This document has come to light recently, and it confirms Jesus’ crucifixion, His death, and His resurrection. It was written before the gospels, the epistles (letters) and most likely before Peter preached at Pentecost. It was written by Pontius Pilate to Tiberius Caesar to explain the events which took place in Jerusalem under his jurisdiction.


The Acta Pilati or Acts of Pilate is referred to by the ‘father’ of the history of Christianity, Eusebius of Caesarea (260/265 – 30 May 339) also known as Eusebius Pamphilus or simply Eusebius. He wrote:

Our Savior’s extraordinary resurrection and ascension into heaven were by now famous everywhere. It was customary for provincial governors to report to the [Roman] emperor any new local movement so that he might be kept informed. Accordingly, Pilate communicated to the emperor Tiberius the story of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead as already well known throughout Palestine, as well as information he had gained on his other marvelous deeds and how many believed him to be a god in raising from the dead.[1]

Not only did Eusebius confirm Pilate’s letter to Tiberius, but also, he gave the reason for Pilate sending it, which is that the Roman emperor needed to be kept informed of any new local movement.

Before Eusebius, Justin Martyr, in his first Apology for the Christians, which was presented to the Emperor Antoninus Pius and the senate of Rome, about the year 150, having mentioned the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and some of its attendant circumstances, adds, And that these things were so done, you may know from the Acts made in the time of Pontius Pilate.[2]

And again, Tertullian in AD 200, mentioned Pilate’s letter to Tiberius in chapter 21 of his Apology:

All these things Pilate did to Christ; and now in fact a Christian in his own convictions, he sent word of Him to the reigning Cæsar, who was at the time Tiberius.[3]

Preservations of documents

McClintock and Strong in their online Biblical Cyclopaedia state:

The ancient Romans were scrupulously careful to preserve the memory of all remarkable events which happened in the city; and this was done either in their “Acts of the Senate” (Acta Senatus), or in the “Daily Acts of the People” (Acta Diurna Populs), which were diligently made and kept at Rome (see Smith’s Dict. of Class. Antiq. s.v. Acta Diurna).[4]

Accordingly, Pilate’s letter would have been kept securely in the Roman library, it is possible that it remained there and not made available to Christians as they were offensive to the Romans because they would not worship Caesar as God. However, this changed when Constantine came to power in AD 306 and in 313 declared the Edict of Milan, a proclamation that permanently established religious toleration for Christianity within the Roman Empire.

Eusebius was the leading spiritual advisor to Emperor Constantine. He helped form the Orthodox understanding of the relationship between church and state, which became the Constantinian concept of a Christian empire. Eusebius enjoyed the favor of Constantine and presented the creed of his own church to the attendees of the Council of Nicaea in 325.

From the above, it would seem quite likely that Eusebius would have come to know about the Acta Pilati and so was able to mention it in his The Church History. So, how did Justin Martyr in AD 150 and Tertullian in AD 200 know and write about it? Maybe word got out from Pilate’s personal staff, but this is only speculation.


Eusebius commented that blatant forgeries were made and circulating at the time to delegitimize the true document:

In fact, they forged Memoirs of Pilate and of our Savior, full of all sorts of blasphemy against Christ, and sent them, with the approval of their superior, over his realm with edicts that they were to be posted everywhere, both town and country, and assigned to children by their teachers to study and memorize instead of lessons.[5]

The gospel of Nicodemus

The Gospel of Nicodemus, also known as the Acts of Pilate, is an apocryphal gospel claimed to have been derived from an original Hebrew work written by Nicodemus, who appears in the Gospel of John. The title “Gospel of Nicodemus” is medieval in origin. The dates of its accreted sections are uncertain, but the work in its existing form is thought to date to around the 4th or 5th century AD.[6]

Respected Christian author Gary Habermas writes concerning the Acts of Pontius Pilate [7]

The contents of this purportedly lost document are reported by both Justin Martyr (ca. AD 150) and Tertullian (ca. AD 200). Both agree that it was an official document of Rome. It should be noted that the Acts of Pilate referred to here should not be confused with later fabrications by the same name, which may have been written to take the place of these records which were believed to exist.

Note Habermas’ book was written in 1996 and at that time, the authentic document was not re-discovered. And widely made available.

How the letter came to light in the mid nineteenth century

The account of the relatively recent discovery is told by the Reverand George Sluter (1837-1908) of Missouri USA, in his book, Acta Pilati, which was published in 1879. This image appears to be that of his original book.[8]

A learned man of Germany, not a Theologian, spent some five years in Rome, consulting the library of the Vatican. He became well acquainted with the chief custodian and enjoyed unusual liberties. He finally gained access even to the ancient Manuscripts — the most valuable collection in the world, embracing one of the oldest codices of the Bible. To his surprise and pleasure he came upon a collection called the Emperor Tiberius Caesar’s Court; and among the strange and curious state papers here deposited, he happened upon the famous official report of the Prefect, Pontius Pilate, concerning the Trial and Crucifixion of Christ. As he was not personally interested in Theological studies, the subject passed from his mind. But some years afterwards he came to the United States and happened to be the guest of a Clergyman [Rev George Sluter]. In the course of conversation concerning Rome and the Vatican, the matter was recalled to his recollection, and he mentioned that he had seen and read the Acta Pilati. It seems that the statement made a deep impression upon the mind of the latter, although it had been accompanied with the opinion that it did not add much to the common teachings of Christianity. Several months elapsed, but the statement of the learned German clung to the clergyman’s memory. At last he could not forbear to write to him in New York city, reminding him of the Acta Pilati, and asking whether it would not be possible to obtain a transcript of it from the Vatican. But he had already returned to his home in Westphalia. The letter was however forwarded; and finally, after much delay, an answer came, stating that he had written to Father Freelinhusen, a monk of great learning, at Rome, and custodian of the Vatican. He also stated that he had made the request in his own name, as he did not think the Papal authorities would be willing for such a document to go into the hands of the public. Father Freelinhusen expressed himself as willing to furnish the transcript. The parchment being old and defaced, he was compelled to use a magnifying glass in transcribing it. It was in the original Latin, and accompanied by the following letter:

 ” Rome, Italy, April 26th, 1859. I hereby forward you the transcript as it is on record in the Vatican in Tiberius Caesar’s Court by Pilate. I certify this to be a true copy, word for word, as it occurs there. Peter Freelinhusen.”

For twenty years its owner [Rev George Sluter] has kept it as a private literary treasure. Not until now has he been induced by the importunate urgency of many esteemed friends to give it to the world.

As being the most ancient non-biblical testimony about Christ — antedating even the first of the Gospels and Epistles — it will be read with feelings of peculiar interest and even awe.

Note. George Sluter’s book has only recently, about 2019, been rebound (see image) and it can be obtained from many book sellers.

An analysis of the Acta Pilati

The following is from Chat Rooms and Forums by Nehemiah6. The link to it is:

What are the main points which Pilate brought to the attention of the emperor Tiberias Caesar and reflect the Gospel accounts?

1. He recognized that events concerning Christ could change the destiny of Rome (which they did):I should not be surprised if in the course of time they may change the destiny of our nation, for it seems of late that the gods have ceased to be propitious”.

2. He concluded that his governorship of Judea had been a disaster: “I am almost ready to say: Cursed be the day that I succeeded Valerius Gratus in the government of Judea.”

3. He lived in constant dread of an insurrection by the Jews and that he would not be able to handle it: “So turbulent were the people that I lived in momentary dread of an insurrection. To suppress it I had but a single centurion and a handful of soldiers.”

4. Jesus of Nazareth had come to his attention is a favorable way: “A young man, it was said, had appeared in Galilee, preaching with a noble unction a new law, in the name of the gods that had sent him”.

5. He noted that Jesus was not inciting sedition or rebellion against Rome: “At first I was apprehensive that his design was to stir up the people against the Romans, but soon were my fears dispelled. Jesus of Nazareth spake rather as a friend of the Romans than of the Jews.”

6. Pilate was thoroughly impressed with the sayings of Christ: “On entering the Pretorium I found Manlius [his secretary] who related to me the words Jesus had pronounced at Siloe [Siloam]. Never have I heard in the Petticoe [?], nor in the works of the philosophers, anything that can compare to the maxims of Jesus.”

7. Pilate chose to allow Jesus full liberty without Roman interference, even though the Jews complained about Christ: “He was at liberty to act, to speak, to assemble and address the people, to choose disciples unrestrained by any Pretorian mandate.”

8. Pilate wrote to Jesus requesting an interview at the Pretorium, and according to him, Christ met with Pilate: “I wrote to Jesus requesting an interview with him at the Pretorium… When he came up to me he stopped, and by a signal sign he seemed to say to me ‘I am here’… [Pilate said to Jesus] ‘My request – I do not say my order – is you be more circumspect in the future… The Nazarene calmly replied ‘Prince of the earth, you words do not proceed from true wisdom… Verily, I say unto you, before the Rose of Sharon blossoms, the blood of the [J]ust shall be spilt”.

9. Pilate went on to offer Jesus his protection, but Christ refused that. As a result Pilate ordered Jesus to be more moderate in His discourses, but Christ responded that He would do the will of the Father, and that Pilate did not have the power to arrest Him. There is quite a lengthy discourse regarding this meeting. Pilate also stated that three powerful parties were arrayed against Christ – the Herodians, the Sadducces, and the Pharisees.

10. Pilate noted that Christ’s enemies went to Herod to seek his help in persecuting and putting Him to death Christ: To Herod, who then reigned in Galilee, the enemies of Jesus addressed themselves, to wreak their vengeance on the Nazarene.”

11. Then Pilate went on to speak of the final feast of Passover and all the events which followed: “The great feast of the Jews was approaching, and the intention was to avail themselves of the popular exultation which always manifests itself at the solemnities of a Passover. The city was overflowing with a tumultuous populace clamoring for the death of the Nazarene.”

12. Pilate says that he sought reinforcements from Syria to control the rebellious crowds, but his request was declined at the time: “The danger was pressing. A Roman centurion had been insulted. I wrote to the prefect of Syria for a hundred foot soldiers, and as many cavalry. He declined. I saw myself alone, with a handful of veterans, in the midst of a rebellious city, too weak to suppress a disorder, and having no other choice left but to tolerate it.” Pilate also noted that he was hated by the Jews for a number of reasons.

13. Pilate confirmed that Jesus was brought before the high priest and condemned to death, but both the high priest and Herod shifted the decision for the execution of Christ to Pilate: “Jesus was dragged before the high priest and condemned to death. It was then that the high priest, Caiaphas, performed a derisory act of submission. He sent his prisoner to me to pronounce his condemnation, and secure his execution. I answered him, that as Jesus was a Galilean, the affair came in Herod’s jurisdiction, and ordered him to be sent hither. The wily tetrarch professed humility, and protesting his preference to the Lieutenant of Caesar, he committed the fate of the man to my hands.”

14. Pilate noted that his wife begged him not to harm Jesus, but as we know, Pilate failed to give heed to her warning: “I had taken a wife – a girl from among the Gauls – who professed to see into futurity –weeping and throwing herself at my feet – ‘Beware’ said she to me ‘Beware, and touch not that man, for he is holy. Last night I saw him in a vision…”

15. Pilate then described what happened in the Hall of Justice: “The Nazarene was brought back to me. I proceeded to the hall of justice, followed by my guard, and asked the people in a severed tone, what they demanded. ‘The death of the Nazarene’ was the reply. ‘For what crime? ‘He has blasphemed. He has prophesied the ruin of the Temple. He calls himself the Son of God, the Messiah, the King of the Jews’. ‘Roman justice’ said I ‘punishes not such offences with death’. ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’ belched forth the relentless rabble…”

16. Pilate attempted to exonerate himself for his decision to have Christ crucified: “After many fruitless attempts to protect him from this fury of his merciless persecutors, I adopted a measure which, at the moment, appeared to me to be the only one that could save his life. I ordered him to be scourged, then calling for an ewer, I washed my hands in the presence of the multitude, thereby signifying to them my disapproval of the deed.”

17. Pilate noted that the thirst for blood shown by the crowds signified that demons were inciting the people: “It might have been truly said, that on this occasion all the phantoms of the infernal regions had assembled at Jerusalem. The crowd appeared not to walk; they were borne off, and whirled as a vortex, rolling along like living waves, from the portals of the Pretorium even unto Mount Zion, with howlings, screams, shrieks, and vociferations, such as were never heard in the seditions of the Panonia, or in the tumult of the forum.”

18. Pilate was convinced that what was happening on that day pertained to “the gods” (supernatural): “I was left alone, and my breaking heart admonished me that what was passing at that moment appertained rather to the history of the gods, than man.”

19. Pilate heard the cry of agony from Golgotha and he realized that this was a unique dreadful event: A loud clamor was heard proceeding from Golgotha, which, borne on the winds, seemed to announce an agony such as had never been heard by mortal ears. Dark clouds lowered over the pinnacle of the temple, and, settling over the city, covered it with a veil. So dreadful were the signs that were seen, both in the heavens and on the earth, that Dionysius, the Areopagite, is reported to have exclaimed, ‘Either the author of nature is suffering, or the universe is falling apart.’”


The fact that Pilate wrote to Tyberius has been confirmed by Justin Martyr in about the year 150, by Tertullian in about 200 and again by Eusebius in the very early fourth century, provide strong support that the letter was written and sent. Eusebius even gives the reason for the letter. As well, Eusebius stated clearly, that forgeries abounded.

The place where the letter would have been kept would be the Roman library which became the Vatican library. Sluter commented that the Acta Pilati was concealed among the 24 thousand manuscripts in the penetralia (inner most parts or recesses) of the Vatican (page 13 of his book).

We should not be surprised that such an important document would remain undiscovered for such a long time as evidenced by Tischendorf’s discovery of the Codex Sinaiticus, an almost complete copy of the New Testament, in the confines of Saint Catherine’s monastery in May of 1844. See my blog of this discovery here:

[1] Eusebius The Church History, Paul L Maier, A new translation with Commentary, Kregel Publications, 1999, pages 59-60.


[2] Citing: Justin Martyr, Apol. Pr. p. 65, 72, ed. Benedict.


[3] Logos Virtual Library,




[5] Eusebius The Church History, page 324.




[7] Gary R Habermas. The Historical Jesus. College Press Publishing Company. 1996. pp. 215-216.


[8] By going to this website, the pages can be turned over:



2 Comments. Leave new

  • Patricia Stuut
    June 15, 2024 2:54 pm

    Gary what a revealing article about Pontius Pilate and Jesus Christ during the time of his trial and execution. As always your works are enthralling and give us so many authentic details around the times of our beloved Saviour Jeshua.

  • Percival tanierla
    June 15, 2024 9:08 pm

    Very informative. I like it.
    Personal view, I think Pilate believe in the Lord before his death.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed