Monday, December 10, 2012

Roman Centurion

As the Roman Empire developed as the dictator-prince Julius Caesar left his crucial mark on Roman history, the Imperial cult gradually developed more formally and constituted the worship of the Roman emperor as a god. This practice began at the start of the Empire under Augustus, and became a prominent element of Roman religion.  

The Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs were believed (throughout ancient Egyptian history) to be incarnations of the god Horus, derived by being the son of the sun deity, Hathor (or later, Isis), or the sky deity, Nut.  

In Imperial China, an emperor was considered the Son of Heaven. The scion and representative of heaven on earth, he was the ruler of all under heaven, the bearer of the Mandate of Heaven, his commands considered sacred edicts. (Wikipedia)

Let’s look into the Bible to know who Jesus was from a Roman centurion’s perspective when he said, “Truly this was God's Son.”

We read in, Matthew 27:54;

“The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, "This man truly was the Son of God!””

Greek text

ἀληθῶς θεοῦ υἱὸς ἦν οὗτος (alethos theou huios en houtos).

The centurion,  the Roman officer in charge of the execution and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God”, rather ‘a son of a god’. He was a heathen soldier, believing in many gods, and the scenes of the cross had convinced him that Jesus was more than man.

Clarke's Commentary on the Bible introduces a different interpretation on this;

The centurion - The Roman officer who superintended the execution, called centurio, from centum, a hundred, because he had the command of one hundred men.

It is not likely that this centurion had any knowledge of the expectation of the Jews relative to the Messiah, and did not use the words in this sense. A son of God, as the Romans used the term, would signify no more than a very eminent or Divine person; a hero.

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible employs the same interpretation;

“The centurion was a pagan, and had probably no very distinct notions of the phrase ‘the Son of God’ - perhaps understanding by it only that he was like the pagan heroes who had been deified; but he certainly regarded these wonders as proof that he was ‘what he professed to be.’ In the original it is “a son of a god (θεοῦ υἱὸς)”; an expression perfectly suitable to a polytheist, who believed in the existence of many gods.”

But the true meaning of the centurion’s confession is that the Man whom his soldiers nailed to the Cross must have been what He professed to be, “ the Son of God”; in other words, that He was no impostor or liar.

Jesus, the Son of the Living God, thank You for Christmas which is all about You and Your coming as the Son of man. But You are truly the Son of God sharing the same Glory and Power with the Father. We believe that all authority in Heaven and earth belong to You.

We love You Lord because You loved us first.


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