Tuesday, April 09, 2019
Eusebius, EH.2.2: Pilate's report to Tiberius
Image: Marble bust of Tiberius Caesar, British Museum
A new installment is posted in the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 2, chapter 2 (listen here).
Notes and Commentary:
Eusebius conveys here a legend that apparently circulated in early Christianity (and which he seems to accept at face value), which says that Pilate, the Roman governor under whom Jesus was crucified, sent a report of his death and resurrection, as well as his deity, to the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Tiberius then referred this report to the senate, but they rejected it.
He cites a written portion of this report which he claims appeared in the writings of Tertullian. Lake, however, notes that this citation is unknown in the extant Latin writings of Tertullian.
Eusebius stresses that Tiberius approved of the report, even if it was rejected by the senate, and that he did not persecute or impede the early Christian movement. Eusebius is thus likely providing a precedent for imperial favor for Christianity, relevant to his own setting and the rule of Constantine.
He also points to the providential work of God in allowing the early Christian movement to spread unimpeded by the empire.