(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
Jump to: Barnes • BI • Calvin • Clarke • Darby • Gill • GSB • Guzik • Homiletics • JFB • MHC • MHCW • PNT • PUL • VWS • WES • TSKActs 5:37. It is said to be the census taken by "Cyrenius; governor of Syria; "not that he was "then" governor, but that it was taken by him who was afterward familiarly known as governor. "Cyrenius, governor of Syria," was the name by which the man was known when Luke wrote his gospel, and it was not improper to say that the taxing was made by Cyrenius, the governor of Syria," though he might not have been actually governor for many years afterward. Thus, Herodian says that to Marcus "the emperor" were born several daughters and two sons," though several of those children were born to him "before" he was emperor. Thus, it is not improper to say that General Washington saved Braddock's army, or was engaged in the old French war, though he was not actually made "general" until many years afterward. According to this Augustus sent Cyrenius, an active, enterprising man, to take the census. At that time he was a Roman senator. Afterward, he was made governor of the same country, and received the title which Luke gives him.
Syria - The region of country north of Palestine, and lying between the Mediterranean and the Euphrates. "Syria," called in the Hebrew "Aram," from a son of Shem Genesis 10:22, in its largest acceptation extended from the Mediterranean and the river Cydnus to the Euphrates, and from Mount Taurus on the north to Arabia and the border of Egypt on the south. It was divided into "Syria Palestina," including Canaan and Phoenicia; "Coele-Syria," the tract of country lying between two ridges of Mount Lebanon and Upper Syria. The last was known as "Syria" in the restricted sense, or as the term was commonly used.
The leading features in the physical aspect of Syria consist of the great mountainous chains of Lebanon, or Libanus and Anti-Libanus, extending from north to south, and the great desert lying on the southeast and east. The valleys are of great fertility, and yield abundance of grain, vines, mulberries, tobacco, olives, excellent fruits, as oranges, figs, pistachios, etc. The climate in the inhabited parts is exceedingly fine. Syria is inhabited by various descriptions of people, but Turks and Greeks form the basis of the population in the cities. The only tribes that can be considered as unique to Syria are the tenants of the heights of Lebanon. The most remarkable of these are the Druses and Maronites. The general language is Arabic; the soldiers and officers of government speak Turkish. Of the old Syriac language no traces now exist.
It is easily proved, and has been proved often, that Caius Sulpicius Quirinus, the person mentioned in the text, was not governor of Syria, till ten or twelve years after the birth of our Lord.
St. Matthew says that our Lord was born in the reign of Herod, Luke 2:1, at which time Quintilius Varus was president of Syria, (Joseph. Ant. book xvii. c. 5, sect. 2), who was preceded in that office by Sentius Saturninus. Cyrenius, or Quirinus, was not sent into Syria till Archelaus was removed from the government of Judea; and Archelaus had reigned there between nine and ten years after the death of Herod; so that it is impossible that the census mentioned by the evangelist could have been made in the presidency of Quirinus.
Several learned men have produced solutions of this difficulty; and, indeed, there are various ways of solving it, which may be seen at length in Lardner, vol. i. p. 248-329. One or other of the two following appears to me to be the true meaning of the text.
1. When Augustus published this decree, it is supposed that Quirinus, who was a very active man, and a person in whom the emperor confided, was sent into Syria and Judea with extraordinary powers, to make the census here mentioned; though, at that time, he was not governor of Syria, for Quintilius Varus was then president; and that when he came, ten or twelve years after, into the presidency of Syria, there was another census made, to both of which St. Luke alludes, when he says, This was the first assessment of Cyrenius, governor of Syria; for so Dr. Lardner translates the words. The passage, thus translated, does not say that this assessment was made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria, which would not have been the truth, but that this was the first assessment which Cyrenius, who was (i.e. afterwards) governor of Syria, made; for after he became governor, he made a second. Lardner defends this opinion in a very satisfactory and masterly manner. See vol. i. p. 317. etc.
2. The second way of solving this difficulty is by translating the words thus: This enrolment was made Before Cyrenius was governor of Syria; or, before that of Cyrenius. This sense the word πρωτος appears to have, John 1:30 : ὁτι πρωτος μου ην, for he was Before me. John 15:18 : The world hated me Before (πρωτον) it hated you. See also 2 Samuel 19:43. Instead of πρωτη, some critics read προ της, This enrolment was made Before That of Cyrenius. Michaelis; and some other eminent and learned men, have been of this opinion: but their conjecture is not supported by any MS. yet discovered; nor, indeed, is there any occasion for it. As the words in the evangelist are very ambiguous, the second solution appears to me to be the best.Acts 5:38.
When Cyrenius was governor of Syria; or "of Cyrenius" "governor of Syria"; that is, it was the first that he was, concerned in; who not now, but afterwards was governor of Syria; and because he had been so before Luke wrote this history, and this being a title of honour, and what might distinguish him from others of that name, it is given him; for as Tertullian says (c), Sentius Saturninus was now governor of Syria, when Cyrenius was sent into Judea, to make this register, or taxing; and which is manifestly distinguished from that, which was made during his being governor of Syria, when Archelaus was banished from Judea, ten or eleven years after Herod's death; which Josephus (d) gives an account of, and Luke refers to, in Acts 5:37. Moreover, the words will bear to be rendered thus, "and this tax, or enrolment, was made before Cyrenius was governor of Syria"; being used for as in John 1:15. This Cyrenius is the same whom the Romans call Quirinius, and Quirinus; a governor of Syria had great power in Judea, to which it was annexed, when Cyrenius was governor there. It is reported of R. Gamaliel, that he went to take a licence, , "from a governor of Syria" (e); i.e. to intercalate the year: and Syria was in many things like to the land of Judea, particularly as to tithes, and the keeping of the seventh year (f),(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)This taxing was first made, etc. This statement has caused some difficulty. Luke seems to affirm that the enrollment took place the year Jesus was born, but while Cyrenius was governor of Syria. Now Cyrenius was governor of Syria from A.D. 6 to A.D. 11 There are two ways of settling the apparent difficulty: (1) Augustus Caesar, incensed at Herod, ordered an enrollment for taxation of the Jews the year of the birth of Jesus. It was carried out in all probability by Cyrenius. The intercession of Herod's minister, Nicolas, averted the displeasure of Augustus and the taxation did not take place until Cyrenius was governor of Syria, after Archelaus, son of Herod, was deposed. These facts we learn from Josephus, and they remove the apparent discrepancy. But (2) A. W. Zumpt, of Berlin, followed by Alford and Schaff, make it highly probable that Cyrenius was governor of Syria twice, the first time from B.C. 4 to B.C. 1 I have not space for the argument which seems conclusive. But in B.C. 4 Jesus was born. Ancient writers, Christians as well as pagan opposers, state that Jesus was born while Cyrenius was governor of Syria.Verse 2. - (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) Hostile criticism makes a still more direct attack upon the historical statement made by St. Luke here. Quirinius, it is well known, was governor (legatus or praeses) of Syria ten years later, and during his office a census or registration - with a view to taxation - which led to a popular disturbance, was made in his province. These critics say that St. Luke mentions, as taking place before the birth of Jesus, an event which really happened ten years after. Much historical vestigation has been made with a view to explain this difficulty. It has been now satisfactorily demonstrated that, strangely enough, this Quirinius - who ten years later was certainly governor (legatus) of Syria - at the time of the birth of the Savior held high office in Syria, either as praeses (governor) or quaestor (imperial commissioner). The Greek word rendered by the English "governor" would have been used for either of these important offices. On the whole question of these alleged historical inaccuracies of St. Luke, it may be observed:
(1) Strangely enough, none of the early opponents of Christianity, such as Celsus or Porphyry, impugn the accuracy of our evangelist here. Surely, if there had been so marked an error on the threshold of his Gospel, these distinguished adversaries of our faith, living comparatively soon after the events in question, would have been the first to hit so conspicuous a blot in the story they hated so well. And
(2) nothing is more improbable than that St. Luke, a man of education, and writing, too, evidently for people of thought and culture, would have ventured on a definite historical statement of this kind, which would, if wrong, have been so easily exposed, had he not previously thoroughly satisfied himself as to its complete accuracy. Generally, the above conclusions are now adopted, lately, amongst others, by Godet, Farrar, Plumptre, and Bishop Ellicott (in his Hulsean Lectures). Godet has an especially long and exhaustive note on this subject. The conclusions are mainly drawn from the researches of such scholars as Zumpt and Mommsen. Cyrenius; Latin, Quirinus. He is mentioned by the historians Tacitus and Suetonius. He appears to have been originally of humble birth, and, like so many of the soldiers of fortune of the empire, rose through his own merits to his great position. He was a gallant and true soldier, but withal self-seeking and harsh. For his Cilician victories the senate decreed him a triumph. He received the distinguished honor of a public funeral, A.D. 21 (Tac., 'Ann.,' 2:30; 3:22, 48; Suet., 'Tib.,' 49).
Rather, this occurred as the first enrolment ; or, as Rev., this was the first enrolment made; with reference to a second enrolment which took place about eleven years later, and is referred to in Acts 5:37.
LinksLuke 2:2 NIV
Luke 2:2 NLT
Luke 2:2 ESV
Luke 2:2 NASB
Luke 2:2 KJV
Luke 2:2 Bible Apps
Luke 2:2 Parallel
Luke 2:2 Biblia Paralela
Luke 2:2 Chinese Bible
Luke 2:2 French Bible
Luke 2:2 German Bible