Did You Know?

How did Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day view the common people?

In the first century C.E., the social and religious hierarchy of Israel despised those who had little or no learning. The Pharisees are quoted as saying: “This crowd that does not know the Law are accursed people.”​—John 7:49.

Extra-Biblical sources show that the privileged classes contemptuously called the uneducated masses ʽam ha·ʼaʹrets, or “people of the land.” Originally, this was a term of respect for citizens of a specific territory. It embraced not only the poor and lowly but also the prominent.​—Genesis 23:7, footnote; 2 Kings 23:35; Ezekiel 22:29.

By Jesus’ day, however, the term was used to brand those who were considered ignorant of the Mosaic Law or who failed to observe the minutiae of rabbinic traditions. The Mishnah (a collection of commentaries that became the foundation of the Talmud) warns against staying in the homes of ʽam ha·ʼaʹrets. According to The Encyclopedia of Talmudic Sages, second-century scholar Rabbi Meir taught: “When a man marries his daughter to an am ha’aretz it is as if he bound her and placed her in front of a lion who steps on his victim before devouring her.” The Talmud quotes another rabbi as stating that “uneducated people will not be resurrected.”

What is the significance of the name Caesar as used in the Bible?

Caesar was the Roman family name of Gaius Julius Caesar, who was appointed dictator of Rome in 46 B.C.E. Several subsequent Roman emperors laid claim to the name Caesar, including three mentioned by name in the Bible​—Augustus, Tiberius, and Claudius.​—Luke 2:1; 3:1; Acts 11:28.

In 14 C.E., Tiberius became emperor and ruled for the entire period of Jesus’ ministry. He thus was the Caesar in power when Jesus, in answering a question about paying taxes, said: “Pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Mark 12:17) Evidently, Jesus did not intend for his response to be limited to Tiberius. Rather, “Caesar” symbolized the civil authority, the State.

In about 58 C.E. when facing the threat of a miscarriage of justice, the apostle Paul exercised his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar. (Acts 25:8-11) By so doing, Paul asked to be judged, not specifically by Nero, emperor at the time, but by the highest court of the empire.

The family name Caesar became so closely tied with sovereign rule that even after the end of the Caesarean dynasty, the name was retained as a regal title.

[Picture on page 29]

Silver denarius with image of Tiberius