[Graphic: `Mary and Joseph' entering Bethlehem]
----- Original Message -----
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Tuesday, June 27, 2006 7:25 PM
>Dear Mr Jones,
>Where does he [Cyrenius] fit into your harmonization of the Matthew & Luke nativity stories?
[Continued from part #2]
As previously mentioned, here are further quotes (which include points already made in my previous two posts and new points) that resolve the apparent discrepancy between: 1) Jesus being born in the reign of King Herod the Great (Mat 2:1,15; Luke 1:5-45) who died in 4 BC; yet 2) Jesus was born at the time of a census when Quirinius was "governor of Syria" (Luke 2:1-5), which was in 6-7 AD. The short answer (as already posted in part #1 and #2) is that there were two censuses which Luke in fact indicates:
Luke 2:2: "(This was the first [or "former"] census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)"
Acts 5:37: "After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt."
the first in 7-4 BC (following Finegan J., "Handbook of Biblical Chronology," Princeton University Press: Princeton NJ, 1964, p.468) and the second in 6-7 AD, and Publius Sulpicius Quirinius (Greek Kyrenios, or in the KJV Cyrenius) apparently oversaw both.
I repeat what I said in part #2 that if Luke was a fraud or myth-maker, he would not give such intricate historical details of names, titles, dates and places as he does in his Luke-Acts two-volume history of earliest Christianity. And that if critics could suspend their anti-Christian prejudices, they might consider how unlikely it is that Luke would write such details about important people which his contemporaries would know are false, if they were false, including the "most excellent Theophilus" (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1), presumably a high-ranking Roman official, who Luke addressed Luke-Acts to.
The late Christian apologist, Gleason L. Archer, sets out the apparent problem, namely "Was Luke mistaken about Quirinius and the census?" because "If Luke dates the census in 8 or 7 B.C., and if Josephus dates it in A.D. 6 or 7, there appears to be a discrepancy of about fourteen years":
"Was Luke mistaken about Quirinius and the census? Luke 2:1 tells of a decree from Caesar Augustus to have the whole -world' (oikoumene actually means all the world under the authority of Rome) enrolled in a census report for taxation purposes. Verse 2 specifies which census taking was involved at the time Joseph and Mary went down to Bethlehem, to fill out the census forms as descendants of the Bethlehemite family of King David. This was the first census undertaken by Quirinius (or `Cyrenius') as governor (or at least as acting governor) of Syria. Josephus mentions no census in the reign of Herod the Great (who died in 4 B.C) but he does mention one taken by `Cyrenius' (Antiquities 17.13.5) soon after Herod Archelaus , was deposed in A.D. 6: `Cyrenius, one that had been consul, was sent by Caesar to take account of people's effects in Syria, and to sell the house of Archelaus.' (Apparently the palace of the deposed king was to be sold and the proceeds turned over to the Roman government.) If Luke dates the census in 8 or 7 B.C., and if Josephus dates it in A.D. 6 or 7, there appears to be a discrepancy of about fourteen years. Also, since Saturninus (according to Tertullian in Contra Marcion 4.19) was legate of Syria from 9 B.C., to 6 B.C., and Quintilius Varus was legate from 7 B.C. to A.D. 4 (note the one-year overlap in these two terms!), there is doubt as to whether Quirinius was ever governor of Syria at all." (Archer, G.L., "Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties," Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, 1982, p.365. Emphasis original)
Archer points out that: 1) Luke indicates that there were two censuses, because "a `first' enrollment that took place under Quirinius ... implies a second one" and "Luke was therefore well aware of that second census" because he "quotes Gamaliel as alluding to the insurrection of Judas of Galilee `in the days of the census taking' (Acts 5:37)"; 2) Quirinius may not have been "actually governor of Syria" (my emphasis) because in the Greek text of Luke (which is what Luke wrote, not what our English translations render it as), "He is not actually called legatus (the official Roman title for the governor of an entire region), but the participle hegemoneuontos is used here" and "it may well have been that Augustus put Quirinius in charge of the census-enrollment in the region of Syria ... in 7 B.C." and "because of his competent handling of the 7 B.C. census that Augustus later put him in charge of the A.D. 7 census":
"By way of solution, let it be noted first of all that Luke says this was a `first' enrollment that took place under Quirinius (haute apographe prote egeneto). A `first' surely implies a second one sometime later. Luke was therefore well aware of that second census, taken by Quirinius again in A.D. 7, which Josephus alludes to in the passage cited above. We know this because Luke (who lived much closer to the time than Josephus did) also quotes Gamaliel as alluding to the insurrection of Judas of Galilee `in the days of the census taking' (Acts 5:37). The Romans tended to conduct a census every fourteen years, and so this comes out right for a first census in 7 B.C. and a second in A.D. 7. But was Quirinius (who was called Kyrenius by the Greeks because of the absence of a Q in the Attic alphabet, or else because this proconsul was actually a successful governor of Crete and Cyrene in Egypt around 15 B.C.) actually governor of Syria? The Lucan text here says hegemoneuontos tes Syrias Kyreniou ('while Cyrenius was leading-in charge of-Syria'). He is not actually called legatus (the official Roman title for the governor of an entire region), but the participle hegemoneuontos is used here, which would be appropriate to a hegemon like Pontius Pilate (who rated as a procurator but not as a legatus). Too much should not be made of the precise official status. But we do know that between 12 B.C. and 2 B.C., Quirinius was engaged in a systematic reduction of rebellious mountaineers in the highlands of Pisidia (Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia, 5:6), and that he was therefore a highly placed military figure in the Near East in the closing years of the reign of Herod the Great. In order to secure efficiency and dispatch, it may well have been that Augustus put Quirinius in charge of the census-enrollment in the region of Syria just at the transition period between the close of Saturninus's administration and the beginning of Varus's term of service in 7 B.C. It was doubtless because of his competent handling of the 7 B.C. census that Augustus later put him in charge of the A.D. 7 census. As for the lack of secular reference to a general census for the entire Roman Empire at this time, this presents no serious difficulty. Kingsley Davis (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 14th ed., 5:168) states: `Every five years the Romans enumerated citizens and their property to determine their liabilities. This practice was extended to include the entire Roman Empire in 5 B.C.'" (Archer, 1982, pp.365-366) .
Another Christian apologist, Gary Habermas, notes a point made in part #2 that according to eminent Christian historian, the late F.F. Bruce, "the Greek in Luke 2:2 is equally translatable as `This enrollment (census) was before that made when Quirinius was governor of Syria'" which "would mean that Luke was dating the taxation-census before Quirinius took over the governorship of Syria" (and a s previously indicated, I consider this to be the most likely explanation):
"In Luke 2:1-5 we read that Caesar Augustus decreed that the Roman Empire should be taxed and that everyone had to return to his own city to pay taxes. So Joseph and Mary returned to Bethlehem and there Jesus was born. Several questions have been raised in the context of this taxation. Is there any evidence that such a massive census ever took place? Even if such a taxation actually did occur, would every person have to return to his home? Was Quirinius really the governor of Syria at this time (as in v. 2)? [Bruce, F.F., "Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament," Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI, 1974, p.192] Archaeology has had a bearing on the answers to these questions. It has been established that the taking of a census was quite common at about the time of Christ. An ancient Latin inscription called the Titulus Venetus indicates that a census took place in Syria and Judea about 5-6 A.D. and that this was typical of those held throughout the Roman Empire from the time of Augustus (23 B.C.-14 A.D.) until at least the third century A.D. Indications are that this census took place every fourteen years. Other such evidence indicates that these procedures were widespread. [Bruce, 1974, pp.193-194] Concerning persons returning to their home city for the taxation-census, an Egyptian papyrus dating from 104 A.D. reports just such a practice. This rule was enforced, as well. [Bruce, 1974, p.194] The question concerning Quirinius also involves the date of the census described in Luke 2. It is known that Quirinius was made governor of Syria by Augustus in 6 A.D. Archaeologist Sir William Ramsay discovered several inscriptions which indicated that Quirinius was governor of Syria on two occasions, the first time several years previous to this date. [Boyd, R., "Tells, Tombs, and Treasure," Baker: Grand Rapids MI, 1969, p.175] Within the cycle of taxation-censuses mentioned above, an earlier taxation would be dated from 10-5 B.C. [Bruce, 1974, p.192] Another possibility is Bruce's point that the Greek in Luke 2:2 is equally translatable as `This enrollment (census) was before that made when Quirinius was governor of Syria' [Bruce, 1974, p.192] This would mean that Luke was dating the taxation-census before Quirinius took over the governorship of Syria. Either possibility answers the question raised above. Therefore, while some questions have been raised concerning the events recorded in Luke 2:1-5, archaeology has provided some unexpected and supportive answers. Additionally, while supplying the background behind these events, archaeology also assists us in establishing several facts. (1) A taxation-census was a fairly common procedure in the Roman Empire and it did occur in Judea, in particular. (2) Persons were required to return to their home city in order to fulfill the requirements of the process. (3) These procedures were apparently employed during the reign of Augustus (37 B.C.-14 A.D.), placing it well within the general time frame of Jesus' birth. (4) The date of the specific taxation recounted by Luke could very possibly have been 6-5 B.C., which would also be of service in attempting to find a more exact date for Jesus' birth." (Habermas, G.R., "Ancient Evidence for the Life of Jesus," Thomas Nelson: Nashville TN, 1984, pp.152-153)
Another leading Christian apologist, Norman L. Geisler, notes that there are "inscriptions that indicated that Quirinius was governor of Syria on two occasions, the first time several years prior to A.D. 6" and "Because of the strained relations between Herod and Augustus in the later years of Herod's reign ... it is understandable that Augustus would ... impose such a census in order to maintain control of Herod and the people," the first "10 and 5 B.C." and a second in "A.D. 6" according to the Roman system of "Periodic registrations ... every fourteen years":
"Luke, Alleged Errors in. Luke has been charged by the critics with containing significant historical inaccuracies in the nativity narrative of chapter 2. The Worldwide Census. Luke 2:1-3 refers to a worldwide census under Caesar Augustus when Quirinius was governor of Syria. However, according to the annals of ancient history, no such census took place. In fact, Quirinius did not become governor in Syria until A.D. 6. It was commonly held by critics that Luke erred in his assertion about a registration under Caesar Augustus, and that the census actually took place in A.D. 6 or 7 (which is mentioned by Luke in Gamaliel's speech recorded in Acts 5:37). A Possible Retranslation. F F. Bruce offers another possibility. The Greek of Luke 2:2 can be translated: `This enrollment (census) was before that made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.' In this case, the Greek word translated `first' (protos) is translated as a comparative, `before.' Because of the construction of the sentence, this is not an unlikely reading. In this case there is no problem, since that census of A.D. 6 is well known to historians. Recent Archaeological Support. The lack of any extrabiblical support led some to claim this an error. However, with recent scholarship, it is now widely admitted that there was in fact an earlier registration, as Luke records. William Ramsay discovered several inscriptions that indicated that Quirinius was governor of Syria on two occasions, the first time several years prior to A.D. 6. According to the very papers that recorded the censuses ... there was in fact a census between 10 and 5 B.C. Periodic registrations took place every fourteen years. Because of this regular pattern of census taking, any such action was regarded as the general policy of Augustus, even though a local census may have been instigated by a local governor. Therefore, Luke recognizes the census as stemming from the decree of Augustus. Since the people of a subjugated land were compelled to take an oath of allegiance to the Emperor, it was not unusual for the Emperor to require an imperial census as an expression of this allegiance and a means of enlisting men for military service, or, as was probably true in this case, in preparation to levy taxes. Because of the strained relations between Herod and Augustus in the later years of Herod's reign, as the Jewish historian Josephus reports, it is understandable that Augustus would begin to treat Herod's domain as a subject land, and consequently would impose such a census in order to maintain control of Herod and the people. Third, a census was a massive project which probably took several years to complete. Such a census for the purpose of taxation begun in Gaul between 10-9 B.C. took 40 years to complete. Likely the decree to begin the census, in 8 or 7 B.C., may not have begun in Palestine until sometime later. Problems of organization and preparation may have delayed the actual census until 5 B.C. or even later. Fourth, it was not an unusual requirement that people return to the place of their origin, or to the place where they owned property. A decree of C. Vibius Mazimus in A.D. 104 required all those absent from their home towns to return for a census. Jews were quite used to travel, making annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. There is simply no reason to suspect Luke's statement regarding the census. Luke's account fits the regular pattern of census taking, and its date would not be unreasonable. This may have been simply a local census taken as a result of the general policy of Augustus. Luke simply provides a reliable historical record of an event not otherwise recorded. Luke has proven himself an amazingly reliable historian ... There is no reason to doubt him here." (Geisler, N.L., "Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics," Baker Books: Grand Rapids MI, 1999, pp.430-431. Emphasis original)
Geisler also adds some further details which clarify Quirinius' role as "a noted military leader" who "Augustus entrusted ... with the delicate problem in the volatile area of Palestine, effectively superseding Varus by appointing Quirinius to a place of special authority in this matter":
"Quirinius' Terms as Governor. Given Luke's statement that the census decreed by Augustus was the first one taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria, the fact that Quirinius became governor of Syria long after the death of Herod, in about 6 A.D., sounds like an error in the Gospel. As noted, there is an alternate way to translate this verse which resolves the problem. Further, there is now evidence that Quirinius was governor of Syria on an earlier occasion that would fit with the time of Christ's birth. Quintilius Varus was governor of Syria from about 7 to about 4 B.C. Varus was not a trustworthy leader, a fact demonstrated in A.D. 9 when he lost three legions of soldiers in the Teutoburger forest in Germany. Quirinius, on the other hand, was a noted military leader who squelched the rebellion of the Homonadensians in Asia Minor. When it came time to begin the census, in about 8 or 7 B.C., Augustus entrusted Quirinius with the delicate problem in the volatile area of Palestine, effectively superseding Varus by appointing Quirinius to a place of special authority in this matter. Quirinius was probably governor of Syria on two separate occasions, once while prosecuting the military action against the Homonadensians between 12 and 2 B.C., and later, beginning about A.D. 6. A Latin inscription discovered in 1764 has been interpreted to the effect that Quirinius was governor of Syria on two occasions. ... " (Geisler, 1999, p.431. Emphasis original)
[Concluded in part #4]