Easton's Bible Dictionary
The cognomen (family name, surname) of the first Roman
emperor, C. Julius Caesar Octavianus, during whose reign Christ was born ( Luke
2:1 ). His decree that "all the world should be taxed" was the divinely ordered
occasion of Jesus' being born, according to prophecy ( Micah 5:2 ), in Bethlehem.
This name being simply a title meaning "majesty" or "venerable," first given to
him by the senate (B.C. 27), was borne by succeeding emperors. Before his death
(A.D. 14) he associated Tiberius with him in the empire ( Luke 3:1 ), by whom
he was succeeded.
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
(venerable) Caesar, the first Roman emperor. He was born
A.U.C. 691, B.C. 63. His father was Caius Octavius; his mother Atia, daughter
of Julia the sister of C. Julius Caesar. He was principally educated by his great-uncle
Julius Caesar, and was made his heir. After his murder, the young Octavius, then
Caius Julius Caesar Octavianus, was taken into the triumvirate with Antony and
Lepidus, and, after the removal of the latter, divided the empire with Antony.
The struggle for the supreme power was terminated in favor of Octavianus by the
battle of Actium, B.C. 31. On this victory he was saluted imperator by the senate,
who conferred on him the title Augustus, B.C. 27. The first link binding him to
New Testament history is his treatment of Herod after the battle of Actium. That
prince, who had espoused Antonys side, found himself pardoned, taken into favor
and confirmed, nay even increased, in his power. After Herods death, in A.D. 4,
Augustus divided his dominions, almost exactly according to his dying directions,
among his sons. Augustus died in Nola in Campania, Aug. 19, A.U.C. 767, A.D. 14,
in his 76th year; but long before his death he had associated Tiberius with him
in the empire.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
(1) The first Roman emperor, and noteworthy in Bible history as the emperor in
whose reign the Incarnation took place (Luke 2:1). His original name was Caius
Octavius Caepias and he was born in 63 BC, the year of Cicero's consulship. He
was the grand-nephew of Julius Caesar, his mother Atia having been the daughter
of Julia, Caesar's younger sister. He was only 19 years of age when Caesar was
murdered in the Senate house (44 BC), but with a true instinct of statesmanship
he steered his course through the intrigues and dangers of the closing years of
the republic, and after the battle of Actium was left without a rival. Some difficulty
was experienced in finding a name that would exactly define the position of the
new ruler of the state. He himself declined the names of rex and dictator, and
in 27 BC he was by the decree of the Senate styled Augustus. The epithet implied
respect and veneration beyond what is bestowed on human things: - "Sancta vocant
augusta patres: augusta vocantur Templa sacerdotum rite dicata manu." --Ovid Fasti.
609; compare Dion Cass., 5316 +
The Greeks rendered the word by Sebastos, literally, "reverend'" (Acts 25:21 ,
25). The name was connected by the Romans with augur--"one consecrated by religion"--and
also with the verb augere. In this way it came to form one of the German imperial
titles "Mehrer des Reichs" (extender of the empire). The length of the reign of
Augustus, extending as it did over 44 years from the battle of Actium (31 BC)
to his death (14 AD), doubtless contributed much to the settlement and consolidation
of the new regime after the troubled times of the civil wars.
It is chiefly through the connection of Judea and Palestine with the Roman Empire
that Augustus comes in contact with early Christianity, or rather with the political
and religious life of the Jewish people at the time of the birth of Christ: "Now
it came to pass in those days, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that
all the world should be enrolled" (Luke 2:1). During the reign of Herod the Great
the government of Palestine was conducted practically without interference from
Rome except, of course, as regarded the exaction of the tribute; but on the death
of that astute and capable ruler (4 BC) none of his three sons among whom his
kingdom was divided showed the capacity of their father.
In the year 6 AD the intervention of Augustus was invited by the Jews themselves
to provide a remedy for the incapacity of their ruler, Archelaus, who was deposed
by the emperor from the rule of Judea; at the same time, while Caesarea was still
the center of the Roman administration, a small Roman garrison was stationed permanently
in Jerusalem. The city, however, was left to the control of the Jewish Sanhedrin
with complete judicial and executive authority except that the death sentence
required confirmation by the Roman procurator. There is no reason to believe that
Augustus entertained any specially favorable appreciation of Judaism, but from
policy he showed himself favorable to the Jews in Palestine and did everything
to keep them from feeling the pressure of the Roman yoke. To the Jews of the eastern
Diaspora he allowed great privileges. It has even been held that his aim was to
render them pro-Rom, as a counterpoise in some degree to the pronounced Hellenism
of the East; but in the West autonomous bodies of Jews were never allowed (see
Mommsen, Provinces of the Roman Empire, chapter 11).
(2) For Augustus in Acts 25:21 , 25 the King James Version, see EMPEROR.
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