Claudius was the emperor of Rome from A.D. 41-54. This was a time when the message of Christ was spreading across the Roman Empire beginning from Jerusalem (Acts 1:8; 9:15). Much of the ministry of Paul took place during this period.
Claudius is mentioned twice in the Book of Acts.
- The great famine which affected the Empire during the time of Claudius prompted the disciples at Antioch to send relief to their brethren living in Judea (Acts 11:28-30). This is thought to have occurred about A.D. 46.
- The Emperor ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Because the Christians were considered by many as a sect of the Jews, Aquila and Priscilla left and went to Corinth where they met Paul (Acts 18:1-3). Paul was at Corinth for a period of 18 months between A.D. 51-53.
Emperor Claudius (41-54 A.D.), shown as Jupiter, wearing the civil crown of oak leaves and with the eagle at his feet. Found at Lanuvio, Italy, in 1865.Vatican Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
The beautiful sculpture of Claudius is now displayed in the Vatican Museum.
Bust of Julius Caesar in the Vatican Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
Shakespeare has the Sootsayer warn Caesar, “Beware the ides of March.” The ides of March was used to describe the 15th of March in the Roman calendar. It was on that day that Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 B.C. As a result, the expression has come to have a sense of foreboding — a sense that something bad is about to happen.
Our photo below shows the place in the Roman Forum where a temple was built to honor Julius Caesar by Augustus in 29 B.C. The deification of rulers was already common in the eastern part of the Empire. This practice would become a serious problem for the Christians of the Roman Empire before the end of the first century A.D., especially those living in Asia Minor. This is one of the issues addressed in the Book of Revelation.
Ruins of the Temple erected to Caesar in the Roman Forum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
When the Pharisees and scribes complained that Jesus received sinners and ate with them, He told them a parable that we call the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7).
“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? “When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. “And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:4-7 NAU)
“When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulder, rejoicing.” This describes the work of good shepherds and a practice that was well known to those who heard Jesus. On another occasion Jesus called Himself the good shepherd (John 10:11, 14).
The motif of the good shepherd with the sheep on his shoulder became common in later Christian iconography. Similar drawings are known from the catacombs in Rome. The four statuettes shown below date from the 4th century A.D., and are displayed in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum.
Good shepherd statues. Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
Last September I saw a special exhibit of early Christian artifacts in the Vatican Museum. The photo below shows a wonderful early 4th century statuette of the Good Shepherd.
The Good Shepherd in the Vatican Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.