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The Two Caesars

Two Roman emperors (see also Ancient Empires - Rome) reigned during the first century A.D. lifetime of Jesus Christ - Caesar Augustus and Tiberius Caesar. It was one or the other of them (depending on the age of the coin shown to Him - both of the actual types of coins that are spoken of in this verse quote are shown below) that the Christ made His famous "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's."

"22:19 Show me the tribute money.

And they brought unto him a penny [i.e. a Denarius].

22:20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

22:21 They say unto him, Caesar's.

Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." (Matthew 22:19-21 KJV)


Octavian, the grand-nephew of Julius Caesar, was born on September 23, 63 B.C. in Rome. After Caesar was assassinated on March 15, 44 B.C., the 19 year old Octavian learned from his great uncle's will that he had both been adopted and made heir. Octavian then took the name Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, and a year later began to rule as part of the Second Triumvirate, along with the two Roman generals Marc Antony and Marcus Lepidus.

The Two Caesars Marc Antony married Octavia, Octavian's sister in 40 B.C, but the marriage ended when he left her for Cleopatra of Egypt (see The Ptolemies). Territorial disputes resulted in war between the two former brothers-in-law, which ended when the naval forces of Antony and Cleopatra were defeated at Actium on September 2, 31 B.C. The start of the Roman empire is sometimes reckoned from that date, with Octavian, as Caesar Augustus, the first Roman emperor (see New Testament Roman Emperors).

It was Augustus that ordered the census that resulted in the Messiah being born in Bethlehem.

"2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2:2 And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria. 2:3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; because he was of the house and lineage of David: 2:5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 2:6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:1-7 KJV)

Caesar Augustus died of an illness at Nola in Campania in 14 A.D. at age 76. His ashes were placed in the Mausoleum of Augustus in Rome. Augustus reigned for approximately the first half of Christ's life.


When Augustus died, he was succeeded by his stepson Tiberius, the son of Livia Drusilla, who had divorced her first husband to marry the emperor. Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus, popularly known simply as Tiberius, was born at Rome on November 16 42 B.C. He reigned for 23 years, from 14 to 37 A.D.

According to historical accounts, "was large and strong of frame, and of a stature above average ... He walked with his neck stiff and bent forward, usually with a stern countenance and for the most part in silence, never or very rarely conversing with his companions ... All of these mannerisms of his, which were disagreeable and signs of arrogance, were regarded by Augustus, who often tried to excuse them to the senate and people by declaring that they were natural failings, not intentional."

Tiberius eventually took up residence in his secluded island residence of Capri where he lived in an extremely depraved manner, while delegating much of the responsibility of governing to subordinates (including those in the land of Israel, such as Pontius Pilate and The Herods). It was at Capri that he lived during the time of the ministry and crucifixion of Jesus Christ which began at the end of the ministry of John the Baptist.

"3:1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, 3:2 Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. 3:3 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; 3:4 As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying,

The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 3:5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; 3:6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God." (Luke 3:1-6 KJV)

Tiberius died at Misenum on March 16 37 A.D. at age 79. Although suffering from a terminal illness, he apparently wasn't dying fast enough for his successor's liking - so they smothered him with a pillow.

Fact Finder: How and when did the title "Caesar" originate?
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