The Greek word πραιτώριον was taken over directly from the Latin praetorium, which originally signified the headquarters of the commanding officer (the praetor ) in Roman military encampments. In its military usage, the word came to be used also of the council of war held in the commanding officer's headquarters and of the bodyguard of the emperor (the Praetorian Guard) or of a Roman governor, whether his title was that of praetor or not. Finally, its meaning was extended in a local sense, as well, to designate the governor's official residence in a Roman province or administrative district.
In the Gospels. The praetorium is mentioned in the accounts of the Passion (see passion of christ, i) as the place where Jesus was mocked by the Roman soldiers (Mt 27.27; Mk 15.16) and interrogated by Pontius pilate (Jn 18.28, 33; 19.9). Immediately in front of this praetorium at Jerusalem, or in an outer part of it, in a place called Lithostrotos in Greek and Gabbatha in Aramaic, the tribunal or curule chair of Pilate was apparently located, at least on this occasion, and there final sentence was passed on Jesus (Jn 19.13). Because of the diversity of the Gospel accounts, it is a matter of debate among Biblical scholars whether the scourging of Jesus also took place inside the praetorium, or outside of it, and whether it took place before or after the sentence of condemnation was pronounced. Further, whether the praetorium itself and the place called Lithostrotos or Gabbatha are also to be located at the Antonia fortress situated at the northwest corner of the temple area in the lower city, or at herod the great's palace in the western or upper part of the city, is likewise a subject on which scholars are fairly evenly divided. In favor of the Antonia as the place of Pilate's residence during the Passion is the argument that it would have been more likely for Pilate to choose as his headquarters this site close by the Temple area, where rebellious outbreaks often originated, in order to be on hand in case of trouble during the large gathering of the people for the feast of the Passover. Furthermore, recent excavations at the site of the Antonia have uncovered an extensive pavement of large stone blocks, dating from the time of Christ, that its discoverers have identified with the Lithostrotos of John's account. Since Lithostrotos (λιθόστρωτος) means "paved with stones" (cf. Septuagint of Est 1.6, Sg 3.10, 2 Chr 7.3) and is most probably used substantively in John 19.13 to denote a proper name, the name would appear to fit the place well. In addition, if, as seems probable, the name Gabbatha (gabbātā’, called "Hebrew" in John 19.13, but really Aramaic) is connected with the root gb' (to be high), this name too would be appropriate for the same site, since the Antonia was situated on high ground overlooking the entire temple area. Against this view, however, is the fact that Philo (Legatio ad Caium 38) and Josephus (De bello Judaico 2.3.1–4; 2.9.4; 2.14.8) seem to indicate Herod's palace in the western sector of the city as the ordinary residence or praetorium of the Roman governors when they were present in Jerusalem. So the basic difficulty of identifying the Antonia as the praetorium of the Passion hinges on whether or not the term praetorium itself was used so loosely that it was applied indiscriminately to any place where the governor might have taken up residence, no matter how temporary that residence might have been. Also, Herod's palace was situated at a higher point in the city than the Antonia. It is possible, too, since knowledge of the ancient localities in Jerusalem, along with their names, is by no means complete, that there may have been another pavement made of large stones standing before this western palace that would be more in accord with the Gospel narrative than the one discovered at the
site of the Antonia, which appears to have been an inner courtyard rather than an outside plaza.
In Acts and Philipians. In Acts of the Apostles 23.35 mention is made of "the praetorium of Herod," i.e., the palace that Herod the Great built for himself at Caesarea. In accord with the frequent practice of Roman governors in taking over the palace of the former ruler as their official residence or praetorium, this palace of Herod at Caesarea became the normal headquarters of the Roman procurators of Judea (cf. Josephus, De bello Judaico 2.14.8). There St. Paul was imprisoned under the procurator Felix. The meaning of praetorium in Philip-pians 1.13, where Paul writes that his imprisonment is known "throughout the praetorium" to be for the sake of Christ, depends largely on whether Paul is thought to have been writing from Rome, Caesarea, Ephesus, or elsewhere. Since a personal, rather than a local, interpretation of the phrase appears to be called for by the context in which it occurs, it is probable that, if Paul was writing from Rome, he was referring to the members of the Roman Praetorian Guard who, through periodic changes of the guard on Paul, would all have come to know his case. If, however, Paul was writing from Caesarea, Ephesus, or elsewhere, the word could be applied to the members of the Roman governor's guard, or possibly even to other members of the governor's court or household. However, if a local sense for the term is preferred, the praetorium could indicate the governor's palace at Caesarea, Ephesus, or elsewhere. But a similar local interpretation could not be supported under the hypothesis of a Roman origin of this letter, since the palace of the emperor in Rome is never called a praetorium, even though his palace outside of Rome is sometimes so named.
Bibliography: m. e. boismard, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65); suppl., Das Zweite Vatikanische Konzil: Dokumente und Kommentare, ed. h. s. brechter et al., pt. 1 (1966) 4:477–478. Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963), from a. van den born, Bijbels Woordenboek 1888–92. c. kopp, The Holy Places of the Gospels, tr. r. walls (New York 1963) 365–373. e. a. cerny, "Lithostrotos," The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 4 (1942) 159–160. l. h. vicent, "L'Antonia et le Prétoire," Revue biblique 42 (1933) 83–113; "Antour du Prétoire," ibid. 46 (1937) 563–570; "Le Lithostrotos évangelique," ibid. 59 (1952) 513–530; "L'Antonia, palais primitif d'Hérode," ibid. 61 (1954) 87–107. p. benoit, "Prétoire, Lithostroton et Gabbatha" ibid. 59 (1952) 531–550.
[w. k. leahy]
"Praetorium." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 17, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/praetorium
"Praetorium." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved February 17, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/praetorium
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