Does Luke's claim that Jesus was born in Bethlehem at the time of Quirinius' census match the historical record?


Clarify Share Report Asked July 01 2013 Mini Anonymous (via GotQuestions)

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Shea S. Michael Houdmann Supporter Got Questions Ministries
Quirinius' census has been a point of controversy among biblical scholars and skeptics for centuries. History tells us that Caesar Augustus reigned over the Roman Empire from 27 BC to AD 14 and ord...

July 01 2013 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini John Appelt
There have been many questions concerning Quirinius, Luke 2:1, 2, but it can be shown that history does verify Luke’s account of the birth of Christ.

Caesar Augustus did enact a decree for the enrollment of the Empire when he was just about to celebrate his 25th year of his reign over the Republic, and Rome celebrating its 750th anniversary. Although it was to be in 2 BC, he had begun the process in 3 BC with an empire-wide census registration. If so, this puts the birth of Jesus at 3 BC.

Matthew 2:1 says the birth happened in the days of Herod the king. An erroneous claim is that Herod died in 4 BC. It is thought that, because when Herod put his son Antipater to death in 4 BC, his sons antedated their reigns to then. Also, because of misinformation, Augustus demoted Herod from ‘Caesar’s Friend’ to ‘subject’ in that year. 

But Herod died a few years later in 1 BC. History confirms he reigned 37 years having been made king by Rome in 38 BC. Herod lived from 72 to 1 BC, dying when he was 70. This means Jesus was born before 1 BC. Allowing time for the visit of the magi, the slaughter of infants by Herod, and the flight of the family into Egypt until the death of Herod, Matthew 2, the date of 3 BC is likely for the birth of Jesus.

As for Quirinius, history confirms he was governor of Syria in AD 6-7, which is alluded to in Acts 5:37. However, Luke mentions the first census, which seems to be the correct sense. But when was it? An incomplete list of governors is known, given here: 
Marcus Agrippa, 23-13 BC
Unknown, 13-11 BC
Marcus Titius, c10 BC
Sentius Saturninus, 9-6 BC
Publius Quintilius Varus, 6-4 BC
Unknown, c3-2 BC
Gaius Caesar, 1 BC – AD 4
Lucius Volusius Saturninus, AD 4-5
Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, AD 6-7+ 

Because of the belief that Herod died in 4 BC, Quirinius is not found to be the governor before then. However, one thing that stands out in the list is the blank for 3-2 BC. Quirinius seems to be the governor that best fits that slot. Augustus enacted rules which governed how long and often governors could serve and only Quirinius qualifies. Furthermore, a partial inscription was found honoring a man who was “twice governor of Syria” and he would qualify for that. In his book, ‘A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ,’ E. Shürer showed that Quirinius was governor for the first time in 3-2 BC because only a governor could carry on a war which he did against the Homanadensians at some point between 12 BC and AD 2.

It seems that Luke answers the historical critics by his reliable historical account, helping readers to be assured that if the Bible record does not seem to fit what history said, then find the mistakes in history, not the Bible.

December 20 2021 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

My picture Jack Gutknecht ABC/DTS graduate, guitar music ministry Baptist church
Yes, Luke matches the historical record. It seems to me that Quirinius was governor of Syria twice. The 1st time was before the birth of Christ, and the 2nd time was after. That is, Quirinius (or “Cyrenius” as he is called in the KJV) was governor from 4 B.C. to A.D. 1, when this census was taken, and again in A.D. 6. (Ryrie) 

I.e. it is one possibility that he served 2 terms, first when Jesus was born and again a decade later.
--Stephen M. Miller

December 20 2021 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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