The Letters of Pilate and Herod
The text is known in Greek and in Syriac. The latter is a manuscript of the sixth–seventh century and differs slightly from the Greek text, which is of the fifteenth century. Greek is the original language of the letters.
Both Thilo (pp. cxxiii, cxxiv) and Tischendorf (EA, p. lxxx) knew of the Greek manuscript subsequently published by James (= Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale 929), but they themselves did not publish it. The letters belong to the cycle represented by the Anaphora and Paradosis of Pilate. The Paris manuscript in fact combines the letters with these works.
Summaries of the letters are offered here.
James, Apoc. Anec. ii. pp. xlv–xlviii, 66–70 (with Eng. trans.).
W. Wright, Contributions, 12–17 (Engl. trans. of Syriac also found in James, Texts and Studies 5.1 (above), 71–5).
I. E. Rahmani, Hypomnemata Domini Nostri seu Acta Pilati (Charfat, Lebanon 1908), 32–3 (= Studia Syriaca 2).
James, 155–6 (summaries).
Erbetta, iii. 127–9.
Moraldi, i. 703–6.
de Santos Otero, 484–9.
The Letter of Pilate to Herod
It was no good thing which I did at your persuasion when I crucified Jesus. I ascertained from the centurion and the soldiers that he rose again, and I sent to Galilee and learned that he was preaching there to above five hundred believers.
My wife Procla took Longinus, the believing centurion, and ten (or twelve) soldiers (who had kept the sepulchre), and went forth and found him ‘sitting in a tilled field’ teaching a multitude. He saw them, addressed them, and spoke of his victory over death and hell. Procla and the rest returned and told me. I was in great distress, and put on a mourning garment and went with her and fifty soldiers to Galilee. We found Jesus: and as we approached him there was a sound in heaven and thunder, and the earth trembled and gave forth a sweet odour. We fell on our faces and the Lord came and raised us up, and I saw on him the scars of the passion, and he laid his hands on my shoulders, saying, ‘All generations and families shall call you blessed, because in your days the Son of Man died and rose again.’
The Letter of Herod to Pilate
It is in no small sorrow—according to the divine Scriptures—(i.e. as I might have anticipated from the teaching of Scripture) that I write to you.
My dear daughter Herodias was playing upon the water (i.e. the ice) and fell in up to her neck. And her mother caught at her head to save her, and it was cut off, and the water swept her body away. My wife is sitting with the head on her knees, weeping, and all the house is full of sorrow.
I am in great distress of mind at the death of Jesus, and reflecting on my sins in killing John Baptist and massacring the Innocents. ‘Since, then, you are able to see the man Jesus again, strive for me and intercede for me: for to you Gentiles the kingdom is given, according to the prophets and Christ.’
Lesbonax my son is in the last stages of a decline. I am afflicted with dropsy, and worms are coming out of my mouth. My wife's left eye is blinded through weeping. Righteous are the judgements of God, because we mocked at the eye of the righteous. Vengeance will come on the Jews and the priests, and the Gentiles will inherit the kingdom, and the children of light be cast out.
And, Pilate, since we are of one age, bury my family honourably: it is better for us to be buried by you than by the priests, who are doomed to speedy destruction. Farewell. I have sent you my wife's earrings and my own signet ring. I am already beginning to receive judgement in this world, but I fear the judgement hereafter much more. This is temporary, that is everlasting.