The Berean Expositor
Volume 28 - Page 125 of 217
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The powers that be.
(Being a series of studies of Roman history,
and Roman laws and customs,
in so far as they throw light upon the N.T. narrative).
Tiberius. Tetrarchs. High Priests (Luke 3: 1, 2).
pp. 4 - 7
"Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius CŠsar, Pontius Pilate governor of
JudŠa, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and
of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanius the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas
being the high priests, the word of God came unto John, son of Zacharias, in the
wilderness" (Luke 3: 1, 2).
Luke tells us in the opening of his Gospel, that having had perfect understanding of all
things "from above" (anothen), he proposes to write "in order, a declaration of those
things most surely believed among us". There is no scarcity of historical data in the
verses quoted above. The call of John the Baptist is fixed by the reign of an Emperor, the
governorship of Pilate, the tetrarchy of Herod and his brother Philip, and the presence of
two High Priests, Annas and Caiaphas, at the same time. What do we know of these
historical facts that are important enough to have found a place in Holy Writ? By seeking
to elucidate points of this kind we trust that this series of articles will help to make the
inspired background of the N.T. clearer and more intelligible.
Augustus who lived to see the death of all his direct descendants with the exception of
one weak-minded youth, was forced to adopt Tiberius, the son of Livia, his wife by an
earlier marriage. Augustus personally disliked him, but he was unquestionably an able
man and reigned for twenty-three years.
"The picture of that reign irresistibly impressed on our minds by the great Roman
historian Tacitus, who was born some twenty years after it ended, is lurid and repulsive;
nor can it be doubted that in certain of its aspects the reign was lurid and repulsive in
actual fact. Nevertheless it assuredly had another side . . . . . Tiberius was deaf to the
beguilements of vested interests, popular agitation, or family influences . . . . . Apart from
hard drinking, however, we hear nothing of the emperor's addictions to animal vices till
after his retirement to CapreŠ in the twelfth year of his reign (A.D.26), when he was
nearly seventy" (Hammerton).
During the mild administration of Augustus the people were never forced to any act of
worship. Tiberius, however, in the latter part of his reign, visited with severe penalties
any act of impiety (asebeia), and the revival of these laws by Nero provided a convenient
means of persecuting the Christians. The prominence of the word eusebeia, "godliness",
in the pastoral epistles is explained by this historical fact.
Tiberius adopted a different policy from that which his predecessors had followed, in
that he seldom changed the governors of the provinces. "Should I send a succession of