Pilate [Pī'late]—one armed with a dart. The surname of the fifth Roman procurator of Judea, who was recalled by Tiberius and banished to Vienna, where tradition says he committed suicide in 41 a.d. (Matt. 27).
What a different story we would have had if Pilate had obeyed his own conscience and also had followed his wife’s intuition and advice. Pilate held office for some twelve years, and by his covetous and cruel government caused himself to be hated both by the Jews and Samaritans. His first name, Pontius, means, “belonging to the sea.”
What a man he was for shirking responsibilities! He turned Christ over to the Jewish authorities (John 18:31), and then to Herod (Luke 23:7). When Christ was returned to him, he proposed to inflict a minor penalty (Luke 23:22). When he could not silence the cry of the mob for the blood of Christ, he directed attention to Barabbas (Matt. 27:17), and when the die was cast, engaged in a hypocritical ceremony (Matt. 27:24).
Some authorities affirm that the name Pilate is from “Pilus,” a felt cap which was worn by a slave as an emblem of liberty.