The Life of Jesus Site index

Work in progress. Still adding, reorganizing and correcting.

1. Main page

2. Jesus’ timeline

3. Herod 1BC

Tiberius + Philip

Herod’s death  

War of Vares  

Quirinus           

Misc             

4. Conception

5. Birth year

Foreword

6. Birth date

John born

Bible and stuff

Alternatives?

7. Circumcision

8. Baptism        








Quirinius the governor ruler of the census




1. A list of governors

Governors of Syria:



That list could be useful for understanding the confusion.

Quintilius Varus held a census in 3BC but he wasn’t governor then. How can that be? Stay tuned…



2. All that confusion because of Luke’s typo?

It is possible that the long running dispute over the historicity of the narrative in Luke's Gospel chapter 2 about the birth of Christ at the same time as a census held "whilst Quirinius was governor of Syria" is to be explained simply by a mistaken spelling by the Gospel author.The problem with "Quirinius" is that he became governor only when Archelaus, son and part-heir of Herod, was deposed by the Romans in AD 6 but both Luke and Matthew indicate that Jesus was born before the death of Herod 10 years earlier. However, if Luke had intended to write "Quinctilius" - an easy mistake to make - then the problem goes away altogether for he was indeed the governor at just the right time.

Wikipedia

The record of Luke is seen as not accurate/impossible because Quirinius (Varus) wasn't governor around that time. But Quinctilius with a very similar name was. Slip of the pen from Luke, or of that of the people who later copied his Gospel? While possible it’s not very likely.




3. Augustus - Father of the fatherland (Pater Patriae)

The senate gave Augustus on 5 February, 2BC Augustus the title “Father of the fatherland” -click-. Before the did so all Roman people all over the empire have to register their approval. It was a registration of each person proclaiming the oath that Augustus was “Father of the fatherland”. Summer 3BC Augustus ordered the registration to be complete by fall 2BC.



These are those that are called the sect of the Pharisees, who were in a capacity of greatly opposing kings. A cunning sect they were, and soon elevated to a pitch of open fighting and doing mischief. Accordingly, when all the people of the Jews gave assurance of their good-will to Caesar, and to the king's government, these very men did not swear, being above six thousand;

Antiquities of the Jews, 17.2.4


“assurance of their good-will” and “swear” are both terms for taking an oath, to Augustus.

It wasn't a regular census but still can be called that because people were registered and counted like the 6000 unwilling Pharisees.

Enrolled,  taxed, numbered, census, register and written down are all correct word that describe the event. Taxed seems to be a little odd but paying taxes is part of the allegiance to Augustus.



Augustus ordered that a census be taken of each province everywhere and that all men be enrolled.
...
This is the earliest and most famous public acknowledgment which marked Caesar as the first of all men and the Romans as lords of the world, a published list of all men entered individually
....
This first and greatest census was taken, since in this one name of Caesar all the peoples of the great nations took oath, and at the same time, through the participation in the census, were made apart of one society”

Orosius, VI.22 and VII.2


It’s sure Orisius didn’t describe an ordinary census because it was far from the first census ever. It wasn’t even the first census under Augustus rule.


3a. Oath = swear = assurance of good will

“We swear by the fortune of the Emperor Caesar Trajanus Hadrian Augustus. ... under oath.”


“And I swear by the Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus that I have kept nothing back.”

Both of the above are known oath that had to be sworn at a census or tax collection.


So oaths were so much part of a census that they almost are synonyms.



4. Why Mary?

In a regular census men had to register in the town or nearby were they lived at that time.

Luke 2:3 And all went to enrol themselves, every one to his own city.

Luke 2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David;
Luke 2:5 to enrol himself with Mary, who was betrothed to him, being great with child.


The reason they had to travel the the town of birth will be discussed in the next section. Mary being with Joseph shows this census is a bid odd. It wasn’t needed for an ordinary census. As you see in the quote in the next section both male and female were required to go to the census. Was that by Augustus’ command or Herod’s ….?




5. The Messianic census Herod the Great mixed in

These are those that are called the sect of the Pharisees, who were in a capacity of greatly opposing kings. A cunning sect they were, and soon elevated to a pitch of open fighting and doing mischief. Accordingly, when all the people of the Jews gave assurance of their good-will to Caesar, and to the king's government, these very men did not swear, being above six thousand;

Antiquities of the Jews, 17.2.4

Augustus was an emperor, not a king. While it was Augustus who ordered the census, he delegated the actual work to others. While it were the governors would took the actual census, they did so on the territory of someone else. The Jews lived on Herod the Great’s territory. Or should I call him Herod the Paranoid?

On this page -click- I’ve shown great Messianic expectations caused  stress, later riots and after Herod’s death war. That expectation was fueled by a prophesy that Herod’s kingdom would fall. The Messiah comes from the lineage of David. Herod wanted a list of all those people, who he considered his enemies. That way he could monitor them and take action when they started to show some kind of leadership.

When the three kings told the Messiah was born a short while ago in a certain town he ordered to kill all the baby boys in that town. He simply wanted to blot out the all messianic prospects that could take his kingdom.


So Herod likely tweaked Augustus’ command to take a census by taking the opportunity to also register people from the lineage of David. It were two censuses. People had to give their approval for Augustus becoming “Father of the fatherland” and Herod added a second census to figure out who the descendants of David were.


Possibly that also included women because they could become queen. Queen Esther is an example of that.




6. Quintilius Varus‘ enrollement

2. Now Quintilius Varus was at this time at Jerusalem, being sent to succeed Saturninus as president of Syria, and was come as an assessor to Herod,

Antiquities of the Jews  17.5.2

Quintilius Varus became (2BC) governor of Syria while Herod was still alive.

As seen in the “War of Varus” - Click, Varus was (still) governor in 1BC



Luke 2:1 Now it came to pass in those days, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be enrolled.
Luke 2:2 This was the first enrolment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.

The word enrolled is translated differently is many Bibles. Enrolled,  taxed, numbered, census, register and written down. The difference may seem insignificant but as we will see it is not.

First is another keyword in this puzzle. It means there were at least two.


It’s universally accepted among scholars that Quintilius Varus was a governor in 6/7BC and took a census at that time. But that doesn’t exclude this special type of census in 3BC.




7. Any proof for a second census by Quirinius?

I would say all of the above at least is strong hint that something got lost in the mists of time. It certainly points toward a second census but it’s no absolute proof it was taken by Quirinius.



7a. Two governors in the same territory did happen before

Josephus wrote Quirinius was given the rank of ‘dikaiodotes’ in Syria, 6/7AD.

that the word dikaiodotes is found only in Antiquities, XVIII. 1 and in inscriptions from Lycia in the sense of ‘governor.’ Larson plausibly suggests that the word was not so much a title for a governor as an honorary appellation, much like soter or euergetes. It would emphasize the high regard with which the governor was held as an honest judge, the duties of the governor (in Lydia, at least) being largely judicial.”

Prof Feldman quoting J.A.O. Larson in the Loeb translation of Josephus


That means that there were at least two governors at that time. One governor taking care of legal affairs and another one of other things.


So now it has been proven special dual governorship existed the question becomes: Was there a dual governorship in during the census Luke wrote about?

I think the answer is yes.


7b. Justin Martyr agrees with Luke

And hear what part of earth He was to be born in, as another prophet, Micah, foretold. He spoke thus: And you, Bethlehem, the land of Judah, are not the least among the princes of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a Governor, who shall feed My people. Micah 5:2 Now there is a village in the land of the Jews, thirty-five stadia from Jerusalem, in which Jesus Christ was born, as you can ascertain also from the registers of the taxing made under Cyrenius, your first procurator in Judæa.

Justin Martyr, Apology, I.34 - click

KJV uses Cyrenius, other translations use Quirinius.

With all those very similar names let me state:
Cyrenius = Quirinius, but not Quintilius


So Justin Martyr agrees with Luke.

Luke 2:2 This was the first enrolment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.



7c. Different translations of  ‘hegemoneuontos’

Some translations St. Luke does not use the noun governor, but the participle, “governing”.  

Could a minor translation error be the answer? It’s a possibility.

The Greek word ‘hegemoneuontos’ is in most Bible translated as Governor, but that’s not the most accurate meaning of the word.


Luke 2:2 This was the first numbering, which was made when Quirinius was ruler of Syria.

Luke 2:2 This census was the first one while Quirinius was governing Syria.


Thayer Definition:

1) to be leader, to lead the way

2) to rule, command

2a) of a province, to be governor of a province

2b) said of a proconsul, of a procurator


On itself all those words an definition don’t rule out governor because that was a rule and did govern a region.


Luke 3:1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,


Luke 3:1 Now in the fifteenth year of the rule of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being ruler of Judaea, and Herod being king of Galilee, his brother Philip king of the country of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias king of Abilene,

 

Luke 3:1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, while Pontius Pilate was governing Judea, and while Herod governed as tetrarch of Galilee, and while Philip his brother governed as tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and while Lysanias governed as tetrarch of Abilene,


Luke 3:1 Then, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being procurator of Judea, and Herod tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene,


It’s very sure Pilate was not a governor. All the above translations are translated from the same Greek word ‘hegemoneuontos’.  Pilate was Prefect of Judea.
So that’s proof that Luke used ‘hegemoneuontos’ as more general term for a leader.


The last translation uses the ‘procurator’ like Justin Martyr did.

So Luke 2:2 can best be understood as:


Tacticus wrote: “Each province had its equestrian procurator who in the eyes of the provincials was almost as important as the governor himself.”



7d. Quirinius was an interim governor

While it’s most likely Quirinius role was a specialist in taking a census, there is a small possibility he was a full blown governor for a short while.

Sentius Saturninus →Quirinius → Quintilius Varus

I’m not going to dwell long on this because it’s just speculation.

We know from Josephus that Saturninus was governor in late spring 2BC and in November that same year was the governor that did the hearing against Antipater the son of Herod.

In theory Quirinius could have been a governor then. Tabernacles, the feast when Jesus was born was in September-October so during the speculative governorship of Quirinius.


Pure speculation because nobody, including Luke, hints at this.




8. Conclusion

Quirinius did take the census as Luke wrote.

By emperor Augustus order this census took place between Summer 3BC and fall 2BC.


Because that period spans two Feasts of Tabernacles right now His birth can be pinpointed as: September/October 3BC or September/October 2BC.