Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus has a specific reference to the most powerful man in the world. “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.” (Luke 2:1)
Thus we are introduced to two kingdoms, the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Caesar. And they were – and are – rivals. An inscription from about 9 B.C. illustrates just how much these two kingdoms encroached on each others’ territories.
The most divine Caesar…we should consider equal to the Beginning of all things…; for when everything was falling [into disorder] and tending toward dissolution, he restored it once more and gave to the whole world a new aura; Caesar…the common good Fortune of all…the beginning of life and vitality….All the cities unanimously adopt the birthday of the divine Caesar as the new beginning of the year….Whereas Providence, which has regulated our whole existence…has brought our life to the climax of perfection in giving to us [the emperor] Augustus, whom it [Providence] filled with strength for the welfare of men, and who being sent to us and our descendants as Savior, has put an end to war and has set all things in order; and [whereas,] having become [god] manifest (phaneis), Caesar has fulfilled all the hopes of earlier times …in surpassing all the benefactors who preceded him…, and whereas, finally, the birthday of the god [Augustus] has been for the whole world the beginning of good news (euangelion) concerning him [therefore let a new era begin from his birth]. (Quoted in The Jesus of Suburbia, by Mike Erre, from Richard A. Horsely’s Jesus and Empire)
Here it said of Caesar that he is divine, equal to the Beginning of all things, a restorer, a Savior, a bringer of peace and order, a manifestation of God, fulfiller of hopes, the greatest of the benefactors, whose birthday is celebrated as that of a god which is the harbinger of the gospel (good news) for the whole world, and that a new era has now begun.
Is it any wonder that Christianity became a threat to the Roman Empire? And that one of the beasts of Revelation is depicted as a two-horned lamb that speaks like a dragon? (Revelation 13:11)
Claims to divinity might not be as blatantly stated in today’s world, but many of the governments of this world act like they are modern day Caesars, promising the things that only God can bring, claiming to be the beginning and end of all things, restorers, saviors, bringers of peace and order, fulfiller of hopes, benefactors, and bringers of a new world order. How’s that working out?
Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God those things which are God’s.
Lenny Cacchio is a resident of Lee’s Summit. He blogs at http://morning- companionblogspot.com/.