3. Pontius Pilate tried to prevent the execution of Jesus of Nazareth
Dante placed Christ’s betrayer in one of the three maws of Satan, doomed to endure the eternal gnawing of evil itself. But to the man who history generally regards as Christ’s executioner, Pontius Pilate, he took a more tolerant view. Pilate resides in the third circle, before crossing the Acheron and entering hell itself, outside the famed gate with the words, “Abandon all hope”. Pilate is with those who could not commit themselves. History largely treats him differently, especially as it is taught in religious schools. In them, Pilate is one of the most reviled villains of all time. Yet the gospel accounts all make clear that the Roman Governor of Judea attempted to appease the Sanhedrin without ordering Jesus of Nazareth to be crucified. At one point he even told the crowds, “I find no fault in this man” (Luke 23:4 KJV).
What happened to Pilate following the execution of Jesus is debated, with differing accounts in ancient documents. Some claim he converted to Christianity, a belief shared in the Coptic and Ethiopian Churches. Both venerate him. Some apocryphal books even claim him as a Christian martyr of the early church. Josephus recorded Pilate being removed from office during the reign of Tiberius, but by the time he arrived in Rome the Emperor had died. The new Emperor, Caligula, did not return Pilate to Judea, but no record of a trial or his execution has been found. In all likelihood, he simply retired, as a former government official he was entitled to a pension under Roman law. Legends, myths, and fables emerged, all with tales of his brutality, or his Christian charity. Yet even the four gospels fail to condemn him as history has as the executioner of Christ.