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Revelation: The Claudians

Octavian was succeeded by Tiberius Claudius Nero (court name indicating his status as a god: Tiberius Caesar Divi Augusti Filius). He was legally granted to be Octavian’s adopted son, and was also the secret lover of Octavian’s consort Livia. Tiberius reigned from 17 to 37. Tiberius was Caesar during the beginning of the Church of Christ (Luke 3:1). He too assumed the title Augustus. He had no care for any religions beyond the Roman Pantheon and emperor worship; and he also had no use for the Jews, because they held closely to their religion and defied paying either homage or tribute to the Romans. Tiberius abolished Jewish worship in Rome and later removed them into the far reaches of the empire as military conscripts.

The historian Kirsopp Lake wrote: “Eusebius reckons the baptism of Christ as taking place in the fifteenth year of Tiberius, dating his accession from the death of Augustus. As he was then in his thirtieth year, he was born in the forty-second year of Augustus, fourteen years before his death. This is the reckoning of time known as the Christian era.” If correct, this information would have placed the baptism of Christ in 30 or at the latest by 33 AD and his birth then as noted by Mr. Lake, in agreement with many ancient writers, as having occurred between BC 1 or 2. Most early writers accepted a date around 33 AD as the year of Jesus’ death.

The same is true of the baptism of Christ as was found true of his birth: it was not on anyone’s social or historical calendar. Therefore, the year, month and day of birth, the date of his immersion, and for his crucifixion remain obscured. According to the Gospels and as noted, Herod the Great was alive when Jesus was born (and many early and some late historians ignored this biblically inscribed fact). Then as noted: Herod died in BC 4, and The Christ must have been born prior to that year. It seems Eusebius missed it by a minimum of a year. As to the other important dates in Christ’s life, (again), they will remain lost to time.

It was alleged that Gaius Germanicus Caligula poisoned Tiberius to hasten his departure as he lay dying. Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, known as Caligula (“little soldier”) was appointed the next emperor in a short reign from 37 to 41. He also alleged lineage back to Julius Caesar as was implied by his court name.

History regarded Caligula as a madman. In short order he had declared himself, his wife (who was his sister), and his favorite horse all to be worshipped as Roman gods. He had the largest ancient ship ever built, assembled in a land locked lake where it could not be maneuvered or used at all. When he was assassinated by his personal servants, he was in the process of sending an army to Jerusalem with a statue of himself which he had commanded to have erected within the Holy of Holies in Herod’s Temple (and which surely would have caused a revolt). The ship went down on the way, so the statue never made it to Judaea. He is not mentioned in the New Testament. Caligula is remembered for riotous debauchery and overindulgences.

Caligula was followed by the halt ClaudiusTiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus (41 — 54). Though a Julian, Claudius’ recognition and name rested mainly upon the reputation of his brother Germanicus, the grandfather of Nero, who had been a very popular soldier, Tribune and Consul, and one who many felt was destined to be Caesar, that is until his murder. Claudius is mentioned in Acts 9:28. He restored the Jews in Palestine but later banished them from Rome.

For the most part, the reign of Claudius was one of general peace and prosperity. He was chosen as Caesar by the legions who were amused by his wit, his seeming lack of intelligence and easy spirit. He may have appeared to be a dolt, but he survived to rule for thirteen years and maintained a popular base throughout. Claudius was the only emperor mentioned to this point that had not kept male children for sexual purposes, concubines (second tier wives), or consorts. Claudius’ second wife, Agrippina poisoned him by serving some mushrooms for supper, opening the way for her son from her first marriage, Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (court name: Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus), an astute and ambitious young politician, to lay hold of the title Caesar and to the throne. Notice that the three Claudian Caesars had each appealed to the name of the renowned Germanicus in their court names.