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Best Bible Contradiction Between Matthew and Luke


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#1 garbonzo607

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Posted 06 April 2012 - 11:56 PM

Hi guys. Funnily enough I just learned about Christadelphians yesterday, and today I came across this forum for Biblical Discussions! Weird. Looking through the posts, you guys seem to have amazing knowledge about the Bible. I haven't seen an atheist or questioner properly support their claims. Also weird. In the forums I have been to the religious people are basically shown up because of their seeming lack of intelligence because they believe in such a book. I have done a few debate on the Bible and won all of them except those that are on-going. Since you guys seem to really know your Bible, I want to debate with you guys and see where it gets me, as I was brought up religious, and saw all the errors, contradictions, and lack of evidence of the inspiration of the Bible and became an atheist. I am always searching for the real truth!

One of my best arguments against the Bible is one of the best contradictions you will find in the Bible, and I want to know how you guys will explain it. I tried searching for it on the forums and didn't find anything. Truth be told, I will say that I honestly don't expect you guys to provide much of an argument at all and I see a few outcomes:

No one replies to this, or later on no one will reply to this after I have countered.

Or

Someone will have a case of cognitive dissonance and keep repeating things he has said before, go around in circles, or stating conspiracy theories, to the point that I will have to give up on reasoning with such a man. I hope you guys are not like that, and are searching for the truth as am I

Or

A completely honest person will see that no counter can be effectively made and that this is in fact a contradiction.

...

Or

You guys will prove your beliefs, show that it is not a contradiction, and show that the Bible is in fact still in tact and can be inspired of God

Now without further adieu, let us see which category you fellas will fall into, shall we? =)

According to the gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great. But Luke also wrote that Joseph and Mary had to go to Bethlehem for a census by Quirinius while she was still pregnant, and this event has been dated at 6 A.D., or ten years after Herod the Great died in 4 B.C. There have been no historical records to indicate that any Roman census was held prior to 6 A.D.



Either Matthew is wrong, or Luke is wrong. Or more likely, both are wrong, rofl. I fail to see how something inspired of God could make a mistake (and of course this is not the only one) like that. An inspired book should be infallible, no matter WHO it was written by. It could be written by turtles for all I care, as long as it's infallible. But the Bible is not, it is far from that.



In my research, I haven't found a commentary that covers this, but you are welcome to provide a counter. I encourage you to do so. This contradiction has been around awhile (as soon as the evidence of both Herod's date of death and when the roman census took place by Quirinius), and it doesn't have any irrefutable counters I can see from my research (that is why I am here). As I've said before, I was raised a Christian myself, and was on your side then, and debated with others just like you guys, but after diligent research and debate I couldn't continue to be oblivious to the lack of support that the Bible is indeed inspired of God. In fact, it seems the Isrealites and Christians borrowed from other religions, such as the Sumerians and Egyptians. I wouldn't want to have cognitive dissonance. Believing in something you know is wrong is against my personal principles, no matter how much you tell yourself it is right. I would rather die than have cognitive dissonance. (knowing for sure it was wrong) So I want to make sure this is right, also, so that is why I need your help!



Thank you!



- In always search of truth


Edited by garbonzo607, 06 April 2012 - 11:57 PM.

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#2 Richie

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Posted 07 April 2012 - 12:27 AM

Most people think this was an error by Luke.
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#3 garbonzo607

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Posted 07 April 2012 - 12:32 AM

Most people think this was an error by Luke.


I thought Chrstadelphians teach that the Bible is infallible? No? Or are you not one?

Thanks.

I like the honesty, though.

Edited by garbonzo607, 07 April 2012 - 12:35 AM.


#4 Kay

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Posted 08 April 2012 - 05:50 AM

garbonzo607, welcome to the forums :)


I don't know whether this is of any assistance in the discussion about the supposed error by Luke, but the paper rather made sense.

It is by Jenny Read-Heimerdinger's

ENSLAVEMENT AND REDEMPTION: THE CENSUS OF AUGUSTUS AND THE BIRTH OF JESUS IN LUKE 2.1-7 CODEX BEZAE

Jenny READ-HEIMERDINGER

RCatT XXXV/2 (2010) 397-411 (127-141) © Facultat de Teologia de Catalunya

The Paper is 15 pages (worth the time to read it to it's conclusion):

5. Conclusion

"In conclusion, a summary of the main points will serve to highlight the thread of the argument.

When Luke’s account of the census is read not in the familiar Nestle-Aland edition, where the difficulties are numerous and so far unresolved, but in the manuscript of Codex Bezae (D05), the issue of the census presents itself differently, with a correspondingly different interpretation that gives a new insight into the probable intention of Luke in associating the birth of the Messiah with a Roman census. While it can be agreed that the purpose of the reference to the census is to «place the birth of Jesus in the context of world history», it is distinctly not «to show that the fiat of an earthly ruler can be utilised in the will of God to bring his more important purposes to fruition».26 On the contrary, according to the Bezan text, Luke’s purpose is to situate the coming of the Messiah within the overall history of Israel and to set the divine plan for the liberation of Israel against the plans of the human invaders to dominate and oppress the Jewish people. The narrative perspective is thus a thoroughly Jewish one, confirming evidence found elsewhere in the Bezan text of Luke’s two volumes that the author was a Jewish Jesus-believer, writing to another Jew of high standing in order to consider Jesus the Messiah in the light of traditional Jewish expectations.

26. Marshall, Luke, 97-98.



http://www.raco.cat/...w/234273/327998

The paper is based on CODEX BEZAE, which of course is controversial - but much seems to be and scholarship and various schools of thought.

The matter with Luke is that he is well regarded for his accuracy in reporting events - so one does wonder whether the information is not yet to hand - discovered - so to speak - because not all that many years ago, claim was made to discredit the Bible that Pontius Pilate didn't exist yet in fairly recent years found evidence that he did:

Latin Dedicatory Inscription

or for that matter, questioning the House of David and so forth.

A lot is known about 1st Century, and Rome and so forth (as you are well aware!), but how much is not known ... of course, even a greater deal remains unknown.
"seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness" Matthew 6:33

#5 garbonzo607

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Posted 08 April 2012 - 10:27 PM

That paper just seems to be saying that either Luke or Matthew did make a mistake. It goes around in circles and it's as hard for me to read it as it is for you. Maybe you can explain it better.

The question of whether Pontius Pilate existed or not, was just that, a question. They were saying, "Hey, we have no evidence that this guy even existed." They found proof, and that was the end of that. This is different. We are saying that there is PROOF both of these things existed, BUT they existed at different time frames. That's why it is different. We have proof of what we are saying, there is no question like in Pontius Pilate.

#6 Mark Taunton

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Posted 08 April 2012 - 10:28 PM

Believing in something you know is wrong is against my personal principles, no matter how much you tell yourself it is right. I would rather die than have cognitive dissonance. (knowing for sure it was wrong) So I want to make sure this is right, also, so that is why I need your help!


Hi Garbonzo607,

Believing in something I know to be wrong is against my personal principles also. A couple of points:

Although you expressed the issue as a "contradiction between Matthew and Luke", that isn't really what this is. For Matthew and Luke to contradict each other, Matthew would have to say one thing and Luke to say the opposite, an explicit denial of it, But we don't have that.

The question is, as Kay has indicated, whether we know absolutely that Quirinius was NOT governor in Syria at the time the census was first made, as Luke mentions. If we have irrefutable evidence that he was NOT, then we would conclude that Luke was wrong. But I know of no such evidence. So, while I'm not aware of direct evidence that he WAS governor in Syria in or around 4-2 BC (i.e. before Herod's death), if the only grounds you have to think Luke was actually wrong are that we don't know for certain that he was right, then that's no more than an argument from silence, and it really doesn't count for much. There are plenty of things the Bible says that we have no direct evidence of from sources outside the Bible, but that's no reason to abandon the Bible as wrong, since there are many, many substantial reasons to believe it is true.

Edited by Mark Taunton, 08 April 2012 - 10:31 PM.


#7 Mark Taunton

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 08:53 AM

The question of whether Pontius Pilate existed or not, was just that, a question. They were saying, "Hey, we have no evidence that this guy even existed." They found proof, and that was the end of that. This is different. We are saying that there is PROOF both of these things existed, BUT they existed at different time frames. That's why it is different. We have proof of what we are saying, there is no question like in Pontius Pilate.


Yes, there seems to be good evidence for Quirinius governing in Syria in AD 6-7. But that by itself is not proof that Luke's account is wrong. What you need is clear evidence that he was not governing there sometime around BC 4-2, and that there definitely wasn't a census taken then. I've never seen such evidence. Do you have some?

Edited by Mark Taunton, 09 April 2012 - 08:56 AM.


#8 garbonzo607

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 04:07 AM

The question of whether Pontius Pilate existed or not, was just that, a question. They were saying, "Hey, we have no evidence that this guy even existed." They found proof, and that was the end of that. This is different. We are saying that there is PROOF both of these things existed, BUT they existed at different time frames. That's why it is different. We have proof of what we are saying, there is no question like in Pontius Pilate.

Yes, there seems to be good evidence for Quirinius governing in Syria in AD 6-7. But that by itself is not proof that Luke's account is wrong. What you need is clear evidence that he was not governing there sometime around BC 4-2, and that there definitely wasn't a census taken then. I've never seen such evidence. Do you have some?


Yes, that alone doesn't.


But that coupled with everything else does.



Now...you want evidence that he was not governing there despite there being no evidence that he WAS governing there.


I'd like you to provide evidence that Jesus didn't have terrible flatulence!


When you realize why my suggestion is ridiculous, you'll understand why yours is as well. =)


Add to that, Syria didn't have "governors" prior to 6CE. That's the entire reason we know 6CE is when Quirinius became governor there. That is when the Roman Empire officially called it theirs and appointed a governor. There wasn't one before that.


Now, before that, there was a guy running the Syrian area for Rome while they were in control of it...he "governed" but didn't hold the title of "Governor." His name was Quinctilius Varus and Josephus notes that he responded to a revolt that occurred in Judea after the death of Herod the Great. So that pretty much puts him "governing" at the time Matthew says Jesus was born.



From there, I'm applying Occam's Razor. If you want to pretend that there may have been another rule of Quirinius somewhere in there that got zero mention by any historian...I say it's more likely that there just wasn't one.



#9 Kay

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 05:13 AM


Add to that, Syria didn't have "governors" prior to 6CE. That's the entire reason we know 6CE is when Quirinius became governor there. That is when the Roman Empire officially called it theirs and appointed a governor. There wasn't one before that.


Just a note, be back with more a bit later ...

Syria did have governors it seems:

13-10 B.C. Marcus Titius
10-07 B.C. Sentius Saturninus
07-04 B.C. Quintilius Varus
04-01 B.C. Calpurnius Piso

Term, 3 years ...
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#10 Mark Taunton

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 06:40 AM

Now...you want evidence that he was not governing there despite there being no evidence that he WAS governing there.


Yes, because absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.


I'd like you to provide evidence that Jesus didn't have terrible flatulence!

When you realize why my suggestion is ridiculous, you'll understand why yours is as well. =)


That is completely irrelevant and a distraction. We cannot say one way or the other, and it would not matter anyway. But the issue here is whether Quirinius was governing in Syria around the time of Jesus' birth. That is relevant, because it's something the Bible talks about; and it does matter, for exactly the reason you raised in your first post - is Luke's record correct (which it must be, if it is inspired of God), or not?


Add to that, Syria didn't have "governors" prior to 6CE. That's the entire reason we know 6CE is when Quirinius became governor there. That is when the Roman Empire officially called it theirs and appointed a governor. There wasn't one before that.

Now, before that, there was a guy running the Syrian area for Rome while they were in control of it...he "governed" but didn't hold the title of "Governor."


You focus on the terminology used for people "running the Syrian area". But the Greek word used in Luke 2:2 is not a noun like "Governor", implying a specific title of a Roman ruler; it is actually a verb, refering to one who is "governing". So Luke is not inaccurate in this respect as you claim. In fact, this choice of word is particularly notable. Luke does use the noun "Governor" in describing other Roman rulers (Pilate in Luke 20:20; Felix in Acts 23:26,33,34; Festus in Acts 26:30); so he could easily have used it of Quirinius, if he was just making up the story in Luke 2. Yet he doesn't, but uses a verb "governing" instead. So aside from the question over whether Quirinius is correctly referred to as governing in Syria in the relevant time-frame (around 4-2 BC), the way Luke describes this detail accurately corresponds to the history you report. That seems to me a good reason to think Luke was correct, not wrong!


His name was Quinctilius Varus and Josephus notes that he responded to a revolt that occurred in Judea after the death of Herod the Great. So that pretty much puts him "governing" at the time Matthew says Jesus was born.


"Pretty much", but not exactly - Jesus was born while Herod was still alive, so this detail reported by Josephus is not at that time, but a little later. And even if Quinctilius Varus was governing Syria when Jesus was born, do you have evidence that Quirinius was not also governing it in some way? (Not being "Governor", since there were no Governors at that time anyway, as you say.) If so, please present it.


From there, I'm applying Occam's Razor. If you want to pretend that there may have been another rule of Quirinius somewhere in there that got zero mention by any historian...I say it's more likely that there just wasn't one.


You have said yourself that there was no (singular and unique) "Governor" of Syria in the years before 6 AD. I have pointed out that Luke's terminology is actually consistent with that fact - a point in Luke's favour, not against him. This also makes it possible to envisage that more than one Roman was involved in governing the area at that time. You think it more likely that Quirinius was not involved in that, but you have given no proof of it, although you earlier used the phrase "proof of what we are saying". Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Edited by Mark Taunton, 10 April 2012 - 09:59 AM.


#11 Richie

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 12:31 PM


Most people think this was an error by Luke.


I thought Chrstadelphians teach that the Bible is infallible? No? Or are you not one?

Thanks.

I like the honesty, though.


I believe the Bible message to be infallible but that doesn't meant there can't be literal historical mistakes like this, copyist errors and so forth. 99% of the time, however, we can be confident and small things like this don't alter the message which is the important thing. The Bible is the Word of God.
"Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life." - Terry Pratchett.

#12 Mark Taunton

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 01:41 PM

I believe the Bible message to be infallible but that doesn't meant there can't be literal historical mistakes like this, copyist errors and so forth.


Richie, while I accept the possibility of "copyist errors and so forth" in general, the problem is that all the texts we have for the passage in question say basically the same thing, so far as I can tell. It's not that variant manuscripts omit or change this detail significantly, such that the usual reading might actually be a corruption or a copying error, not reflecting the original inspired words Luke wrote. Even the Codex Bezae text, mentioned by Kay and in the referenced article, has the same words in Luke 2:2; it just puts three of them in a different order, a small variation which doesn't appear to change the basic implication. I think we do have to deal with the text as it stands in this place.

99% of the time, however, we can be confident and small things like this don't alter the message which is the important thing. The Bible is the Word of God.


Agreed, but I think the factor is more like 99.9+%, i.e. much closer to 100% than to 99%!

Edited by Mark Taunton, 10 April 2012 - 02:00 PM.


#13 Jon D

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 03:06 AM

I believe the Bible message to be infallible but that doesn't meant there can't be literal historical mistakes like this, copyist errors and so forth. 99% of the time, however, we can be confident and small things like this don't alter the message which is the important thing. The Bible is the Word of God.


Rich, could you just clarify what you mean with regards to the bolded bit above? Are you saying that a) 'literal historical mistakes' could be in the text as a result of copyist errors? or b) that 'literal historical mistakes' could be in the inspired texts?

I'm presuming your saying a), as b) would imply God made a mistake - which can't be correct (as per 2 Tim 3:15).

Edited by Jon D, 11 April 2012 - 03:07 AM.

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#14 garbonzo607

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 04:16 AM

Now...you want evidence that he was not governing there despite there being no evidence that he WAS governing there.

Yes, because absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

I'd like you to provide evidence that Jesus didn't have terrible flatulence!

When you realize why my suggestion is ridiculous, you'll understand why yours is as well. =)

That is completely irrelevant and a distraction. We cannot say one way or the other, and it would not matter anyway. But the issue here is whether Quirinius was governing in Syria around the time of Jesus' birth. That is relevant, because it's something the Bible talks about; and it does matter, for exactly the reason you raised in your first post - is Luke's record correct (which it must be, if it is inspired of God), or not?

Add to that, Syria didn't have "governors" prior to 6CE. That's the entire reason we know 6CE is when Quirinius became governor there. That is when the Roman Empire officially called it theirs and appointed a governor. There wasn't one before that.

Now, before that, there was a guy running the Syrian area for Rome while they were in control of it...he "governed" but didn't hold the title of "Governor."

You focus on the terminology used for people "running the Syrian area". But the Greek word used in Luke 2:2 is not a noun like "Governor", implying a specific title of a Roman ruler; it is actually a verb, refering to one who is "governing". So Luke is not inaccurate in this respect as you claim. In fact, this choice of word is particularly notable. Luke does use the noun "Governor" in describing other Roman rulers (Pilate in Luke 20:20; Felix in Acts 23:26,33,34; Festus in Acts 26:30); so he could easily have used it of Quirinius, if he was just making up the story in Luke 2. Yet he doesn't, but uses a verb "governing" instead. So aside from the question over whether Quirinius is correctly referred to as governing in Syria in the relevant time-frame (around 4-2 BC), the way Luke describes this detail accurately corresponds to the history you report. That seems to me a good reason to think Luke was correct, not wrong!

His name was Quinctilius Varus and Josephus notes that he responded to a revolt that occurred in Judea after the death of Herod the Great. So that pretty much puts him "governing" at the time Matthew says Jesus was born.

"Pretty much", but not exactly - Jesus was born while Herod was still alive, so this detail reported by Josephus is not at that time, but a little later. And even if Quinctilius Varus was governing Syria when Jesus was born, do you have evidence that Quirinius was not also governing it in some way? (Not being "Governor", since there were no Governors at that time anyway, as you say.) If so, please present it.

From there, I'm applying Occam's Razor. If you want to pretend that there may have been another rule of Quirinius somewhere in there that got zero mention by any historian...I say it's more likely that there just wasn't one.

You have said yourself that there was no (singular and unique) "Governor" of Syria in the years before 6 AD. I have pointed out that Luke's terminology is actually consistent with that fact - a point in Luke's favour, not against him. This also makes it possible to envisage that more than one Roman was involved in governing the area at that time. You think it more likely that Quirinius was not involved in that, but you have given no proof of it, although you earlier used the phrase "proof of what we are saying". Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.


Imo Mark, you are

just skirting the issues. You avoid addressing any point by declaring the absence of evidence AS BEING his evidence for the existence of what is absent...it's ludicrous.



We have record of when Quirinus WAS Governor of Syria. We have record of someone else "governing" Syria that was in power at the time of Herod's death.



Claiming that there is some unknown rule of Quinius in the gaps is like having record of George W Bush being President in 2006 and Barack Obama in 2008 and claiming that there was another President in 2007, lol.




Add to that, Syria didn't have "governors" prior to 6CE. That's the entire reason we know 6CE is when Quirinius became governor there. That is when the Roman Empire officially called it theirs and appointed a governor. There wasn't one before that.

Just a note, be back with more a bit later ... Syria did have governors it seems: 13-10 B.C. Marcus Titius 10-07 B.C. Sentius Saturninus 07-04 B.C. Quintilius Varus 04-01 B.C. Calpurnius Piso Term, 3 years ...


Wow, this guy just proved my point, haha. Quirinius couldn't have been governing if these guys were at the time! Thank you....

Most people think this was an error by Luke.

I thought Chrstadelphians teach that the Bible is infallible? No? Or are you not one? Thanks. I like the honesty, though.

I believe the Bible message to be infallible but that doesn't meant there can't be literal historical mistakes like this, copyist errors and so forth. 99% of the time, however, we can be confident and small things like this don't alter the message which is the important thing. The Bible is the Word of God.


That's a ridiculous argument, and I think even Mark knows this.

Infallible:

not fallible; exempt from

liability

to

error

The Bible cannot be infallible if it has any error is in it at all. This is simply not the case. If it were God's word, he would certainly MAKE SURE there was no error in the writings, and if small things like this don't alter the message, then why was it included inside the Bible in the first place?

The Bible is supposed to be divine. Holy. From God. It's supposed to tell us how to live our lives to align with what our creator wants, it's supposed to tell us what to do to be pleasing to him, it's supposed to tell us what will happen with the Earth, with life in general. What will happen to us. What choices we have available to us. It's supposed to tell us how to live a meaningful and happy life. It's supposed to teach us. To set an example for us.

So what the hell are things doing in the Bible that has absolutely NO bearing on the things mentioned above?

I will not mention these things here, you might know them yourself. I am just pointing out how that argument is just completely illogical.

I believe the Bible message to be infallible but that doesn't meant there can't be literal historical mistakes like this, copyist errors and so forth. 99% of the time, however, we can be confident and small things like this don't alter the message which is the important thing. The Bible is the Word of God.

Rich, could you just clarify what you mean with regards to the bolded bit above? Are you saying that a) 'literal historical mistakes' could be in the text as a result of copyist errors? or b) that 'literal historical mistakes' could be in the inspired texts? I'm presuming your saying a), as b) would imply God made a mistake - which can't be correct (as per 2 Tim 3:15).


Exactly. And this is not a copyist error, as even Mark admits. But even if it was, God made a mistake....

A company cannot blame their employee for something wrong they did! They still did something wrong! Say an employee releases a press release saying one thing, whereas the company believes in something else. Would it not be up to the company to correct that mistake? If that mistake caused someone to lose their life, would not the company be held responsible? Yes! This is exactly the same way with the Bible. There can be no excuses for copyist errors or errors of any kind. Just none. It is pure ridiculousness.

Edited by garbonzo607, 11 April 2012 - 04:24 AM.


#15 Kay

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 04:39 AM

Garbonzo607

Just a suggestion ... when posts a hugely long ... as your above, they are difficult to respond to ... answering all in one swoop!

So, best to split them up if you wouldn't mind in future - thanks :)
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#16 Kay

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 04:50 AM

Garbonzo607

It was interesting about the "governors" of Syria, and good subject too, it makes you do some research!

What I did come across ... were these comments:

An alternate translation suggests that Luke was actually saying that the census was only the one before that when Quirinius was governor of Syria in 6 CE. Luke was not saying he was governor when the first census was taken.


The link if you are interested in following it through and the reasoning:

THE CENSUS OF QUIRINIUS

Luke is regarded for his reliability by scholars - it may be a transcriber error ... I don't know, but in any event, and supposed contradictions they don't render the Word of God invalid nor the message it contains to mankind.
"seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness" Matthew 6:33

#17 Mark Taunton

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 06:39 AM

Imo Mark, you are just skirting the issues. You avoid addressing any point by declaring the absence of evidence AS BEING his evidence for the existence of what is absent...it's ludicrous.


No. I'm not declaring any such thing. I don't claim to be proved right by the absence of evidence. All I'm saying is that you are not proved right and me wrong, by that same absence of evidence. You're effectively claiming that because we have no direct evidence for Quirinius governing in Syria in the relevant period (before the death of Herod), therefore he definitely wasn't, so Luke is wrong. But that is not logically correct - we have very, very little information about this period at all, and the point is simply not definitively established one way or the other. I grant you that from the little we do know, it seems to you more likely that he wasn't, but we don't know for sure, just like we don't know many, many other things about the past.

And as for your claim that I'm just skirting the issues, in fact I went into some detail on them. Yet you have not addressed the points I made! In particular, you have not acknowledged the fact that the word Luke uses in 2:2 is not "Governor" (which he does use elsewhere for Roman rulers) but "governing", and that this aligns directly with the difference in political structure of Roman rule in Syria before AD6, there being no "Governor" before then, as you pointed out yourself. Luke's terminology is accurate for the timing of Jesus' birth as aligned to Matthew's account, i.e. before the death of Herod. Yet it could so easily have been wrong!

We have record of when Quirinus WAS Governor of Syria. We have record of someone else "governing" Syria that was in power at the time of Herod's death.

Claiming that there is some unknown rule of Quinius in the gaps is like having record of George W Bush being President in 2006 and Barack Obama in 2008 and claiming that there was another President in 2007, lol.


In 1973, Richard Nixon was President. In 1977, Jimmy Carter was President. US Presidential elections happen like clockwork, every four years, right? And they did in this period, too - there was an election in 1976, bang on time, exactly four years after the previous one. Richard Nixon did not die in office. So I would be stupid to claim that there was another President in 1975, right?

Edited by Mark Taunton, 11 April 2012 - 07:20 AM.


#18 Richie

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 02:38 PM


I believe the Bible message to be infallible but that doesn't meant there can't be literal historical mistakes like this, copyist errors and so forth. 99% of the time, however, we can be confident and small things like this don't alter the message which is the important thing. The Bible is the Word of God.


Rich, could you just clarify what you mean with regards to the bolded bit above? Are you saying that a) 'literal historical mistakes' could be in the text as a result of copyist errors? or b) that 'literal historical mistakes' could be in the inspired texts?

I'm presuming your saying a), as b) would imply God made a mistake - which can't be correct (as per 2 Tim 3:15).


Yes sorry that wasn't clear. I mean mistakes due to human transcription errors, not because God made a mistake.
"Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life." - Terry Pratchett.

#19 Biblaridion

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 01:14 AM

Hello,
This article by A. Perry in the Christadelphian eJournal of Biblical Interpretation might be helpful;

Vol. 4. No. 4. Oct 2010 26

Quirinius


A. Perry


There are many characteristics of the gospels that indicate their accuracy; additionally, there are a small number of well-known so-called inaccuracies. Positive assessments of the nuts and bolts of the gospel records have been written by conservative scholars. Since the gospels are a social history of a charismatic teacher and his followers, any inaccuracies would be limited to the “public” side of Jesus’ ministry—names, dates, places and the cultural environment. Thus, for example, we are able to verify Luke’s political facts - the emperor Augustus, Herod the Great, Quirinius and Pilate, or Annas, Caiaphas and Ananias. Furthermore, we are able to verify Luke’s reliability as a historian by examining his follow-up book, Acts.

Inaccuracies in historical texts are expected by the historico-critical method; there is no presumption that the gospel texts are divinely inspired in such a method and so historians will point out errors where there is other evidence that points to different facts of the matter. For example, the reference to a tax census of Quirinius sometime in 6-4 B.C.E. has been dubbed an error because he is known to have become the legate of Syria in 6 C.E. and initiated a census in that year (Josephus, Ant. 18.1.1; cf. Tacitus, Annals 3.48).[1]

There are two preliminary points to make about this “error”: first, it is representative of the type of error that could be identified in the gospel records, i.e. errors to do with the more public facts of names, dates and places—the possible errors in this regard are very few indeed; secondly, where there is a conflict between two different sources (Josephus and Luke), critical scholars will favour the non-Biblical evidence and conservative scholars will favour the biblical evidence.

It is accepted by conservative scholars[2] that Quirinius was a legate of Syria in 6-7 C.E. and that there was a census then, which caused unrest in Judea (a province of Syria), and which is referred to by Luke in Acts 5:37 “After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered” (NASB). Luke’s use of the expression “the census” and his reference to Judas the Galilean establishes that he is referring to the census of 6-7 C.E. against which Judas led a rebellion.

The census at the time of Jesus’ birth is mentioned in this way:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. Luke 2:1-3 (KJV revised)

In this narrative aside[3] Luke refers to a first census, or a “former” or “earlier” census than the one made in 6-7 C.E. This is an important qualification as it coheres with Acts 5:37 which refers to the later and more famous census.

Since there is no record of any more census enrolments happening after 6-7 C.E. in relation to Quirinius, we can deduce that the census of Luke 2:2 is not that of 6-7 C.E. but an earlier one. Because Josephus does not record two such census enrolments, critical scholars work with just one and infer that Luke makes a mistake with his placement of a first census at the end of the reign of Herod the Great.

However, an incidental detail of Luke’s account makes it unlikely that he is making a simple mistake (after all, his chronology in Luke 3:1 is flawless). Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem of Judea to enrol for tax purposes. Just before the birth of Jesus, Herod was ruler of Judea and Galilee and a census initiated in his region could have been one that required travel to Judea for those born in the south. After Herod’s death, the kingdom of Judea was divided and Galilee came under the jurisdiction of Antipas. In the census of 6-7 C.E. there is no particular reason why those residents in the north would have been required to travel south for enrolment. This makes the census of Luke 2:2 more likely to have been a different and earlier one than that of 6-7 C.E.

Although no extant record other than Luke’s requires the suggestion, some scholars have therefore proposed that Quirinius could have been a special military legate anytime between 6-4 B.C.E. in addition to the domestic governor of Syria at the time (who was Sentius Saturninius until 6 B.C.E. and thereafter Quintilius Varus between 6-4 B.C.E.[4]). It is known that Quirinius was conducting a long campaign from the north of Syria (and maybe Galatia) against the Homonadensus at this time and had been since about 10 B.C.E. He could have assumed a temporary legateship in Syria during any interim period between the two documented governors.

Upon hearing of Jesus from the Wise Men, Herod sought to kill the children in Bethlehem up to two years of age, but Mary and Joseph had been warned to flee this danger. They fled to Egypt and only returned when Herod had died which is dated to 4 B.C.E. The inference therefore is that Jesus was born most likely in the years 6-5 B.C.E. and that the census Luke mentions took place in one of these years.[5] A temporary interim military governorship on the part of Quirinius (possibly during a handover period between Sentius Saturninius and Quintilius Varus in 6 B.C.E.) is not implausible. Herod’s relationship with Augustus had broken down by the end of his reign and a direction from the military legate of Syria to conduct a census would have been heeded.

Our discussion of Luke’s chronology is an example of the kind of discussion that conservative and critical scholars have about the reliability of the gospel records. It is a choice to allow Luke’s evidence to stand in a reconstruction of Roman History, but it is because Luke shows himself to be reliable on other names and dates that it is best to do so in this case and conjecture a second interim legateship on the part of Quirinius. In the relatively few cases where the historical veracity of the gospels can be challenged with apparently contrary external evidence,[6] conservative scholarship has provided plausible harmonisations of the data.






[1] This view is defended in the standard academic bible dictionary—D. S. Potter, “Quirinius” ABD, 5:588-589.

[2] A representative treatment is that of W. Brindle, “The Census and Quirinius: Luke 2:2” JETS 27/1 (1984): 43-52.

[3] For a discussion of this narrative aside see S. M. Sheeley, Narrative Asides in Luke-Acts (JSNTSup 72; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1992), 102-103.

[4] It is known from Josephus (Ant. 10, 9-10) that Quintilius Varus was legate until at least 4 B.C.E. and the death of Herod but not thereafter—when it is next known that Gaius Julius Caesar was the governor in 1 C.E.

[5] Tertullian, Adv. Marc. 4.19, dates the census to the governorship of Sentius Saturninius.

[6] A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Law and Roman Society in the New Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963), 162-171 (162) observes that the presence of Quirinius’ name has caused the most controversy in Luke’s Roman History.

#20 garbonzo607

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 03:31 AM

Garbonzo607 Just a suggestion ... when posts a hugely long ... as your above, they are difficult to respond to ... answering all in one swoop! So, best to split them up if you wouldn't mind in future - thanks :)


I wasn't sure if double posting was allowed. I was following Mark's lead. Thanks. =)

#21 garbonzo607

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 03:35 AM

Garbonzo607 It was interesting about the "governors" of Syria, and good subject too, it makes you do some research! What I did come across ... were these comments:

An alternate translation suggests that Luke was actually saying that the census was only the one before that when Quirinius was governor of Syria in 6 CE. Luke was not saying he was governor when the first census was taken.

The link if you are interested in following it through and the reasoning: THE CENSUS OF QUIRINIUS Luke is regarded for his reliability by scholars - it may be a transcriber error ... I don't know, but in any event, and supposed contradictions they don't render the Word of God invalid nor the message it contains to mankind.


1-If you read the Greek, there is NO WAY it's saying "the census before". (Granted it could be a copyist error, but that's a stretch and one with nothing to back it up.)



2-WHY IN THE WORLD would you mention his name, once and only once, and it was the one BEFORE him? Why wouldn't you mention the person in charge AT THE TIME!?



This is one of the weakest forms of apologetics. Believe if you want to believe and that is what the evidence tells you, but do not operate on the assumption that Luke had to be right...so this is what it must he meant to say...



That is how so many changes and contradictions and added opinions got in the book to begin with! The copyist reads it...realizes it doesn't fit with reality and decides the line was an error. Entire passages are added for that reason. Including, but not limited to, the story of the adulterous woman. It was NEVER THERE in the oldest copies we have. It gets added CENTURIES later and we KNOW this. Same with the entire last 12 verses of Mark. Same with the anti-woman verses of Paul in Corinthians.



Revelation says that you are not to add or take away from the book, yet apologetics like that one are doing PRECISELY that.



Imo, that apologist was trying to pull something out of his you know where, just to please his readers.



Saying that it doesn't render "God's Word" invalid nor the message it contains, is true. It renders the saying it is God's Word invalid. God cannot make a mistake, and I refuse to believe God's word would have an error. (Read my last counter post)

Edited by garbonzo607, 12 April 2012 - 03:36 AM.


#22 garbonzo607

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 03:40 AM

In 1973, Richard Nixon was President. In 1977, Jimmy Carter was President. US Presidential elections happen like clockwork, every four years, right? And they did in this period, too - there was an election in 1976, bang on time, exactly four years after the previous one. Richard Nixon did not die in office. So I would be stupid to claim that there was another President in 1975, right?


Both of your friends have already shown those governing and the periods they were in office.

Edited by garbonzo607, 12 April 2012 - 03:41 AM.


#23 garbonzo607

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 03:46 AM

Hello,
This article by A. Perry in the Christadelphian eJournal of Biblical Interpretation might be helpful;
*Snip*


This is a weak apologetic. It can be countered by the things already mentioned in this thread. If you still think there is something noteworthy in the article, put it in your own words and ask, but I can't counter a whole article that hasn't been formulated with the things said in this thread in mind.

#24 Biblaridion

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 04:43 AM

Hello,

Weak apologetic? As Andrew pointed out.....you make a choice who to believe. Josephus or Luke. I chose to believe Luke. The historical evidence on either side is slim.....and as Josephus is not infallible......and as we do not know if he relates the full history (only the key points) then harmonisation is perfectly acceptable until more evidence turns up.

When you go to court you are innocent until proven guilty. You have not done this. You assume a contradiction from the get-go because it fits with your world view. Also, as Luke has proved a reliable historical witness on so many other counts, I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt.

#25 Biblaridion

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 04:50 AM

Hello,

I apologize in advance for another long post. However, it is necessary to put these things in context. This is taken from:

http://www.askelm.com/star/star009.htm


The Dark Decade in History
It is evident that the chronological indications in the Bible clearly point to 3 B.C.E. for the nativity of Jesus. While this is the case for the Bible, what about the secular records which have come down to us from ancient times? Do they also support this time as the proper period for Jesus’ birth? The answer is, YES. However, one thing must be kept in mind about the secular records that describe this period. Historians are well aware that they are very obscure. In fact, the decade in which Jesus was born is one of the least documented that we have for the entire period of the Roman Empire.
It is well known among classical historians who specialize in the early period of the Roman Empire, that the decade from 6 B.C.E. to C.E. 4 is one of the most nebulous in the history of Rome. It is a common lament among Roman historians that this ten-year period (one of the most important in the history of western civilization) bristles with many historical and chronological difficulties because of the garbled or imperfect records that have come down to us.
Professor Timothy Barnes rightly states that “the years of Tiberius’ retirement from public life are one of the most obscure decades in the history of the Roman Empire” (emphasis mine). 1 Sir Ronald Syme echoed the same sentiment when he spoke about “the hazards inherent in the obscure decade 6 B.C.E.–C.E. 4” (emphasis mine). 2 If there was ever a “dark decade” in the history of Rome, it is this one. And sadly, this lack of information occurs at the very time the historian who specializes in the time of Augustus Caesar and the birth of Jesus needs it most. A great deal of confusion emerges within and among the historical records, and this is no exaggeration.
It would be appropriate to note the sad difficulties that classical historians encounter regarding this ten-year period. One problem involves the records of Velleius Paterculus who covers this period of time. The fact is, Velleius was deficient in giving information from 6 B.C.E. to C.E. 4. Note the remarks of Sir Ronald Syme.
“The name Velleius brings up the multiple inadequacies of the ancient sources for the decade during which Tiberius was absent from political life at Rome. By what he says and by what he suppresses, by lavish laudation and dishonest distraction, this writer puts Tiberius on exhibit as the unique general, the indispensable ‘custos vinderque imperii,’ the predestined successor to Caesar Augustus.” 3
The Difficulties with Secular Records
The inadequacies of Velleius are not the only illustration of the sad state of affairs in understanding the history and chronology of this decade. Other ancient authors are also lacking. Syme continues,
“Chance conspires with design to the same sad effect. There are gaps in the text of Cassius Dio between 6 B.C.E. and C.E. 4. In three places two folia are missing from the manuscript. Hence notable transactions are truncated, garbled, or lost to knowledge. It is hardly possible to work out a satisfactory narrative. Mere paraphrase or amalgamation is not enough. Investigation of this obscure decade calls for various resources, and rational conjecture cannot be dispensed with.”
  • emphasis mine 4
What are some of the problems with Cassius Dio? The manuscripts that contain his writings give historical information for the years 70 B.C.E. to C.E. 71 (a 140 year period), but he leaves out the years 4 and 3 B.C.E. and we only have part of what happened in 2 B.C.E. In actual fact, from 10 B.C.E. onward his work is probably an abridgement of an 11th century scholar because we have quotes from Cassius Dio in other works that do not occur in the abridgement from 10 B.C.E. onward. 5 Worse yet, the abridgement itself is clearly defective because it has Cassius mentioning that Gaius assumed the toga of manhood in 5 B.C.E. and then makes the chronological absurdity that Lucius, his brother, received the same thing “after the lapse of a year” ― in 4 B.C.E. We know from the writings of Augustus himself that Lucius received the toga virilis in 2 B.C.E. 6
The imperfect state of the historical records regarding the decade in which Jesus was born ought to evoke caution among some theologians in their interpretation of chronological and historical matters at this time. It is certainly no time to express dogmatism on chronological questions, but strangely (and sadly) this is the very time that dogmatism is expressed. Caution is normally thrown to the wind in most encyclopaedias and historical works regarding the time of Jesus’ nativity. It is usually assumed without the slightest question or tinge of doubt that Jesus was born before 4 B.C.E. This appraisal (looked on as an “infallible” judgment by most modern theologians) is in full contradiction to the writings of the early Christian scholars who say that Jesus was born after 4 B.C.E. 7
But why do modern theologians insist on a year before 4 B.C.E. (as early as 5, 6, 7 and now as early as 12 B.C.E. is even suggested) for the birth of Jesus? The common belief centers on remarks made by Josephus regarding the death of King Herod. He mentions that there was an eclipse of the Moon not long before the death of Herod. There was such an eclipse in March 13, 4 B.C.E. This is the Lunar Eclipse that most scholars select as the one associated with the death of Herod. Still, there were other lunar eclipses near that same time, and these must be considered too. The remarks of Josephus about a lunar eclipse are important, but they must be interpreted within the framework of a proper understanding of the history of the time. The records of Josephus are even vital, but they must be examined and applied prudently, or else confusion will continue to reign concerning the time of Jesus’ birth.
The Anomalies of Josephus
One must be very careful in evaluating the records of Josephus. He is not an easy author to understand in matters dealing with chronology. At times he seems consistent in what he relates and at other times he is absurdly inconsistent. As a matter of fact, for certain periods he avoids giving chronological details at the very time the historian needs them most. For example, the main years of Archelaus, the successor of King Herod, are glossed over with one or two general statements and the period from C.E. 6 to the time of Pilate (C.E. 26) is practically blank. For some strange reason, the twenty-year period just prior to the ministry of Jesus is glossed over as not being of necessary worth to report and this applies to both major works of Josephus. The lacunae were a deliberate glossing over by Josephus, probably for political reasons.
There are also anomalies in Josephus’ treatment of Herod’s reign. In the first years of Herod’s kingship, he buttressed his history with known and reliable chronological eras of time. He equated Herod’s seventh year with the year following the Battle of Actium. Josephus also gave reference to the Olympiads (a reasonably known international chronological benchmark). Josephus continued giving such exact dates until Herod’s twenty-eighth year (a few years before the birth of Jesus). 8 But from then on, for some unexplained reason, Josephus stopped giving chronological indications which would link the latter years of Herod’s reign with known historical eras. He did not resume his normal international cross-references until the tenth year of Archelaus (son of Herod) in C.E. 6. From then until the Jewish War of C.E. 66 to 73 his chronological references are sensible.
Why did Josephus abandon internationally recognized chronological references from 9 B.C.E. to C.E. 6? No one knows. But this very period of time is when Roman historians are sadly saddled with deficient chronological evidence for what was happening in the Roman Empire. Some of the most important events in Palestinian and Roman history occurred during that period of sixteen years. But for all those years, not one historical event mentioned by Josephus is cross-referenced to the Olympiads, the Battle of Actium, the years of the Roman consuls, or to the year of Caesar’s reign.
These and other factors have caused historians to suspect the motives of Josephus in his writings of history. The German scholar Stauffer has summed up some of the problems in accepting Josephus without a critical eye.
“The past fifty years of research on the work of Josephus have taught us to be severely critical of his method and presentation. Josephus had an ax to grind. His historical journalism was intended as a self-defense and self-aggrandizement. He wrote to glorify his people and to eulogize the Roman Emperor. He was an ardent sympathizer with the pro-Roman collaborationists among the Jews and an opponent of all the anti-Roman and anti-Herodian partisans of the Palestinian resistance movement. Crucial parts of Josephus’ historical works, moreover, were casually patched together from older sources of uneven value: consequently they were replete with gaps and contradictions, are muddled and misleading. This is particularly true of his remarks on Augustus, Herod, Quirinius, and the census. Of course, Josephus remains an invaluable source: but he is not to be read uncritically.” 9
Long ago, Edersheim in his valuable analysis of Josephus in The Dictionary of Christian Biography (C.E. 1882), recorded a panoply of contradictions from one part of Josephus to another. “Discrepancies are not wanting between statements in Antiquities and others in the Jewish War, and even mistakes in regard to plain biblical facts.” This is especially true in chronological matters. 10
There Are Chronological Errors in Josephus
There can be no doubt of Josephus’ chronological errors. As one example out of many, note his appraisal of the first year of Cyrus the Great. In the War 11 he said the year was what is recognized today as 570 B.C.E. But in one part of his Antiquities 12 he said it was 578 B.C.E. and in another 13 he said it was 586 B.C.E. In reality, most historians today feel the year was actually 538 B.C.E.
Not only was Josephus inconsistent in his own references, he was wrong in all of them. One might excuse Josephus for mistaking chronological matters some six centuries before his time, but it should be expected that he would fare better in periods much nearer his own lifetime. Yet at the very time of Herod (during whose reign Jesus was born), Corbishley, some fifty years ago, shows that the writings of Josephus contain much evidence of a deeper corruption than many seem to suspect. Everyone who has gone into the subject at all is aware that there are obvious blunders in the chronology of Josephus, but no successful attempt to remedy them appears to have been made. 14
A few examples can be given. Josephus made the statement that Herod’s government over Galilee began when he was “very young” ― when he was “fifteen years of age.” 15 Hardly anyone today accepts this statement of Josephus as accurate. Some even want to correct the text to read “twenty-five.” However, Professor Marcus, who helped translate the Loeb edition of Josephus, relates that “fifteen” is certainly the genuine reading. Josephus must have said “fifteen” otherwise, how could Herod be described as “very young”? There is not the slightest textual authority for changing the “fifteen” to “twenty-five.” Still, Josephus was wrong. Herod was certainly in his “twenties” when he became governor of Galilee or else he could hardly have been nearly seventy years old (as Josephus later attests) at his death.
This does not end Josephus’ chronological anomalies. He tells us that Herod’s appointment as king was in the 184th Olympiad which was inaccurate by a few months with his next reference which said it took place when Calvinus and Pollio were consuls (40 B.C.E.). However, a close inspection of what Josephus stated, and comparing it with other Roman records, we find that Herod was actually made king in the spring of 38 B.C.E. (not in 40 B.C.E.). That is not all. Cassius Dio said Herod captured Jerusalem in 38 B.C.E., 16 while some scholars think Josephus identified its capitulation with the year of 37 B.C.E. in the first part of a sentence and in the latter part of the same sentence Josephus indicates it was in 36 B.C.E. 17 These contradictions have given modern historians considerable difficulty in arriving at chronological exactitudes from Josephus. 18
Even Standard Dating Systems Josephus Does Not Seem to Understand
Josephus appears not to have understood how to date events in Palestine with the Olympiad dating system because he was notoriously in error in several places when he attempted to utilize it. But there are other problems with Josephus’ chronological statements. Relative to Herod’s death, the modern historians Vermes and Millar feel “that Josephus reckons one year too many” which would put his death in 3 B.C.E. But if the year 36 B.C.E. was the year that Herod captured Jerusalem as some historians believe (and the cycle of Sabbatical Years as shown in history certainly reveal this to be the year), Herod’s last year would have been from 2 to 1 B.C.E. And this is the truth.
Indeed, in Antiquities, XIV.490 Josephus said the Hasmonean reign ended after a rule of 126 years, but it was actually a reign of 128 years if one reckons 164 B.C.E. as the start of Maccabean rule. In Antiquities, 19 he stated that Hyrcanus was 81 years old at his death, but historians clearly realize that Hyrcanus was in his early 70’s when he was killed. In Antiquities, XV.181 he related that the interval between Pompey’s restoration of Hyrcanus to power and the time of Antigonus’ usurpation was more than 40 years, but that span of time was actually only about 23 years. In Antiquities, XV.231 he said that Mariamme was executed late in 29 B.C.E., but in his War, I.442 he said it was in 34 B.C.E.
There is even more confusion in the works of Josephus at the very period where we need accurate chronological information. In two places Josephus wrote that Archelaus, Herod’s successor, reigned 10 years, 20 but in another place he said 9 years. 21 He also recorded that Archelaus married Galphyra, wife of King Juba of Mauritania, after Juba died, 22 but he was clearly in error. It is well known that Juba was alive about 20 years after Archelaus married Galphyra.
These chronological inconsistencies should cause modern historians to tread cautiously when they come to evaluate what Josephus recorded. But they go merrily on their way of dogmatism when it comes to Josephus’ statements concerning the number of years for Herod’s reign. The truth is, Josephus himself (when he was not an eyewitness to historical events and relying on the statements of earlier historians) did not always understand the actual chronological facts. He often gave two or even three different dates for certain events in his different works, and sometimes all his indications do not accord with the modern chronological tables.
Josephus Leaves Out Important Persons
One thing for certain, Josephus was a very subjective writer. With his own words he admitted that the writing of his autobiography was to assure his Roman benefactors that he was thoroughly pro-Roman in every respect. 23 His loyalty to Rome went so far that he identified the prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament as being Vespasian, the Roman Emperor. 24
And another point. It has amazed Jewish scholars that Josephus said not one word about the most important rabbi from the close of the Old Testament period until modern times ― Hillel the First. This rabbi was most prominent in Jewish affairs and he lived at the exact time of Josephus’ silence on chronological matters. Josephus full well knew of Hillel’s prestige. Indeed, he mentioned that Simon (one of Hillel’s descendants) was of very distinguished stock. 25 And distinguished he was! The Hillel that Josephus refused to write about was no less than the originator of rabbinic Judaism which has become the mainstream of Judaic thought ever since. He was reputed to have been in charge of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Supreme Court). He was so important that later Jews considered him to be equal to Ezra the reputed canonizer of the Old Testament itself. Hardly anyone was more important to Judaic theology from the time of King Herod until modern times, but if we had only the writings of Josephus to go on, no one would know that Hillel existed. Such avoidance has to be looked on as an attempt on the part of Josephus to avoid comment ― because of biased opinions. This may be the reason why he recorded so little about Jesus and his times.
The truth is, Josephus may have tried to give a reasonable appraisal of certain historical events, but it is what he left out (or gave no chronological indications about) that gives us of modern times problems in understanding what actually happened at this crucial period of time. There were good reasons for Josephus to adopt his subjective approach. To be frank, he was interested in keeping the top part of his anatomy attached to its nether parts.
To stay alive, Josephus had to watch very carefully what he wrote. Had he been too plain, not only would he have been in jeopardy of losing his life, but his historical works would have gone up in smoke as well. He must have felt it prudent to judiciously avoid giving comment on certain crucial periods (and especially to the mention of some key individuals) because the political climate in Rome did not warrant plain speaking. One could hardly blame him.
Worse Yet, the Manuscripts of Josephus Have Been Edited
Though it is generally accepted that Josephus did write about Jesus of Nazareth in his Antiquities XVIII.63–64, it is felt by many scholars that there has been some alterations in the text to give a favorable account of Jesus as being the Christ. The notes in the Loeb edition of Josephus give the pros and cons of the issue in a fair and concise manner. What this section does indicate is the fact that there have been editings in the text of Josephus by later individuals and one must be careful in accepting all of the statements of Josephus (especially those involving chronological matters where numerical indications are in the text). The fact is, there are manuscripts of Josephus which show variations in the number of years in which important rulers lived and reigned. One of the most important of these vagaries is in regard to the death of Philip, the son of Herod. Josephus said he ruled for 37 years. 26 But note this. The earliest copies of the manuscripts of Josephus show him dying in the twenty-second year of Tiberius. Since Tiberius’ twenty-second year was C.E. 36, this shows that Philip began his reign in 1 B.C.E. (at the very time I am showing in this book that his father Herod died). With modern manuscripts of Josephus copied since the year 1700 C.E., it is common to erroneously read the “twentieth year,” not the older and proper “twenty-second.”
In order to confirm what the various manuscripts of Josephus do in fact state on this matter, David W. Beyer of San Diego, California made a survey of all the major manuscripts of Josephus in the British Museum (plus referring to others in the libraries in Europe) and found that before 1700 C.E., 27 of the manuscripts in the British Museum have the “twenty-second” rather than the “twenty,” while only 3 manuscripts have the “twenty.” But note this. When one consults manuscripts produced before 1544 A.D. (some twenty-five manuscripts), all of them have the number “twenty-two.” Beyer has come to the conclusion that the number “twenty-two” is the correct figure that Josephus wrote. Only in the year 1544 C.E. did the spurious “twenty” begin to come into vogue. 27 There is no doubt that the number “twenty-two” is what Josephus wrote. Indeed, Beyer methodically has reconstructed the manuscript history of these two different numbers regarding Philip’s death as shown in the manuscripts of Josephus (and to his credit, he has done it in a most reasonable way).
So important is Beyer’s work on this matter in giving the real manuscript evidence for the “twenty-second” year of Tiberius for Philip’s death, that Professor John Dominic Crossan asked that Beyer present his research (titled: “Josephus Re-examined: Unraveling the Twenty-Second Year of Tiberius”) at the Historical Jesus Section of the SBL meeting in Philadelphia in November, 1995. Beyer is to be congratulated for presenting a survey of the manuscripts of Josephus on this matter. The survey was long overdue, but Mr. Beyer has now accomplished the job for the scholarly world. What this early manuscript evidence of Josephus shows is the fact that Herod did die in 1 B.C.E. and that Philip his son commenced his reign at the death of Herod in 1 B.C.E. That coordinates precisely with what the historical records show that I present in this book. I am thankful to Mr. Beyer for his painstaking research into the manuscripts which show this fact.
The Editing of Later Scribes Gives Problems to Interpreting Josephus
These difficulties that I have been showing, reveal that one must be careful in accepting historical data (especially those items involving chronology) that we find in the present manuscripts of Josephus. Every statement of Josephus must be critically evaluated. This is because there is no doubt that the texts of Josephus have been tampered with by later scribes who have wanted to “improve” the statements of Josephus in matters that disagree with their own theories. This does not mean that the writings of Josephus should be abandoned, but it shows that one must weigh his historical and chronological statements that have come down to us in the manuscripts with a great deal of caution. They must be counter-checked with other sources. We must realize that Josephus has given us a great deal of valuable information, but his statements must be judiciously tested for their veracity. Josephus is especially good when he records what he saw as an eyewitness. His account of the Jewish/Roman War of 66 to 70 C.E. is an excellent and forthright account of the events and most historians give him credit for being reasonably objective. But when it comes to historical events before he was born, he then becomes much less reliable. Even what we find in the manuscripts may not be what Josephus actually wrote. This could account for his many inconsistencies.
Josephus Presents Several Difficulties at Particular Periods
The period we are discussing in this book is one of those difficult times in understanding chronological matters. One must exercise caution in the reading of Josephus ― especially in chronological affairs from about 9 B.C.E. to C.E. 6. We do not know why Josephus in that period neglected to give cross-references to internationally recognized eras of time, but he was negligent! And this is precisely where our problem lies. Not only are the records from Roman historians very deficient at this period of time (it was when that dark decade was in effect), but in addition Josephus himself fails us when it comes to precise chronological indications. It is no wonder historians are confused regarding the time of Jesus’ birth.
Early Christian Historians
In the first and third chapters of this book, attention was drawn to the historical opinions of early Christian scholars who lived from the 2nd to the 6th centuries. I showed that the majority placed the birth of Jesus in a period that we now recognize as 3 to 2 B.C.E. ― and this is indeed the very period in which he was born.
This is important testimony and it should be seriously considered by modern historians. In spite of this, we do not want to give the impression that the early Christian scholars were always correct. This is because some say Jesus was born in 3 B.C.E., others in 2 B.C.E. and even 1 B.C.E. Even they are inconsistent in their precise datings as to the exact year. Yet, importantly, they are all consistent in showing that Jesus was certainly born after 4 B.C.E., and not before 4 B.C.E. that scholars dogmatize about today. This is a significant point and it is of utmost importance in discovering the time of Jesus’ birth.
One, however, might ask why the early Christian scholars were not in unanimity regarding the year of Jesus’ birth (though all knew it occurred after 4 B.C.E.)? This is not difficult to explain. The records they had to consult were written at different times and in different places in the Roman Empire. Besides the application of internationally used chronological indicators such as Olympiads, the Battle of Actium, the consuls of Rome, etc., many ancient historians simply gave dates according to the years of certain kings. Some kings reckoned their years from the day they took office, others from the year they were crowned (and there were numerous ways of doing this). Other dating systems involved the eras of cities or states and these often differed among various peoples who lived at the same time over the Roman Empire.
In other words, chronological indications of early historians (and often when faithfully recorded) were scarcely understood by later scholars who lived in other areas of the world who did not use their time-reckoning systems. It is entirely conceivable why the early Christian historians might be as much as one, two or even three years off in reckoning the time of Jesus’ birth. Even Josephus was in error in the same way for the time of Herod when he used such Gentile dating systems.
The Chaotic Conclusions of Modern Scholars
What is the present state of affairs in sorting out the problems involving the understanding of the time of Jesus’ nativity? Things now have gone from bad to worse. Sheer bedlam presently reigns among modern scholars who specialize in these chronological matters. The wide differences of opinion of scholars are so askew from one another that the variety of their theories becomes almost laughable when their conclusions are compared with one another. Indeed, it would be laughable if the subject were not so serious. Look at the confusion that now exists in the scholarly world about the year of Jesus’ birth.
In a book titled Chronos, Kairos, Christos published in 1989 by the prestigious firm of Eisenbrauns as a Festschrift in honor of one of the finest chronologists of our day, Professor Jack Finegan, the two editors (Dr. Jerry Vardaman and Dr. Edwin M. Yamauchi) included articles of research from some of the top scholars today in the field of chronology regarding the time for Jesus’ nativity. Both Vardaman and Yamauchi must be congratulated for having the courage to publish the various articles (almost all of them contradictory to one another in many of their essential factors). The disunity of opinion among the scholars, as shown in this book, is so wide in their evaluation of the historical sources that the only reasonable word to describe this state of scholarly affairs is “chaos.” Confusion presently reigns among the scholars. The laity need to know about this chaos that presently prevails in the professional research now being conducted. The above book does the job of showing this chaos (and one should be thankful for its candor).
Look at what we find. In this single book, one scholar argues that Jesus was born sometime between August to October of 12 B.C.E. and that he was crucified at the Passover in C.E. 21. Another using different research as his basis of evaluation also accepted the 12 B.C.E. birth for Jesus, but he felt the records show Jesus’ crucifixion was in C.E. 36. Another thinks Jesus was born in January of 7 B.C.E. and that the Magi visited him (while he was a young toddler and standing by his father and mother) on November 12, 7 B.C.E. Another suggests Jesus was born in late 5 B.C.E. and his crucifixion was in C.E. 33. My research is also contained in this book. I show my reasons for believing that Jesus was born in 3 B.C.E. and crucified in C.E. 30.
Now remember, all of the diverse conclusions from the top scholars from various universities occur in one book! This ought to show the state of confusion that presently exists on the whole issue. The attempt that I presently make in this book is to bring a reasonable amount of pragmatism and common sense to the chaos that now reigns among scholars. I believe that this book you are now reading does that very thing. My contention is that the lunar eclipse that Josephus said was associated with Herod’s death was that of 10 January, 1 B.C.E. (and not the earlier eclipse of 13 March, 4 B.C.E.). There are other modern historians who feel the same way, notably W.E. Filmer, Ormund Edwards and especially the important work of the classical scholar Dr. Paul Keresztes in his two volume work written in 1989 titled Imperial Rome and the Christians. This latter work provides some outstanding research throughout its pages. It shows the reasonableness of accepting the basic premises on the death of Herod in 1 B.C.E. that I am advocating in this book.
And we are not the only ones who have understood the historical records in this fashion. Scaliger, as early as the 16th century, was very decisive in stating that Herod’s death was associated with the eclipse of 10 January, 1 B.C.E. He was supported by the German historian, Calvisius, who recorded nearly 300 eclipses as chronological benchmarks for reckoning historical events of the past. In the last century the English scholars William Galloway, H. Bosanquet and C.R. Conder also affirmed that the 10 January, 1 B.C.E. eclipse was the proper one. Professors Caspari and Reiss of Germany also maintained this belief in their chronological studies.
In the next chapter we will find that Josephus, in spite of his chronological errors, provides eyewitness information from Nicolas of Damascus which can prove the time of Herod’s death. And that time has to be in January, 1 B.C.E. This will place Jesus’ nativity in 3 or 2 B.C.E. Astronomy is the key to understand Josephus. When we apply the rules of astronomy with history, we will find that the dark decade in Roman history which has caused so much confusion to scholars, becomes full of light and understanding.

1 T. Barnes, Journal of Roman Studies, LXIV (1974), 22.
2 Sir Ronald Syme, The Crisis of 2 B.C., 30.
3 Ibid., 5–6.
4 Ibid.
5 See notes to the Loeb edition of Dio Cassius.
6 Res Gestae, III.14.
7 Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 229.
8 Josephus, Antiquities XVI.136.
9 Ethelbert Stauffer, Jesus and His Story (New York: Knopf, 1960) 22.
10 The Dictionary of Christian Biography, III.449.
11 War 70.
12 Josephus, Antiquities X.233.
13 Ibid., XIII.301.
14 Corbishley, The Journal of Roman Studies, XXXVI.22.
15 Josephus, Antiquities XIV.158–159.
16 Dio Cassius, XLIV.22.
17 Josephus, Antiquities XIV.487.
18 The notes to the Loeb edition of Josephus explain many of these problems.
19 Josephus, Antiquities XVII.342; Life, 5.
20 Josephus, Antiquities XVII.342.
21 Josephus, War II.111.
22 Josephus, War II.115.
23 Josephus, Life, 424, 428–429.
24 Josephus, War IV.622.
25 Josephus, Life, 191.
26 Josephus, Antiquities XVIII.106.
27 D. Beyer, “Josephus Re-Examined: Unraveling the Twenty-Second Year of Tiberius,” 8–9.

#26 garbonzo607

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 04:51 AM

Hello,

Weak apologetic? As Andrew pointed out.....you make a choice who to believe. Josephus or Luke. I chose to believe Luke. The historical evidence on either side is slim.....and as Josephus is not infallible......and as we do not know if he relates the full history (only the key points) then harmonisation is perfectly acceptable until more evidence turns up.

When you go to court you are innocent until proven guilty. You have not done this. You assume a contradiction from the get-go because it fits with your world view. Also, as Luke has proved a reliable historical witness on so many other counts, I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt.


I will not respond to you until you provide an argument in your own words and not copy and paste. I have no idea what you are referring to at all, so I am just going to ignore that whole comment. Respond with a counter argument from scratch.

#27 Biblaridion

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 05:09 AM

Hello,

I do not have time to repeat what others have already established. Life is too short. Either accept the evidence or not. You can stick your head in the sand if you want to.

In my own words.........Josephus was not infallible (see above)........the decade in question is full of errors (by secular historians).......so if you want to prove the bible is contradicting itself (using the example of the census)......then you are on a hiding to nothing. Josephus' account can be harmonised with what we know about the "lost decade".......but that still does not mean that Josephus is correct.


The long and the short of it is that you pick your winners and you take your chances. I chose the Bible as the reliable witness you can chose whatever you want.

#28 Mark Taunton

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 06:28 AM


In 1973, Richard Nixon was President. In 1977, Jimmy Carter was President. US Presidential elections happen like clockwork, every four years, right? And they did in this period, too - there was an election in 1976, bang on time, exactly four years after the previous one. Richard Nixon did not die in office. So I would be stupid to claim that there was another President in 1975, right?


Both of your friends have already shown those governing and the periods they were in office.


You missed the point, despite the fact that you yourself raised the example of the ordering of US presidents! According to the details Kay posted, there seems to have been a new appointment of a man to govern Syria, every 3 years. According to the US constitution, there is a presidential election every 4 years. Listing the name of the winner of the US election, every four years, gives:
  • ...
  • 1968: Richard Nixon
  • 1972: Richard Nixon
  • 1976: Jimmy Carter
  • 1980: Ronald Reagan
  • ...
There's just no room in there for Gerald Ford. Yet he was president, between Nixon and Carter. In other words, if you look at a simple summary focusing on just one aspect (who won the election), there can be crucial information you don't get. Even though there is some limited information available about Roman officials with responsibility over the region of Syria in the years around the birth of Jesus, it is hardly massively detailed. That list cited, being for regular 3-year periods, gives only one name for each. But did one of them die (or otherwise leave his post) in the middle, and have Quirinius take over as a stand-in, for a short time? Certainly that's only speculation on my part, I freely accept; but the case of President Ford shows plainly that such things can and do happen. I can't rule it in, and say that's the true explanation - but equally, you cannot rule it out.

So you just cannot say definitely that Luke was wrong, as you claim he was. Certainly, there is an issue over this question, no-one denies it; and there are alternative explanations given, as we have already seen in this thread. But neither of those things proves you right and all competing views wrong. You are claiming more than you can justify, to assert that.

Luke is widely acknowledged to be a remarkably careful and accurate historian, in so many other matters - I doubt you can give me any examples of other "errors" in his writings. For that reason, we should not treat this case in isolation, as if we have nothing else to go in judging the matter, beyond the one statement in Luke 2:2. Knowing what we do about Luke's general accuracy, we have fair grounds to expect the same standard in Luke 2 as elsewhere through the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. On that basis, it is more likely that he did get this right, and that we just don't currently have the external evidence to support his record and establish that it is indeed true, than that in this one detail he was wrong.

Edited by Mark Taunton, 12 April 2012 - 11:52 AM.


#29 Mark Taunton

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 06:43 AM

I wasn't sure if double posting was allowed. I was following Mark's lead.


Minor issue, but just pointing out a detail (details matter, especially in Bible issues!). Yes, I recently combined multiple posts (in a different thread) into one, but they were all responses to separate posts in a single train of thought from the same person, not to independent posts from different people.

Edited by Mark Taunton, 12 April 2012 - 06:44 AM.


#30 Mark Taunton

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 11:13 AM

I will not respond to you until you provide an argument in your own words and not copy and paste. I have no idea what you are referring to at all, so I am just going to ignore that whole comment. Respond with a counter argument from scratch.


Why must he do that? Why must his case be made in his own words and "from scratch"? Is that what you have done in setting out your case here? I don't think so; you are clearly just following others down a well-worn path in raising the question about Quirinius and Luke 2. This sounds suspiciously like an excuse for not dealing with the points raised in the material he cited - for "skirting the issues", to use the description you applied to me.

Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If Biblaridion must do as you require, then equally, you need to set out an entirely independent case for Luke 2:2 being in error, based on your own readings of Tacitus, Josephus and any other relevant original source material, in their original languages. You can't rely on what anyone else has said about those crucial reference texts, or how others have translated them, you must do it yourself, using your own words, from scratch, and justify your translation and interpretation of the text. Otherwise, you would be doing what you do not allow Biblaridion to do, which is clearly unreasonable.

Edited by Mark Taunton, 12 April 2012 - 12:00 PM.





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