Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Census of Luke 2

Is a problem to chronology only if you forget Luke was written in Greek not Latin.  Syria in classical Greek writings often refers to more then just the Roman province given that name, same as Asia, Africa and Libya did.  It often included modern Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and parts of Modern Turkey like Commenge and Cilicia specifically.

The word translated Governor here (Hegemoneuo Strongs#2230) is first NOT whatever his actual Roman title was, but a Greek word, and 2nd it’s not even a Noun hence not even a title, it’s a Verb which means “to rule, command”.  A more accurate translation could conceivably be “Was Governing in Syria”.  The word is used in Luke and Acts for Pilate (Who was Prefect, never a title Quirinus held) and other latter Roman Procurators.

Josephus mentioned that actually there were “governors” (plural) in Syria during the rule of Saturninus.  (Josephus, Antiquities XVI.280, 285, 357, 361.)  While during the governorships of Titius and Quintilius Varus, Josephus spoke of a “governor” (singular), (Josephus, Antiquities XVII.89.) but during the administration of Saturninus why does he mention the plural “governors”?

From about 5-3 BC or 12-1 BC Quirinus was leading a military campaign in Galatia and Cilicia against the Homonadenses, we’re not certain what title he held while doing this, but either way he would have qualified as a “Governing in Syria” at this time.  Quirinus was rector or adviser to Gaius Caesar when holding Armenia (Tacitus, Ann. 3:48).  The nearness of Syria to Armenia was probably a reason for choosing Qurinus, Syria’s governor, to be the young prince’s adviser.

Based on what Josephus says of the History surrounding Herod’s death, the Legate of Syria at the time I date the Nativity was Saturninus (Agreeing with Tertullian, An Answer to the Jews, ch.8.) And Varus at the time The Magi came to Jerusalem.  Quirinius’ war against the Homonadenses, for which Tacitus singled him out for praise, has been called a “special command.” ( Hugh Last, quoted by Rice Holmes in “Architect of the Roman Empire,” II.89, note 1.)  This status is also reflected in an inscription which mentions Quirinius “as holding an honorary municipal office at Antioch-by-Pisidia.” (Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, 165.) And it was certainly a special command for Quirinius when he became rector of the young Gaius Caesar when Gaius acquired residential authority at Antioch over the eastern provinces in A.D. 1. (Tacitus, Annals, III.48.)  Gaius was probably not strictly called the governor of Syria at the time (C.E. 1 to 4) and it may well be that Quirinius was responsible for running the everyday affairs of government.

Tacitus said that Quirinius was one having “considerable talents for business.” This could account for his selection as being “guardian” of Gaius who was the heir to the Empire.  Quirinius already had experience in Syria by administering the censuses Tertullian talked about in 3/2 B.C. which took place during the time when Saturninus was governor. All these references indicate special commands for Quirinius throughout his entire governmental career. There are other historical records about Quirinius which show his special assignments.

Luke mentions Herod at this time just like Matthew does, if Luke had the 6 AD Census in mind he’d have also mentioned Coponius who was appointed at that same time and was far more relevant to Judea directly. 

Census is another example of a term often used more loosely by some then others, none of the normal Roman Censuses happen in 3 or 2 BC when I date the Nativity, but isn’t the context Luke implies itself Abnormal?  Luke implies an Empire wide event, the 6 AD Census was Local only.

2 BC marked the 750th Anniversary of Rome’s founding according to Roman Tradition, as well as the 25th Anniversary of Octavian being proclaimed Augustus.  On February 5, 2BC, the Senate and the people of Rome awarded him the highest of all decorations: Pater Patriae (Father of the Country).  In preparation for this the previous year an “Oath of Obedience” to Augustus was carried out.  Such an Oath could have by some fit the basic definition of a Census.
Josephus mentioned that an oath of allegiance was demanded by Augustus about twelve or fifteen months before the death of Herod [Antiquities, XVII, 41-45 “There was moreover a certain sect of Jews who valued themselves highly for their exact knowledge of the law; and talking much of their contact with God, were greatly in favor with the women {of Herod’s court}. They are called Pharisees. They are men who had it in their power to control kings; extremely subtle, and ready to attempt anything against those whom they did not like. When therefore the whole Jewish nation took an OATH to be faithful to Caesar, and [to] the interests of the king, these men, to the number of above six thousand, refused to swear. The king laid a fine upon them. Pheroras’ wife {Herod’s sister-in-law} paid the money for them. They, in requital for her kindness {for they were supposed, by their great intimacy with God, to have attained to the gift of prophecy}, prophesied that God having decreed to put an end to the government of Herod and his race, the kingdom would be transferred to her and Pheroras and their children. Salome {Herod’s sister}, who was aware of all that was being said, came and told the king of them. She also told him that many of the court {of Herod} were corrupted by them. Then the king put to death the most guilty of the Pharisees, and Bagoas the eunuch, and one Carus, the most beautiful young man about the court, and the great instrument in the king’s unlawful pleasures. He {Herod} likewise slew everyone in his own family, who adhered to those things which were said by the Pharisee. But Bagoas had been elevated by them and was told that he should someday be called father and benefactor of the {new} king, who was to be appointed according to their prediction, for this king would have all things in his power, and that he {the king} would give him {Bogoas} the capacity of marriage, and of having children of his own”].
Herod's Death is often miss-dated, I’m not go into that in detail here, but he died in January of 1 BC, not in 4 BC.  4 B.C. is the year his killed his Eldest son and his remaining Sons where appointed their various Tetrachies, causing the confusion since their reigns are dated from then.

15 months before gives us October of 3 BC, since people would have been given advance warning, it’s easy to see this putting Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem on September 11th 3 BC, the 1st of Tishri that year and thus the day I believe Jesus was born.  And on that day Jupiter was in Conjunction in Regulus the brightest Star of the Constellation Leo The Lion, a very rare Astronomical event, that Astrologers would easily have interpreted as making the Birth of a King, since both that Planet and that Constellation are affiliated with Kingship, and in Hebrew terms The Lion is Judah.

*A breviarium of the empire was ordered by Augustus (Tacitus, Annals 1:11), giving a return of its population and resources.
*An inscription with such an oath of obedience has been found in Paphlagonia, and is clearly dated to 3BC [Lewis & Reinhold, Roman Civilization, vol. II, pps. 34 and 35, Harper Torchbooks Edition has these words, “taken by the inhabitants of Paphlagonia and the Roman businessmen dwelling among them”, and importantly, the whole of the population were required to swear it: “The same oath was sworn by all the people in the land at the altars of Augustus in the temples of Augustus in the various districts”].
*Augustus received his most prestigious title, the Pater Patriae, on February 5, 2BC, and wrote of it in his Res Gestae: “While I was administering my thirteenth consulship the senate and the equestrian order and the entire Roman people gave me the title Father of my Country” [VI, 35].
*Official censuses involving taxation took place every 20 years (in 28BC and 8BC), but the next official census was in 14AD, which was 21 years after 8BC and not 20 as one would expect. Could it be that 2BC was dropped out of the yearly taxation in celebration of Augustus’ Silver Jubilee?
*The year 2BC, however, was reckoned so glorious a new beginning for Augustus and Rome that the imperial taxation and evaluation ceased during that year if people would give their oath of allegiance to Augustus as their Pater Patriae and universal lord. This could well be the case and explain the 1-year discrepancy (by the way, every five years there was a registration which updated individual Roman citizenship, and these archives were kept in their own native cities or other important “Roman centers” throughout the Empire [see Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, pps. 147ff]).
Orosius, in the fifth century, also said that Roman records of his time revealed that a census was indeed held when Augustus was made "the first of men"--an apt description of his award "Father of the Country"--at a time when all the great nations gave an oath of obedience to Augustus (6:22, 7:2). Orosius dated the census to 3 BC.
 *The Armenian historian, Moses of Khorene, said that the native sources he had available showed that in the second year of Abgar, king of Osroene (3BC), the census brought Roman agents “to Armenia, bringing the image of Augustus Caesar, which they set up in every temple” [History of the Armenians, trans. R.W. Thomson, Book II, 26].

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