Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Gospel of Luke and Quirinius' census

Although Luke wasn't an eyewitness to our Messiah's birth, the story he had been told about came from a reliable source. Luke knew that the story was fully true and, thus, shared it with the whole world.
The aim of the following article is to bring historical sources forward that actually prove that Quirinius' census actually happened.
However, before we start speaking about the census, it is necessary to set the record straight about our Messiah's birth.
The elements provided by Luke clearly point at our Messiah's birth around Sukkoth and here is why:

  • Shepherds would not have been able to take care of their flock during tough weather conditions. The weather had to be mild. 
  • High pregnant Miryam and her husband Yosef would not have been able to travel from Nazareth, Galilee to Bethlehem, Judea with heavy rain and snow on the road.
  • Logically, the Romans would not order a census, forcing people to travel on long distances from their hometown, when facing tough weather conditions.
  • Yeshua, our Messiah, who tabernacled among us, was born in a Sukkah, not in a "creche".
  • The date of December the 25th has been chosen by catholic church to align with Roman customs of Saturnalia and cult of sun god Mithra. Christmas is pagan. Back in the 1st Century, no follower of Yeshua ever celebrated "Christmas". 

Still not convinced? Please check my full study here.

Luke's report

" In those days, a decree went forth from Keisar Ogustos to count all the inhabitants of the world. This was the first census taken while Kuriniyos was the leader of Surya. All of them went to be counted, each in his town. Yosef also went up from the Galil, from the town of Netzeret to Yehudah to the City of David and from his family to be counted with Miryam, who was betrothed to him. She was pregnant." Luke 2:1-5 Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels

The Gospel of Luke insists on the mandatory character of the census. Yosef had no other choice but to travel to Bethlehem.

Historical error or false calendar?

A lot of people, among them atheists, have tried to disprove the information Luke is giving us about Quirinius, stating that there were no trace of Quirinius during the period of our Messiah's birth. Well, the root of the problem lies elsewhere: many problems arise because of monk Dyonisus Exiguus' ( 470-544) calculation errors while introducing B.C (Before Christ) and A.D (Anno Domini) dating system. Actually there is a margin of error between 10 or even 15 years regarding Yeshua's birth year.  If we possessed an accurate calculation after the Hebrew Calendar, we would be able to know Yeshua's birth year with much precision.

  • However, we do possess quite a few, consistent historical documents related with Ancient Rome and the Jewish world of the 1st Century that confirm Quirinius' official position. These sources also provide information about taxation and census.Josephus and the "Jewish Antiquities": Josephus makes mention of Quirinius in his "Jewish Antiquities". The historian underlines Quinirius' presence around 2 BC. Here is a first statement: " Quirinius, a Roman senator who had gone through other magistracies, and had passed through them all until he had become consul, was appointed governor of Syria by Caesar and was given the task of assessing properly there and in Judea." 
  • Another statement taken out of Josephus' Jewish Antiquities allows the reader to acknowledge the taxation system of the Romans:" Cassius rode into Syria in order to take command of the army stationed here, and on the Jews he placed a tax of 700 silver talents. Antipater gave the job of collecting this tax to his sons." (Jewish Antiquities, XIV 271)
  • In 1912, an inscription was found in Antiochus that indicates Quirinius was governor in Syria around 7 BC.
  • An Egyptian papyrus, giving direction for the census reads: " Because of the approaching census, it is necessary that all of those residing for any cause away from their homes should at once prepare to return to their own governments in order that they may complete the family registration of the enrollment and that the tilled lands may retain those belongings to them".
  • The following website speaks of two different censuses that go back to 48 and 104 AD. These are probably the censuses that followed the first one, that forced Yosef and Miryam to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. 
  • The historian Tacitus also mentions Quirinius in Res Gestae 10, The Deeds of Augustus Caesar: " A great crowd of people came from all over Italy to my election, more than had ever gathered before in Rome, when Publius Sulpicius (Quirinius) and Gaius Valgius were consuls."

Census from 48 AD ( image source:

"I Thermontharion along with Appolonius my guardian, pledge ode to Tiberius Claudius Caesar that the preceding document gives an accurate account of those returning, who live in my household, and that no one else living with me, neither a foreigner, nor an Alexandrian, nor a freedman, nor a Roman citizen, nor an Egyptian. If I am telling the truth, may it be well with me, but if falsely, the reverse. In the 9th year of reign of Tiberius Augustus Germanicus Emperor."

104 AD Census ( image

"From the prefect of Egypt , Gaius Vibius Maximus. Being that the time has come for the house to house census, it is mandatory that all men who are living outside of their districts return to their homelands that the census may be carried out."

We may not have all answers to the interrogations that may arise in our minds about Luke's story and Quirinius' census. However, we do possess some solid archeological proofs of the existence of censuses and taxation system during the 1st Century that even mention the amount due by Jewish people. We also know that Quirinius was actually a political figure of importance in the Roman world, who used to be a consul and who ruled over Judea and Syria. 

On different biblical matters, archeology has always confirmed what Scriptures affirmed.
Even if Luke didn't see it with his own eyes, a reliable person reported the story of Yeshua's birth. 

Let us rejoice in our Savior, for He has always proven to be faithful. Amen.

Res Gestae ( image source: wikipedia)

Copyright© by Isabelle Esling

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