A few weeks ago, a news story broke regarding a sealing ring discovered in 1969 in Herodium – a fortress built by King Herod near Bethlehem. This ring would have been used to stamp documents and goods with an inscription. Only recently was the artefact cleaned and examined, and discovered to bear the inscription “of Pilatus.” This is a Roman name, and a rare Roman name at that. The only Romans who would have been in Israel during this time were rulers and soldiers, and the only Roman ruler who lived near the area during this timeframe is the infamous Pontius Pilate spoken of in the NT, who was prefect of Jerusalem and the man responsible for condemning Jesus to death by crucifixion. Could this be his ring, then?

The ring was unlikely to have belonged to or to have been worn by Pilate given the fact that it was a simple copper-alloy ring. According to a Biblical Archaeology Review article, the Greek spelling is also telling.[1] It’s not the normal spelling Pilatos, but Pilato. This strange spelling is possibly a transliteration of the dative form of Pilate’s name in Latin, which is used to indicate a direct object. In other words, it would indicate to whom something is being sent. It is most likely, then, that the ring was worn by a man who worked for Pilate, who was responsible for sending items to Pilate in Jerusalem from the area of Herodium.

While there is plenty of literary evidence for Pilate, this is the second archaeological artifact discovered confirming His existence. The first is the Pilate Stone. It’s quite amazing that we have two pieces of archaeological evidence for an otherwise unimportant and obscure governor of Judea.


UPDATE: Werner Eck (University of Cologne) and Avner Ecker (Bar Ilan University) have published an article in volume 110 (2023) of the journal, ‘Atiqot titled “Not a ‘Signet Ring of Pontius Pilatus.” They argue against translating the Greek as “Pilatus” and argue that this ring should not be interpreted as having any association with the Roman ruler. A summary can be found on the Biblical Archaeology Society webpage.


[1]Robert Cargill, “Was Pontius Pilate’s Ring Discovered at Herodium?”; available from https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-artifacts/inscriptions/pontius-pilate-ring-herodium; Internet; accessed 10 December, 2018.