The following articles have been compiled and indexed by inWORD Bible software.
An Empire-wide Census?
[The nineteenth century theologian Emil] Schürer interprets Luke 2:1 as describing a single, empire-wide Roman census ordered by Augustus around 6 BCE. There is currently no historical evidence of any such imperial edict.
Son of God in a Roman World
In this series of articles we have been trying to take a look at the message of the New Testament from the eyes of the people alive in the first century. We have been asking the question: what would the apostles message sounded like to the average Jew and Roman. In the last article we noticed that the gospel of peace would have an additional message beyond what the 21st century mind would recognize. While the gospel of peace was the message of the reconciliation of the sinner to God, it also implied the celebratory news of a conquering emperor subjecting the world unto him. Christ, of course, is the conquering king of the whole earth. In this article, I would like for us to look at the implication and significance of teaching Jesus to be the Son of God.
The Emperors and the Faith: Augustus and Tiberius
The existence and power of the Roman Empire at the beginning of the Christian era are usually taken for granted as we read through the New Testament. But it is well that we should understand how it came about that when Jesus was born at Bethlehem, his country was subject to a city 1,500 miles to the West, a city which not only controlled Judaea, but dominated the known world from the Rhine to the Euphrates, from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Black Sea.
The cognomen of the first Roman emperor, C. Julius Caesar Octavianus, during whose reign Christ was born (Luke 2:1). His decree that “all the world should be taxed” was the divinely ordered occasion of Jesus’ being born, according to prophecy (Micah 5:2), in Bethlehem. This name being simply a title meaning “majesty” or “venerable,” first given to him by the senate (B.C. 27), was borne by succeeding emperors. Before his death (A.D. 14) he associated Tiberius with him in the empire (Luke 3:1), by whom he was succeeded.
ô-gus ́tus Αὔγουστος, Aúgoustoš:
Augustus, (venerable, Graecized Αὔγουστος.), the imperial title assumed by Octavius, or Octavianus, the successor of Julius Caesar, and the first peacefully acknowledged emperor of Rome. He was emperor at the birth and during half the lifetime of our Lord (B.C. 30 to A.D. 14), but his name occurs only once (Luke 2:1) in the New Testament, as the emperor who appointed the enrolment in consequence of which Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem, the place where the Messiah was to be born. SEE JESUS. The successors of the first Augustus took the same name or title, but it is seldom applied to them by the Latin writers. In the eastern part of the empire the Greek Σεβαστός (which is equivalent) seems to have been more common, and hence is used of Nero (Acts 25:21). In later times (after Diocletian) the title of “Augustus” was given to one of the two heirs-apparent of the empire, and “Caesar” to their younger colleagues and heirs- apparent.
Augustus (plural augusti), /ɔːˈgʌstəs/; Classical Latin: [awˈgʊstʊs], Latin for “majestic,” “the increaser,” or “venerable”), was an ancient Roman title given as both name and title to Gaius Octavius (often referred to simply as Augustus), Rome’s first Emperor. On his death, it became an official title of his successor, and was so used by Roman emperors thereafter. The feminine form Augusta was used for Roman empresses and other females of the Imperial family. The masculine and feminine forms originated in the time of the Roman Republic, in connection with things considered divine or sacred in traditional Roman religion. Their use as titles for major and minor Roman deities of the Empire associated the Imperial system and Imperial family with traditional Roman virtues and the divine will, and may be considered a feature of the Roman Imperial cult.
Divi filius is a Latin phrase meaning “divine son,” or “son of the divine,” and was a title much used by the adopted son of Julius Caesar, his great-nephew Octavian, the future Emperor Augustus.