The Roman Empire's Rejection Of Jesus A Legal Technicality

The Bible tells us that when Jesus was brought before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate found Jesus innocent of any crime against the Roman Empire. However, to pacify the Jewish demands he ordered the crucifixion of Christ.

After the Lord’s resurrection and ascension, the Jews systematically persecuted the disciples of Christ in their attempt to silence what they felt threatened their own beliefs. However, the Roman emperor being Tiberius Caesar never sanctioned any such persecution as did many of the later Roman emperors such as Caligula, Nero, Diocletion and many others.

If then Pilate had found no fault in Jesus and obviously he was aware that Christ had risen from the dead, the question arises as to why the Romans refused to accept the possibility that Jesus could have been a God when they often acknowledged the many other pagan Gods of the various countries they annexed under their control. Especially when we consider that none of them had anywhere near the evidence and witnesses supporting them that Christ had.

In fact, it would have made more sense for the Romans to have declared Jesus to be the God of the Jews as the Lord preached that the people were to abide in the law of the land and to submit to the authorities above them, at that time being Rome. He taught the people to give to Caesar what was Caesar’s so in effect His instructions were for the people to pay their taxes, something which the Romans often had problems collecting.

Considering there were so many Gods at the time, what’s one more to them, especially one that told His followers to love their enemies and by doing so promoted peace and so aided the Romans in more easily keeping their control rather than constantly having to deal with the rebellions that many of the Jews kept inciting.

Politically, financially and militarily it made no sense for the Romans to deny that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Jewish faith and they maintained that stand until the forth century when Emperor Constantine finally declared Christianity as the formal religion of the Roman Empire. This was probably due to his mother’s influence as she was a Christian woman by the name of Helena and his father Emperor Constantius, although not a Christian himself, was very tolerant of them, again probably due to his wife.

The following extract is taken from “The Church History”, written by Eusebius, the Bishop of Caesarea which overall covers the basic events from Christ’s time on the earth up until Eusebius’ own time period being the early half of the forth century. In it he also quotes from Tertullian, an earlier Christian writer to support what he has stated here as to why the Romans would not accept Jesus as God or even one of many possible Gods.

“Our Savior’s extraordinary resurrection and ascension into heaven were by now famous everywhere. It was customary for provincial governors to report to the {Roman} Emperor any new local movement so that he might be kept informed. Accordingly, Pilate communicated to the emperor Tiberius the story of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead as already well known throughout Palestine, as well as information he had gained on his other marvelous deeds and how many believed him to be a God in rising from the dead. They say that Tiberius referred the report to the senate, which rejected it, allegedly because it had not dealt with the matter before. Accordingly to an old law, still in effect (at the time Eusebius wrote this), no one could be deemed a god by the Romans unless by vote and decree of the senate, but the real reason was that the divine message did not require human ratification. In this way, the Roman council rejected the report submitted to it regarding our Savior, but Tiberius maintained his opinion and made no evil plans against the teaching of Christ.
Tertullian, a famed distinguished expert on Roman law, has noted this in his “Defense of the Christians”, written in Latin and translated into greek; ‘There was an old decree that no one should be consecrated as a god by an emperor before he had been approved by the senate. Marcus Aemilius observed this procedure in the case of a certain idol, Alburnas. This underscores our argument that you (addressing the Romans) confer deity through human approval-if a god does not please man, he , he does not become god-so man must have mercy on god in your system! Tiberius then, in whose time the name “Christian” came into the world, when this doctrine was reported to him from Palestine, where it began, communicated it to the senate, plainly indicating that he favored the doctrine. The senate, however, rejected it, because it had not itself reviewed it; but Tiberius stuck to his own opinion and threatened death to any who accused the Christians.’”

After this, Eusebius continues on to say how he believed that God had put this in the mind of Tiberius so the Church could get off to a good start, which may well be true considering Christianity did begin to spread throughout the empire. After Jerusalem, the faith spread to Caesarea, then Antioch and so on and in countless villages and towns in between.

Unfortunately, upon Tiberius death, the new emperor Gaius Caligula was not so sympathetic to the Christians and also the Jews continued their attempts to destroy the faith of Jesus Christ and so the peaceful time of spreading the faith was very short lived.

Not much has really changed, how many world governments still use or make their own laws to squash Christianity today?

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