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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Caesar, Caesar's Household

In origin the name ‘Caesar,’ which has had such a wonderful history, culminating in the German Kaiser and the Russian Tsar, was simply a cognomen (or surname), indicating one branch of the gens Iulia, one of the old patrician families of Rome, which was said to have been descended from aeneas of Troy and Venus, through their son lulus (Ascanius). The earliest known member of the family is Sex. Iulius Caesar, praetor in 208 b.c.; the greatest is of course C. Iulius Caesar, the dictator (lived from about 100 to 44 b.c.). The name was kept by all the early Emperors except Vitellius (and even he used it sometimes), in spite of the fact that after Nero no Emperor had a drop of Caesarian blood in his veins. The complete official names of the Emperors who reigned during the hundred years following the birth of Christ are Imperator Caesar Augustus (see Augustus), Tiberius Caesar Augustus (see Tiberius), Gains Caesar Germanicus (nicknamed Caligula [q.v. [Note: quod vide, which see.] ]) (a.d. 37-41), Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (see Claudius), Imperator Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (see Nero), Imperator Servius Sulpicius Galba Caesar Augustus (9 June 68-15 Jan. 69) (see Galba), Imperator Marcus Otho Caesar Augustus (15 Jan. 25-Apr. 69) (see Otho), Imperator Aulus Vitellius Caesar or Aulus Vitellius Imperator Germanicus (2 Jan. 69-20[?] Dec. 70) (see Vitellius), Imperator Vespasianus Caesar Augustus (69-79) (see Vespasian), Imperator Titus Vespasianus Caesar Augustus (71-81) (see Titus), Imperator Domitianus Caesar Augustus (81-96) (see Domitian), Imperator Nerva Augustus Caesar (96-98) (see Nerva), Imperator Caesar Nerva Traianus Augustus (97-117) (see Trajan). This enumeration shows how fixed the name Caesar had become as part of the Emperor’s name, quite irrespective of relationship. It will also explain how in all the places of the NT but two the name ‘Caesar’ alone (with or without the article) is familiarly used, as equivalent simply to ‘the Emperor.’ In the Gospels the reference is to Tiberius (cf. Mark 12:14-17 and parallels), in Acts and Philippians (4:22) to Nero. Where the historian seeks to date an event, he is naturally more precise (Caesar Augustus, Luke 2:1, Tiberius Caesar, Luke 3:1).

There are two aspects in which the Caesar appears in the Gospels. In the section Mark 12:13-17 it is the question of giving tribute to Caesar that comes up. The inhabitants of Judaea , a Roman Imperial province, governed by one of the Emperor’s agents, called a procurator, were by law bound to pay tax to the Emperor. The term used, κῆνσος, is the Latin word census, which means ‘census’ in our sense, but much more. The census paper was in the Roman Empire also an income- and property-tax return, on the basis of which the assessment of tax was made by the Imperial officials. Hence the word in the Gospels might almost be translated ‘income-tax.’ Luke alters his original to the good Greek word φόρος (Lat. tributum, war-tax; cf. Luke 23:2). The second aspect in which the Caesar appears in the Gospels is that of the Messiah’s rival to lordship over the chosen people. Jesus is charged with ‘saying that he is an anointed king’ (Luke 23:2; cf. John 19:12-15, Acts 17:7), for so we ought to translate it. When Pilate asks Him if He is the King of the Jews, He casts the word back to him, ‘You say it, the word is yours’ (Burkitt, Evangelion da-Mepharreshê, 1904, ii. 58). Throughout the Apostolic Age and later, the Christians continue to use of their King in the spiritual sense the very same epithets as the pagans use of the Emperor. This tact must have accentuated the hostility of the Empire to the Church.

In Acts 25 and following, the Caesar is appealed to by St. Paul, after his unjust arrest at Jerusalem. The right of appeal (provocatio) was one of the bulwarks of the original republican constitution. By it a citizen could appeal to his fellow-citizens in assembly against any injustice on the part of a magistrate. The plebeians were later also protected by their special officials, the tribuni plebis. By the Imperial constitution the Emperor possessed tribunicia potestas (see Augustus). Any aggrieved citizen could thus appeal to him, and the Emperor could quash the verdict of a lower court, and substitute his own verdict. The Emperor had also the ius gladii, the right of life and death, and this he could delegate to subordinates. St. Paul’s experiences before purely Roman tribunals had been on the whole so satisfactory that he decided to risk appeal to the highest tribunal of all, knowing how valuable for the success of his mission a favourable verdict would be. His appeal was received by Festus, and he proceeded to Rome. Hartmann (see below under Literature) does not consider that St. Paul’s appeal was an appeal in the proper sense of the term, but it seems better to follow Ramsay, especially as Luke’s language is quite plain. In the silence of history, scholars are divided as to the result of the Apostle’s appeal. Some consider that the conclusion of Acts (q.v. [Note: quod vide, which see.] ) means that it was unsuccessful, and that he was condemned and beheaded. Those who accept the genuineness of the Pastoral Epistles believe that he was acquitted and released.

Caesar’s household.-St. Paul, writing from Rome to the Philippian Church in a.d. 60 or 61, sends greetings from all the Christians in Rome, but ‘especially’ from ‘them that are of Caesar’s household’ (Philippians 4:22). The date shows that the ‘Caesar’ is Nero, and the word οἰκία, translated ‘household,’ is doubtless a translation of the Latin familia. The word familia is the later form of the older famulia, derived from famulus, a household-slave, and in Latin conies with it the idea especially of the collection of slaves and freedmen in a house. The relations between slaves and masters in the Roman world were generally good, the slave being regarded more as an integral part of the family than hired servants are in modern times. In the Imperial palace at Rome they can hardly have numbered fewer than 2000, and an idea of the variety of their occupations can be got from a study of the list of nouns joined to a, ab in J. C. Rolfe’s article in the Archiv für lateinische Lexikographie, vol. x. [1898] p. 481ff. or the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, vol. i. [1905] cols. 22 and 23. It is remarkable that the list of names in Romans 16 coincides almost exactly with names of members of the Imperial household recovered in Roman inscriptions, as Lightfoot first showed at length. The number of examples has since increased. No epigraphist could doubt that ch. 16 is an integral part of the Epistle to the Romans, and that most of the persons there named were ‘of Caesar’s household.’ Our knowledge of the life of such persons is mainly derived from Statius (e.g. Siluae v. 1) and Martial.

For Caesar-worship, see Emperor-Worship and Roman Empire.

Literature.-Official names of Roman Emperors in R. Cagnat, Cours d’épigraphie latine3, Paris, 1898, p. 177ff.; on the tributum see A. H. J. Greenidge, Roman Public Life, London, 1901, p. 429ff.; on Caesar and the Messiah as rivals cf. the article of P. Wendland in Zeitschrift für die neutest. Wissenschaft v. [1904] 335-353 and H. A. A. Kennedy in Expositor, 7th ser. vii. [1909] 289-307; on the appeal (provocatio, appellatio) see T. Mommsen, Röm. Strafrecht, 1899. 8er Abschnitt, p. 468ff., Gesammelte Schriften, iii. [1907] 431-446, reprinted from Zeitschrift für die neutest. Wissenschaft ii. [1901] 81ff.; article ‘Appellatio’ by Hartmann in Pauly-Wissowa [Note: auly-Wissowa Pauly-Wissowa’s Realencyklopädie.] ; J. S. Reid in Journal of Roman Studies, i. [1911-12] 68ff.; W. M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveler, 1895, p. 311ff. On Caesar’s Household see the excursus in Lightfoot, Epistle to the Philippians4, 1878, p. 171, and E. Riggenbach, in Neue Jahrbücher für deutsche Theologie, i. [1892] 498ff.; best collection of inscriptions in H. Dessau, Inscr. Lat. Selectœ, i. [Berlin, 1892] ch. vi.

A. Souter.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Caesar, Caesar's Household'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/c/caesar-caesars-household.html. 1906-1918.

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