Luke 2:1
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
II.

(1) There went out a decree.—The passage that follows has given rise to almost endless discussion. The main facts may be summed up as follows:—(1) The word “taxed” is used in its older English sense of simple “registration,” and in that sense is a true equivalent for the Greek word. The corresponding verb appears in Hebrews 12:23. It does not involve, as to modern ears it seems to do, the payment of taxes. The “world” (literally, the inhabited world, οἰκουμένη, œcumenè,—the word from which we form the word “œcumenical” as applied to councils) is taken, as throughout the New Testament, for the Roman empire. What Augustus is said to have decreed, was a general census. (2) It may be admitted that no Roman or Jewish historian speaks distinctly of such a general census as made at this time. On the other hand, the collection of statistical returns of this nature was an ever-recurring feature of the policy of Augustus. We read of such returns at intervals of about ten years during the whole period of his government. In B.C. 27, when he offered to resign, he laid before the Senate a rationarium, or survey of the whole empire. After his death, a like document, more epitomised—a breviarium—was produced as having been compiled by him. There are traces of one about this time made by the Emperor, not in his character as Censor, but by an imperial edict such as St. Luke here describes. (3) Just before the death of Herod, Josephus (Wars, i. 27, § 2; 29:2) reports that there was an agitation among the Jews, which led him to require them to take an oath of fidelity, not to himself only, but to the Emperor, and that 6,000 Pharisees refused to take it. He does not say what caused it, but the census which St. Luke records, holding out, as it did, the prospect of future taxation in the modern sense, sufficiently explains it. (4) It need hardly be said that the whole policy of Herod was one of subservience to the Emperor, and that though he retained a nominal independence, he was not likely to resist the wish of the Emperor for statistics of the population, or even of the property, of the province over which he ruled. (5) It may be noted that none of the early opponents of Christianity—such as Celsus and Porphyry—call the accuracy of the statement in question. St. Luke, we may add, lastly, as an inquirer, writing for men of education, would not have been likely to expose himself to the risk of detection by asserting that there had been such a census in the face of facts to the contrary.

Luke 2:1. And it came to pass in those days — That is, about the time in which John the Baptist was born, and Christ conceived, in the manner related in the preceding chapter; there went out a decree from Cesar Augustus, the Roman emperor, that all the world should be taxed — the word οικουμενη, here rendered world, “means strictly the inhabited part of the earth, and therefore, πασα η οικουμενη, all the world, in the common acceptation of the phrase. But it is well known that this expression was, in ancient times, frequently employed to denote the Roman empire. It was probably a title first assumed through arrogance, afterward given by others through flattery, and at last appropriated by general use to this signification. That it has a more extensive meaning in this place is not pretended by any. But there are some who, on the contrary, would confine it still further, making it denote no more than Judea and its appendages. Of this opinion are several of the learned; Beausobre, Doddridge, Lardner, Pearce, and others. In support of it they have produced some passages in which this phrase, or expressions equivalent, appear to have no larger signification. But, admitting their explanation of the passages they produce, they are not parallel to the example in hand. Such hyperboles are indeed current, not only in the language of the evangelists, but in every language. In those cases, however, wherein they are introduced, there rarely fails to be something, either in what is spoken or in the occasion of speaking, which serves to explain the trope. For example: the term, a country, in English, denotes properly a region, or tract of land, inhabited by a people living under the same government. By this, which is the common acceptation, we should say that England is a country. Yet the term is often used without any ambiguity in a more limited sense. Thus an inhabitant of a country town or parish says to one of his neighbours, speaking of two persons of their acquaintance, ‘All the country says they are soon to be married;’ yet so far is he from meaning by the phrase, all the country, all the people of England, that he is sensible not a thousandth part of them know that such persons exist. He means no more than all the neighbourhood. Nor is he in the smallest danger, by speaking thus, of being misunderstood by any hearer. But if he should say, ‘The parliament has laid a tax on saddle-horses, throughout all the country,’ nobody could imagine that less than England was intended by the term country, in this application. Here the term must be considered as it stands related to parliament; in other words, it must be that which, in the style of the legislature, would be named the country. In like manner, though it might not be extraordinary that a Jew, addressing himself to Jews, and speaking of their own people only, should employ such an hyperbole as, all the world, for all Judea; it would be exceedingly unnatural in him to use the same terms, applied in the same manner, in relating the resolves and decrees of the Roman emperor, to whom all Judea would be very far from appearing all the world, or even a considerable part of it. Add to this, that the Syriac interpreter (as also all the other ancient interpreters) understood the words in the same manner: all the people in his (the emperor’s) dominions.” — Campbell. The chief, if not the only objection to this sense of the expression is, the silence of historians. But what Grotius observes, greatly lessens the force of that objection; “I do not so understand the evangelist,” says he, “as if a census were made through the whole Roman world, at one and the same time; but when Augustus wished thoroughly to know the whole power of the Roman empire, he appointed a census to be made through all the kingdoms and provinces subject to it, at one time in one part, and at another in another. Thus Dion, επεμψεν αλλους αλλη, τα τε των ιδιωτων και τα των πολεων απογραψομενους, he sent some persons one way and some another, who might take an account of the property, as well of private persons as of cities. Of the census made through Gaul by order of Augustus, Claudius, in an oration which is preserved at Ancyra, the abbreviator of Livy, and Dio, have made mention.”

Should be taxed — Greek, απογραφεσθαι, enrolled: that is, that all the inhabitants, male and female, of every town in the Roman empire, with their families and estates, should be registered. Many of the modern translations, particularly those into Italian, French, and English, have rendered the word taxed: and as registers were commonly made with a view to taxing, it may, no doubt, in many cases, be so rendered with sufficient propriety: but, “as in this place there is some difficulty, it is better to adhere strictly to the import of the words. For though it was commonly for the purpose of taxing that a register was made, it was not always, or necessarily so; and in the present case we have ground to believe that there was no immediate view to taxation, at least with respect to Judea. Herod, called the Great, was then alive, and king of the country, and though in subordination to the Romans, of whom he may justly be said to have held his crown, yet, as they allowed him all the honours of royalty, there is no ground to think that, either in his lifetime, or before the banishment of his son Archelaus, the Romans levied any toll or tribute from the people of Judea. Nay, we have the testimony of Josephus, that they did not till after the expulsion of Archelaus, when the country was annexed to Syria, and so became part of a Roman province.” — Campbell. The reader will observe, such a census, or account, as that here spoken of, “used to be taken of the citizens of Rome every fifth year, and they had officers on purpose appointed for it, called censors. Their business was to take an account, and make a register, of all the Roman citizens, their wives and children, with the age, qualities, trades, offices, and estates of them all. Augustus first extended this to the provinces. He was then at work on the composure of such a book, containing such a survey and description of the whole Roman empire, as that which our Doomsday-book doth of England. In order whereto, his decree for this survey was made to extend to the depending kingdoms, as well as the provinces of the empire: — however, taxes were only paid by the people of the provinces to the Romans; and those of the dependant kingdoms to their own proper princes, who paid their tributes to the Roman emperors. Three times during his reign he caused the like description to be made. The second is that which St. Luke refers to. The decree concerning it was issued out three years before that in which Christ was born. So long had the taking of this survey been carrying on through Syria, Cœlo-Syria, Phœnicia, and Judea, before it came to Bethlehem. No payment of any tax was made (on this survey) till the twelfth year after. Till then Herod, and after him Archelaus his son, reigned in Judea. But when Archelaus was deposed, and Judea put under the command of a Roman procurator, then first were taxes paid to the Romans for that country.” — Prideaux.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.In those days - About the time of the birth of John and of Christ.

A decree - A law commanding a thing to be done.

Caesar Augustus - This was the Roman emperor. His first name was Octavianus. He was the nephew of Julius Caesar, and obtained the empire after his death. He took the name "Augustus - i. e., august," or honorable - as a compliment to his own greatness; and from him the month "August," which was before called "Sextilis," received its name.

That all the world - There has been much difficulty respecting this passage, from the fact that no such taxing of "all the world" is mentioned by ancient writers. It should have been rendered "the whole land" - that is, the whole land of Palestine. The "whole land" is mentioned to show that it was not "Judea" only, but that it included also "Galilee," the place where Joseph and Mary dwelt. That the passage refers only to the land of Palestine, and not to the whole world, or to all the Roman empire, is clear from the following considerations:

1. The fact that no such taxing is mentioned as pertaining to any other country.

2. The account of Luke demands only that it should be understood of Palestine, or the country where the Saviour was born.

3. The words "world" and "whole world" are not unfrequently used in this limited sense as confined to a single country.

See Matthew 4:8, where Satan is said to have shown to Christ all the kingdoms of "the world," that is, of the land of Judea. See also Joshua 2:3; Luke 4:25 (Greek); Luke 21:26; Acts 11:28.

Should be taxed - Our word "tax" means to levy and raise money for the use of the government. This is not the meaning of the original word here. It means rather to "enroll," or take a "list" of the citizens, with their employments, the amount of their property, etc., equivalent to what was meant by census. Judea was at that time tributary to Rome. It paid taxes to the Roman emperor; and, though Herod was "king," yet he held his appointment under the Roman emperor, and was subject in most matters to him. Farther, as this "enrollment" was merely to ascertain the numbers and property of the Jews, it is probable that they were very willing to be enrolled in this manner; and hence we hear that they went willingly, without tumult - contrary to the common way when they were "to be taxed."

CHAPTER 2

Lu 2:1-7. Birth of Christ.

1. Cæsar Augustus—the first of the Roman emperors.

all the world—so the vast Roman Empire was termed.

taxed—enrolled, or register themselves.Luke 2:1-5 Augustus taxes all the Roman empire: Joseph goeth

with Mary to be taxed at Bethlehem.

Luke 2:6,7 The birth of Christ.

Luke 2:8-14 An angel bringeth news thereof to the shepherds: the

heavenly host praise God.

Luke 2:15-20 The shepherds, finding it to be as the angel had said,

glorify God.

Luke 2:21 The circumcision of Christ.

Luke 2:22-24 The purifying of Mary.

Luke 2:25-35 Simeon’s prophecy,

Luke 2:36-38 and Anna’s, concerning Christ.

Luke 2:39,40 Jesus groweth, and increases in wisdom.

Luke 2:41-50 At twelve years of age he goeth with his parents to

Jerusalem, and questions with the doctors in the temple,

Luke 2:51,52 he is obedient to his parents.

Ver. 1-3. Octavius Caesar (called Augustus, for his prosperous achievements) was the first Roman emperor properly so called, (for Julius Caesar had but the title of perpetual dictator), in the forty-second year of whose reign Christ was born, (Josephus saith, in the one and thirtieth year, Antiq. cap. 10.), Herod the Great being at that time king of Judea, being so declared by the senate of Rome near forty years before. It was the custom of the Romans to take a particular account of the numbers and qualities of all persons inhabiting countries under their jurisdiction, in order to the laying of taxes upon them. About the time of the birth of Christ there was a decree issued from the Roman emperor for such a census or account to be taken of the Jews, who, some think, are here only understood by the term, all the world; others think that it was a decree which reached all that part of the world which was subject to the Roman emperor. This trust it seemeth was committed to Cyrenius, governor of Syria; whether he was at that time governor, or afterwards made governor, and at this time only a commissioner for this business, is not agreed. That this Cyrenius was the same whom the Roman historians call Quirinius is pretty well agreed. Great endeavours are used to reconcile what Luke saith here to Josephus and the Roman historians, who make Varus, not Quirinius, at this time the president of Syria. Those who desire to be satisfied as to those things may read Mr. Pool’s Synopsis Criticorum upon this text, &c. Where civil historians differ from what we have in holy writ, we are obliged to believe them mistaken, not the penmen of holy writ, who were guided by an infallible Spirit. Leaving therefore those disputes, and in what sense this census is called the first, or is said to be first begun, when Cyrenius or Quirius was president, as being of no great concern, (for other historians grant Quirinius at this time a commissioner with Caius Caesar, and within ten years after president, in succession to Varus), let us rather herein observe the wonderful providence of God in the ordering of things for the fulfilling of his word, while we think of no such things, to which purpose doubtless this is premised by the evangelist. According to the counsel of God, declared by his prophets, Micah 5:2, Christ was to be born at Bethlehem, the metropolis of Judea; so the chief priests and scribes tell Herod, Matthew 2:5. Mary his mother, and Joseph his supposed father, lived at a great distance from Bethlehem, in Nazareth, a city of Galilee. God so ordereth it, that the Roman emperor (under whose power the Jews were at this time) orders a numbering of all his subjects, either in all his dominions at the same time, or at least in Judea, and an account to be taken of their persons and qualities, in order to the laying taxes upon them, to defray the charges of the empire. The account of the Jews being to be taken according to their tribes, those who belonged to each tribe were ordered to convene in the chief city belonging to the tribe of which they were. Joseph and Mary were both of the tribe of Judah. This occasion brings them both to Bethlehem, being the chief city of their tribe, to meet the emperor’s commissioners. So Christ came to be born in Bethlehem, according to the word of the Lord, from which a tittle shall not fail; and little Bethlehem becomes not the least amongst the thousands of Judah, one coming out of it to be a Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth were of old, even from everlasting.

And it came to pass in those days,.... When John the Baptist was born, and Christ was conceived, and his mother pregnant with him, and the time of his birth drew on. The Ethiopic version reads, "in that day"; as if it was the same day in which John was circumcised, and Zacharias delivered the above song of praise: that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus; second emperor of Rome; the name Caesar was common to all the emperors, as Pharaoh to the Egyptians, and afterwards Ptolemy. His name Augustus, was not his original surname, but Thurinus; and was given him, after he became Caesar, to express his grandeur, majesty, and reverence; and that by the advice of Munatius Plancus, when others would have had him called Romulus, as if he was the founder of the city of Rome (z): by him a decree was made and published,

that all the world should be taxed; or "registered", or "enrolled"; for this was not levying a tax, or imposing tribute upon them, but a taking an account of the names of persons, and of their estates; and which might be, in order to lay a tax upon them, as afterwards was: for the payment of a tax, there was no need of the appearance of women and children; and so the Arabic version renders it, "that the names the whole habitable world might be described, or written down": such an enrolment had been determined on by Augustus, when at Tarracon in Spain, twenty seven years before; but he was diverted from it by some disturbances in the empire, so that it was deferred to this time, in which there was a remarkable interposition of divine providence; for had this enrolment been made then, in all likelihood it had not been done now, and Joseph and Mary would not have had occasion to have come to Bethlehem: but so it must be; and thus were things ordered by an infinite, and all wise providence to effect it: nor did this enrolment reach to all the parts of the known world, but only to the Roman empire; which, because it was so very large as it was, and in the boasting language of the Romans was so called, as, Ptolemy Evergetes (a) calls his kingdom, "the world". Though some think only the land of Judea is meant, which is called the earth, in Luke 21:26 and "all the world", in Acts 11:28 but the other sense seems more agreeable; and so the Syriac version renders it, "that all the people of his empire might be enrolled": and the Persic version, "that they should enrol all the subjects of his kingdom"; and is justified by the use of the phrase for the Roman empire, in several passages of Scripture, Romans 1:8. Now at the time of this enrolment, and under this august emperor, and when the whole world was in a profound peace, was the Messiah born, the King of kings, and the only potentate; the Shiloh, the peaceable and prosperous, the Prince of Peace, and Lord of life and glory; and that, in order to redeem men from that worse subjection and bondage they were in to sin, Satan, the law, and death, than they were to the Roman emperor. The Jews say (b), the son of David shall not come, until the kingdom (of Edom, or Rome, as some copies read, in others it is erased) shall be extended over all Israel, nine months, according to Micah 5:3. The gloss on it is, that is, "all the world", in which the Israelites are scattered,

(z) Suetonius in Vita Octav August. sect. 7. (a) Apud Fabricii Biblioth Gr. Tom. 2. p. 608. (b) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 98. 2.

And {1} it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the {a} world should be {b} taxed.

(1) Christ, the son of God, taking upon himself the form of a servant, and making himself of no reputation, is poorly born in a stable: and by the means of Augustus, the mightiest prince in the world, (thinking nothing of it) has his cradle prepared in Bethlehem, as the prophets foretold.

(a) As far as the empire of the Romans stretched.

(b) That is, the inhabitants of every city should have their names recorded, and their goods rated at a certain value, that the emperor might understand how rich every country, city, family, and house was.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Luke 2:1. Ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκ.] approximate specification of time in relation to the principal contents of what precedes, the birth of the Baptist.

δόγμα] an ordinance, an edict. Acts 17:7; Theodotion, Daniel 2:13; Dem. 278. 17, 774. 19; Plat. Legg. i. p. 644 D; and the passages in Wetstein.

ἀπογράφεσθαι] that there should be recorded, cannot at all be meant of a mere registration, which Augustus had caused to be made (if also with the design of regulating in future a taxing of the Jews) for a statistical object, possibly with a view to the Breviarium imperii which he wrote with his own hand (in which “opes publicae continebantur; quantum civium sociorumque in armis; quot classes, regna, provinciae, tributa aut vectigalia et necessitates ac largitiones,” Tacitus, Ann. i. 11), as is held by Kuinoel, Olshausen, Ebrard, Wieseler, Ewald, and older expositors, but must, on account of Luke 2:2, be placed on the same footing in respect of its nature with the census Quirinii, and is therefore to be regarded as the direct registration into the tax-lists, belonging to the census proper (ἀποτίμησις, τίμημα) and forming its essential element, as, in fact, ἀπογράφειν, ἀπογράφεσθαι, ἀπογραφή (Acts 5:37) are the standing expressions for the recording of estate, whether in affairs of law-procedure (see Reiske, Ind. Dem. p. 63 f.; Hermann, Staatsalterth. § 136. 13), or in those of taxing (Plato, Legg. vi. p. 754 D; Polyb. x. 17. 10; and see Elsner and Wetstein). On the subject-matter itself, see Huschke, üb. d. Census u. d. Steuerverfass. d. frühern Röm. Kaiserzeit, Berl. 1847.

πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμ.] not: the whole of Palestine (Flacius, Clavis; Paulus, Hug, and others), to which the expression is never limited,[35] not even in Josephus, Antt. viii. 13. 5, but, as the context by παρὰ Καίσαρος Αὐγούστου imperatively requires, the whole Roman empire (orbis terrarum). See the passages in Wetstein, and comp. Dissen, ad Dem, de Cor. p. 215; Maetzner, Lycurg. p. 100. Hence the Roman emperors were called κύριοι τῆς οἰκουμένης (Franz, Corp. Inscr. III. p. 205). Luke narrates a general census of the empire (Huschke); and even the limitation of the meaning merely to a general provincial census (Wieseler) has no foundation at all in the text, any more than the fanciful suggestion of Lange (L. J. II. 1, p. 93), that Mary, who is assumed as the source of information for the history of the infancy, had, “in accordance with the policy of a lofty feminine sentiment,” referred the determination of Herod, to undertake a census in Palestine, back to the Emperor Augustus as its originator, and that Luke, “in his kindly truth,” had not wished to alter the account, and hence had “by way of gentle correction” inserted Luke 2:2. See, in opposition to this, Ebrard, p. 169 f. Comp. also Auberlen, Daniel u. d. Apok. p. 248 f.

[35] Justin, c. Tr. 78, has: ἀπογραφῆς οὔσης ἐν τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ τότε πρώτης. But this ἐν τῆ Ἰουδ. manifestly has its reference to πρώτης. Comp. Ap. i. 34, p. 75 E.

Luke 2:1-2. See especially Huschke, üb. den z. Zeit d. Geburt J. Chr. gehalt. Census, Breslau 1840 (Hoeck, Röm. Gesch. Bd. I. Abth. II.); Wieseler, chronol. Synopse, p. 73 ff.; von Gumpach in the Stud. u. Krit. 1852, p. 663 ff., where also the older literature is specified, and in his Kritik und Antikritik, Heidelb. 1853; Zumpt, Commentatt. epigraph. II. p. 73 ff.; Köhler in Herzog’s Encykl. XIII. p. 463 ff.; Aberle in the theol. Quartalschr. 1865, p. 103 ff.; Gerlach, d. Römischen Statthalter in Syr. u. Judäa, 1865, p. 22 ff., 44 ff.; Strauss, die Halben u. d. Ganzen, 1865, p. 70 ff.; Hilgenfeld in his Zeitschr. 1865, p. 408 ff.Luke 2:1-5. Joseph and Mary go up to Bethlehem. In these verses Luke makes a historical statement, which one might have been inclined to regard as an illustration of the ἀκρίβεια (Luke 1:1), at which he aimed, as well as of his desire, in the spirit of Pauline universalism, to connect the birth of Jesus with the general history of the world. In the former respect the experience of the exegete is very disappointing. The passage has given rise to a host of questions which have been discussed, with bewildering conflict of opinion, in an extensive critical and apologetic literature. The difficulty is not so much as to the meaning of the evangelist’s words, but rather as to their truth. As, however, the apologetic and the exegetical interests have been very much mixed up in the discussions, it may be well at the outset to indicate briefly the chief objections that have been taken to the passage on the score of historicity. On the face of it, Lk.’s statement is that the Roman Emperor at the time of Christ’s birth ordered a universal census, that this order was carried out by Quirinius, governor of Syria, and that the execution of it was the occasion of Joseph and Mary going to Bethlehem. To this it has been objected:—

1. Apart from the Gospel, history knows nothing of a general imperial census in the time of Augustus.

2. There could have been no Roman census in Palestine during the time of Herod the Great, a rex socius.

3. Such a census at such a time could not have been carried out by Quirinius, for he was not governor in Syria then, nor till ten years later, when he did make a census which gave rise to a revolt under Judas of Galilee.

4. Under a Roman census it would not have been necessary for Joseph to go to Bethlehem, or for Mary to accompany him.—With these objections in our view we proceed with the exposition, noting their influence, as we go along, on the details of interpretation.Ch. Luke 2:1-7. The Birth of Jesus Christ

1. there went out a decree from Cesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed] Rather, that there should be an enrolment of the habitable world. The verb apographesthai is here probably passive, though we have the aorist middle apograpsasthai ‘to enroll himself’ in Luke 2:5. The registration (apographç) did not necessarily involve a taxing (apotimçsis), though it was frequently the first step in that direction. Two objections have been made to the historic credibility of the decree, and both have been fully met.

1. It is said ‘that there is no trace of such a decree in secular history.’ The answer is that (α) the argumentum e silentio is here specially invalid because there happens to be a singular deficiency of minute records respecting this epoch in the ‘profane’ historians. The history of Nicolaus of Damascus, the flatterer of Herod, is not extant. Tacitus barely touches on this period (Ann. i. 1, “pauca de Augusto”). There is a hiatus in Dion Cassius from a.u.c. 748–752. Josephus does not enter upon the history of these years. (β) There are distinct traces that such a census took place. Augustus with his own hand drew up a Rationarium of the Empire (a sort of Roman Doomsday Book, afterwards epitomised into a Breviarium), which included the allied kingdoms (Tac. Ann. i. 11; Suet. Aug. 28), and appointed twenty Commissioners to draw up the necessary lists (Suidas s. v. ἀπογραφή).

2. It is said ‘that in any case Herod, being a rex socius (for Judaea was not annexed to the Province of Syria till the death of Archelaus, a. d. 6), would have been exempt from such a registration.’ The answer is that (α) the Clitae were obliged to furnish such a census though they were under an independent prince, Archelaus (Tac. Ann. vi. 41; cf. I. ii, regna). (β) That Herod, a mere creature of the Emperor, would have been the last person to resist his wishes (Jos. Antt. xiv. 14. 4; xv. 6. 7; xvi. 9. 3). (γ) That this Census, enforced by Herod, was so distasteful to the Jews that it probably caused the unexplained tumults which occurred at this very period (Jos. Antt. xvii. 2. 4; B. J. i. 33, § 2). This is rendered more probable by the Targum of Jonathan on Habakkuk 3:17, which has, “the Romans shall be rooted out; they shall collect no more tribute (Kesooma=census) from Jerusalem” (Gfrörer, Jahrh. d. Heils, i. 42). That the Emperor could issue such a decree for Palestine shews that the fulfilment of the old Messianic promises was near at hand. The sceptre had departed from Judah; the Lawgiver from between his feet.

As regards both objections, we may say (i) that St Luke, a writer of proved carefulness and accuracy, writing for Gentiles who could at once have detected and exposed an error of this kind, is very unlikely (taking the lowest grounds) to have been guilty of such carelessness. (ii) That Justin Martyr, a native of Palestine, writing in the middle of the second century, three times appeals to the census-lists (ἀπογραφαὶ) made by Quirinus when he was first Procurator, bidding the Romans search their own archives as to the fact (Apol. i. 34, 46; Dial. c. Tryph. 78), as also does Tertullian (Adv. Marc. iv. 7. 19). (iii) If St Luke had made a mistake it would certainly have been challenged by such able critics as Celsus and Porphyry;—but they never impugn his statement. On every ground therefore we have reason to trust the statement of St Luke, and in this as in many other instances (see my Life of St Paul, i. 113) what have been treated as his ‘manifest errors’ have turned out to be interesting historic facts which he alone preserves for us.

all the world] Rather, the habitable world, i. e. the Roman Empire, the orbis terrarum (Acts 11:28, &c.; Polyb. vi. 50).Luke 2:1. Καίσαρος, from Cæsar) Therefore the time was come, in which the Messiah should be born.[23] Let the ΠΡΏΤΗ, first, be also taken into account, Luke 2:2.—οἰκουμένην, the world) Therefore the whole human race has the privilege of a tie of relationship to Jesus, who was pleased to permit Himself to be inserted in the same census-roll with these, the many [the multitudes of mankind]. By Synecdoche [a part put for the whole, or vice versa] the portion of the world subjected to Rome is so called: and Judea was included in that portion.

[23] In accordance with the prophecy, Genesis 49:10.—ED. and TRANSL.Verses 1-20. - The Redeemer's birth. Verse 1. - There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed; more accurately, that there should be a registration, etc.; that is, with a view to the assessment of a tax. On the historical note of St. Luke in this passage much discussion has arisen, not, however, of much real practical interest to the ordinary devout reader. We will glance very briefly at the main criticism of this and the following verse. Respecting this general registration it is alleged

(1) no historian of the time mentions such a decree of Augustus.

(2) Supposing Augustus had issued such an edict, Herod, in his kingdom of Judaea, would not have been included in it, for Judaea was not formally annexed to the Roman province of Syria before the death of Archelaus, Herod's son; for some years after this time Herod occupied the position of a rex socius. In answer to (1), we possess scarcely any minute records of this particular time; and there are besides distinct traces in contemporary histories of such a general registration. In answer to (2), in the event of such an imperial registration being made, it was most unlikely that Herod would have claimed exemption for his only nominally independent states. It must be remembered that Herod was an attached dependent of the emperor, and in such a matter would never have opposed the imperial will of his great patron. Decree (δόγμα)

Wyc., mandment. From δοκέω, to think. Hence, strictly, a personal opinion; and, as the opinion of one who can impose his opinion authoritatively on others, a decree.

The world (τὴν οἰκουμένην)

Lit., the inhabited (land). The phrase was originally used by the Greeks to denote the land inhabited by themselves, in contrast with barbarian countries; afterward, when the Greeks became subject to the Romans, the entire Roman world; still later, for the whole inhabited world. In the New Testament this latter is the more common usage, though, in some cases, this is conceived in the mould of the Roman empire, as in this passage, Acts 11:28; Acts 19:27. Christ uses it in the announcement that the Gospel shall be preached in all the world (Matthew 24:14); and Paul in the prediction of a general judgment (Acts 17:31). Once it is used of the world to come (Hebrews 2:5).

Be taxed (ἀπογράφεσθαι)

The word means properly to register or enter in a list. Commentators are divided as to whether it refers to an enrolment for taxation, or for ascertaining the population. Rev., enrolled, which may be taken in either sense.

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