Caesar Augustus lived from 63 BC – 14 AD. He was the head of the Roman empire (27 BC – 14 AD). He was an excellent emperor and his times were known as the Pax Romana (the Roman peace). Yet nobody living today, or anybody since about 100 AD, has seen him. So, how do we know he lived?
There are sculptures of him, as well as buildings he erected. Historians like Nicholas of Damascus, Dio Cassius, Plutarch, Tacitus, Cicero and others, wrote about him.1 Some of his own writings also survived. So we have a fairly accurate history of his life. We are also familiar with Rome, Italy, and the conquests of the Romans in various countries. Thus, even if nobody now living has seen him, there is little doubt that he existed.
He even had his share of critics. Some were his contemporaries, but most wrote long after his death, like Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Thomas Gordon (1658-1741), and Thomas Blackwell (1701-1757). Although they never met him personally, they criticised him based on historical documents.
Caesar Augustus is mentioned in the Bible. He issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.2 He was also a patron of Herod the Great and made him king of the Jews. That is why Herod was so disturbed when he heard a king of the Jews had been born. So he decided to kill him.3
A few of the other Roman emperors are also mentioned in the Bible: Augustus’ son, Tiberius Caesar (14-37AD),4 Claudius, the fourth emperor (excluding Julius Caesar),5 Nero (54-68).6 The apostle Paul, charged by the Jews, appealed to the court of Caesar (Nero), expecting a fair trial.7
No historian, or anyone else denies the existence of the Caesars. One of the books that discuss the Caesars is is that of I Lissner. 8 However, when it comes to Jesus, people deny that He existed. It is true that there are no busts or statues of Him, but there are many reliable historical documents that testify that He lived. The difference is that Jesus was more than a historical person. He was God, therefore He has to do with life after death. So to acknowledge the possible existence of Jesus is too dangerous for skeptics. They claim to be reasonable people, so they have to ‘delete dangerous history.’
For example, well known atheists like P Boghossian,9 Guy P Harrison,10 and Richard Dawkins,11 ignore reliable documents that testify that the Bible is true history. It seems as if they are history deniers.
Question: if you accept that Caesar Augustus was a real historical figure and not just a myth, what is the difference between the eyewitness accounts about Augustus and those about Jesus?
- Wikipedia and the Catholic Encyclopaedia
- Luke 2:1
- Matthew 2:1-8, 13-18
- Luke 3:1
- Acts 11:28; 18:1
- Acts 25:8
- Acts 25:11
- I Lissner, Power and Folly, the Story of the Caesars, translated by J M Brownjohn, Jonathan Cape 30, Bedford Square, 1958
- P Boghossian, A Manual for Creating Atheists, Pitchstone Publishing, 2013
- Guy P Harrison, 50 Simple Questions to Ask A Christian, Prometheus Books, 2013. Kindle Edition
- Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, Bantam Press, 2006