What is a…
Greek: Πραιτώριον (praitórion)
also known as: prætorium and pretorium (in Roman Latin)
Originally, Praetor (meaning “leader”) was the title of the ranking civil servant in the Roman Republic.
The Greek word (praitorion) appears 8 times in the Greek New Testament. Most modern English translations use the Latin words “praetorium” or “praetorian” in all these verses: Matthew 27:27 NASB; Mark 15:16 NASB; John 18:28 NASB (twice); John 18:33 NASB; John 19:9 NASB; Acts 23:35 NASB; and Philippians 1:13 NASB.
In the King James Version, the Greek word praitórion is translated as “praetorium” in Mark 15:16 KJV. However, elsewhere the KJV translates “praitórion” in other ways…
“common hall” (Matthew 27:27 KJV, marginal note: “governor’s house”)
“judgment hall” (John 18:28 KJV; John 18:33 KJV; John 19:9 KJV; Acts 23:35 KJV, marginal note: “Pilate's house”
“palace” (Philippians 1:13 KJV; John 18:28 KJV; Mark 15:16 KJV)
Due to the number of uses for the word praitórion (praetorium), it is difficult to describe, as a praetorium could be a large building, a large permanent tent, or in some cases a mobile tent. Within the praetorium Roman officers would conduct official business within special designed and designated areas.
Praetorium is properly a military word. It denotes:
The war-council meetings held in the tent of a general gave administrative and juridical meanings to the term praetorium.
At camp (or quarters), the cohors praetoria, a cohort of Praetorians guarded the commander. They were posted near the praetorium, the tent of the commander (Acts 28:16). They were the imperial guards in immediate attendance on the emperor, who was the ultimate “praetor” or commander-in-chief. The Praetorian Guard were elite, hand-picked veterans of the Roman army who received higher wages than legionnaires, and they were the only ones admitted in the center of Rome while bearing arms. They were feared and dreaded by the population and the Senators.
In the New Testament, praetorium refers to the palace of Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect of Judea, which is believed to have been in one of the residential palaces built by Herod the Great for himself in Jerusalem, which at that time was also the residence of his son, king Herod II.