Render Unto Caesar
The name "Caesar" was originally the name of a powerful Roman family and
eventually became an imperial title. Perhaps the most renowned member of this
family was Gaius Julius Caesar. After the dynasty ended with the death of Nero
in 68 AD, the name Caesar was retained to designate future Roman imperial
rulers. Much later, leaders of Germany and Russia were called respectively
"Kaiser" and "czar" even at the beginning of the twentieth century, both of
these titles are derived from the word "Caesar".
Augustus 27 B.C. - 14 A.D.
"Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be
taken of all the inhabited earth." (Luke 2:1). Augustus was the adopted son of
Julius Caesar. His name was Gaius Octavius, and he assumed the name Gaius Julius
Caesar Octavianus in accordance with Roman custom. It was later that he added
the title "Augustus" which in Latin (the Language of the Romans) means
"majestic". In Augustus' reign we have the birth of Jesus, in which Augustus
unknowingly plays a part in the fulfillment of ancient prophecy.
The decree mentioned in Luke 2:1 compelled Joseph and Mary to return to their
ancestral hometown to register in the Roman census. So, despite Mary's condition
of late term pregnancy, the couple traveled from Nazareth of Galilee to
Bethlehem of Judea where the baby was born. The Son of God was thus born in
Bethlehem just as the prophet Micah had said about seven centuries before (Luke
2:1-11; Micah 5:2).
Tiberius 14-37 A.D.
"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 Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch
of Abilene..." (Luke 3:1) The emperor Tiberius, who succeeded his stepfather
Augustus, ruled for about twenty-three years. He was a capable administrator but
also the object of general dislike. He relied on military power and in Rome had
his Praetorian Guard, the only organized troops allowed legally in Rome to keep
his rule secure. It was Tiberius Caesar who was reigning during the ministries
of both John and Jesus and also when the church had it's beginning. The church
also spread from Jerusalem due to a great persecution that rose against it. One
of the persecutors, a "young man named Saul", after having zealously persecuted
the church would become a convert to Christ due to an appearance to him by the
resurrected Jesus. Saul would become an apostle and change his name to Paul
during the time of Tiberius.
Caligula 37-41 A.D.
There is no mention of Caligula in the Bible. He was a cruel, insane and
tyrannical leader who ruled for four years. During his time, the church
continued to spread through Palestine; though some Christians who had fled from
Jerusalem during the persecution returned.
Claudius 41-54 A.D.
Claudius, whose rule of thirteen years was distinguished by the conquest of
Britain, and who continued the public works and administrative reforms
instituted under Augustus, was the emperor during the three missionary journeys
of Paul (although the third journey had not yet been completed when Claudius
died). The prophet Agabus had prophesied that a great famine would take place
over the world, and Luke informs us that it came to pass during the time of
Claudius (Acts 11:28). When the famine hit Judea particularly hard, churches
from other places sent funds to relieve the needy saints in Jerusalem and Judea.
Claudius didn't know it, but he was responsible for Paul meeting Aquila and
Priscilla when he did. "And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus,
having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had
commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them..." (Acts 18:2).
Historical sources outside the Bible confirm that this did occur. Roman
historians speak of this expulsion of Jews from Rome. Evidently, there was some
turmoil and unrest over a man called "Christos" (Christ-J.Q.). Though the
account does not elaborate, we remember well how the Scriptures of God relate
that often there was discord, mob action and even riots associated with the
early persecution of the Christians by the Jews. Among those forced to leave
were Paul's soon-to-be friends and co-workers, Aquila and Priscilla, who moved
to Corinth where they first met Paul.
Nero 54- 68 A.D.
Nero's rule at first was moderate, as a result of the wise counsel of advisors.
But, he also faltered becoming paranoid (though the threats were sometimes real,
often they were not) about all those around him, including his own mother (whom
he had killed). It was during Nero's reign that Rome began persecuting the
church, Nero blamed them for a fire that had swept through Rome. His overthrow,
which was caused by his later excesses, and his subsequent suicide marked the
end of the line of Julio-Claudian emperors, though future emperors retained the
Ironically, Nero was the Caesar to whom Paul appealed for justice(!) (Acts
25:11). After Paul was delivered to Rome, Nero placed Paul under house arrest
(Acts 28:19). Paul writes of teaching the gospel to the some of the Praetorian
Guard and that some members of Nero's own household were Christians during his
imprisonments (Philippians 1:13; 4:22). Paul was eventually released, but then
later rearrested and executed. He writes of his coming execution in 2 Timothy 4,
a chapter showing his great faith and confidence.
Galba, Otho, and Vitellius (68-69)
Vespasian (69-79 A.D.)
Vespasian and his sons, the emperors Titus and Domitian, are known as the
Flavians. Vespian fulfilled Jesus' prophecy concerning the destruction of
Jerusalem (with his son, Titus, being the commander in the field) (Matthew
Titus (79-81 A,D.)
The famous eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed the towns of Herculaneum and
Pompeii happened during the rule of Titus.
Domitian (81-96 A.D.)
Domitian became a cruel tyrant in the later years of his rule, and the period of
terror associated with his name ended with his murder. John was exiled to island
of Patmos and wrote the Book of Revelation from there concerning a great
persecution against the churches in Asia Minor. Emperor worship was commanded of
the people, and Christians would not oblige (Revelation 16:2, et.al.). But the
message from John assures them of complete and final victory if they would be
faithful even unto death (Revelation 2:10). The message speaks of the fall and
defeat of Rome, the defeat of Satan, and victory of Jesus and His faithful ones.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 13.8; August 2006