Responses to Bismikaallahuma

A Worldwide Census under Quirinius?

The Bismikaallahuma article, A Worldwide Census under Quirinius?, is well answered in these articles on other websites:

On an objection about Luke, Quirinius, and Herods
Common Census

There is no need for us to write yet another lenghty rebuttal. We simply quote the following section from Lee Strobel, taken from his interview with leading NT archaeologist John McRay:

The birth narratives of Jesus claim that Mary and Joseph were required by a census to return to Joseph's hometown of Bethlehem. "Let me be blunt: this seems absurd on the face of it," I said. "How could the government possibly force all its citizens to return to their birthplace? Is there any archaeological evidence whatsoever that this kind of census ever took place?"

McRay calmly pulled out a copy of his book. "Actually, the discovery of ancient census forms has shed quite a bit of light on this practice," he said as he leafed through the pages. Finding the reference he was searching for, he quoted from an official governmental order dated A.D. 104.

Gauis Vibius Maximus, Prefect of Egypt [says]: Seeing that the time has come for the house to house census, it is necessary to compel all those who for any cause whatsoever are residing out of their provinces to return to their own homes, that they may both carry out the regular order of the census and may also attend diligently to the cultivation of their allotments.

"As you can see," he said as he closed the book, "that practice is confirmed by this document, even though this particular manner of counting people might seem odd to you. And another papyrus, this one from A.D. 48, indicates that the entire family was involved in the census."

This, however, did not entirely dispose of this issue. Luke said the census that brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem was conducted when Quirinius was governing Syria and during the reign of Herod the Great.

"That poses a significant problem," I pointed out, "because Herod died in 4 B.C., and Quirinius didn't begin ruling Syria until A.D. 6, conducting the census soon after that. There's a big gap there; how can you deal with such a major discrepancy in the dates?"

McRay knew I was raising an issue that archaeologists have wrestled with for years. He responded by saying, "An eminent archaeologist named Jerry Vardaman has done a great deal of work in this regard. He has found a coin with the name of Quirinius on it in very small writing, or what we call 'micrographic' letters. This places him as proconsul of Syria and Cilicia from 11 B.C. until after the death of Herod."

I was confused. "What does this mean?" I asked.

"It means that there were apparently two Quiriniuses,"he replied. "It's not uncommon to have lots of people with the same Roman names, so there's no reason to doubt that there were two people by the name of Quirinius. The census would have taken place under the reign of the earlier Quirinius. Given the cycle of a census every fourteen years, that would work out quite well." (Strobel, The Case for Christ - A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus [Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1998; ISBN: 0-310-20930-7], pp. 101-102)

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