Pontius Pilate was the Prefect of Judea that condemned Jesus to death (Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 18 and 19). He is mentioned 61 times in the New Testament. He governed Judea from A.D. 26 to 36.
In 1961 by an Italian expedition that was excavating the theater at Caesarea Maritima discovered a Latin inscription that actually mentions him.
When people comment on this inscription they usually emphasize that now there is actual archaeological evidence for Pilate’s activity in Judea and that his title was “Prefect.” This is fine, BUT what about the word “Tiberieum” in the first line? To what does “Tiberieum” refer?
This stone was used at least three ways. First, it was probably a dedicatory inscription in a temple called a “Tiberieum.” Pilate built this temple to honor the Roman Emperor Tiberius (A.D. 14–37)! This was then the second imperial cult temple in Caesarea—the first was the (probably much larger) Imperial Cult Temple that had been built by Herod the Great (37– 4 BC) for the worship of Augustus and deified Roma!
Thus it should be noted that at Caesarea Maritima the imperial cult founded by Herod the Great was still being practiced AND that Pilate as a good governor was also promoting the Imperial Cult—adding a structure for the worship of the ruling Roman emperor, Tiberius (14–37). All of this going on during the time of Jesus’ public ministry (ca. 26–30)!
Secondly, the stone was taken from the temple and used as part of a well–head—note the half-circle on the right hand side. Finally, it was used as a step in the fourth century Byzantine theater (where it was discovered).
Four lines of the Latin inscription are visible.
[_ _ _]S TIBERIÉUM
[_ _ PO]NTIUS PILATUS
[_ _ _ _ _ ] É [_ _ _ _ _ _ _] (Taylor, p. 564)
[. . .] Tiberieum
[. Po]ntius Pilate
[Pref]ect of Judaea
[. . .]e[. . .] (p. 565)
Joan E. Taylor translates the inscription as: “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judaea, [made and d]e[dicated] the Tiberieum for the (Augustan) gods” (p. 570).
For a detailed development of this topic please see Joan E. Taylor “Pontius Pilate and the Imperial Cult in Roman Judaea.” New Testament Studies 52 (2006): 555–82—especially pages 564–65.