The True Date Of Christ’s Birth -- By: George E. Day

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 003:12 (Nov 1846)
Article: The True Date Of Christ’s Birth
Author: George E. Day

The True Date Of Christ’s Birth

Rev. George E. Day

Of the four data for calculating the year of Christ’s birth, with which we are furnished in the gospels, two have already been considered, viz. the reign of Herod the Great and the appearance of the star in the east. We now proceed to the

Third Datum. The census instituted by Augustus Caesar, in consequence of which the parents of Jesus journeyed from Nazareth to Bethlehem and during the taking of which he was born. Luke 2:1–7. To the credibility of Luke’s narrative in respect to this census, five objections have been brought. It is said that during the entire reign of Augustus, history informs us of nothing beyond the censuses of single provinces; that admitting a general census of the empire to have occurred, it could not have been taken in Judea at the time Jesus was born, because Judea during the reign of Herod was not a Roman province: that if such a census were taken in Judea, by the Romans, they would not have obliged Joseph to travel to the city of his ancestors, because their rule was to take the census in the place of actual residence; that the journeying of Mary to be enrolled, considering her situation, is doubtful; and that, even if a census was taken at about the time Christ was born, Luke in affirming that it occurred during the procuratorship of Quirinus under whom a census was actually taken ten years later, has at least confounded the two.

1. In regard to the occurrence of a general census of the Roman empire, at about the time Jesus was born, the difficulty has been exaggerated both by friends and enemies. Admitting that the phrase πᾶσαἡ οἰκουμένη does not admit of being confined to Judea, but must be understood according to the usus loquendi of the age, as designating the Roman empire, the existing orbis terrarum, we think it can be conclusively shown that such a census was taken. We think it can be proved that Augustus did institute a general census of the provinces, and that the edict to this effect was issued before the year 750 U. C.

For, aside from the testimony of Luke we have the witness of

two other writers, Casiodorus and Suidas.1 Both indeed were Christians and lived in a later age. Still, from the fact that Casiodorus mentions the survey of the empire in addition to the census, and that Suidas relates the appointment of twenty men to take it, and comments upon the wisdom of Augustus in respect to it, it is evident that they must have obtained this information from other sources than Luke’s go...

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