Luke 2:2 Miller

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The CTT article in closer look

The CTT web-site is owned by Glenn M. Miller , a "committed evangelical disciple of Jesus Christ", which certainly is no crime, but does of course give us some info on his stance.

The article in question Quiriniusis (as of this writing) latest updated September 1 1999, and is formed as quotations from the book The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible by Robin Lane Fox, an Oxford New College teacher of classical literature and history. Two other books of his, The Search for Alexander and Alexander the Great: A Biography, formed the background history of Oliver Stone's film Alexander.

The quotations are followed by Glenn Miller's comments/rebuttals, and I won't go into all of it here, but limit myself to a few highlights.


Were king Herod and Quirinius contemporaries?

Fox: The Gospel, therefore, assumes that Quirinius and King Herod were contemporaries, when they were separated by ten years or more.

Miller: I assume you mean contemporaries in office--they were certainly contemporaries in life...Quirinius, at the time of King Herod's death was doing military expeditions in the eastern provinces of the Roman empire (Tacitus , Annals 3:48; Florus, Roman History 2:31), with some evidence indicating that he either was a co-ruler with the governor of Syria (the somewhat inept Quintilius Varus) or at least placed in charge of the 14-year census in Palestine. Varus was famous for the later fiasco at the Teutoburger forest in Germany (9 ad) and at his appointment as Gov.. of Syria in 7 BC was largely 'untested'. The census was due in 8-7 BC, and Augustus could easily have ordered his trusted Quirinius (fresh from subduing the Pisidian highlanders) to assist in this volatile project. Herod I had recently lost favor of the emperor and was probably dragging his feet on taking the census--a process with always enraged the difficult Jews! This would have pushed the timeframe into the 5 BC mark, which fits the general data.


Note that Richard Carrier does not come to the conclusion that Herod (the Great or possibly Archelaus) were "contemporaries in office", both Fox and Miller might be wrong here. Carrier's interpretation is that Mary was not yet pregnant when she visited Elisabeth, actually as much as 12 years might separate the birth of John the Baptist and the birth of Jesus, see Luke.

JW:Richard Carrier has the following clarification to what Freezbee wrote above:

"I offer that as a possibility, but I actually side more firmly with the conclusion that Luke never refers to Herod the Great but only Herod Archelaus and does place this Herod and Quirinius as (near) contemporaries, and so the removal of Archelaus and accession of Quirinius would have taken place in the six months between the births of John and Jesus, which perfectly fits the fact that the census suddenly becomes an issue exactly then, when we would expect it to have."

--JoeWallack 13:27, 20 Aug 2006 (CDT)


Also the "military expeditions in the eastern provinces of the Roman empire" refer to the campaign against the Homanadenses ("the Pisidian highlanders"), see The Date of Quirinius' Duumvirate in Pisidian Antioch, a campaign in Galatia, north of the Taurus mountains. As Carrier argues, it is unlikely that Quirinius should at the same time have been co-ruler of Syria south of that mountain range, and that he should have somehow been involved with a census in Palestine.

Also there was no "14-year census in Palestine", this is a misunderstanding of an Egyptian census that was made in support of a special Egyptian capitation tax on all Egyptian citizens aged 14 or above, see How Often Was the Census Held?.

It is not known exactly when the campaign against the Homanadenses was, so it is not known, if it was finished just prior to 8-7 bce. Also the censuses that Miller refers to might have been the oaths of allegiance to Herod and Augustus, where we only know (from Flavius Josephus) that the Pharisees refused. In the paragraph just before his Conclusion Conclusion, Richard Carriers writes this:

Carrier: And we have no record of such an oath in Judaea in that year or any year near it, despite the fact that Josephus usually records them: the last such oaths commanded by Herod were in 20 B.C. and in 8 or 7 B.C. Worse, this thesis is inherently implausible: Luke does not use the vocabulary of oath-swearing, nor does he describe such a process. For example, Joseph would not travel to Bethlehem if all he had to do was swear an oath of allegiance--that had to be done where he lived.

Did someone serve twice as legate of Syria?.

Fox: Luke's Gospel, therefore, assumes that King Herod and the governor Quirinius were contemporaries, but they were separated by over ten years or more. The incoherent dating is only the start of the problem.

Miller's response to this is covered on the "discussion" page in the section Did someone serve twice as legate of Syria?.

Was it a census conducted by Herod the Great?

Fox: Luke's Nativity story hinges on its `decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.' `Caesar Augustus' was the Roman Emperor, but if the Nativity took place in the reign of the King Herod the Great, the Jews were still Herod's subjects, members of a client kingdom, not a province under direct Roman rule.

Miller: You are somewhat mistaken here. It is true that Judea did not technically become a Roman province until 6 AD, but the facts prior to that indicate much tighter authority and control than your statement might lead one to believe. Rome did a military conquest before Herod the Great was even born. Pompey attacked Jerusalem and even invaded the Temple. was made a tributary (read: PAID TRIBUTE$) to Rome until Caesar defeated Pompey in Egypt around 48 BC. Herod the Great's dad had aided Caesar in that endeavor and so won the favor of Julius Caesar (and with it a procuratorship of, plus Roman citizenship and exemption from taxes.) Then in 47 BC, the daddy Herod appointed the son Herod to be governor of Galilee...still completely under Roman rule. He still had to be appointed tetrarch by Antony-- still a thrall, eh?!. He was also proclaimed 'king' by the Roman leaders (Octavius and Antony) in 40 bc--but he had to re-conquer the land from the Parthians, which he did in 37bc. As a 'client kingdom', they were still under the authority of Rome (all of the rulers, for example, were appointed--including ALL the Herods--and ratified by Rome.)

Miller: Actually, when I keep reading your paragraph, it sounds like you are calling Luke mistaken in referring to Rome as 'driving the issue' of the census. He is INDEED making that point, but HE is correct in that...The client-kings WERE still subject to Roman enrollment decrees. [see Blaiklock, The Century of the New Testament,(1962) and The Archeology of the New Testament (1970)]


It is true that Judea became a Roman province in 63 bce - the king and the high priest, who were brothers, were quarreling, the king wanting to be high priest as well. Both of them sent a letter to Pompei who had conquered Syria in 64 bce, and Pompei sided with the high priest - had he sided with the king, Judea would have become a client kingdom instead. Now, the high priest had a supporter, the self-styled king of Idumaea (Edom), Antipatros, who was made Roman representative after the matter was settled, and he was the father of Herod the Great. Anyway, the tribute paid would be an agreed upon sum paid by Antipatros, who in return himself had to figure out how to raise it in the first round. No Roman censuses would be required for that, why should the Romans bother with something that wasn't their headache? But also see Was it a Census Conducted by Herod the Great?.

JW: Here is Richard Carrier's comment on what Freezbee wrote above:

"I don't know where the facts here come from. There is no evidence that Pompey annexed Judaea at all, so I don't see the basis for asserting "it is true" that he did. Just because he settled the kingdom on the priesthood doesn't mean it *didn't* become a client state. The fixing of tribute actually confirms it was settled as a client state--had it been annexed, a governor would have been assigned and taxes would have begun based on a regular census instead. Miller seems to conflate Rome being able to pick Judaea's rulers and Rome annexing Judaea. Being able to pick and confirm rulers is what Rome would have secured the right to in the treaty Pompey would have established with the priests he put in power. In contrast, annexing Judaea would mean Rome would no longer be picking rulers--Rome would be *sending* rulers."

--JoeWallack 13:37, 20 Aug 2006 (CDT)

Does taxation imply registration?

Fox: The status of client-kings in the Roman Empire left them responsibility for their subjects' taxation.

Miller: Not decision-making authority--they couldn't say 'no', but local execution of the enrollment process-"yes".


Miller here continues in the assumption that taxation implies enrollment, that is registration, but it doesn't, see same link as above.


Taxation or oath-swearing?

Fox: In AD 6 we do know that Augustus was enacting a new tax on inheritance to help pay for his armies;

Miller: BTW, the taxation to support his army, is the main reason it is believed that Quirinius assisted in the taxing of 8-5 BC...his extended military maneuvers on the Pisidian highlands (dating from around 12 BC) would have required additional financing...


Which wasn't a taxing, but an oath-swearing, see above.


When was the census?

Fox: however, the tax affected only Roman citizens, not Jews of Nazareth, and there was no need for a worldwide census to register their names.

Miller: Remember, the census in AD 6 is NOT the one of Luke 2.2 (of 8-6 BC.)...but the census of AD 6 DID hit the Jews pretty heavily...at least 600 talents as a nation acc. to Josephus (Antiq. 17.320; Jewish War 2.97--cited in Jeremias' Jerusalem in the Times of Jesus: An investigation into the economic and social conditions during the New Testament period,Fortress: 1969). As a national tax, it DID effect the Jewish folk--loads like this are ALWAYS 'distributed to the people'(!) in addition to the already oppressive tax structure of the Herods...

Miller: And Luke does NOT place the 'worldwide census' at the time of the AD 6 tax...but rather puts it some time BEFORE the Syrian-based one in 7-5 BC...

Miller: But more accurately, Luke was probably not referring to a taxation census at all--simply a "registration". Registrations were normally associated with (1) taxation (above discussion); (2) military service (Jews were exempt) and (3) special government "ballots". We have conclusive evidence that an empire-wide (in decree, not necessarily execution, of course) registration occurred in the time frame described by Luke! Martin [CKC:89-90] summarizes the literary, archeological, and iconographic evidence for this:

Miller: " A sixth reason for placing the nativity of Jesus in 3 or 2 B.C. isthe coincidence of this date with the New Testament account that Jesus was born at the time when a Roman census was being conducted: "There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the IRoman] world should be registered" (Luke 2:1). Historians have not been able to find any empire-wide census or registration in the years 7-5 B.C., but there is a reference to such a registration of all the Roman people not long before 5 February 2 B.C. written by Caesar Augustus himself: "While I was administering my thirteenth consulship [2 B.C.] the senate and the equestrian order and the entire Roman people gave me the title Father of my Country" (Res Gestae 35, italics added). This award was given to Augustus on 5 February 2 B.C., therefore the registration of citizen approval must have taken place in 3 B.C. 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 B.C. And besides that, Josephus substantiates that an oath of obedience to Augustus was required in Judea not long before the death of Herod (Antiquities I7:4I-45). This agrees nicely in a chronological sense with what Luke records. But more than that, an inscription found in Paphlagonia (eastern Turkey), also dated to 3 B.C., mentions an "oath sworn by all the people in the land at the altars of Augustus in the temples of Augustus in the various districts." And dovetailing precisely with this inscription, the early (fifth century) Armenian historian, Moses of Khoren, said the census that brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem was conducted by Roman agents in Armenia where they set up "the image of Augustus Caesar in every temple.. The similarity of this language is strikingly akin to the wording on the Paphlagonian inscription describing the oath taken in 3 B.C. These indications can allow us to reasonably conclude that the oath (of Josephus, the Paphlagonian inscription, and Orosius) and the census (mentioned by Luke, Orosius, and Moses of Khoren) were one and the same. All of these things happened in 3 B.C."

Miller: What this means is that we have very, very clear evidence of an empire-wide registration in the time frame required! (How much more data do you need?!)


Now, there are two obvious problems here. Miller has previous to this operated with a census in 8-7 bce (where there happened to be an oath of allegiance), but now he wants us to have that be in 2 bce! Also Jews were not Roman citizens, obviously only Roman citizens could declare Augustus father of the (Roman) country! Being a citizen in a client kingdom does not make you a Roman citizen, not by itself at least. But see again Carrier's paragraph before his Conclusion.


First or before?

Fox: In Judea under Quirinius, we know from Josephus's histories of something more appropriate, not a worldwide decree but a local census in AD 6 to assess Judea when the province passed from rule by Herod's family to direct rule by Rome. Although this census was local, it caused a notorious outcry, not least because some of the Jews argued that the innovation was contrary to scripture and the will of God. According to the third Gospel, the census which took Joseph to Bethlehem was `the first while Quirinius was governor of Syria.'

Miller: I have already pointed out that 'first while' is probably a mistranslation of the text -- 'before' is more in line with koine idiom (see the reference of N. Turner, above)


Not complete agreement here. See Did Luke Mean "Before" Quirinius?.


--FreezBee 05:30, 7 Feb 2006 (CST)