Fourth Roman emperor. He reigned for over 13 years (41-54 AD), having succeeded Caius (Caligula) who had seriously altered the conciliatory policy of his predecessors regarding the Jews and, considering himself a real and corporeal god, had deeply offended the Jews by ordering a statue of himself to be placed in the temple of Jerusalem, as Antiochus Epiphanes had done with the statue of Zeus in the days of the Maccabees (2 Macc 6:2). Claudius reverted to the policy of Augustus and Tiberius and marked the opening year of his reign by issuing edicts in favor of the Jews (Ant., XIX, 5), who were permitted in all parts of the empire to observe their laws and customs in a free and peaceable manner, special consideration being given to the Jews of Alexandria who were to enjoy without molestation all their ancient rights and privileges. The Jews of Rome, however, who had become very numerous, were not allowed to hold assemblages there (Dio LX, vi, 6), an enactment in full correspondence with the general policy of Augustus regarding Judaism in the West. The edicts mentioned were largely due to the intimacy of Claudius with Herod Agrippa, grandson of Herod the Great, who had been living in Rome and had been in some measure instrumental in securing the succession for Claudius. As a reward for this service, the Holy Land had a king once more. Judea was added to the tetrarchies of Philip and Antipas; and Herod Agrippa I was made ruler over the wide territory which had been governed by his grandfather. The Jews' own troubles during the reign of Caligula had given "rest" (the American Standard Revised Version "peace") to the churches "throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria" (Acts 9:31). But after the settlement of these troubles, "Herod the king put forth his hands to afflict certain of the church" (Acts 12:1). He slew one apostle and "when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize" another (Acts 12:3). His miserable death is recorded in Acts 12:20-23, and in Ant, XIX, 8. This event which took place in the year 44 AD is held to have been coincident with one of the visits of Paul to Jerusalem. It has proved one of the chronological pivots of the apostolic history.
Whatever concessions to the Jews Claudius may have been induced out of friendship for Herod Agrippa to make at the beginning of his reign, Suetonius records (Claud. chapter 25) "Judaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantes Roma expulit," an event assigned by some to the year 50 AD, though others suppose it to have taken place somewhat later. Among the Jews thus banished from Rome were Aquila and Priscilla with whom Paul became associated at Corinth (Acts 18:2). With the reign of Claudius is also associated the famine which was foretold by Agabus (Acts 11:28). Classical writers also report that the reign of Claudius was, from bad harvest or other causes, a period of general distress and scarcity over the whole world (Dio LX, 11; Suet. Claud. xviii; Tac. Ann. xi. 4; xiii.43; see Mommsen, Provinces of the Roman Empire, chapter ix; and Conybeare and Howson, Life and Epistles of Paul, I).