The second emperor of Rome. He was born in 42 B.C.E. as the son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla, but when his mother married Augustus in 38 B.C.E., Tiberius became the adopted son of the emperor. At the age of 31, upon the insistence of his stepfather, he divorced his wife Vipsania Agrippina and married Julia, the daughter of Augustus.
Augustus chose Tiberius as his successor only after others whom he preferred above Tiberius had all died off. On August 17, 14 C.E., Tiberius began to rule. John started baptizing “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,” which fifteenth year ran from August 28 C.E. to August 29 C.E.—Luke 3:1-3.
Tiberius lived until March 37 C.E., and hence was emperor for the entire period of Jesus’ ministry. It was therefore Tiberius’ image that was on the tax coin brought to Jesus when he said, “Pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar.” (Mark 12:14-17; Matt. 22:17-21; Luke 20:22-25) Tiberius extended the law of laesa majestas (injured majesty) to include, in addition to seditious acts, merely libelous words against the emperor, and presumably on the strength of this law the Jews pressured Pontius Pilate to have Jesus killed. (John 19:12-16) Tiberius later called Pilate to Rome because of Jewish complaints against his administration, but Tiberius died and Caligula succeeded him before Pilate arrived.
As an emperor Tiberius had both virtues and vices. He restrained spending on luxuries and so had funds to use generously to build up the empire’s prosperity, as well as reserves to assist recovery from disasters and bad times.Tiberius viewed himself as a man not a god, declined many honorary titles, and generally directed emperor worship to Augustus rather than to himself.
His vices exceeded his virtues, however. He was extremely suspicious and hypocritical in his dealings with others and his reign abounded with ordered killings, many of his former friends being numbered among the victims. He consulted astrologers. At his villa on Capri where he spent the last ten years of his life, he indulged his perverted lusts in a most debased manner with men kept for unnatural purposes.
Not only was Tiberius despised by many individuals, such as his schoolteacher Theodorus the Gadarene and his stepfather Augustus, but also by his subjects in general. After his death, the Senate refused to deify him. For these reasons and others too, Bible scholars see in Tiberius a fulfillment of prophecy that says “one who is to be despised” would arise as the “king of the north.”—Dan. 11:15, 21.