Census of Quirinius

Census of Quirinius

The Census of Quirinius refers to a historical enrollment of the Roman Provinces of Syria and Iudaea for the purpose of taxation taken during the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus when Publius Sulpicius Quirinius was appointed governor of Syria, after the banishment of Herod Archelaus in AD 6, which had, as consequence, that Iudaea Province (the conglomeration of Samaria, Judea proper, and Idumea) came under direct Roman administration. [H.H. Ben-Sasson, "A History of the Jewish People", Harvard University Press, 1976, ISBN 0674397312, page 246: "When Archelaus was deposed from the ethnarchy in 6 CE, Judea proper, Samaria and Idumea were converted into a Roman province under the name Iudaea."; page 274: "Josephus connects the beginnings of the extremist movement with the census held under the supervision of Quirinius, the legate of Syria, soon after Judea had been converted into a Roman province (6 CE)."] An account of the census was given by the first century historian Josephus, [ [http://earlyjewishwritings.com/text/josephus/ant18.html Antiquities 18] ] who associated it with the beginning of a movement that he called the Zealots.

The Gospel of Luke appears to date the birth of Jesus during this census, while the Gospel of Matthew places the birth at least a decade earlier. Bible scholars have traditionally attempted to reconcile these accounts; most modern scholars, according to Raymond E. Brown, regard this as an error by the author of the Luke Gospel. [Raymond Brown, "Christ in the Gospels of the Liturgical Year", (Liturgical Press, 2008), page 114. See, for example, James Douglas Grant Dunn, Jesus Remembered, (Eerdmans, 2003) p344. Similarly, Erich S. Gruen, 'The expansion of the empire under Augustus', in "The Cambridge ancient history" Volume 10, p157, Geza Vermes, "The Nativity", Penguin 2006, p.96, W.D Davies and E. P. Sanders, 'Jesus from the Jewish point of view', in "The Cambridge History of Judaism" ed William Horbury, vol 3: the Early Roman Period, 1984, Anthony Harvey, "A Companion to the New Testament" (Cambridge University Press 2004), p221, Meier, John P., "". Doubleday, 1991, v. 1, p. 213, Brown, Raymond E. "The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke". London: G. Chapman, 1977, p. 554, A. N. Sherwin-White, pp. 166, 167, Fergus Millar ] . For some time, this became the mainstream position among biblical scholars. In 1896 the Scottish archaeologist Sir William Ramsay developed this theory further, although he argued that Quirinius had been governor as far back as 10 BC, alongside Saturninus. [Hoehner]

In 1886, however, the theologian Emil Schürer, 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. [Schurer]

Twentieth century

In 1931 Groag questioned the interpretation that had been placed on the Tiburtine inscription, pointing out that 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. [Groag, "Prosopographische Beiträge," "Jahreshefte des österreichischen archäologischen Instituts in Wien" 21-22 (1924), pp. 448ff; this position is summarized in repr. in cite journal | last = Millar | first = Fergus | authorlink = Fergus Millar | title = The Greek World, the Jews, and the East | journal = Rome, the Greek World and the East | volume = 3 | pages = 139–163 | publisher = University of North Carolina Press | date = 2006] .

Historicity of Luke's details

A worldwide census

Some sources questioned the historicity of other parts of Luke's account. He describes a decree of Augustus requiring registration of the whole "oikoumene" Polytonic|"οἰκουμένη". This word literally means the "inhabited [world] ", but was frequently used to indicate the Roman Empire. [cite book |author=Henry George Liddell |authorlink=Henry Liddell |coauthors=Robert Scott |others=revised by Henry Stuart Jones and Roderick McKenzie |title=A Greek-English Lexicon |accessdate=2007-01-20 |year=1940 |publisher=Clarendon Press |location=Oxford |isbn=0-19-864226-1 |pages= [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3D%2372374 s.v. Polytonic|οἰκουμένη] ] No simultaneous census of the entire Empire in Augustus' time is attested to outside of Luke, [Schürer, pp. 407-411] though Luke's account does not necessarily mean that the whole empire was enrolled at once. [Ben, III Witherington, "New Testament History: A Narrative Account" p. 65] 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. [ John Thorley, "The Nativity Census: What Does Luke Actually Say?" "Greece & Rome" vol. 26 no. 1 (April 1979) p. 82] 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. [Sherwin-White, pp. 168-169]

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 wrote: "the idea of a census requiring individuals to move to the native town of long dead ancestors is hard to credit". [James Douglas Grant Dunn, "Jesus Remembered", p. 344] E. P. Sanders 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. [For example, that it would require people to keep track of millions of ancestors; tens of thousands of descendants of David would all be arriving at Bethlehem, his birthplace, at the same time; and Herod, whose dynasty was unrelated to the Davidic line, would hardly have wished to call attention to royal ancestry that had a greater claim to legitimacy. He adds that it would have been the practice for the census-takers, not the taxed, to travel, and that Joseph, resident in Galilee, would not have been covered by a census in Judaea. E. P. Sanders, "The Historical Figure of Jesus", Penguin, 1993, p86; see also Bart Ehrman, "A Brief Introduction to the New Testament", p103.] A papyrus from Egypt dated AD 104 requiring people to return to their homes for a census has sometimes been cited as evidence of a requirement to travel; [Bromiley, Geoffrey W, editor 'The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia', Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1995, page 655, 'For example, a British Museum decree of Gaius Vibius Maximus, prefect of Egypt (A.D. 104), ordered all who were out of their districts to return to their homes in view of the approaching census (cf. Lk. 2:1-5).'] however, this refers only to migrant workers returning to their family home, not their "ancestral" home. [Ralph Martin Novak, "Christianity and the Roman Empire: Background Texts", Continuum International, page 297.]

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.” [R. E. Brown, "The Birth of the Messiah" (New York: Doubleday), p. 549; He also noted that Luke himself would have known of Roman census practices by personal experience, and that “it is dangerous to assume that he described a process of registration that would have been potentially opposed to everything he and his readers knew.”: R. E. Brown, "The Birth of the Messiah" (New York: Doubleday), p. 549.] M. D. Smith observes that “nowhere does Luke say that the census of Quirinius required people to travel to the home of their ancestors”, but only that “all went to their own towns” — observing that Luke's reference to traveling to one's ancestral home was specific to Joseph. [ Mark D. Smith ‘Of Jesus and Quirinius’, in "Catholic Biblical Quarterly", vol. 62, no. 2 (April 2000), p. 289.]

Luke and Bethlehem

Unlike the Gospel of Matthew, the Luke account makes no mention of the fulfilment of prophecy in relation to its account of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. ['Surprisingly, however, he does not quote the messianic prophecy about Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), as does Matthew (Matt. 2:5-6)' ('Luke', Fred B Craddock, Westminster John Knox Press 1990, page 34)] ['This is not to say that Mic. 5.2 could not have formed the framework for the pre-Lukan birth tradition, nor that Luke was unaware of the passage, but only that he is not consciously imitating Micah's prophecy' ('The Davidic Messiah in Luke-Acts: The Promise and Its Fulfillment in Lukan Christology', Mark L Strauss, 1992, page 111)] Some scholars believe the Gospel writers may have based their accounts on an earlier Christian tradition. [Raymond E. Brown, "The Birth of the Messiah", (New York: Doubleday), page 411-414.] [Marcus J. Borg, John Dominic Crossan, "The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus's Birth", (HarperCollins, 2007), page 130.]


ee also

*Luke 2

External links

* [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0146;layout=;query=book%3D%2318;loc=17.339 Josephus' Antiquities 18]


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