Biblical scholars argue that Lukes story of the Nativity was specifically fashioned to present Jesus as a replacement of Ceasar Augustus:
“In Luke’s birth story, the key to seeing its political meaning is Roman imperial theology, which includes the divine conception of Caesar Augustus, the greatest of the Roman emperors and ruler when Jesus was born. He was conceived by the god Apollo in the womb of his mother Atia. His titles included “Son of God,” “Lord,” “Savior,” bringer of “peace on earth.” Inscribed on coins and temples, the public media of the day, they continued to be used by most emperors after Augustus.”
“Thus there was already a “Son of God,” “Lord,” and peace-bringing “Savior” in the world in which Jesus lived and in which early Christianity emerged. Roman imperial theology is the historical context for understanding the use of this language.”
“Luke’s story of Jesus’ birth… deliberately counters and challenges Roman imperial theology. It includes divine conception, and thus Jesus, not Caesar, is the “Son of God.” Early Christians saw in Jesus the alternative to an imperial world based on injustice and violence.” (1)
Marcus Borg, world renowned scholar, former president of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars.
Some early Christians believed some pretty weird things.
The First Epistle of Clement gives us an example. It was written around the same time as Revelation and was widely received in the early church, even being included in some early Bibles (Codex Alexandrius) and listed as a book of the Bible in an early canon list (Canon 85, in the Apostolic Canons).
In this epistle the author articulates that he believes the magical Phoenix to be a real bird.
“Let us consider that wonderful sign which takes place in Eastern lands, that is, in Arabia and the countries round about. There is a certain bird which is called a phoenix. This is the only one of its kind, and lives five hundred years. And when the time of its dissolution draws near that it must die, it builds itself a nest of frankincense, and myrrh, and other spices, into which, when the time is fulfilled, it enters and dies. But as the flesh decays a certain kind of worm is produced, which, being nourished by the juices of the dead bird, brings forth feathers. Then, when it has acquired strength, it takes up that nest in which are the bones of its parent” (1)
“Imagine this question. There was a human being in the first century who was called ‘Divine,’ ‘Son of God,’ ‘God,’ and ‘God from God,’ whose titles were ‘Lord,’ ‘Redeemer,’ ‘Liberator,’ and ‘Saviour of the World.'” Who was that person? Most people who know the Western tradition would probably answer, unless alerted by thequestion’s too obviousness, Jesus of Nazareth.
And most Christians probably think that those titles were originally created and uniquely applied to Christ. But before Jesus ever existed, all those terms belonged to Caesar Augustus.”
-John Dominic Crossan (Prominent New Testament scholar/historian), God and Empire, 2007, p. 28
This is why some early Christians were persecuted, for they were seen as a political movement, as Marcus Borg puts it “In Paul’s world … Caesar was ‘Lord’ – and ‘Son of God,’ and the savior who had brought peace on earth. So when Paul and other early Christians proclaimed ‘Jesus is Lord’ (and the Son of God and the savior who brings true peace on earth), he and they were directly challenging Roman imperial theology and the imperial domination system that it legitimated.”