How Tiberius was affected when informed by Pilate concerning Christ

And when the wonderful resurrection and ascension of our Savior were already noised abroad, in accordance with an ancient custom that prevailed among the rulers of the provinces, of reporting to the emperor the novel occurrences that took place in them, in order that nothing might escape him, Pontius Pilate informed Tiberius of the reports that were noised abroad through all Palestine concerning the resurrection of our Savior Jesus from the dead.

He gave an account also of other wonders which he had learned of him, and how, after his death, having risen from the dead, he was now believed by many to be a god. They say that Tiberius referred the matter to the Senate, but that they rejected it, ostensibly because they had not first examined the matter, but in reality because the saving teaching of the divine Gospel did not need the confirmation and recommendation of men.

But although the Senate of the Romans rejected the proposition made in regard to our Savior, Tiberius still retained the opinion that he had held at first, and contrived no hostile measures against Christ. These things are recorded by Tertullian, a man well versed in the laws of the Romans, and in other respects of high repute, and one of those especially distinguished in Rome. In his apology for the Christians, which was written by him in the Latin language, and has been translated into Greek, he writes as follows:

“But in order that we may give an account of these laws from their origin, it was an ancient decree in that no one should be consecrated a god by the emperor until the Senate had expressed its approval. Marcus Aurelius did thus concerning a certain idol, Alburnus. And this is a point in favor of our doctrine, that among you divine dignity is conferred by human decree. If a god does not please a man he is not made a god. Thus, according to this custom, it is necessary for man to be gracious to god.

“Tiberius, therefore, under whom the name of Christ made its entry into the world, when this doctrine was reported to him from Palestine, where it first began, communicated with the Senate, making it clear to them that he was pleased with the doctrine. But the Senate, since it had not itself proved the matter, rejected it. But Tiberius continued to hold his own opinion, and threatened death to the accusers of the Christians.”

Heavenly providence had wisely instilled this into his mind in order that the doctrine of the Gospel, unhindered at its beginning, might spread in all directions throughout the world.

(From Eusebius, History of the Church, 2.21–27.)