Luke chapter 2 opens the story of the birth of Jesus with two verses that skeptics, always quick to pounce on perceived biblical contradictions, are happy to use in their repertoire. The verses in the NKJV read “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.”
The problems with the two verses are two-fold. First, Quirinius was the governor of Syria beginning in 6 A.D. Herod the Great died in 4 B.C., and we know from scripture that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod. Secondly, although there is secular record of the census during the governorship of Quirinius, no historical record of the previous census has been found.
There are several answers that have been proposed to this supposed dilemma that include the fact that it is recorded in the “Acts of Augustus” that he authorized censuses throughout the empire in 28 B.C., 8 B.C., and 14 A.D. Further, it is known that provincial censuses were held in 14 year intervals, which would fit with the known census of 6 A.D. Jesus was born sometime from 7 B.C. to 4 B., which would fit the beginning date in 8 B.C. for that census. Also, Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, served at the favored pleasure of Augustus as governor of Crete and Cyrene, as a soldier, and as consul beginning about 14 B.C.
We do well to note the meticulous detail and accuracy of Luke’s writings throughout both of his books. For example, he knew about and acknowledged the 6. A.D. census in Acts 5:37. In the second place, we must remember that the Bible, as God’s inspired word, has stood the test of time, and has been found historically accurate numerous times, even when previous secular history showed no corroboration. Take for example, the fact that skeptics once believed that Pontius Plate was a mythological concoction of the Bible until the Italian archaeologists found the “Pilate Stone” in 1961.
“All the world” in verse one means all of the roman Empire, of course. Since everyone went to register in their home town, this is how Jesus came to be born in Bethlehem instead of Nazareth – thus fulfilling prophecies such as that of Micah 5:2. This is because Joseph was of the house of David. When Joseph and Mary arrived there, there was no room in the inn. So when she gave birth, she wrapped our Lord in swaddling clothes, and put him in a manger (a feeding trough for animals) for his bed. It is here in just 2 verses (5-7) that we learn of the birth of the most important person ever born in this world – with absolutely no fanfare.
(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.