The Berean Expositor
Volume 27 - Page 120 of 212
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Augustus, and the Taxing under Cyrenius (Luke 2: 1, 2).
pp. 204 - 207
"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cęsar Augustus,
that all the world should be taxed, and this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was
governor of Syria" (Luke 2: 1, 2).
With these words Luke introduces the circumstances of the Saviour's birth.
Cęsar Augustus, whose original name was Gaius Octavius, was the son of a niece of
Julius Cęsar, and was adopted by him as his son and heir. We shall have to speak more
particularly on the subject of Roman adoption in a future article, and we therefore refrain
from giving more detailed comment here. According to custom, Octavius changed his
name upon being adopted, and called himself Gaius Julius Cęsar Octavianus. The
murder of Julius Cęsar threw the Roman world into a state of chaos, from which the
figures of Mark Antony and young Octavian soon emerged as protagonists. At the age of
thirty-three Octavian became the master of the world. Julius Cęsar had been assassinated
by those who were anxious to safeguard the state as a Republic. Octavian endeavoured to
further his predecessor's general aims but without perpetuating his fatal error.
"The system of the Imperial government, as it was instituted by Augustus, and
maintained by those princes who understood their own interest and that of the people,
may be defined as an absolute monarchy disguised in the form of a commonwealth. The
masters of the Roman world surrounded their throne with darkness, concealed their
irresistible strength, and humbly professed themselves the accountable ministers of the
senate, whose supreme decrees they dictated and obeyed" (Gibbon).
The Senate conferred upon Octavian the following titles: Augustus, a name that is
translated Sebastos in the Greek, and is almost a claim of Divine honours; Pater Patrię,
"Father of his country"; and Princeps, "First citizen". The Senate also invested him with
the power of Tribune and Imperium, the latter giving him absolute control over the army.
Augustus reigned from B.C.27 to A.D.14.  He established the Pax Romana (the
"Roman Peace"), and of him it was said that he "found Rome of brick and left it of
marble". The literary and intellectual life of Rome reached its highest point under his
rule, and, speaking relatively, it is true to say:
"His course was wise and beneficent; literature and the arts flourished under his
auspices; good laws were enacted; and he was in many respects deserving of the lavish
praise heaped upon him by the writers of that time" (Maunder).
Augustus repeated and enforced the edicts of Julius Cęsar in favour of the Jews. The
edict of Augustus contains the following statement with reference to Hyrcanus:
"Whereas the nation of the Jews, and the High Priest Hyrcanus, have proved
themselves loyal to the Roman People, not only at the present juncture, but also in the
time of my father Cęsar the Emperor, be it enacted by me and my council, with the