We saw earlier that Matthew 2 is wrong, yet the strange stories of God using astrologers, signs not mentioned by God, out-of-context prophecies and fulfillment of prophecies not from God are indeed popular among Christians today. If you haven’t read how Matthew 2 is wrong, I recommend reading it fully. Here is a quick recap.
- Error in Hos 11:1-2: Out of Egypt I called My son and they sacrificed to the Baals, and burned incense to carved images.
- The prophecy is about how the children of Jacob was called out of Egypt, but they scarified to Baal and burned incense to carved images. This is by no means a reference to Jesus Christ. Nor did He went to Egypt anytime for God is against it (Isa 30:1-3).
- Error in Jer 31:15-16: Rachel weeping for her children in Ramah, an inheritance of Benjamin have nothing to do with Leah’s son, Judah’s inheritance of Bethlehem.
- The prophecy is wrongly attributed.
- No Prophecy about Christ being a Nazarene.
Here, we will see how Luke 2 is correct.
Luke 2:1-7 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
There are major difficulties for many in accepting Luke’s account:
- the census in fact took place in AD 6, ten years after Herod’s death in 4 BCE;
- no Roman census required people to travel from their own homes to those of distant ancestors;
- the census of Judea would not have affected Joseph and his family, living in Galilee;
Addressing these issues are important to understand which account is correct because, as we saw in Matthew 2, both cannot be correct.
Census in 6 AD
Luke 1:5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
Based on historical records, king Herod died in 4 BC and the Judea census by the Romans took place in 6 AD. Luke did not say that Jesus was born during the same time as in the days of Herod, king of Judea. What he actually said relating the days of Herod was the prophecy of the birth of John the baptist. There is nothing stopping from the fulfillment of the prophecy 10 years later, just as God prophesied to Abraham regarding Isaac 25 years earlier.
Census Requirement in the Law
The focus on Luke’s account on the Roman census of Judea misses out some key requirements of the law given by God for census.
Exod 30:12-16 “When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them. This is what everyone among those who are numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (a shekel is twenty gerahs). The half-shekel shall be an offering to the LORD. Everyone included among those who are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering to the LORD. The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when you give an offering to the LORD, to make atonement for yourselves. And you shall take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shall appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the children of Israel before the LORD, to make atonement for yourselves.”
Hence, Mary and Joseph must go to Jerusalem Temple to offer a shekel or half-a-shekel (depending on Mary’s age) which is the atonement money.
Census Procedure in the Law
Num 1:2 “Take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male individually
Apart from offering the atonement money in the Temple, the census procedure given by God to Moses in the law is different from the Roman requirement of census. The Jews cannot simply take a census just because the Romans wanted it for tax purposes but do it as instructed by God through Moses in the law.
Census in the law requires to count as follows:
- by their families
- by their father’s house
Num 1:49 “Only the tribe of Levi you shall not number, nor take a census of them among the children of Israel;
As a census requirement of the law, it is important to note that the Levites must not be numbered in census.
In 6 CE, Cyrenius (also called Quirinius), the Roman governor of Syria, had to take the census of the Jews in Israel. Judas the Galilean and Zadok the Priest actively opposed this and convinced many others to join their cause. (Ref: Wiki).
As we see, Judas and Zaddok was revolting for right reasons. What is generally overlooked, yet mentioned clearly in the law and what every Jew must follow is that, census must never include the tribe of Levites but Romans require it and least worried about law of Moses.
Luke chapter 2 is correct about Quirinius census in 6 AD. The Jews not only had to offer atonement money in the Temple, but also must go to their father’s house for the census procedure as in the law is by their families and their father’s house. Hence, Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem is not a Roman requirement of census but a requirement from the law of Moses.