During this advent season we often think about the Magi who came to worship Jesus. We don’t know if they were astrologers but we do know about the dark astrological faith of the emperor Tiberius (42 BC – 37 AD) who reigned during the final years of our Lord and Saviour.
Tiberius was an intelligent and well-informed pagan. He was a cruel tyrant and sometimes he ordered his soldiers to throw innocent people from the cliffs on the island of Capri when he craved sordid entertainment. According to the Roman historian Suetonius, he was a serial child sex abuser and his debauched, sexual crimes caused a great deal of misery. He did not worship the Roman gods because he had a deep trust in fate and astrology.
For sophisticated pagans like Tiberius, fate is an impersonal force that governs everything. Tiberius believed that the planets and the stars determine everything that happens in life (astrology). There is no point praying to Jupiter or Venus because it is impossible by means of prayer or sacrifice to change a person’s destiny. It is impossible to change the lifestyle of an evil despot. Tiberius would have enjoyed the famous Doris Day song Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be. Many football fans know this song.
Before he became the emperor Tiberius retired to Rhodes in 6 BC. Here on this beautiful island he consulted many astrologers about his destiny. Perhaps this is what he was doing when Jesus died. Of course he had the astrologers murdered just after they had predicted his future. Que sera, sera.
When the famous astrologer, Thrasyllus, examined Tiberius’ horoscope and suggested that he had a brilliant career ahead, Tiberius steered him to the edge of a dangerous cliff and menacingly asked him: “And what do you see for yourself in the stars?” Shaking with fear, Thrasyllus spluttered, “I am in terrible danger.” Tiberius was duly impressed and spared the stargazer’s life and later, when he became the emperor, often relied on Thrasyllus for astrological advice. Tiberius spent many happy hours plotting the deaths of friends, family and rivals to his throne. He would always consult a horoscope before he ordered an execution. Que sera, sera.
Having weighed the evidence carefully, I would surmise that Tiberius was either scheming a person’s death via astrology or engaging in vile depravities when Jesus was gasping and dying on that cross.
During this advent season, let us remember the words of the Saviour on the final page of every Bible.
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” Rev 22:16