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Did Joseph & Mary Have to Go to Bethlehem?
[The nineteenth century theologian Emil] Schürer argues that Roman censuses did not require travel for registration purposes, pointing out that Rome would have considered such activities ‘troublesome’ and ‘inconvenient’, as well as outside the normal structure of a Roman census.¹
Enrollment By Households In Egypt
Recently, three different scholars announced about the same time, and independently of one another, the discovery that periodical enrollments were made in Egypt under the Roman empire, and that the period was not of fifteen years, as in the later system of indictions, but of fourteen years. The same Greek term is used in the Egyptian documents and in Luke to indicate the census: they were called “Enrollments,” Apographai.
Luke’s Knowledge of Roman Enrollments
The book of Prof. Ramsay, “Was Christ Born at Bethlehem?” deserves special mention because it gives a new datum for our historical investigations.
The Syrian Enrollment In 8 B.C.
In the preceding chapter we have seen that, in all probability, Augustus inaugurated a series of enrollments in Egypt. Now, according to Luke, Augustus laid down the principle that “enrollments” should be made over the whole Roman world; and this assertion stands on a very different level of probability from that which it occupied before the Egyptian discovery. If Luke be wrong, his error has been to extend over the whole Roman world a practice which Augustus established in Egypt. Every one must see that such an extension is not likely to have been made without some justification by the author of Acts, whoever he was. If there is anything certain about him it is that he had neither connection with Egypt nor interest in it, and that he was entirely uninfluenced by Alexandrian thought or Egyptian ideas; he even omits from his Gospel the incident of the flight into Egypt, which a writer connected with Egypt would be most unlikely to do. Such an author is not likely to have known about institutions peculiar to Egypt; and, if he thinks that the system of periodical enrollments, which existed in Egypt, was also found in other parts of the Roman world, there is a strong presumption that such was the case at least in those parts of the world which were best known to him. The reasons stated above, chapters 6 and 7, confirm this presumption.
Commentary: Luke 2:2
“This taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.” (Luke 2:2)
Quirinius Was Twice Governor of Syria
“This Taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.” (Luke 2:2)
The Birth of Jesus
“Cyrenius was governor of Syria”. Says an old commentator, with evident weariness: “Volumes have been written about this one verse”—and since his day volumes more. The essential facts are these:
Roman Law Did Not Require Joseph and Mary to Leave Nazareth
“…when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.” (Luke 2:2)
The Grecized form of Quirinus. His full name was Publius Sulpicius Quirinus. Recent historical investigation has proved that Quirinus was governor of Cilicia, which was annexed to Syria at the time of our Lord’s birth. Cilicia, which he ruled, being a province of Syria, he is called the governor, which he was de jure, of Syria. Some ten years afterwards he was appointed governor of Syria for the second time. During his tenure of office, at the time of our Lord’s birth (Luke 2:2), a “taxing” (R.V., “enrolment;” i.e., a registration) of the people was “first made;” i.e., was made for the first time under his government. (See TAXING.)
sī-rē ́ni-us (Κυρήνιος, Kurḗnios, “of Cyrene”). See QUIRINIUS.
Cyre’nius, (Graecized Κυρήνιος, Luke 2:2; see Deyling, Obss. 2:431 sq.), for the Latin Quirinus (prob. not Quirinius; see Meyer, Comment. in loc.). His full name was PUBLIUS SULPICIUS QUIRINUS (see Sueton. Tiber. 49; Tacit. Ann. 2:30). He is the second of that name mentioned in Roman history (see Smith, Dict. of Class. Biog. s.v.), and was consul with M. Valerius Messala, B.C. 12. From the language of Tacitus (Ann. 3, 48), it would appear that he was of obscure origin, a supposition apparently favored by his surname, Quirinus, if rendered (as it might perhaps be) the Cyrenian, but opposed by it if referred to the old Sabine epithet of Romulus. He is more likely to have been the son of the consul of the same name, B.C. 42. Tacitus, however, states (ut sup.) that he was a native of Lanuvium, near Rome, and was not a member of the ancient Sulpician family; and that it was owing to his military abilities and active services that he gained the consulship under Augustus. He was subsequently sent into Cilicia, where he was so successful in his campaign as to receive the honor of a triumph. In B.C. 1, or a year or two afterwards, Augustus appointed him to direct the counsels of his grandson C. Caesar, then in Armenia; and on his way thither he paid a visit to Tiberius, who was at that time living at Rhodes. Some years afterwards, but not before A.D. 5, he was appointed governor of Syria, and while in this office he took a census of the Jewish people. He was a favorite with Tiberius, and on his death, A.D. 21, he was buried with public honors by the senate at the request of the emperor. (Dion Cass. 54:28; Tacitus, Ann. 3, 22; Strab. xii, p. 569; Josephus, Ant. 14:1, 1.) — Smith, Dict. of Class. Biog. s.v.
Publius Sulpicius Quirinius (c. 51 BC – AD 21) was a Roman aristocrat. After the banishment of the ethnarch Herod Archelaus from the tetrarchy of Judea in AD 6, Quirinius was appointed legate governor of Syria, to which the province of Iudaea had been added for the purpose of a census.