Archaeologists have determined that a road thought to have been originally constructed by King Herod Agrippa (41 AD to 44 AD) was actually built by Pontius Pilate who was governor of Judea from 26 AD to at least 37 AD. Agrippa was the grandson of King Herod who ruled at the time of Christ’s birth.
Known as the Jerusalem Pilgrim Road, it is a popular tourist site for both Jews and Christians.
The stepped road, that was over a third of a mile long (600 meters), started at the Pool of Siloam (a mikveh or ritual bath) near the southern gates of the city and travelled up to the Jewish temple.
And we see a reference to the upward incline in Acts 3:1, when we are told that Peter and John were going “up” to the Temple.
Jews used this road for pilgrimages to the Temple during three of the feasts, Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles. Josephus estimated that upwards of two million would visit Jerusalem during those festivals.
Jewish pilgrims started their journey by bathing in the ritual bath, that was the size of two Olympic pools, before proceeding to the temple.
The road was over eight meters wide and lined with shops. It also featured several pedestals where priests and rabbis would have addressed the crowds. According to the archaeologists, this area was Jerusalem’s equivalent of New York’s Times Square.
The site has proven popular for Christians as well because the Pool of Siloam is the spot where Jesus healed a blind man by spitting on the ground and placing the mud on the man’s eyes. Jesus then told the man to wash in the pool of Siloam (John 9:6-7).
It would also have been the same route that Jesus and the disciples used to visit the temple. Since, we can’t be certain when Pilate ordered Christ’s crucifixion, it’s possible that parts of the road was still under construction during Jesus’ day.
After the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 AD, the city was built over top of the ancient road. Tourist can now travel parts of the pilgrimage road in tunnels beneath the Arab controlled part of the city. Just under half of the road has been dug out as they are required to install supporting beams every meter to prevent the city above from caving in.
The actual road would have been four to five times wider than what is seen today.
The Pilgrimage road has proven controversial, because it asserts an early Jewish presence in Jerusalem beneath the Muslim controlled east Jerusalem.
Archaeologists had originally thought the road was build by Herod of Agrippa, however, recent excavations uncovered several coins both above and below the road that provided a time frame for its construction.
The coins beneath indicated the road was constructed between 30/31 AD and 40 AD meaning it was initiated by Pontius Pilate and took about ten years to complete.
The archaeologists also noted that coins manufactured by King Herod of Agrippa were not found beneath the street. This told archaeologists that it had been completed by the time Agrippa became King in 41 AD. The archaeologist noted what you don’t find can also speak volumes as these common coins were only found above the road.
Since, Pilate was responsible for the construction of the Pilgrim road to the Temple, most believe he did it to keep the Jewish Priests happy.
And this tendency to appease the Jewish priests showed up again in the crucifixion of Christ.
The priests brought Jesus to Pilate calling for the Lord’s execution claiming He was the King of the Jews and leading a rebellion against Rome. Several times, Pilate mentioned that he found no evidence that would justify these accusations (Luke 23:14, 22).
Pilate had apparently even talked about Jesus at home, as his wife had a disturbing dream about Christ’s innocence (Matthew 27:19).
In the end, Pilate agreed to crucify Christ in order to appease the priests. But he made one final attempt to stop the Lord’s execution by turning to the people and offering to free Jesus at Passover. However, the Jewish priests stirred up the crowd to ask for Barabbas (Matthew 27:20).