LUKE: CAESAR AUGUSTUS & QUIRINIUS

By Hugh Fogelman

 

 Luke 2:1-3 (King James Version)
1   ďAnd it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.2   (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius (Quirinius) was governor of Syria.)3   And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.Ē 

Who was Caesar Augustus? He had to be in existence around 4 BCE.  

Gaius Octavius, subsequently known as Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus and still later as Augustus or Caesar Augustus, was the first Roman emperor following the republic, which had been finally destroyed by the dictatorship of Julius Caesar, his great-uncle and adoptive father. Gaius Octavius was born on September 23, 63 BCE, of a prosperous family that had long been settled at Velitrae (Velletri), southeast of Rome

The Oxford History of the Biblical World says upon the death of Herod in 4 BCE, the Jews in Jerusalem rebelled in reaction to the executions of the scribes Judas and Matthias. Archelaus sent in troops, and a massacre of the local population ensued. When he left for Rome another revolt erupted in Judea. This time Varus, the Roman governor of Syria quelled the conflict and left a legion in Jerusalem as insurance against further outbreaks. However sporadic outbreaks continued, especially in Galilee and Perea. Varus returned and crushed the resistance, and crucified over two thousand Jewish rebels. This presence of Roman troops in Judea facilitated Archelausí removal from office in 6 CE. 

Hearing so many complaints from Judea and Samaria, Augustus banished Herodís first heir to Gaul. Judea and Samaria were incorporated into the province of Syria and consequently fell under the authority of a succession of roman governors.  This is an important statement, because Jesus was born BEFORE Herodís death in 4 BCE and Judea and Samaria were NOT part of Syria

To avoid further rebellion Rome reserved the right to name the high priest, the Sadducees and to control the priestly vestments needed for the celebration of major holidays. The Sadducees, unlike the Hyrcanus priesthood, had no sympathy for the populationís economic situation or religious sensibilities. Their policies of raising taxes, bringing Roman standards into Jerusalem, raiding the Temple treasury, and other such provocations would eventually lead to a full rebellion against Rome. 

Problems began almost immediately with Romeís demand for a census. Inaugurated by Augustus for all provinces, this practice enabled the empire to determine taxation rates for land, material goods, and individuals. 

Flavius Josephus, a 1st century Jewish historian, mentions the census under P. Sulpicius Quirinius, which he dates to the thirty-seventh year after the battle of Actium, or 6/7 CE. As told in the gospel of Luke, this was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria

However, the dates provided by Josephus and Luke are not reconcilable. Luke 1:5 depicts the census as occurring during the reign of Herod the Great, who died in 4 BCE.

If Luke was in error in his 'godly' inspired gospel and this was not the first census and there was an earlier census under Herod prior to the incorporation of his territory into the provincial system, there is no supporting historical evidence. 

Acts 5:37, in a speech attributed to Gamaliel confirms that Judas, the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him. According to Josephus, Judas, originally from Gamala in Galilee, protested against the census held by Quirinius.

Christianity has a big problem here: Luke states that the census decreed by Augustus was the first one taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. However, Quirinius did not become governor of Syria until CE 6, two years after the death of Herod.Again, Luke's historical record is not historical.  

"Faith does not give you the answers, it just stops you asking the questions." -Frater Ravus

 


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