Claim that the Census Did Not Happen

Any rebuttals to this from the Straight Dope? The Straight Dope Message Board is generally leftist and skeptic and I can’t say Cecil is quite as objective as he purports to be when dealing with religious matters (though I would not dare say that in front of other board members, as he is practically worshipped by him).

it’s one of the sillier objections to the gospel that i’ve heard.

it’s been addressed on another thread - the ‘authorities’ quoted by those who adhere to the ‘census never happened’ theory are mistaken. there is alot of extant proof of such censuses…censi…censim… whatever the plural of census is.

[quote=jeffreedy789]it’s one of the sillier objections to the gospel that i’ve heard.

it’s been addressed on another thread - the ‘authorities’ quoted by those who adhere to the ‘census never happened’ theory are mistaken. there is alot of extant proof of such censuses…censi…censim… whatever the plural of census is.
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I agree with jeffreedy, tel the guy to prove it:D :stuck_out_tongue: God Bless

[quote=Lisa4Catholics]I agree with jeffreedy, tel the guy to prove it:D :stuck_out_tongue: God Bless
[/quote]

Well, it is actually an article that I linked to, so I can’t rebut him directly. Also, as any member of the Straight Dope will tell you, you cannot prove a negative (i.e. that the census never happened). The burden of proof first rests on the one making the positive claim.

There are people today who claim that the attack on America on 9-11-01 was a Jewish plot coordinated by President Bush.

When the conclusion is pre-ordained, you can find the facts to make any claim.

The authentic act of reason and judgment begins with the pure desire to know. Do you really think the argument that the census did not take place was based on such a pure desire?

I doubt it.

[quote=BlueMit11]Any rebuttals to this from the Straight Dope? The Straight Dope Message Board is generally leftist and skeptic and I can’t say Cecil is quite as objective as he purports to be when dealing with religious matters (though I would not dare say that in front of other board members, as he is practically worshipped by him).
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The ultimate rebuttal is to explain that if he understood the literary form of the genre known as an “infancy narrative”, he would know that such writings do not have historical accuracy as a goal and are not intended to convey history. Thus, it doesn’t matter in the slightest whether or not the census occurred.

Pat

[quote=Lisa4Catholics]I agree with jeffreedy, tel the guy to prove it:D :stuck_out_tongue: God Bless
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The trouble with proving anything, is that no proof can ever convince someone who is not willing to be convinced. This is true of proving:

[list]
*]that the earth is an oblate spheroid, and not flat
*]that the moon landing of 1969 took place and was not faked
*]that Hitler did not survive WW2
*]that the Romanovs were all shot at Ekaterinburg in 1918, so that none escaped
*]that President Lincoln was not killed by the Jesuits
[/list]and so on: people can be convinced of something, only if they are ready or prepared to be; are receptive enough to be.

If people want to think that Paul VI was spirited out of the Vatican and replaced by a doppelganger - then no power on earth, & no reasoning, however conclusive or eloquent or brilliant, will convince them otherwise.

If people want to believe that Jesus was a woman, or Julius Caesar, or non-existent, or that He swanned off to Southern France with Mary Magdalen and became the ancestor of the Merovingians - they will believe these things.

Truth and reason are very unimportant if people are dead set on believing something - look at all the failures of prophecies of the Second Coming: a 100% falsification rate - yet there will always be crowds of people to be taken in. Like hope, credulity and gullibility spring eternal in the human breast.

And the same applies to positions on Biblical matters. ##

I will admit that I have not encountered evidence a census happened but I also have no encountered evidence that it didn’t happen. What we have here is an argument of silence. That usually doesn’t designate proof in court. Considering the Bible gives a witness where history does not I will side with the Bible. Secular history doesn’t tell us either way. Judea was on the outpost of the Roman Empire a regional census would not have been historically signficant to record anyway.

I don’t see much to refute. Aside from Luke’s Gospel, there is no historical record of this census. This leads to three possibilities. One, the census never took place. Two, the census did take place, but Luke got some of the details wrong. Three, the census took place exactly as Luke relates.

Interestingly enough, the linked article doesn’t claim there wasn’t a census. In fact, it makes the opposite claim. For example:
"For a variety of political reasons, the Emperor Augustus created a new province called Judaea, around the year 6 AD. At that time, Syria was governed by a legate, a person of senatorial rank, named P. Sulpicius Quirinius; the new province would be governed by a procurator (of lower, equestrian rank). It was common practice to take a census upon the creation of a new province, and so Quirinius ordered a census to be taken for Judaea."
The sticking point is not that the census never happened, but the timing of the census in relation to Jesus’ birth year:
"P. Sculpinius Quirinius was legate (governor) of Syria in the years 6 - 7 AD. He did order a census. However, the assumption that Jesus was born in the year of Quirinius’s census (6 AD) leads to irreconcilable chronological problems in the subsequent events of his life. It is entirely unlikely that Jesus was born in the year of Quirinius’s census; most scholars put Jesus’ birth around 4 BC, a good ten years before Quirinius’s census."
Ah, but there is more to the story. Tacitus (Annals 3:48) and Florus (Roman History 2:31) speak of Quirinius leading military expeditions in the eastern provinces of the Roman empire a decade before his governorship of Syria. Various forms of “joint rule” were common in the ancient world, so it is possible that Quirinius’s military role included some sort of governorship. Two fragmentary Latin inscriptions give some credence to an earlier term of office for Quirinius.

It is thus possible that in his earlier term of office, Quirinius called for a local census around the time of Jesus’ birth year. Then, later, there was a general census when Quirinius became legate circa A.D. 6. Luke simply conflates the two incidents, hardly an earth-shattering admission.

See E. J. Vardaman, Archaeology and the Living World (Starksville, MS: Sherwood, 1981, p. 138).

This link provides a brief summary of Dr. Vardaman’s work referenced above.

– Mark L. Chance.

If I remember correctly, Mother Angelica knew about the controversy surrounding the census in the gospel of Luke. She commented, if I recall correctly, that she didn’t care about the census.

I think the census is very important, because of its effect.

Look at the Holy Land from the vantage point of about 100,000 feet, or, in other words, look at the big picture. At the time of Jesus’ nativity, the tribes of Israel would have been reassembled in their God-given locations, from when they had entered the Promised Land.

So, while we usually zoom in to the location of Jesus’ birth, we should zoom out a bit to see that the promised Messiah arrived 1) in the midst of all the Chosen People, and 2) at a time of a great reunion (aside from the travel inconvenience). So, the circumstances of Jesus’ birth depict a spiritual picture of heaven, if you follow me. At some level of consciousness, the Jews should have been meditating on God’s fulfillment of His promise to give them a homeland and their hope for a coming Messiah.

[quote=mlchance]I don’t see much to refute. Aside from Luke’s Gospel, there is no historical record of this census. This leads to three possibilities. One, the census never took place. Two, the census did take place, but Luke got some of the details wrong. Three, the census took place exactly as Luke relates.

Interestingly enough, the linked article doesn’t claim there wasn’t a census. In fact, it makes the opposite claim. For example: “For a variety of political reasons, the Emperor Augustus created a new province called Judaea, around the year 6 AD. At that time, Syria was governed by a legate, a person of senatorial rank, named P. Sulpicius Quirinius; the new province would be governed by a procurator (of lower, equestrian rank). It was common practice to take a census upon the creation of a new province, and so Quirinius ordered a census to be taken for Judaea.”

The sticking point is not that the census never happened, but the timing of the census in relation to Jesus’ birth year: “P. Sculpinius Quirinius was legate (governor) of Syria in the years 6 - 7 AD. He did order a census. However, the assumption that Jesus was born in the year of Quirinius’s census (6 AD) leads to irreconcilable chronological problems in the subsequent events of his life. It is entirely unlikely that Jesus was born in the year of Quirinius’s census; most scholars put Jesus’ birth around 4 BC, a good ten years before Quirinius’s census.”

Ah, but there is more to the story. Tacitus (Annals 3:48) and Florus (Roman History 2:31) speak of Quirinius leading military expeditions in the eastern provinces of the Roman empire a decade before his governorship of Syria. Various forms of “joint rule” were common in the ancient world, so it is possible that Quirinius’s military role included some sort of governorship. Two fragmentary Latin inscriptions give some credence to an earlier term of office for Quirinius.

It is thus possible that in his earlier term of office, Quirinius called for a local census around the time of Jesus’ birth year. Then, later, there was a general census when Quirinius became legate circa A.D. 6. Luke simply conflates the two incidents, hardly an earth-shattering admission.
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No, it isn’t; but it may be quite enough to get one accused of denying the inerrancy of the Bible :frowning: (A notion that IMO is in great need of re-examination).

IMO, there is a fourth possibility - that if the Lucan account of the census does not correspond to ascertainable historical fact, this may be because the author is constructing an account of events so that the construction will bring out the significance of Christ. ISTM that, for the gospels, “what actually happened” as a matter of historical fact is less important than the significance of Christ. I see no dishonesty in this at all; and this idea may be quite mistaken. What one must do, I think, is study the text for clues to the author’s purpose and theology and ideas; IMO, the census may be timed by the author when it is, in order to serve the author’s emphasis on the universality of Christ, and his being born “in the fullness of time” (as Luke’s colleague Paul says in Galatians 4.4).

FWIW, I think there is a lot of “constructed history” in the Biblical texts - so if (say) the empire of Solomon (as outlined in in 1 Kings) never actually existed, I don’t think this is any “objection to the Bible” whatever. (There are extra-Biblical parallels to this sort of writing.) ##

See E. J. Vardaman, Archaeology and the Living World (Starksville, MS: Sherwood, 1981, p. 138).

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