Easton's Bible Dictionary
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
SEE FROM CHRONOLOGY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, sec. I, 1, (2); LUKE, THE GOSPEL
OF, sec. 5. )
(2) Census of Quirinius.
The census or enrollment, which, according to Luke 2:1, was the occasion of the
journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem where Jesus was born, is connected with
a decree of Augustus embracing the Greek-Roman world. This decree must have been
carried out in Palestine by Herod and probably in accordance with the Jewish method--
each going to his own city--rather than the Roman (Dig. 15, 4, 2; Zumpt, Das Geburtsjahr
Christi, 195; Kenyon, Greek Papyri in the British Museum, III, 124; Schurer, Theol.
Ztg, 1907, 683; and on the other hand, Ramsay, Expositor, 1908, I, 19, note).
Certainly there is no intimation of an insurrection such as characterized a later
5:37; Ant, XVIII, i, 1; BJ, II, xvii, 7; compare Tac. Ann. vi.41; Livy Epit.
cxxxvi, cxxxvii; Dessau, Inscrip. lat. Sel. number 212, col. ii, 36) and this
may have been due in no small measure to a difference in method.
Both Josephus and Luke mention the later census which was made by Quirinius on
the deposition of Archelaus, together with the insurrection of Judas which accompanied
it. But while Josephus does not mention the Herodian census--although there may
be some intimation of it in Ant, XVI, ix, 3; XVII, ii, 4; compare Sanclemente,
De vulg. aerae emend., 438; Ramsay, Was Christ Born at Beth.1, 178--Luke carefully
distinguishes the two, characterizing the census at the time of Jesus' birth as
"first," i.e. first in a series of enrollments connected either with Quirinius
or with the imperial policy inaugurated by the decree of Augustus. The Greek-
Roman writers of the time do not mention this decree and later writers (Cassiodor,
Isidor and Suidas) cannot be relied upon with certainty as independent witnesses
(Zumpt, Geburtsjahr, 148). Yet the geographical work of Agrippa and the preparation
of a breviarium totius imperil by Augustus (Tac. Ann. i.11; Suet. Aug. 28 and
101; Dio Cassius liii.30; lvi.33; compare Mommsen, Staatsrecht, II, 1025, note
3), together with the interest of the emperor in the organization and finances
of the empire and the attention which he gave to the provinces (Marquardt, Rom.
Staatsverwaltung, II, 211; compare 217), are indirectly corroborative of Luke's
statement. Augustus himself conducted a census in Italy in 726/28, 746/8, 767/14
(Mommsen, Res Ges., 34) and in Gaul in 727/27 (Dio Cassius liii.22, 5; Livy Epit.
cxxxiv) and had a census taken in other provinces (Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyc.,
under the word "Census," 1918; Marquardt, op. cit., II, 213). For Egypt there
is evidence of a regular periodic census every 14 years extending back to 773/20
(Ramsay, op. cit., 131 if; Grenfell and Hunt, Oxy. Papyri, II, 207; Wilcken, Griech.
Ostraka, I, 444) and it is not improbable that this procedure was introduced by
Augustus (Schurer, op. cit., I, 515). The inference from Egyptian to similar conditions
in other provinces must indeed be made cautiously (Wilcken, op. cit., 449; Marquardt,
op. cit., 441); yet in Syria the regular tributum capitis seems to imply some
such preliminary work (Dig, 1. 15, 3; Appian, Syriac., 50; Marquardt, op. cit.,
II, 200, note 2; Pauly-Wissowa, op. cit., 1921; Ramsay, op. cit., 154).
The time of the decree is stated only in general terms by Luke, and it may have
been as early as 727/27 (Zumpt, op. cit., 159; Marquardt, op. cit., II, 212) or
later in 746-8 (Huschke, Census, 34; Ramsay, op. cit., 158), its execution in
different provinces and subject kingdoms being carried out at different times.
Hence, Luke dates the census in the kingdom of Herod specifically by connecting
it with the administrative functions of Quirinius in Syria. But as P. Quintilius
Varus was the legate of Syria just before and after the death of Herod from 748/6-750/4
(Ant., XVII, v, 2; XVII, ix., 3; XVII, x, 1 and 9; XVII, xi, 1; Tac. Hist. v.9;
and coins in Eckhel, Doctr. num. vet., III, 275) and his predecessor Was C. Sentius
Saturninus from 745/9-748/6 (Ant; XVI, ix, 1; x, 8; xi, 3; XVII, i, 1; ii, 1;
iii, 2), there seems to be no place for Quirinius during the closing years of
Herod's reign. Tertullian indeed speaks of Saturninus as legate at the time of
Jesus' birth (Adv. Marc., iv.9). The interpretation of Luke's statement as indicating
a date for the census before Quirinius was legate (Wieseler, Chron. Syn., 116;
Lagrange, Revue Biblique, 1911, 80) is inadmissible.
It is possible that the connection of the census with Quirinius may be due to
his having brought to completion what was begun by one of his predecessors; or
Quirinius may have been commissioned especially by the emperor as legatus ad census
accipiendos to conduct a census in Syria and this commission may have been connected
temporally with his campaign against the Homonadenses in Cilicia (Tac. Ann. iii.48;
compare Noris, Cenotaph. Pis., 320; Sanclemente, op. cit., 426 passim; Ramsay,
op. cit., 238). It has also been suggested by Bour (L'Inscription de Quirinius,
48) that Quirinius may have been an imperial procurator specially charged with
authority in the matter of the Herodian census. The titulus Tiburtinus (CIL, XIV,
3613; Dessau, Inscr. Latin Sel., 918)--if rightly assigned to him--and there seems
to be no sufficient reason for questioning the conclusiveness of Mommsen's defense
of this attribution (compare Liebenam, Verwaltungsgesch., 365)--proves that he
was twice legate of Syria, and the titulus Venetus (CIL, III, 6687; Dessau, op.
cit., 2683) gives evidence of a census conducted by him in Syria. His administration
is dated by Ramsay (op. cit., 243) in 747/7; by Mommsen in the end of 750/4 or
the beginning of 751/3 (op. cit., 172). Zahn (Neue kirch. Zeitschr., 1893, IV,
633), followed by Spitta (Zeitschr. f. d. neutest. Wiss., 1906, VII, 293), rejects
the historicity of the later census connected by Josephus with the deposition
of Archelaus, basing his view on internal grounds, and assigns the Lucan census
to a time shortly after the death of Herod. This view however is rendered improbable
by the evidence upon which the birth of Jesus is assigned to a time before the
death of Herod (Matthew
1:5 ; 2:1);
by the differentiation of the census in Luke
2:1 f and Acts
5:37; by the definite connection of the census in Josephus with Syria and
the territory of Archelaus (compare also the tit. Venet.); and by the general
imperial policy in the formation of a new province (Marquardt, op. cit., II, 213).
Moreover there seems to be no adequate ground for identifying the Sabinus of Josephus
with Quirinius as urged by Weber, who regards the two accounts (Ant., XVII, viii,
1 and XVII, iv, 5; XVIII, i, 2; ii, 1) as due to the separation by Josephus of
parallel accounts of the same events in his sources (Zeitschr. f. d. neutest.
Wiss., 1909, X, 307)--the census of Sabinus-Quirinius being assigned to 4 BC,
just after the death of Herod the Great. The synchronism of the second census
of Quirinius with the periodic year of the Egyptian census is probably only a
coincidence, for it was occasioned by the deposition of Archelaus; but its extension
to Syria may be indicative of its connection with the imperial policy inaugurated
by Augustus (Tac. Ann. vi.41; Ramsay, op. cit., 161 f).
W. P. Armstrong
bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, census, governor of cilicia (syria), quirinius, quirinus