When Pontius Pilate ordered the execution of Jesus the inscription that Pilate wrote describing the capital offence for which Jesus was being executed was “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” When the Jewish rulers saw what was written they objected to this. This inscription was written in three languages, one of those was Hebrew, and according to Hebrew scholars, the initials of the four words were YHWH, the Hebrew spelling of God’s name. This was why the Jewish leaders wanted it amended. This view has been popularised in recent years by Chuck Missler through his teachings. The question which arises in my mind is:- Did Pilate choose this wording by accident or was he deliberately trying to offend Caiphas and Co?
Both possibilities are plausible. When Pilate arrived in Judea he would have been ignorant of many aspects of the Jewish religion. It was quite common for new Roman governors to throw their weight around, and Pilate appears to have been no exception. There is even a reference to an incident in Luke chapter 13, verse 1, “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.” Though it is not clear whether this had just recently happened or had taken place some years previously. But clearly Pilate was capable of acts of physical cruelty. But did he have the subtlety to commit an act of mental cruelty on the Sanhedrin, which is implied by deliberately choosing the actual wording used? It could just have been Roman ignorance, but this could just be grounds for plausible deniability. Pilate had been governor for several years before the crucifixion so he should have learnt an awful lot about the Jewish religion including their reluctance to state the name of God because they revered it so. I think that Pilate, to use a modern phrase, knew what “pushed the buttons” of the religious Jews. The fact that they had to seek Pilate out on the eve of the Passover and risk becoming unclean in their eyes in order to try and get the wording changed to the inscription would no doubt have humoured Pilate. No doubt they had queried it with the centurion in charge of the crucifixion first, and it might have been a factor in his statement after Jesus’ death that he was truly the Son of God. Pilate stated “I have written what I have written.” On one level he could just be saying it was too late now, what do you expect me to do climb up a stepladder and amend the placard? I doubt if there was any precedence in the history of the Roman Empire for that. More likely Pilate was getting his own back on those who had forced him into the crucifixion. Did he really believe that Jesus the promised Jewish king, the Messiah? Probably not. More likely he was just playing mind games with Caiphas and his cronies.
David Rose, 2014.