were astonished, and he was astonished himself that he was so enraged against Pilate while absent but could say nothing sharply to him while he was present.
22. At length, by divine suggestion, or perhaps by the persuasion of some Christian, he had him stripped of the coat, and soon resumed against him his original fury of mind. And when the emperor was wondering very much about this, they told him it had been the coat of the Lord Jesus. Then the emperor commanded him to be kept in prison till he should take counsel with the wise men what ought to be done with him.
23. And after a few days, sentence was given against Pilate that he should be condemned to the most ignominious death.
24. When Pilate heard this, he killed himself with his own dagger, and by such a death put an end to his life.
25. When Pilate’s death was made known, Caesar said, Truly he has died a most ignominious death, whose own hand has not spared him.
26. He was therefore fastened to a great block of stone and sunk in the river Tiber. But wicked and unclean spirits, rejoicing in his wicked and unclean body, all moved about in the water, and caused in the air dreadful lightning and tempests, thunder and hail, so that all were seized with horrible fear.
27. On which account the Romans dragged him out of the river Tiber, bore him away in derision to Vienne, and sunk him in the river Rhone. For Vienne means, as it were, Way of Gehenna, because it was then a place of cursing. And evil spirits were there and did the same things.
28. These men, therefore, not enduring to be so harassed by demons, removed the vessel of cursing from them and sent it to be buried in the territory of Losania.
29. But when they were troubled exceedingly by the same aforesaid vexations, they put it away from them and sunk it in a certain pool surrounded by mountains, where even yet, according to the account of some, sundry diabolical contrivances are said to issue forth.
Compare this account of Pilate’s death with that in The Trial and Condemnation of Pilate, verses 23, 24. Both stories contain miraculous elements, but with opposite meanings.