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Don Stewart :: Who Were the Caesars Mentioned in the Four Gospels?

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Don Stewart

In the gospels, the name Caesar figures into the life of Jesus. We find Caesar Augustus mentioned at the birth of Christ and Tiberius Caesar at the beginning of His public ministry.

1. Caesar Augustus

One of the prominent figures in the New Testament was the first Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus. Augustus ruled from 27 B.C to A.D. 14. He was originally named was Caius Octavius Caepias. He was the grandnephew of Julius Caesar. Caesar was murdered in 44 B.C. and Augustus eventually succeeded him without a rival. He refused to be called rex or dictator. However in 27 B.C the Roman Senate called Augustus. This name gave the implication that he was to be venerated above all mortals.

There Was A Command To Enroll Everyone

Augustus was ruling Rome when Jesus was born. He is the one who decreed that the entire world should be enrolled for the purpose of taxation.

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth (Luke 2:1).

Caesar Unknowingly Fulfilled Bible Prophecy When Augustus made the decree that everyone in the empire should be enrolled in a census he had no idea that this act would fulfill Bible prophecy. The decision he made some fifteen hundred miles from the Holy land started a chain of events that led to the birth of the Messiah in the predicted city of Bethlehem. The Bible says Joseph and Mary went from Galilee to Bethlehem to register in the census. The eighty-mile journey would have taken them four or five days.

And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth (Luke 2:3-6).

There would have been no reason for them to leave their hometown of Nazareth to have their child except for this decree. Joseph was a descendant of King David. Consequently they had to travel to the city of David - Bethlehem to register. This explains why God chose a girl who lived in Nazareth to be the mother of the Messiah rather than one in Bethlehem. In going to Bethlehem the prophecy regarding the city of the Messiah's birth was fulfilled. The prophet Micah wrote.

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you one will go forth for me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity (Micah 5:2)

This Is An Accurate Account It had been charged by critics of the Bible that Rome never ordered its citizens to return to their ancestral homelands to enroll. However the discovery in Egypt of a Roman census edict from A.D. 104 proved that those who lived elsewhere had to return to their original homes to register.

The irony is that Caesar Augustus, for whom Deity was claimed, unwittingly fulfilled the prediction of Scripture of the birthplace of the true God who became a human being.

2. Tiberius Caesar The other Caesar mentioned was Tiberius. We find him mentioned at the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist.
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness (Luke 3:1,2).

The only importance Caesar had, as far as God was concerned, was to mark the time in history when the word of the Lord came to John the Baptist.

This is the only mention of Tiberius by name in the four gospels. He is referred to as Caesar on two other occasions without being named - the poll tax and Jesus' trial.

The Poll Tax Question Put To Jesus

There was the question of the poll-tax. Should the people pay it or not? Jesus answered.

Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have? They said, "Caesar's." And he said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Luke 20:24,25).

Charges That Jesus Plotted Against Caesar

There was also the charge that Jesus was plotting to overthrow Caesar.

Then the whole body of them got up and brought him before Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, "We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a King" (Luke 23:1,2).

Jesus Was Charged With Opposing Caesar

The accusation was that Jesus was opposing Caesar.

From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, "If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar" (John 19:12).

Summary

Only two Caesars are mentioned by name in the gospels - Augustus and Tiberius. Caesar Augustus, the first Roman Emperor made the decree that a census should be taken of everyone in the empire. This caused Joseph and Mary to leave their home in Nazareth and go to Bethlehem. Their Son Jesus was born in Bethlehem - fulfilling the prediction of Micah the prophet with respect to the birthplace of the Messiah.

Tiberius Caesar is only mentioned to mark the time in history when the word of God came to John the Baptist. He is mentioned on two other occasions by his title "Caesar" but without his name.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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