Justin Martyr relates several facts, believing them to be contained in Pilate’s report. The chief concern is apparently Jesus’ crucifixion, with details such as (1)his hands and feet being nailed to the cross and (2)the soldiers gambling for his garments. But it is also asserted (3)that several of Jesus’ miracles were also included in Pilate’s report.
Tertullian even reports that Tiberius acted on the report: Tiberius accordingly, in whose days the Christian name made its entry into the world, having himself received intelligence from Palestine of events which had clearly shown the truth of Christ’s divinity, brought the matter before the senate, with his own decision in favour of Christ. The senate, because it had not given the approval itself, rejected his proposal. Caesar held to his opinion, threatening wrath against all accusers of the Christians.^82
Tertullian’s account claims (4)that Tiberius actually brought details of Christ’s life before the Roman Senate, apparently for a vote of approval. The Senate then reportedly spurned Tiberius’ own vote of approval, which engendered a warning from the emperor not to attempt actions against Christians. As noted by Bruce, this incident, which Tertullian apparently accepts as accurate, is quite an improbable occurrence. It is difficult to accept such an account when the work reporting it is about 170 years later than the event, with seemingly no good intervening sources for such acceptance.^83
It should be noted that the Acts of Pilatereferred to here should not be confused with later fabrications by the same name, which may certainly have been written to take the place of these records which were believed to exist.
There may well have been an original report sent from Pilate to Tiberius, containing some details of Jesus’ crucifixion. In spite of this, it is questionable if Justin Martyr and Tertullian knew what any possible report contained. Although the early Christian writers had reason to believe such a document existed, evidence such as that found in the reference to Thallus is missing here. In particular, there are no known fragments of the Acts of Pilateor any evidence that it was specifically quoted by another writer. Additionally, it is entirely possible that what Justin thought original was actually a concurrent apocryphal gospel.^84 At any rate, we cannot be positive as to this purported imperial document. Like the Gnostic sources, we therefore are cautious in our use of this source.