Why was the name of Pontius Pilate included in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed? Why was it important to mention his name in the creed? If only because of historicity, then wouldn't just a mention "governor of Judaea" have sufficed? Or at the very least the name of the Caesar would have served better then (just like it was a custom in many historical writings, Gospels included): "governor of Judaea under Emperor Tiberius".

Yet we see exactly Pontius Pilate's name mentioned. Why is it so? It is especially interesting a question when you consider the other names mentioned in the creed, that is, only two names: "Jesus Christ" and "Mary"!

Nicene creed that preceded the Niceno-Constantinopolitan did not include "Pontius Pilate", which means that there must have been a valid reason for the inclusion. Besides, the reason must be stated in the documents of the Second Council. However, I haven't met the stated reason yet. The wikipage on Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed doesn't have an answer to this question.

  • 1
    Does this answer your question? Why is Pontius Pilate blamed for killing Jesus in the Apostles' Creed?
    – Nigel J
    Feb 13, 2021 at 15:15
  • @NigelJ forgive my ignorance but is the other question asking about the same creed? Or are you simply implying the answer would be the same?
    – Kris
    Feb 13, 2021 at 15:33
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    The relation between the two creeds (Apostles and Nicene) is so intimate that, yes, I regard them as, effectively, the same creed and I think the above question is answered in the duplicate question. Unless your question is not, essentially, about the matter of the name Pontius Pilate being relevant to the crucifixion but is a question purely about historicity, and the intimate details of who was present at each creed inception and what each participant had in mind, in which case I doubt it is possible to answer.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 13, 2021 at 15:54
  • The Nicene Creed is probably earlier than the Apostle's Creed however. Both may be based on the Old Roman Symbol. It's hard to get clear information on dating for these creeds, other than the Nicene Creed which is firmly dated by its council.
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 14, 2021 at 4:10
  • @NigelJ - (1) "Does this answer your question?" - Not really. I would want to see the explanation for why, if it was so important for them to include the name of Pilate for the sake of historicity, they had failed to do so at the previous council.
    – brilliant
    Feb 14, 2021 at 10:48

3 Answers 3


According to this site it has to do with the importance of preserving the historicity of the event surrounding the execution of Jesus Christ.

It says in part:

The inclusion of Pilate’s name in the creed can be traced back to the very beginnings of the Catholic Church. This section of the prayer was already quoted by Tertullian by the early 3rd century. For the early Christians, it was essential to include Pilate’s name. One of the primary reasons the Church has kept this inclusion is to reinforce the historicity of Jesus’ Passion. The existence of Pontius Pilate can be verified by sources outside of the Gospels and his name provides a powerful reminder that Jesus’ death occurred within the context of Roman rule and at a specific date in human history.

  • We could also note that before a widespread universal calendar system, in ancient times people often referred to the timing of events not by "in year x", but by "during the reign of emperor/king/governor such-and-such"
    – vsz
    Feb 14, 2021 at 12:12

There had been a roiling dispute about the nature of Christ for centuries, indeed even today. Was He a good man, a prophet, a lunatic, "nothing" until His baptism (adoptionism), or truly God of God, begotten of God without beginning?

The first Nicene Creed began to address the issue, but did not go far enough to clarify the issue. Did a man suffer and die? Was it God? How did it "work"? Recall there was a myth that He only swooned and was revived in the tomb. So, more information was added in the Nicene-Constantinople creed a mere 56 years later.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. -source-

The idea was to bolster the facts of who Christ was, while including His sufferings and death under Pilate. It lends credence to the assertion when those involved are specifically named. It confirms the faith once delivered. This is why it was added.

  • A point of clarification: ταυρωθέντα τε ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου. Jesus was not crucified "under" Pontius Pilate, but the sense is more "during." It is historically placing the time of the crucifixion. This is the problem with relying on translations, so many of them are bad.
    – Rob
    Feb 23, 2021 at 12:14

SLM's answer is bang on. The Bible is one of the few - if not the only religious text that specifies historical people and events, and in part this was because it was important to the culture of the folks putting these events down on paper to firmly tie events in with historically relevant data and events. Pilate was also a well known name - so by promoting that name in the creed draws attention to - in effect - hostile witnesses that were indeed still around - and thereby plausible.

There are excellent sources regarding the historicity of the bible, a good place to start where several experts are gathered together are the books of Lee Strobel - you can get a synopsis with some names here: https://www.adefenceofthebible.com/2017/07/14/lee-strobel/

  • Welcome to Christianity Stack Exchange. Please take our Tour (link below) to understand how we are different to other sites. Although I have nothing against Lee Strobel, this question is not asking for biblical proof regarding the historicity of the Bible, and the link you give does not answer the question. I suggest you edit your question and remove it and focus purely on what is being asked. christianity.stackexchange.com/tour
    – Lesley
    Feb 19, 2021 at 11:29

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