Census of Quirinius

Census of Quirinius

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The Census of Quirinius refers to the enrollment of the Roman Province
Roman province
In Ancient Rome, a province was the basic, and, until the Tetrarchy , largest territorial and administrative unit of the empire's territorial possessions outside of Italy...

s of Syria and Iudaea
Iudaea Province
Judaea or Iudaea are terms used by historians to refer to the Roman province that extended over parts of the former regions of the Hasmonean and Herodian kingdoms of Israel...

 (Judaea) for tax purposes taken in the year 6/7 during the reign of Emperor Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

 (27 BC - AD 14), when Publius Sulpicius Quirinius
Quirinius
Publius Sulpicius Quirinius was a Roman aristocrat. After the banishment of the ethnarch Herod Archelaus from the tetrarchy of Judea in AD 6, Quirinius was appointed legate governor of Syria, to which the province of Iudaea had been added for the purpose of a census.-Life:Born in the neighborhood...

 was appointed governor of Syria, after the banishment of Herod Archelaus
Herod Archelaus
Herod Archelaus was the ethnarch of Samaria, Judea, and Idumea from 4 BC to 6 AD. He was the son of Herod the Great and Malthace the Samaritan, the brother of Herod Antipas, and the half-brother of Herod Philip I....

 from the Tetrarchy of Judea
Tetrarchy (Judea)
The Tetrarchy of Judea was formed following the death of Herod the Great in 4 BCE, when his kingdom was divided between his sons as an inheritance...

 and the imposition of direct Roman rule.

An account of the census was given by the first century historian Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

, who associated it with the beginning of a resistance movement that he called the Zealots.

In Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, the Gospel of Luke
Gospel of Luke
The Gospel According to Luke , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Luke or simply Luke, is the third and longest of the four canonical Gospels. This synoptic gospel is an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It details his story from the events of his birth to his Ascension.The...

 connects the birth of Jesus
Nativity of Jesus
The Nativity of Jesus, or simply The Nativity, refers to the accounts of the birth of Jesus in two of the Canonical gospels and in various apocryphal texts....

 to a "worldwide census" in which individuals had to return to their ancestral cities. Jesus' parents, Joseph and Mary, travel from their home in Nazareth, Galilee, to Bethlehem, where Jesus is born. This explains how Jesus, a Galilean
Galilean
Generically, a Galilean is an inhabitant of Galilee. Galileans were also the members of a fanatical sect , followers of Judas of Galilee, who fiercely resented the taxation of the Romans, and whose violence contributed to induce the latter to vow the extermination of the whole race...

, could have been born in Bethlehem
Bethlehem
Bethlehem is a Palestinian city in the central West Bank of the Jordan River, near Israel and approximately south of Jerusalem, with a population of about 30,000 people. It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian National Authority and a hub of Palestinian culture and tourism...

 in Judea
Judea
Judea or Judæa was the name of the mountainous southern part of the historic Land of Israel from the 8th century BCE to the 2nd century CE, when Roman Judea was renamed Syria Palaestina following the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt.-Etymology:The...

, the city of King David.

The Census


The Jewish historian Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

 recorded that in the year 6-7, after the exile of Herod Archelaus
Herod Archelaus
Herod Archelaus was the ethnarch of Samaria, Judea, and Idumea from 4 BC to 6 AD. He was the son of Herod the Great and Malthace the Samaritan, the brother of Herod Antipas, and the half-brother of Herod Philip I....

 (one of the sons and successors of Herod the Great
Herod the Great
Herod , also known as Herod the Great , was a Roman client king of Judea. His epithet of "the Great" is widely disputed as he is described as "a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis." He is also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including his...

), Quirinius (in Greek, Κυρήνιος, sometimes transliterated Cyrenius), a Roman senator
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

, became governor (Legatus
Legatus
A legatus was a general in the Roman army, equivalent to a modern general officer. Being of senatorial rank, his immediate superior was the dux, and he outranked all military tribunes...

) of Syria, while an equestrian
Equestrian (Roman)
The Roman equestrian order constituted the lower of the two aristocratic classes of ancient Rome, ranking below the patricians , a hereditary caste that monopolised political power during the regal era and during the early Republic . A member of the equestrian order was known as an eques...

 assistant named Coponius
Coponius
Coponius was the first governor of Iudaea province, about 6 CE.He was, like the procurators who succeeded him, of knightly rank, and "had the power of life and death". During his administration occurred the revolt of Judas the Galilean , the cause of which was not so much the personality of...

 was assigned as the first governor (Prefect) of the newly-created Iudaea Province
Iudaea Province
Judaea or Iudaea are terms used by historians to refer to the Roman province that extended over parts of the former regions of the Hasmonean and Herodian kingdoms of Israel...

. These governors were assigned to conduct a tax census for the Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

 in Syria and Iudaea.
Now Cyrenius, a Roman senator, and one who had gone through other magistracies, and had passed through them till he had been consul, and one who, on other accounts, was of great dignity, came at this time into Syria, with a few others, being sent by Caesar to be a judge of that nation, and to take an account of their substance. Coponius also, a man of the equestrian order, was sent together with him, to have the supreme power over the Jews. Moreover, Cyrenius came himself into Judea, which was now added to the province of Syria, to take an account of their substance, and to dispose of Archelaus's money;


Josephus links the census to an uprising led by Judas of Galilee
Judas of Galilee
Judas of Galilee or Judas of Gamala led a violent resistance to the census imposed for Roman tax purposes by Quirinius in Iudaea Province around AD 6. The revolt was crushed brutally by the Romans...

. Most likely the imposition of taxation associated with it was the main cause. Although there is the common belief that there arose religious objections to numbering the people of Israel because of the biblical account of the census carried out by King David seemingly implies that it was a sinful act. 1Chronicles states "And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel." It was Satan that moved David to disobey God. In Numbers 1:1-19 the Lord orders a census be taken, so was He contradicting Himself? Here's the explanation of why the physical taking of a census is not a sin, "Besides the numbering of the tribes mentioned in the history of the wanderings in the wilderness, we have an account of a general census of the whole nation from Dan to Beersheba, which David gave directions to Joab to make (1Chronicles 21:1). Joab very reluctantly began to carry out the king's command. This act of David in ordering a numbering of the people arose from pride and a self-glorifying spirit. It indicated a reliance on his part on an arm of flesh, an estimating of his power not by the divine favor but by the material resources of his kingdom. He thought of military achievement and of conquest, and forgot that he was God's vice-regent. In all this he sinned against God"..Although Josephus implies they had little immediate success, he regarded their actions as the beginning of a Zealot movement
Zealotry
Zealotry was originally a political movement in 1st century Second Temple Judaism which sought to incite the people of Iudaea Province to rebel against the Roman Empire and expel it from the Holy land by force of arms, most notably during the Great Jewish Revolt...

 that encouraged armed resistance to the Roman empire, culminating eventually in the First Jewish-Roman War
First Jewish-Roman War
The First Jewish–Roman War , sometimes called The Great Revolt , was the first of three major rebellions by the Jews of Judaea Province , against the Roman Empire...

.

The leaders of the uprising claimed that the census and taxation associated with it were tantamount to slavery. It is unclear as to whether this was based on the fact that for the first time in many years they were to pay taxes to a foreign power, or simply that they feared the tax burden would be too high; it has been argued that the combination of Roman and Jewish religious taxes was no higher a burden than in the neighbouring provinces.

In any case, it was not unusual for the Roman census process to provoke resistance; a provincial census in the year 10 caused an uprising in Pannonia
Pannonia
Pannonia was an ancient province of the Roman Empire bounded north and east by the Danube, coterminous westward with Noricum and upper Italy, and southward with Dalmatia and upper Moesia....

, and the revolt of Arminius
Arminius
Arminius , also known as Armin or Hermann was a chieftain of the Germanic Cherusci who defeated a Roman army in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest...

 may have been caused by Varus
Publius Quinctilius Varus
Publius Quinctilius Varus was a Roman politician and general under Emperor Augustus, mainly remembered for having lost three Roman legions and his own life when attacked by Germanic leader Arminius in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest.-Life:His paternal grandfather was senator Sextus Quinctilius...

’ decision to start taxing the region in 9, even though the area had been under Roman rule since 12 BC. In 36, the tribe of the Clitae, subjects of Archelaus of Cappadocia
Cappadocia
Cappadocia is a historical region in Central Anatolia, largely in Nevşehir Province.In the time of Herodotus, the Cappadocians were reported as occupying the whole region from Mount Taurus to the vicinity of the Euxine...

, objected to attempts by him to impose a Roman-type census on them for the purpose of paying tribute, and the ensuing revolt had to be put down by a force sent by the governor of Syria.

Augustus is known to have taken a census of Roman citizens at least three times, in 28 BC, 8 BC, and 14. There is also evidence that censuses were taken at regular intervals during his reign in the provinces of Egypt and Sicily, important because of their wealthy estates and supply of grain. In the provinces, the main goals of a census of non-citizens were taxation and military service. The earliest such provincial census was taken in Gaul in 27 BC; during the reign of Augustus, the imposition of the census provoked disturbances and resistance.

New Testament




The first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke
Gospel of Luke
The Gospel According to Luke , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Luke or simply Luke, is the third and longest of the four canonical Gospels. This synoptic gospel is an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It details his story from the events of his birth to his Ascension.The...

 comprise a birth narrative that is unique to this gospel.
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. (—NRSV)


Matthew 2:1 says that Christ's birth was in the time of Herod the Great
Herod the Great
Herod , also known as Herod the Great , was a Roman client king of Judea. His epithet of "the Great" is widely disputed as he is described as "a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis." He is also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including his...

. Modern editions of Josephus state that Herod died 37 years from the time the Romans declared him King, and 34 years from the time he actually became King. Both these figures arrive at a date of 4 B.C. Matthew 2:16 notes that King Herod ordered all male children under two years of age be slain, thus the common belief that Christ was born no earlier than 6 B.C.

No record of a Luke 2-type census in 6 B.C. exists in secular Roman sources. However, there is indication from Egypt that a census was taken approximately every 14 years, and that a census had been taken shortly after 20 B.C. Luke says that this census was during the time that Quirinius
Quirinius
Publius Sulpicius Quirinius was a Roman aristocrat. After the banishment of the ethnarch Herod Archelaus from the tetrarchy of Judea in AD 6, Quirinius was appointed legate governor of Syria, to which the province of Iudaea had been added for the purpose of a census.-Life:Born in the neighborhood...

 was governor of Syria. Consequently, many attempts have been made to connect Quirinius with a census around 6 B.C. or to reevaluate the Bible text, with greater and lesser degrees of acceptance (see discussion below). Justin Martyr
Justin Martyr
Justin Martyr, also known as just Saint Justin , was an early Christian apologist. Most of his works are lost, but two apologies and a dialogue survive. He is considered a saint by the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church....

 and Tertullian
Tertullian
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian , was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and...

 say that this census can be verified in the archives in Rome. Even though these archives no longer exist, the fact that these contemporaries appealed to them suggests that they did exist at the time.

16th to 18th centuries


In The Credibility of the Gospel History (1727), Nathaniel Lardner listed and assessed the arguments which had been advanced up to that point:

Calvin
John Calvin
John Calvin was an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism. Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he broke from the Roman Catholic Church around 1530...

 in 1556 had argued that Josephus must be mistaken, a view supported by Baronius
Caesar Baronius
Cesare Baronio was an Italian Cardinal and ecclesiastical historian...

, who suggested that Quirinius must have been governor of Syria once or even twice before. A further suggestion of Calvin, supported by Henri Valois
Henri Valois
Henri Valois or in classical circles, Henricus Valesius, was a philologist and a student of classical and ecclesiastical historians...

, was that the decree of Augustus was issued towards the end of Herod’s reign, but the census was not in fact carried out until Quirinius became governor around AD 6/7. Another proposal of Valois was that Tertullian
Tertullian
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian , was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and...

 must have been correct in attributing the census to Saturninus; others suggested the text should read "Quintilius". Writing in 1702, William Whiston
William Whiston
William Whiston was an English theologian, historian, and mathematician. He is probably best known for his translation of the Antiquities of the Jews and other works by Josephus, his A New Theory of the Earth, and his Arianism...

, supported by Prideaux
Humphrey Prideaux
Humphrey Prideaux , Doctor of Divinity and scholar, belonged to an ancient Cornish family, was born at Padstow, and educated at Westminster School and at Oxford....

, made a suggestion similar to that of Calvin: that the census was carried out under Herod, but the tax was not raised until Cyrenius was appointed governor on the banishment of Archelaus.

Finally there were alternative translations of the text. One proposed by Herwaert in 1612 and supported by Kepler
Johannes Kepler
Johannes Kepler was a German mathematician, astronomer and astrologer. A key figure in the 17th century scientific revolution, he is best known for his eponymous laws of planetary motion, codified by later astronomers, based on his works Astronomia nova, Harmonices Mundi, and Epitome of Copernican...

, Whitby
Daniel Whitby
Daniel Whitby was a controversial English theologian and biblical commentator. An Arminian priest in the Church of England, Whitby was known as strongly anti-Calvinistic and later gave evidence of strong Arian and Unitarian tendencies....

, Perizonius
Perizonius
Perizonius was the name of Jakob Voorbroek , a Dutch classical scholar, who was born at Appingedam in Groningen....

 and Leclerc
Jean Leclerc (theologian)
Jean Le Clerc, also Johannes Clericus was a Swiss theologian and biblical scholar. He was famous for promoting exegesis, or critical interpretation of the Bible, and was a radical of his age...

 although rejected by Casaubon
Isaac Casaubon
Isaac Casaubon was a classical scholar and philologist, first in France and then later in England, regarded by many of his time as the most learned in Europe.-Early life:...

, involved translating the words of Luke as "this taxing was made before Cyrenius was governor of Syria". A different translation was proposed by Theodore Beza
Theodore Beza
Theodore Beza was a French Protestant Christian theologian and scholar who played an important role in the Reformation...

 and supported by many others: "This first enrolment was made, when Cyrenius was governor of Syria", arguing that Quirinius must have carried out the census during Herod's reign, operating as a subordinate or equal of the serving governor.

Lardner rejects most of these arguments. Quirinius could not have been governor before, because the names of the governors during Herod were known, and "there is no room for Cyrenius at this time"; references to other names cannot be accurate, because all the earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of Luke refer to Quirinius, as did Justin Martyr
Justin Martyr
Justin Martyr, also known as just Saint Justin , was an early Christian apologist. Most of his works are lost, but two apologies and a dialogue survive. He is considered a saint by the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church....

, writing before Tertullian; the suggestion of a ten-year gap between the edict and census was directly contrary to Luke's text; and the suggestion of a similar gap between census and taxation is contradicted by Josephus, who "is as express in this matter as can be".

While not absolutely rejecting Herwaert's translation, he says he is "not fully satisfied", finding it "a very uncommon use of the word", that does not appear to have been understood in this way by any of the Early Christians writers such as Justin Martyr
Justin Martyr
Justin Martyr, also known as just Saint Justin , was an early Christian apologist. Most of his works are lost, but two apologies and a dialogue survive. He is considered a saint by the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church....

 or Eusebius. He prefers Beza's approach because at least it agrees with the traditional interpretation, that the census was carried out by Quirinius, but proposes a variant offered by Joseph Scaliger: "This was the first assessment of Cyrenius, governor of Syria", arguing that the reference is not to the title Quirinius had at the time, but the one he would later be known by.

Lardner's work was influential - his preferred interpretation was adopted by William Paley
William Paley
William Paley was a British Christian apologist, philosopher, and utilitarian. He is best known for his exposition of the teleological argument for the existence of God in his work Natural Theology, which made use of the watchmaker analogy .-Life:Paley was Born in Peterborough, England, and was...

 in 1803. However, more skeptical views were also beginning to be felt. In his Philosophical Dictionary (1765), Voltaire
Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

 quotes the views of Dumarsais
César Chesneau Dumarsais
César Chesneau, sieur Dumarsais or Du Marsais was a French philosophe and grammarian. He was a prominent figure in what became known as the Enlightenment, and contributed to Diderot’s Encyclopédie....

 on the passage in Luke: "how many decided falsehoods are contained in these few words".

19th century


Some variants of the arguments Lardner had discussed continued to be put forward in the early 19th century. Hug
Johann Leonhard Hug
Johann Leonhard Hug , was a German Roman Catholic theologian.-Life:In 1783 he entered the University of Freiburg, where he became a pupil in the seminary for the training of priests, and soon distinguished himself in classical and Oriental philology as well as in biblical exegesis and criticism...

, in 1808, argued that Quirinius had carried out the census while Saturninus was governor. Paulus
Heinrich Paulus
Heinrich Eberhard Gottlob Paulus was a German theologian and critic of the Bible. He is known as a rationalist who offered natural explanations for the biblical miracles of Jesus....

 and William Hales
William Hales
William Hales was an Irish clergyman and scientific writer.He was born in Cork, Ireland, the son of Samuel Hales, the curate at the cathedral church there....

 supported the idea that the census was initiated by Augustus under Herod, but not carried into effect until 6. Tholuck
Friedrich Tholuck
Friedrich August Gottreu Tholuck , known as August Tholuck, was a German Protestant theologian and church leader.-Biography:...

, along with Storr and Friedrich Süskind, repeated Herwaert's translation, implying a census under Herod before Quirinius. Winer
Georg Benedikt Winer
Georg Benedikt Winer , German Protestant theologian, was born at Leipzig.He studied theology at Leipzig, where eventually he became professor ordinarius. From 1824 to 1830 he edited with J. G. V...

, however, described that translation as "not merely ambiguous, but awkward and ungrammatical", and suggested that the original name in the text was Quintilius.

In his groundbreaking 1839 book, Das Leben Jesu, the scholar David Friedrich Strauss rejected all of these arguments, affirming that Luke's account was a fiction ("we have before us two equally unhistorical narratives … composed … quite independently of each other") intended to show the birth of Jesus as a fulfilment of prophecy: "The Evangelist ... knew perfectly well what [Mary] had to do [in Bethlehem]; namely, to fulfil the prophecy of Micah, by giving birth, in the city of David, to the Messiah". A similar approach was adopted by the French scholar Ernest Renan
Ernest Renan
Ernest Renan was a French expert of Middle East ancient languages and civilizations, philosopher and writer, devoted to his native province of Brittany...

 in his bestselling 1863 book, The Life of Jesus: "Jesus", he asserted firmly, "was born at Nazareth".

More traditional scholars continued to propose ways of reconciling the Luke account with that of Josephus. Huschke
Georg Philipp Eduard Huschke
Georg Philipp Eduard Huschke was a German jurist and authority on church government; born at Hannoversch Münden June 26, 1801 and died at Breslau February 7, 1886. In 1817 Huschke went to Göttingen to study law...

 in 1840 and Wieseler in 1843 supported the Herwaert translation. But in an influential study published in Latin in 1854 and in an expanded version in German in 1869, August Wilhelm Zumpt
August Wilhelm Zumpt
August Wilhelm Zumpt was a German classical scholar, known chiefly in connection with Latin epigraphy. He was a nephew of Karl Gottlob Zumpt....

 proposed a new approach: he revived the theory of Baronius, that Quirinius had previously been governor of Syria, but placed this after the death of Herod, in 3 BC. This still conflicted with the account in the Gospel of Matthew, which clearly indicates the birth of Jesus before the death of Herod; Zumpt suggested that the census might have been initiated towards the end of Herod's reign, and only completed when Quirinius was governor, and therefore known by that name.

Zumpt's theory received widespread support, especially when supported by the historian Theodor Mommsen
Theodor Mommsen
Christian Matthias Theodor Mommsen was a German classical scholar, historian, jurist, journalist, politician, archaeologist, and writer generally regarded as the greatest classicist of the 19th century. His work regarding Roman history is still of fundamental importance for contemporary research...

, who interpreted the Tiburtine Inscription, a Roman inscription discovered in 1746, as referring to someone who had twice been legate (governor) of Syria, and speculated that this might refer to Quirinius. For some time, this became the mainstream position among biblical scholars. In 1896 the Scottish archaeologist Sir William Ramsay
William Mitchell Ramsay
Sir William Mitchell Ramsay was a Scottish archaeologist and New Testament scholar. By his death in 1939 he had become the foremost authority of his day on the history of Asia Minor and a leading scholar in the study of the New Testament...

 developed this theory further, although he argued that Quirinius had been governor as far back as 10 BC, alongside Saturninus.

In 1886, however, the theologian Emil Schürer
Emil Schürer
Emil Schürer was a German Protestant theologian.-Biography:Schürer was born at Augsburg.After studying at Erlangen, Berlin and Heidelberg from 1862 to 1866, he became in 1873 professor extraordinarius at Leipzig and eventually professor ordinarius at Göttingen...

, in his monumental study, Geschichte des judischen Volks im Zeitalter Jesu Christi (A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ), closely criticised the traditional view. He raised five points which showed, he believed, that the Luke account could not be historically accurate: (1) nothing is known in history of a general census by Augustus; (2) in a Roman census Joseph would not have had to travel to Bethlehem, and Mary would not have had to travel at all; (3) no Roman census would have been made in Judea during the reign of Herod; (4) Josephus records no such census, and it would have been a notable innovation; (5) Quirinius was not governor of Syria until long after the reign of Herod.

20th century


In 1931 Groag questioned the interpretation that had been placed on the Tiburtine inscription, pointing out that the stone merely refers to someone who held a legateship for the second time in the province of Syria, but does not specify that the earlier legateship was also in Syria. Ronald Syme, stating that "there is no reason for believing that [Quirinius] was twice governor of Syria," suggested that man referenced in the inscription was more likely to be L. Calpurnius Piso
Lucius Calpurnius Piso (consul 15 BC)
Lucius Calpurnius L. f. L. n. Piso Caesoninus was a prominent Roman senator of the early principate. He was the son of Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus and brother of Calpurnia Pisonis, wife of Julius Caesar. He became a confidante of the emperors Augustus and Tiberius...

. Groag argued that it referenced M. Plautius Silvanus.

An important element in the theory that Quirinius was twice governor of Syria was the belief that he had conducted the Homonadensian war from Syria, and that this war took place between 3 and 2 BC. But Syme argued in 1934 that the campaign might be better dated to 6 BC, and that Quirinius conducted it as governor of Galatia, rather than as governor of Syria, a view supported by most modern scholars. They hold this position, in part, for reasons of historical precedent. As J.G.C. Anderson observed, "A second tenure of Syria or indeed any other consular province under one and the same emperor by a senator who was not a member of the imperial house [i.e., Quirinius] is unparalleled."

There were still some who defended a previous term of government by Quirinius. Thomas Corbishley argued in 1934 that there was room for Quirinius as governor around 10 BC. Ethelbert Stauffer, in 1960, suggested that Quirinius had operated as a ‘Generalissimo of the East’ from 12 BC, neither have been supported. Instead, most attempts to reconcile Luke with Josephus focused on the alternative translations in the tradition of Herwaert. F.M. Heichelheim, in 1938, argued that the "original meaning" of the text was properly rendered as "This census was the first before that under the prefectureship of Quirinius in Syria". This position has been followed by several other scholars. Heichelheim's proposed translation was rejected by Horst Braunert, who argued that the reference in to "the census", implied that Luke knew only of one, and that ancient sources clearly understood the phrase in question to mean "the first census." The proposed translation has been described by others as "implausible" (A. N. Sherwin-White), "almost impossible" (Daniel B. Wallace
Daniel B. Wallace
Daniel Baird Wallace is a professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary where he has been tenured since 1995. He is also the founder of the Center of the Study of NT Manuscripts....

), and "obviously a last-ditch solution to save the historicity involved" (Joseph Fitzmyer
Joseph Fitzmyer
Rev. Joseph Augustine Fitzmyer, S.J., is a priest of the Society of Jesus and a New Testament scholar.He entered the Maryland Province, made his novitiate in Wernersville, PA, and was ordained on July 30, 1938. His academic studies were done at Loyola University of Chicago; Facultes St-Albert de...

). None of the seven most popular English translations of the New Testament accepts the alternative interpretation.

Many of the suggestions put forward involve a census carried out under Herod, on Roman orders. Palestine was a client kingdom which paid tribute to the Romans, and Herod raised the money through taxation of his subjects. The people of Herod's kingdom were not directly taxed by the empire; thus a census and taxation during Herod's rule, if ordered and administered by an imperial official, would be unprecedented. Ramsay argues that Luke does not claim the census was conducted by a Roman official. B. W. R. Pearson suggested that such a census could have been carried out under Herod Citing historian E. T. Salmon, he observed that client kingdoms "possessed no more than interim status" and argued that such a census is plausible, citing the Roman-type census ordered by King Archelaus of Cappadocia
Archelaus of Cappadocia
-Family & Early Life:Archelaus was a Cappadocian Greek nobleman, possibly of Macedonian descent. His full name was Archelaus Sisines. He was the first born son, namesake of the Roman Client and High Priest Ruler Archelaus, of the temple state of Comana, Cappadocia and Glaphyra. Archelaus’ father...

, of the tribe of Clitae in Cilicia Tracheia
Cilicia
In antiquity, Cilicia was the south coastal region of Asia Minor, south of the central Anatolian plateau. It existed as a political entity from Hittite times into the Byzantine empire...

. Like the census in Iudea, the attempted census by Archelaos was forcefully resisted by the Clitae. Schürer argued that an earlier enrollment in Iudea would have evoked the same response, and that this would have been noted by Josephus.

A few authors have suggested that the Gospel of Luke correctly refers to the census of 6, and that the account in the Gospel of Matthew is wrong,

The majority view among modern scholars is that there was only one census, in 6, and the author of the Gospel of Luke deviated from history in connecting it with the birth of Jesus. In The Birth of the Messiah (1977), a detailed study of the infancy narratives of Jesus, the American scholar Raymond E. Brown
Raymond E. Brown
The Reverend Raymond Edward Brown, S.S. , was an American Roman Catholic priest, a member of the Sulpician Fathers and a major Biblical scholar of his era...

 concluded that "this information is dubious on almost every score, despite the elaborate attempts by scholars to defend Lucan accuracy." W. D. Davies
W. D. Davies
William David Davies , always called W. D., was a Welsh congregationalist minister and academic theologian.-Life:He was born in Carmarthenshire, Wales. Educated at the University of Wales and at Cambridge , he was ordained to the ministry of the Congregational Church in 1941, and served parishes...

 and E. P. Sanders
E. P. Sanders
Ed Parish Sanders is a New Testament scholar, and is one of the principal proponents of the New Perspective on Paul. He has been Arts and Sciences Professor of Religion at Duke University, North Carolina, since 1990. He retired in 2005....

 ascribe this to simple error: “on many points, especially about Jesus’ early life, the evangelists were ignorant … they simply did not know, and, guided by rumour, hope or supposition, did the best they could”. Fergus Millar
Fergus Millar
-External links:* staff page at the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford* announcement of "History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ."...

, on the other hand, suggests that Luke's narrative was a construct designed to connect Jesus with the house of David.

21st century


In 2006, Richard Carrier published the 5th edition of his 1999 The Date of the Nativity in Luke essay In that work he goes over all the attempts to reconcile Luke and Matthew as well as the internal problems Luke has if one assumes that the Herod mentioned in Luke is indeed Herod the Great.

Carrier points out that Sentius Saturninus was governor of Syria from 9 to 6 BC and was succeeded by Quintilius Varus who held the position at least until Herod's death. He also points out "we do not even have any evidence that anyone ever served as governor of the same consular province twice in the whole of Roman history, so it would have been extremely unusual and quite remarkable--so much so that it would be odd that no one mentions it, not even Josephus, or Tacitus who gives us the obituary of Quirinius in Annals 3.48, a prime place to mention such a peculiar accomplishment."

Citing Mark Smith, "Of Jesus and Quirinius", The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 62:2 (April, 2000): pp. 278–93 Carrier says that the Herod the King reference in Luke 1:5 could refer to Herod's successor Archelaus (who only called himself "Herod" on his coins) as "even Josephus, who otherwise refers to Archelaus as ethnarch, could still call him a king (Antiquities of the Jews 18.93)" and that "at the only place in the New Testament where the name "Archelaus" is used (Matthew 2:22), he is said to have basileuei, "reigned," a term that does not entail but nevertheless implies a status of king (basileus), in contrast to other verbs of governing that could have been chosen."

Based on all the evidence Carrier gathered he concluded that "if one of the two authors must be correct, then Matthew is far more likely the one who has it wrong."

A worldwide census


Some sources questioned the historicity of Luke's account, pointing out that in Acts of the Apostles, he places the census after the revolt of Theudas
Theudas
Theudas was a Jewish rebel of the 1st century AD. His name, if a Greek compound, may mean "gift of God", although other scholars believe its etymology is Semitic and might mean “flowing with water”...

, which took place around AD 46. He describes a decree of Augustus requiring registration of the whole oikoumene . This word literally means the "inhabited [world]", but was frequently used to indicate the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

. No simultaneous census of the entire Empire in Augustus' time is attested to outside of Luke, though Luke's account does not necessarily mean that the whole empire was enrolled at once. J. Thorley argued that Luke's wording only means that Augustus decreed that the registration practices that had been employed in Italy for centuries and in the provinces for some time should be extended throughout the Roman world, including client kingdoms. Sherwin-White suggested that Luke intended to refer only to a policy of universal registration promulgated by Augustus, and that this was first implemented in Judaea under Quirinius.

Details of census practice


Luke's statement that Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem 'because he was descended from the house and family of David' has often been called into question, since it appears to imply that people were required to return to their ancestral home; James Dunn
James Dunn (theologian)
James D. G. Dunn was for many years the Lightfoot Professor of Divinity in the Department of Theology at the University of Durham. Since his retirement he has been made Emeritus Lightfoot Professor. He is a leading British New Testament scholar, broadly in the Protestant tradition. Dunn is...

 wrote: "the idea of a census requiring individuals to move to the native town of long dead ancestors is hard to credit". E. P. Sanders
E. P. Sanders
Ed Parish Sanders is a New Testament scholar, and is one of the principal proponents of the New Perspective on Paul. He has been Arts and Sciences Professor of Religion at Duke University, North Carolina, since 1990. He retired in 2005....

considered it unreasonable to think that there was ever a decree that required people to travel to their ancestral homes to be registered for tax purposes, and supplied a number of arguments in support. A papyrus from Egypt dated to 104 requiring people to return to their homes for a census has sometimes been cited as evidence of a requirement to travel; however, this refers only to migrant workers returning to their family home, not their ancestral home. However, Raymond E. Brown suggested that “One cannot rule out the possibility that, since Romans often adapted their administration to local circumstances, a census conducted in Judea would respect the strong attachment of Jewish tribal and ancestral relationships.”

External links