Chapter VIII.—The Famine which took Place in the Reign of Claudius.
1. Caius had held the power not quite four years, 325 when he was succeeded by the emperor Claudius. Under him the world was visited with a famine, 326 which writers that are entire strangers to our religion have recorded in their histories. 327 And thus the prediction of Agabus recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, 328 according to which the whole world was to be visited by a famine, received its fulfillment.
2. And Luke, in the Acts, after mentioning the famine in the time of Claudius, and stating that the brethren of Antioch, each according to his ability, sent to the brethren of Judea by the hands of Paul and Barnabas, 329 adds the following account.
Caius ruled from March 16, a.d. 37, to Jan. 24, a.d. 41, and was succeeded by his uncle Claudius.110:326
Several famines occurred during the reign of Claudius (cf. Dion Cassius, LX. 11, Tacitus, Annal. XII. 13, and Eusebius, Chron., year of Abr. 2070) in different parts of the empire, but no universal famine is recorded such as Eusebius speaks of. According to Josephus (Ant. XX. 2.5 and 5. 2), a severe famine took place in Judea while Cuspius Fadus and Tiberius Alexander were successively procurators. Fadus was sent into Judea upon the death of Agrippa (44 a.d.), and Alexander was succeeded by Cumanus in 48 a.d. The exact date of Alexanders accession we do not know, but it took place probably about 45 or 46. This famine is without doubt the one referred to by Agabus in Acts xi. 28. The exact meaning of the word οἰκουμένη, in that passage, is a matter of dispute. Whether it refers simply to Palestine, or is used to indicate a succession of famines in different parts of the world, or is employed only in a rhetorical sense, it is impossible to say. Eusebius understands the word in its widest sense, and therefore assumes a universal famine; but he is mistaken in his assumption.110:327
The only non-Christian historians, so far as we know, to record a famine during the reign of Claudius, are Dion Cassius and Tacitus, who mention a famine in Rome, and Josephus, who speaks of the famine in Judea (see the previous note for the references). Eusebius, in his Chron., mentions famines both in Greece and in Rome during this reign, but upon what authority we do not know. As already remarked, we have no extant account of a general famine at this time.110:328
Acts xi. 28.110:329
Acts 11:29, 30.