Augustus and Jesus: A Tale of Two Gods


The three parts of Wright’s ‘Perfect Storm’ are high pressure system, western wind and hurricane grace (Wright 13). The high pressure system represents the conservative Christian approach to bible interpretation. The western wind represents rationalistic skepticism towards the same interpretation. Thirdly, the hurricane grace represents the complexity of discussing Jesus in modern times (Wright 20). For Jews, the high pressure system represented conservative or fundamentalist expectations from Jesus. They expected a political leader or earthly king. They did not understand that,  in Jesus God would become king. His kingship would be different from that of earthly kings like Octavian Augustus. In Chapter 5, Wright outlines the kind of king that Jesus would be. He writes that Jesus was a divine king that would come as a human being. His identity would be humility and his mission would be to take charge over holistic lives of Jews.

Jesus is referred to as ‘Son of David’. This means that his genealogy can be traced from King David. In other words, Jesus was a descendant of David. Since Jesus was not Joseph’s biological father, Bockmuehl (477) writes that Joseph must have used the Jewish custom to adopt Jesus. Emperor Augustus was also adopted in the same way. However, his father was long dead.

The seven themes of exodus are oppression, God’s care, and selection of leader, God’s victory, God’s rescue, new life, God’s presence and Promised Land. In the first century, Jews saw in Jesus enactment of these themes. This is because during the first century, for instance, Joseph took his family to Egypt where Israelites were held captive in Exodus. Additionally, Jesus appears to have been adopted into Joseph’s family the way Augustus was adopted into Caesar’s family.

According to Wright (70), Jesus brought heaven and earth together through healings and celebrations. He did not do so by battles or violence as seen in the Julian battles. He simply took charge by becoming a divine king. Nazareth Manifesto refers to the unveiling of Jesus’ mission on earth. In other words, it refers to the words that Jesus spoke at the Nazareth Synagogue at the threshold of His career. The manifesto was important because it made known God’s intention since the beginning. The intention was to perfect people in the imperfect earth or to bring heaven on earth. Jesus cited the prophecy as found in the book of Prophet Isaiah. He said that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. In the same way, after the death of Julius Caesar, Augustus implements Caesar’s wishes by soliciting for funds for entertainments (Starr 13).

Traditionally, Jews went to the temple to seek for forgiveness. In the deserts, the tabernacle served this purpose. However, during the Babylonian exile, seeking forgiveness was a difficult affair. This is because people were communally responsible for their sins. Forgiveness was also a communal affair. Jesus came to overturn this scenario. Since the exile was a punishment for sins, its end meant that people were forgiven their sins. Therefore, Jesus’ kingship was a symbol and evidence of forgiveness and replacement of the temple. Despite this, Wright calls Jesus’ message dangerous. This is because Jesus had to take the ‘wrath’ of God by dying on the cross (Wright 85).

Wright deeply explores the concept of incarnation and how God became king. However, for God to become king, Jesus claims that there must be a transformation of lives. This is based on the fact that according to Wright, God’s kingship was divine and not earthly. There is no doubt that God became king in the person of Jesus Christ (Wright 42). Wright compares earthly kings expected in Exodus with the new king in Jesus. He contends that His style of governance would be different. It would seek to establish not only present kingdom but also a kingdom that would be designed in anticipation of a great future event.

The temple had many functions. One of the main functions was for the sake of prayer (Fay 256). This is because the tabernacle was stored in the temple. It signified the presence of God. Additionally, the temple was a social place. It represented a place where Jews would meet and socialize. Fay (257) writes that it was also a place where rituals were performed and sacrifices offered. It was used as a place of education and study of sacred texts. It was used as a library. With regard to this usefulness, the temple is an integral part of the lives of Jews. It represented the presence of God. However, Jesus claims that there was no need of a temple any more. He would replace the temple and its sacrifices because He would be the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus was to atone for the sins of humanity.

Wright provides proof that Jesus was the representation of the old temple. He writes that Jesus was a reincarnation of the promise that God would build a house for David. This house was literally the temple. As seen above, the temple was represented by Jesus. Therefore, Jesus is this house that God was to build for David. Additionally, Jesus descended from the lineage of David. However, Jews expected a real political leader would lead them in battles and conquest. Nevertheless, Jesus was a peaceful messiah. He did not use violence but conversion of heart. He brought about an era of personal responsibility for sin. Jesus did this because he brought heaven on earth. As a result, He had to do things differently.


Julius Caesar was a Roman ruler who was assassinated in 44 BC. However, he would not have been famous without the successes of his adopted nephew Octavian Augustus. Although Augustus’ father died in 59 BC, he assumed his great uncle’s name after his assassination in 44 BC. Julius Caesar had written in his will that Augustus should be the heir to his political throne (Galinsky 300; Bockmuehl 480). From then onwards, he took the name Gaius Julius Caesar. Augustus is known for pacifying Rome. He initiated Pax Romana or peace of Rome. As the founder of the Roman Empire, he ruled from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD. Augustus was the first emperor of the Roman Empire. However, although he is said to have brought about peace, his rule was imperial. Both Julius Caesar and Augustus were considered as gods. Their authority could not be questioned. One month after his death, the Roman Senate decreed Augustus a god. In 42 BC, the Senate had designated Julius Caesar as a god.

Virgil was one of the most renowned Roman poets that ever lived. He witnessed both Julian and Augustan regimes of war and conflict. In his works, it is evident that he hated and despised war. Authorities assert that a true understanding of the Augustan age cannot be adequate unless a study of Virgil’s poems is done. One of his most popular works was Aeneid (Starr 10). His relationship with Augustus raises serious issues on objectivity of his works. Some claim that Augustus influenced him to spread the emperor’s ideas to the people.

Augustus rose to power after it was posthumously bequeathed to him by his late uncle Julius Caesar (Starr 3). His rule was characterized by much revenge especially for the killers of his uncle. Some of the areas of conquest were Egypt, Middle East and Balkan Peninsula. Augustus was a dictator. The Senate had accorded him eternal powers such as supreme military command, censor and tribune. He referred to himself as the First Citizen. Moreover, he was a benevolent dictator. Under his leadership, Rome and the entire Mediterranean region remained peaceful for about two centuries. To demonstrate his pacifying efforts, he reconciled with the Parthian empire. He was also a visionary leader who introduced a good network of roads, systems of taxation, national population enumeration, fire fighting systems, standing army, official courier system and police. He rebuilt the city of Rome.

Wright explores the idea of a divine Augustus. He writes that it conflicted with the concept of Jesus being God and man. Augustus did not only refer to himself as god but was also designated so by the Senate. This conflicts the original salvation plan that is seen in Wright’s historical theology. The conflict is presented in the Perfect Storm in which Augustus’ imperialism is viewed as the western wind and Jesus as the hurricane grace. The conflict is that Augustus used earthly perspectives to gain power (Wright 14). Jesus did not. The latter spread messages of peace and celebration of life.

Order now

Related essays