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Bible Gem 762 - More Historical Setting (Luke 3:1-2)

May 7, 2019

It was now the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, the Roman emperor. Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea; Herod Antipas was ruler over Galilee; his brother Philip was ruler over Iturea and Traconitis; Lysanias was ruler over Abilene. 

Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests. At this time a message from God came to John son of Zechariah, who was living in the wilderness. (Luke 3:1-2)



Luke now sets the time frame as to when John received the message from God. Luke tags the timing of the message to John so specifically by aligning the rule of five local rulers in the area in a synchronized way.

He matches:  the 15th year of Tiberius' rule over Rome with . . . 

Pontius Pilate's governorship of Judea with . . . 

Herod Antipas' rule over Galilee with . . .

Philip's rule over Iturea and Traconitis with . . . 

Lysanius' rule over Abilene.


Now that is very specific. No such elaborate chronological precision is to be found anywhere else in the New Testament nor in any other ancient writing.





Tiberius was the third of the Caesars. Julius was the first, and Augustus the second, in whose time Christ was born, and this Tiberius the third; he was the son of Livia, the wife of Augustus, but not by him; but was adopted by him, into the empire. His name was Claudius Tiberius Nero. He succeeded Augustus in the empire, and began his “sole” reign Aug. 19th, 14 a.d. This was the “thirteenth” year of his being sole emperor. He was “two” years joint emperor with Augustus, and Luke reckons from the time when he was admitted to share the empire with Augustus Caesar. John began to preach, Christ was baptized, and began to preach in this "13th" year.  So this year may be truly called, "the acceptable year of the Lord".   This was  counted from the period when he was admitted, three years before Augustus’ death, to a share of the empire, about the end of the year of Rome 779. He was a most infamous character - a scourge to the Roman people. He reigned 23 years, died March 16, a.d. 37, aged seventy eight years. He was a most infamous character. During the latter part of his reign especially, he did all the mischief he possibly could; and that his tyranny might not end with his life, he chose Caius Caligula for his successor, merely on account of his bad qualities. 


Pontius Pilate  

Herod the Great left his kingdom to three sons.  To “Archelaus” he left “Judea.” Archelaus reigned “nine” years, when, on account of his crimes, he was banished into Vienne, and Judea was made a Roman province, and placed entirely under Roman governors or “procurators,” and became completely tributary to Rome. Pilate was the “fifth” governor that had been sent, and of course had been in Judea but a short time. Before him Coponius, Marcus Ambivius, Annins Rufus, and Valerius Gratus. His proper title was Procurator, but with more than the usual powers of that office. After holding it about ten years he was ordered to Rome, to answer to charges brought against him, but ere he arrived Tiberius died (a.d. 35), and soon after Pilate committed suicide.


Herod Antipas 

son of Herod the Great, to whom Galilee had been left as his part of his father’s kingdom. The word “tetrarch” properly denotes one who presides over a “fourth part” of a country or province. But it also came to be a general title, denoting one who reigned over any part. In this case Herod had a “third” of the dominions of his father, but he was called tetrarch. It, was this Herod who imprisoned and beheaded John the Baptist. It was the same Herod and to whom our Lord was sent by Pilate. 





Tetrarch of Iturea  situated on the east side of the Jordan. This was taken from the descendants of Jetur by the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh, 1Ch 5:19.

Region of Trachonitis was also on the east of the Jordan, and extended northward to the district of Damascus and eastward to the deserts of Arabia. Trachonitis is mentioned by Pliny as being near to Decapolis. It was bounded on the west by Gaulonitis and south by the city of Bostra. Philip had obtained this region from the Romans on condition that he would eliminate the robbers.

These two regions made up the provinces of Syria, on the borders of Judea. Josephus assures us that Philip was tetrarch of Trachonitis, in the fifteenth year of Tiberius.  He also says that Philip the brother of Herod died in the twentieth year of Tiberius, after he had governed Trachonitis, Batanea, and Gaulonitis thirty-seven years. (Antiq. b. xviii. c. 5, s. 6). Herod continued tetrarch of Galilee till he was removed by Caligula, the successor of Tiberius. (Antiqities b. xviii. c. 8, s. 2)  Josephus, Egesippus and Luke, all state Philip to be tetrarch of Trachonitis, and brother to Herod Antipas, on the father's side. This Philip was a very different and very superior Philip to the one whose wife Herodias went to live with Herod Antipas





Tetrarch of Abilene from “Abila,” its chief city. It was situated in Syria, northwest of Damascus and southeast of Mount Lebanon, and was adjacent to Galilee. Josephus again confirms that Lysanius was the Tetrach of Abilene.  He continued in this role till the Emperor Claudius took it from him, a.d. 42, and made a present of it to Agrippa. (Antiq. b. xix. c. 5, s. 1) Just who this Lysanias was, is not certain. He was not the son of Herod the great, as Eusebius suggests. Nor was he the Lysanias, son of Ptolemy Minnaeus, whom Josephus speaks of, though very probably he might be a descendant of his. 


This all sets the time frame for when God's message came to John when he was living in the wilderness. 



Pay more attention to your Creator than your critics. Rick Godwin


If I can only be taught by those I completely agree with, my pride will doom me to ignorance & ineffectiveness. Rick Warren


Though there are times when it may seem like God is silent, He is NEVER absent! Brian Houston


Looking INWARD you become despondent - Looking AROUND you become disillusioned - Looking UP you become devoted! Brian Houston





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