Luke 2:3
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBVWSWESTSK
(3) All went to be taxed.—As a rule the practice in a Roman census was to register people in their place of residence; but this was probably modified in Palestine, in deference to the feelings of the people. After the death of Herod and the division of his kingdom, such a method as that implied hero could hardly have been feasible, as the subjects of one tetrarchy would not have been registered as belonging to another, so that here again we have not an error, but a special note of accuracy.

Luke 2:3. And all went to be taxed, (enrolled,) every one to his city — “When the census was made in any country, the inhabitants were obliged to attend in the cities to which they belonged, Livy, 50. 42. c. 10. The reason was, without a precaution of this kind, the census would have been excessively tedious, and people who were abroad might have been omitted, or registered among the inhabitants of other cities, where they would not have been found afterward, or they might have been enrolled twice, which would have produced confusion in the registers.” In the dominions of Herod, however, probably by his order, a small alteration seems to have been made in the method of executing the census. For instead of the people being directed to appear, as usual, in the cities where they resided, or to whose jurisdiction the places of their abode belonged, they were ordered to appeal according to their families; every one in his native city, or the place where his paternal inheritance lay, to be there enrolled; a circumstance wisely ordered by Providence to verify the truth of ancient prophecies; for thus the parents of Christ were providentiatly brought to Bethlehem, the place where the Messiah was to be born, without leaving any room to suspect them of artifice and design. And thus, also, by their coming to be registered among the subjects of the Roman empire, the subjection of the Jews to the Romans was very remarkably manifested.

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.And this taxing was first made ... - This verse has given as much perplexity, perhaps, as any one in the New Testament. The difficulty consists in the fact that "Cyrenius," or "Quirinius," was not governor of Syria until 12 or 15 years after the birth of Jesus. Jesus was born during the reign of Herod. At that time "Varus" was president of Syria. Herod was succeeded by "Archelaus," who reigned eight or nine years; and after he was removed, Judea was annexed to the province of Syria, and Cyrenius was sent as the governor (Josephus, "Ant.," b. xvii. 5). The difficulty has been to reconcile this account with that in Luke. Various attempts have been made to do this. The one that seems most satisfactory is that proposed by Dr. Lardner. According to his view, the passage here means, "This was the "first" census of Cyrenius, governor of Syria." It is called the "first" to distinguish it from one "afterward" taken by Cyrenius, Acts 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.

3. went … to his own city—the city of his extraction, according to the Jewish custom, not of his abode, which was the usual Roman method. See Poole on "Luke 2:1"

And all went to be taxed,.... Throughout Judea, Galilee, and Syria; men, women, and children,

every one into his own city; where he was born, and had any estate, and to which he belonged.

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
Luke 2:3 ff. Πάντες] in the Jewish land, for which Luke 2:2 has prepared, and see Luke 2:4. Obviously only all those are meant, who did not dwell in their ἰδία πόλις; ἕκαστος is a distributive apposition (Ameis on Homer, Od. x. 397).

εἰς τ. ἰδίαν πόλιν] the more precise definition is furnished by Luke 2:4. This statement, too, does not suit a census proper; for to this every one was required to subject himself at his dwelling place, or at the place where he had his forum originis (see Huschke, p. 116 ff.), whereas in our passage the Jewish principle of tribe is the basis. And if the matter were not a census, but a mere registration (see above), there was no reason for departing from the time-hallowed division of the people, or for not having the matter carried out in Jewish form. The actual historical state of the case shines here through the traditional dress of a census.

πόλιν Δαυ.] The city where David was born, 1 Samuel 17:11.

Βεθλεέμ] see on Matthew 2:1.

ἐξ οἴκου κ. πατριᾶς Δαυ.] The tribes proceeding from the sons of Jacob were called φυλαί (מַטּו̇ת); the branches proceeding from the sons of these patriarchs, πατριαί (מִשְׁפְּהו̇ת); the single families of such a tribal branch, οἶκοι (בֵּיח אָבו̇ח). See Kypke, I. p. 213; Winer, Realwörterb. s.v. Stämme; Gesenius, Thes. I. p. 193, III. p. 1463. Joseph was thus of the family descending from David, and belonged to the same branch of the tribe to which David bad belonged. A circumstantial designation of this important relationship. As to πατριά, moreover, see on Ephesians 3:15.

σὺν Μαριάμ] does not belong to ἀνέβη (Paulus, Hofmann, Ebrard), but to ἀπογράψ. beside which it stands: in order to have himself enrolled with Mary, etc. But that Mary had of necessity to share the journey with him (which was not requisite in the case of a census, when only the names of the women and children had to be specified, Dion. Hal. iv. 14; see Strauss, I. p. 235, and Huschke, p. 121, in opposition to Tholuck, p. 191) is the less to be supposed, as in the main the form of the execution of the ἀπογραφή was the Jewish one, Luke 2:3. Nevertheless, wives (in this case Mary as one betrothed, who according to Jewish law was placed on the same footing as the wife) had to be likewise entered in the register, which must have been a matter of Roman enactment, but for which it was not necessary that they should come personally with their husbands to the spot. We have consequently to abide by the view that Mary undertook the journey with her husband voluntarily, according to her own and Joseph’s wish, in order to remain under the protection of her betrothed (not exactly on account of the troublous times,—an idea which Ebrard imports). There are various arbitrary hypotheses, such as: that she travelled with him on account of the poll-tax (Huschke); that she wished still as a maiden to represent her father’s house, and longed after Bethlehem in the theocratic feeling of maternity (Lange); that the command for the taxing extended also to the children and contained a definite point of time, just about which Mary expected her delivery (von Gumpach). And the hypothesis that Mary was an heiress, who had an estate in Bethlehem (Michaelis, Kuinoel, Olshausen; with hesitation Bleek and Köhler), is utterly unfounded as regards Luke in particular, since he has not the smallest trace of any earlier connection with Bethlehem and makes Mary in her travail not find even friendly lodging there.

τῇ ἐμνηστ. αὐτῷ] Thus, according to Luke, she was still only his betrothed (Luke 1:27; Matthew 1:18), and the marriage was not yet completed. At variance with Matthew 1:24. A different form assumed by the tradition of the virgin birth. Evasive suggestions are resorted to by Beza, Grotius, and others, including Schegg and Bisping (that Luke expresses himself thus, because Joseph had only conducted himself as one betrothed towards Mary).

οὔσῃ ἐγκύῳ] not: because she was pregnant (von Gumpach), but: who was pregnant (Acts 24:24; Romans 1:16, and frequently). The observation forms the transition to what follows.


From Mary’s sharing in the journey we are not to conclude that she likewise was of the family of David (Grotius, Kuinoel, and others). She journeyed voluntarily with Joseph as his future wife, and Joseph journeyed as a member of the house of David. If Luke had had in his mind the thought that Mary shared the journey as a descendant of David, he must have written, and that at the end of Luke 2:5, διὰ τὸ εἶναι αὐτους κ.τ.λ. But comp. on Luke 1:36, and on Matthew 1:17, Remark 2.

Luke 2:3. πάντες: not all throughout the world, but all in Palestine—the execution of the decree there being what the evangelist is interested in.—εἰς τὴν ἰδίαν πόλιν (or ἑαυτοῦ π., W.H[22]). Does this mean to the city of his people, or to the city of his abode? If the former, what a stir in Palestine, or in the world if πάντες be taken widely! A regular “Völkerwanderung” (Holtzmann in H. C.). Sensible of this, some (Hahn, e.g.) take the reference to be to the place of residence (Wohnort not Stammort), implying that Bethlehem was for Lk. as for Mt. Joseph’s home, and that they merely happened to have been living in Nazareth just before. But Luke 2:7 implies that Joseph and Mary had no house in Bethlehem. Feine quotes, with a certain amount of approval, the view of Schneller (Kennst du das Land) that Joseph was not a carpenter but a mason, and that Bethlehem was therefore his natural home, being the headquarters of that craft then as now. On this view, Joseph had simply been in Nazareth building a house, not at home, but away from home for a time as an artisan.

[22] Westcott and Hort.

3. every one into his own city] This method of enrolment was a concession to Jewish prejudices. The Roman method was to enrol each person at his own place of residence. Incidentally this unexplained notice proves that St Luke is dealing with an historical enrolment.

Luke 2:3. Εἰς τὴν ἰδίαν πόλιν, into his own city) Joseph seems to have left Bethlehem only a short while before.

Luke 2:3Went (ἐπορεύοντο)

The A. V. and Rev. alike miss the graphic force of the imperfect tense, were going. The preparation and bustle and travel were in progress.

To his own city

The town to which the village or place of their birth belonged, and where the house and lineage of each were registered.

Luke 2:3 Interlinear
Luke 2:3 Parallel Texts

Luke 2:3 NIV
Luke 2:3 NLT
Luke 2:3 ESV
Luke 2:3 NASB
Luke 2:3 KJV

Luke 2:3 Bible Apps
Luke 2:3 Parallel
Luke 2:3 Biblia Paralela
Luke 2:3 Chinese Bible
Luke 2:3 French Bible
Luke 2:3 German Bible

Bible Hub

Luke 2:2
Top of Page
Top of Page