Acts of Pilate
Attributed to a “Pilate”, gives its own authorship to Nicodemus and was an early apologetic document. Likely named “Acts of Pilate” to assert is contents which depict the Roman Prefect of Judea’s actions and conversations in the trial of Jesus, not its authorship.


This document depicts the details about the trial of Jesus, the conversations between Pilate and the Pharisees/Jews, the post-resurrection controversy, and the story of Joseph of Arimathaea. Much of it following the canonical narrative, this document seeks to fill in the gaps of the trial and post-trial events and dialog.

Jesus is summoned by Pilate, sending one of his servants to get Jesus, who apparently comes immediately to revere Jesus. Pilate, when Jesus arrives is told about how some “standards” (strong and heavy structures) were miraculously forced to bow in the presence of Jesus. Pilate did not believe this and wished to see it, and did, and was afraid.

In the trial, Pilate endures waves of demands by the Jews to kill Jesus but finds no fault in Jesus, continually deeming him an innocent man. One by one, those who were healed by Jesus stepped forward to give testimony, but were shunned, silenced, and mocked by the multitude. Jesus is killed. Again, more detail emerges about conversations regarding his death, resurrection, and ascension.

The full story of Joseph of Arimathaea is captured. Joseph, after asking for Jesus’ body, taking the body down, wrapping it, and placing it the unused tomb, is taken up by the council of Jews where he speaks of their maliciousness. Embittered, they sought a way to kill Joseph and had him placed in a stone building with no windows, guarded. Joseph miraculously escapes with the help of Jesus. Many of the Jews seek out Joseph and after hearing about and being eye witnesses to his punishment and escape, began to believe in Joseph’s story and in turn, repent and believe in Jesus.

Extant Remains and Provenance

Extant are Syriac, Armenian, Coptic, Old Slavonic, and Latin versions but was written originally in Greek as a very early apocryphal document certainly composed after the canonical gospels. Because of the mention of Justin, if he were mentioning the same document, the composition must have taken place in the mid-second century. If late, it could have been written in the 3rd century by the time the canonical gospels were widespread and collectively employed in service of Christian Apologetics.

Provenance is difficult but not impossible. Likely written in Syria, but scholars have not ruled out its provenance in Rome, Egypt, or Asia Minor.


The prologue states that the document was written in Hebrew by Nicodemus if the canonical gospels. The Acts of Pilate (AP) were included in the later Gospel of Nicodemus and translated into Greek by Ananias in A.D. 425. This prologue is near-universally looked upon as an addition to the original document which was undoubtedly written in Greek.

The author was familiar favorably with the Gospel of Matthew, as he predominately uses, as well as the Jewish Gospels, whichever version it might have been.


Any attestation must be explored in detail regarding this document. There are mentions by well equipped and able apologists such as Justin, and historians such as Eusebius, but there is reason to believe in any direction that they were mistaken, were not familiar with the source, or were possibly writing about the same document though apocryphal as if to confirm its existence but not its authority.

Justin, early apologist refers to it in the same manner and formula which he treats the canonical gospels with and other authentic early writings. It is debated as to whether or not he was referring to a document he was familiar with or simply acknowledging its existence.

Eusebius, early 4th century historian, writes about a forged “Reports of Pilate” written for the purpose of repudiating the Christian faith.

Late 4th century historian, Epiphanius, writes apparently about the document we not possess. He states that a group of Christians believed they could provide the date of Christ’s crucifixion, his date is identical to that given by Ananias in the prologue of AP.

Where you can read it and more research: Early Christian Writings

Major sources:

Schneemelcher, Wilhelm. New Testament Apocrypha, Vol. I.
Cameron, Ron. The Other Gospels.