Last week we began our Inductive Study of the Story of the Birth of Jesus. We have been looking primarily at two couples – Elizabeth and Zacharias and Mary and Joseph. Yesterday we met the son of Elizabeth and Zacharias, John. Today, we are turning to a new minor character – Caesar Augustus. We will examine who he was and what was said about him. And we will compare Caesar Augustus with Jesus. The comparisons are striking!
Let’s dig in!
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Who is Caesar Augustus?
Let’s go back and read Luke 2: 1-5 to see what the Bible has to say about Caesar Augustus. Note what is said about him. Also note the timing of this passage.
- a decree went out from him (1)
- he decreed that a census be take of all the inhabited earth (1)
- while Quirinius was governor of Syria (2)
From these verses we see Caesar Augustus is in charge of some area (the inhabited earth). We also see that he sent out a decree (an order) to conduct a census. It seems this Caesar Augustus also has a number of subordinate leaders of regions. The region we are looking at in Caesar Augustus’s territory is Syria.
This passage acts sort of like a zoom function on a photograph or a map. First we see the inhabited earth (ruled by Caesar Augustus), then we see Syria (ruled by Quirinius). Then we zoom in further on to Galilee (a region), then a city (Nazareth) and we trace the journey of a young couple.
What is a Census?
We get our English word census from the Latin censere, which means “to estimate.” It is a process of counting the number of people in a geographical location. Originally censuses were only taken in societies to count the number of men who were able to fight wars. But Roman censuses were taken for tax purposes. The leaders of Rome wanted to know how much money to expect to receive from the populace.
What does Luke tell us about this census?
A Bible Scavenger Hunt
Cross-referencing the Bible with itself is one of the ways to show that the Bible is one complete story. Today, we are going to do our cross-referencing a bit differently. We are going to compare some of the things said about Caesar Augustus with what God’s Word says about Jesus. And we are going to call it a Bible Scavenger Hunt – just to make it fun!
Caesar Augustus and Jesus have some interesting things in common. Caesar Augustus was adopted by Julius Caesar to become his heir (his parents died when he was young). Eventually, he became the ruler of the entire Roman Empire. Along the way, he gained a number of interesting names. Compare these names and historical facts with the names attributed to Jesus and the story of Jesus we find in the Scriptures.
Facts about Caesar Augustus:
- Augustus means “majestic” or “holy.” It is a name with religious authority, rather than political authority.
- A legend said Caesar Augustus was miraculously born of a serpent.
- His birthday was said to “signal the beginning of good news.”
- He was called “Savior of the common folk.”
- Caesar Augustus was identified as a god and divi filius – the son of the divine (god).
- He introduced what is called pax Romana – the peace of Rome.
Facts about Jesus
- Read Luke 1: 35; 4:34; Mark 1:24; and John 6:69.
- Jesus’ birth was actually miraculous. Read Luke 1:31-35.
- The angels announced “good news of great joy. Read Luke 2:10.
- The angels announced “there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)
- Read John 1:1-5, 10, 18, 34, 49.
- Read Isaiah 9:6-7.
What do you think of Caesar Augustus? Do you think he was all the things that were said of him? What do you think of Jesus? Do you think He was all the things the Bible says He was? (these are discussion questions)
Tomorrow we will we will talk about a new aspect of this story. Stay tuned!