WHO WAS “CAESAR?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
Like “Herod,” “Caesar” is a title applicable to several men. Whereas “Herod” was the appellation given to Idumean (Gentile/Edomite) kings who reigned over parts of Palestine during the A.D. first century, “Caesar” pertained to the rulers of the Roman Empire. Meaning “severed,” Julius Caesar was first to use the name and his successors adopted it for themselves. Five Roman emperors governed the then-known world during New Testament times, with three explicitly named in Scripture and one implied. This is just one of several examples of the Bible’s historical accuracy, how secular history agrees with it. It is certainly not a Book of myths and fables, neither fantasy nor fiction!
- AUGUSTUS (reigned 27 B.C.–A.D. 14). “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed” (Luke 2:1). Jesus Christ was born during this time, circa 7–4 B.C.
- TIBERIUS (reigned A.D. 14–37). “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,…” (Luke 3:1). He was Roman emperor throughout Christ’s earthly ministry, ruling up until roughly seven years after Calvary. See Matthew 22:17,21; Mark 12:14,16-17; Luke 20:22,24-25; Luke 23:2; and John 19:12,15.
- CALIGULA (reigned A.D. 37–41). While Scripture does not mention him by name, he would have ruled no later than Acts chapter 11. See #4 below.
- CLAUDIUS (reigned A.D. 41–54). “And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar” (Acts 11:28). The “Caesar” of Acts 17:7 is either him, or Nero (see #5 below).
- NERO (reigned A.D. 54–68). Although the Bible does not name him, he is implied toward the latter Acts (namely, chapter 18 onward?). This is evidently the “Augustus” and “Caesar” to whom Paul wanted to appeal once he arrived in Rome near the close of Acts (Acts 25:8,10-12,21,25; Acts 26:32; Acts 27:1,24; Acts 28:19). He was the “Caesar” whose household had Christian converts when Paul wrote his epistle to the Philippians (4:22). The worst (most despotic) of the Caesars, Nero is thought to have executed both Apostles Peter and Paul.