When Christ came to Caesar’s household, did Caesar himself believe?

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By Mark Ellis –

Bust of Tiberius Caesar

All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household. (Phil.4:22)

Based on the Scripture cited above, it is believed the Gospel message spread like wildfire from Jerusalem throughout the Mediterranean world, even into the household of Tiberius Caesar.

Tiberius Caesar Augustus was the second Roman emperor, whose reign from AD 14 to 37 coincided with the life of Jesus Christ.  He succeeded his stepfather, the first Roman emperor Augustus.

Like Moses, Tiberius was a reluctant leader, and some historians note his apparent inadequacy in the role of Caesar, compared with his charismatic stepfather.

Luke 3:1 establishes the launch of John the Baptist’s ministry during the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee…during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Tiberius Caesar

From the outset, Tiberius had a problematic, resentful relationship with the Roman senate, and suspected many of plotting against him. Nevertheless, he proved to be an effective administrator.

According to Tertullian’s Apology, book 5, “Tiberius, in whose days the Christian name made its entry into the world, having himself received intelligence from Palestine of events which had clearly shown the truth of Christ’s divinity, brought the matter before the Senate, with his own decision in favor of Christ. The Senate, because it had not given the approval itself, rejected his proposal. Caesar held to his opinion, threatening wrath against all accusers of the Christ.”(1)

Both Jerome and Eusebius affirmed Tertullian’s account concerning Tiberius and the deification of Christ in their histories of the Christian Church. Furthermore, Tiberius was not known to have persecuted Christians.

[1] Schoff, Wilfred Harvey (1912) Tammuz, Pan and Christ. Open Court Publishing. Vol. 26, p. 525

 

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