Luke 2:2
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

New Living Translation
(This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

English Standard Version
This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.

Berean Study Bible
This was the first census to take place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

Berean Literal Bible
This registration first took place when Quirinius was governing Syria.

New American Standard Bible
This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

King James Bible
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

Holman Christian Standard Bible
This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.

International Standard Version
This was the first registration taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

NET Bible
This was the first registration, taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.

New Heart English Bible
This was the first enrollment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
This census was the first in the government of Quraynus in Syria.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

New American Standard 1977
This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

Jubilee Bible 2000
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

King James 2000 Bible
(And this taxing was first made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

American King James Version
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

American Standard Version
This was the first enrolment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.

Douay-Rheims Bible
This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria.

Darby Bible Translation
The census itself first took place when Cyrenius had the government of Syria.

English Revised Version
This was the first enrollment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.

Webster's Bible Translation
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

Weymouth New Testament
It was the first registration made during the governorship of Quirinius in Syria;

World English Bible
This was the first enrollment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.

Young's Literal Translation
this enrolment first came to pass when Cyrenius was governor of Syria --
Study Bible
The Birth of Jesus
1Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2This was the first census to take place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3And everyone went to his own town to register.…
Cross References
Matthew 4:24
News about Him spread all over Syria, and people brought to Him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering acute pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed--and He healed them.

Luke 2:1
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.

Luke 2:3
And everyone went to his own town to register.

Acts 5:37
After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and drew away people after him. He too perished, and all his followers were scattered.
Treasury of Scripture

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

taxing.

Acts 5:37 After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, …

governor.

Luke 3:1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius …

Acts 13:7 Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent …

Acts 18:12 And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection …

Acts 23:26 Claudius Lysias to the most excellent governor Felix sends greeting.

Acts 26:30 And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, …

(2) And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.--Here we come upon difficulties of another kind. Publicius Sulpicius Quirinus ("Cyrenius" is the Greek form of the last of the three names) was Consul B.C. 12, but he is not named as Governor of Syria till after the deposition of Archelaus, A.D. 6, and he was then conspicuous in carrying out a census which involved taxation in the modern sense; and this was the "taxing" referred to in Gamaliel's speech (Acts 5:37) as having led to the revolt of Judas of Galilee. How are we to explain the statement of St. Luke so as to reconcile it with the facts of history? (1) The word translated "first" has been taken as if it meant "before," as it is rendered in John 1:15; John 1:30. This cuts the knot of the difficulty, but it is hardly satisfactory. This construction is not found elsewhere in St. Luke, and his manner is to refer to contemporary events, not to subsequent ones. It is hardly natural to speak of one event simply as happening before another, with no hint as to the interval that separated them, when that interval included ten or twelve years. (2) Our knowledge of the governors of Syria at this period is imperfect. The dates of their appointments, so far as they go, are as follows:--

B.C. 9.--Sentius Saturninus.

B.C. 6.--T. Quintilius Varus.

A.D. 6.--P. Sulpicius Quirinus.

It was, however, part of the policy of Augustus that no governor of an imperial province should hold office for more than five or less than three years, and it is in the highest degree improbable that Varus (whom we find in A.D. 7 in command of the ill-fated expedition against the Germans) should have continued in office for the twelve years which the above dates suggest. One of the missing links is found in A. Volusius Saturninus, whose name appears on a coin of Antioch about A.D. 4 or 5. The fact that Quirinus appears as a rector, or special commissioner attached to Caius Csar, when he was sent to Armenia (Tac. Ann. iii. 48), at some period before A.D. 4, the year in which Caius died--probably between B.C. 4 and 1--shows that he was in the East at this time, and we may therefore fairly look on St. Luke as having supplied the missing link in the succession, or at least as confirming the statement that Quirinus was in some office of authority in the East, if not as prses, or proconsul then as qutor or Imperial Commissioner. Tacitus, however, records the fact that he triumphed over a Cilician tribe (the Homonadenses) after his consulship; and, as Cilicia was, at that time, attached to the province of Syria, it is probable that he was actually "governor" in the stricter sense of a term somewhat loosely used. St. Luke is, on this view, as accurate in his history here as he is proved to be in all other points where he comes in contact with the contemporary history of the empire, and the true meaning is found by emphasising the adjective, "This enrolment was the first under Quirinus's government of Syria." He expressly distinguishes it, i.e., from the more memorable "taxing" of which Gamaliel speaks (Acts 5:37). St. Luke, it may be noted, is the only New Testament writer who uses the word. Justin Martyr, it may be added, confidently appeals to Roman registers as confirming St. Luke's statement that our Lord was born under Quirinus.

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). And this taxing was first made,.... Or "this was the first enrolment, or taxing" in the Jewish nation; for there was another afterwards, when Judas the Galilean arose, and drew many after him, 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),

(c) Contr. Marcion, l. 4. c. 19. (d) Antiqu. l. 18. c. 1.((e) Misn. Ediot. c. 7. sect. 7. (f) T. Bab. Gittin. fol. 8. 1.2. first … when Cyrenius, etc.—a very perplexing verse, inasmuch as Cyrenius, or Quirinus, appears not to have been governor of Syria for about ten years after the birth of Christ, and the "taxing" under his administration was what led to the insurrection mentioned in Ac 5:37. That there was a taxing, however, of the whole Roman Empire under Augustus, is now admitted by all; and candid critics, even of skeptical tendency, are ready to allow that there is not likely to be any real inaccuracy in the statement of our Evangelist. Many superior scholars would render the words thus, "This registration was previous to Cyrenius being governor of Syria"—as the word "first" is rendered in Joh 1:15; 15:18. In this case, of course, the difficulty vanishes. But it is perhaps better to suppose, with others, that the registration may have been ordered with a view to the taxation, about the time of our Lord's birth, though the taxing itself—an obnoxious measure in Palestine—was not carried out till the time of Quirinus.2:1-7 The fulness of time was now come, when God would send forth his Son, made of a woman, and made under the law. The circumstances of his birth were very mean. Christ was born at an inn; he came into the world to sojourn here for awhile, as at an inn, and to teach us to do likewise. We are become by sin like an outcast infant, helpless and forlorn; and such a one was Christ. He well knew how unwilling we are to be meanly lodged, clothed, or fed; how we desire to have our children decorated and indulged; how apt the poor are to envy the rich, and how prone the rich to disdain the poor. But when we by faith view the Son of God being made man and lying in a manger, our vanity, ambition, and envy are checked. We cannot, with this object rightly before us, seek great things for ourselves or our children.
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