Was Luke Mistaken?


#1

Luke goes into detail concerning the beginning of Christ’s ministry. To quote:

“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Luke 3:1-3)

Tiberius succeeded his father, Augustus Caesar, who died 19th August, AD 14, so if that is our benchmark, John’s preaching would have begun in AD 28, with Jesus’ ministry beginning early AD 29. However, one of the early Church Fathers, Tertullian, had this to say:

“… the Lord has been revealed since the twelfth year of Tiberius Caesar.” (Against Marcion, Book 1, ch. 15)

So, if Tertulian’s date is our benchmark, John’s preaching would have begun in AD 26, with Jesus’ ministry beginning early AD 27. Now, Tertullian wrote this after Luke’s gospel, so he must have known what Luke had said. Why the difference? Was one of them mistaken, or is there another explanation?


#2

Well, for one, that would mean Jesus’ began his ministry in A.D. 25, with JB starting up A.D. 24.

Tertullian wrote two centuries after the fact, so there is your answer. While Luke has his problems, he should not be trumped by Tertullian without additional evidence.


#3

Are the writings of Tertullian in the canon of Scripture?

The answer, of course is “No” (if you were wondering). And besides, some of his later works directly contradicted Church teaching.


#4

[quote=steve53] Well, for one, that would mean Jesus’ began his ministry in A.D. 25, with JB starting up A.D. 24.

[/quote]

Being a Roman, he would have used a Roman calendar system of dating reigns of emperors. So, the part-year of AD14 would have been considered Tiberius’ accession, and AD15 would have been year 1, and so on.

Hence, according to Tertulian, the Lord was revealed in AD 26. It would have referred to his baptism in the same year that John began baptising.

[quote=steve53] Tertullian wrote two centuries after the fact, so there is your answer.

[/quote]

He wrote ‘Against Marcion’ in AD207. That’s quite early, and Tertullian was not silly. Im sure he knew how to work a calender; yes?


#5

No, but everyone knows that he was a top-notch apologist. 'Any other thoughts as to why there was an apparent contradiction? :popcorn:


#6

Well, lets just take Luke as correct since he is in the canon and Tertullian is not.

BTW Your exact question is repeated throughout the interwebs. Link Link

Interesting.

What’s your agenda?

Don’t you think the Bible can be trusted?

:popcorn::popcorn:


#7

I do trust the Bible. (please note my word ‘apparent’) Thanks for asking. :bible1:


#8

OK - so why the repeated line of questioning?

Do you not trust the Church?


#9

Which means that Christ would have died around AD 28 which is too early a date for most historians who placed it at 30 or 33 AD.

Luke is renowned as a first rate historian whereas Tertullian was more of a theologian. My vote goes to Luke.


#10

Hi Eric,

As I replied to Steve, Tertulian would have used a Roman calendar system of dating reigns of emperors. So, the part-year of AD14 would have been considered Tiberius’ accession, and AD15 would have been year 1, and so on. Hence the Lord would have been **revealed in AD 26 **- not 25 as Steve reckons. It would have referred to his baptism in the year that John began baptising, and by the time Jesus came out of his wilderness temptation, the beginning his ministry would have been early AD 27.

So Tertulian’s system actually fits well with an AD 30 crucifixion.


#11

So wrong.

Would you have us believe that if Tiberius had become emperor on January 3rd that that entire year would be called the year of his ascension and not the first year of his reign?

Let’s get real here.

In a similar thread I quoted Josephus as the defining historian on this question.


#12

On the topic of Qurinius census in Luke’s Gospel. I hope this adds something to the discussion.
Ferdinand Prat, S.J covers this in “Jesus Christ His Life, His Teaching, and His work” (Vol I 77-80)
I typed out his appendix notes on this subject, and hope you enjoy. I do recommend his work and his two volume works on Paul

The Census of Quirinius

  1. Accurate Statement of the Question

             Jesus Christ was born in the time of King Herod, but not long before Herod's death, which occurred in 4 B.C. He was about thirty years old at the time of his baptism, which took place, at the earliest, in the beginning of the year A.D. 27. It does not therefore seem that his birth, which coincides with the Census of Quirinius, can be placed earlier than the year 7 B.C. Now in the year 7 B.C. it was not Quirinius that was governor of Syria, but C. Sentius Saturninus, and the successor of Saturninus was P. Quintilius Varus, who governed Syria until after the death of Herod. It seems impossible, therefore, that St. Luke can be right when he writes: "This first registration occurred when Quirinius was governor of Syria" (Luke 2:2).
             Quirinius is not an unknown personage. Tactius devotes a paragraph to him in his *Annales* (iii, 48): " An indefatigable soldier, he had by his zealous services won the consulship under the Divine Augustus, and subsequently the honors of a triumph for having stormed some fortresses of the Homonadenses in Cilicia. He was also appointed adviser to Caius Cæsar in the government of Armenia, and had likewise paid court to Tiberius, who was then at Rhodes." Quirinius was consul in the year 12 B.C. and died in A.D. 21, at an advanced age. From A.D. 1 to 3 he was adviser to Caius Caesar, who died on the 21st of February in A.D. 4 Strabo tells us (XII, vi, 5) that King Amyntas, who was killed by the Homonadenses, brigands of Cilicia, was avenged by Quirinius; he must therefore have been governor of Syria at that time, since Cilicia was a dependency of Syria. Finally, an inscription found in 1764 at Tivoli (Tibur) can refer only to Quirinius, and proves that he was *twice* governor of Syria. A facsimile of it may be found in the *Dictionnaire* *de la Bible*, s.v. Cyrinus, with Mommsen's restoration. The date of Quirinus' second legateship in Syria is known: it was at that time of the death of Archelaus (A.D. 6) when he was charged with taking a census of Palestine, recently annexed to the Province of Syria, for the purpose of establishing the assessment of taxes. We do not know the date of his first legateship, but it is generally agreed that Saturninus was governor of Syria from 8 to 6 B.C., and that his successor was Varus, who was still functioning at the time of Herod's death. There is, therefore an open period between the year 12 B.C., the date of the consulship of Quirinius, and the year 8; but it seems impossible to date the birth of our Lord as early as that, for, if he was born in the beginning of 8 B.C., he would have been about thirty-four years old at the time of his baptism.
    
  2. Various Solutions

             The first solution, proposed by Hervart in 1612 and afterward adopted by many exegetes, both Protestant (Olshausen, Tholuck, Wiesler, Ewald, Caspari, etc.) and Catholic (Calmet, Wallon, Lagrange, etc.), cuts the difficulty at the root. Luke's test (2:2): is translated: "This registration was previous to that of the governor Quirinius," i.e., previous to the well-known registration by Quirinius in A.D. 6, at the death of Archelaus. According to this translation, the first census could have occurred at any time previous.
             The translation cannot be said to be impossible, since many good philologist accept it, but it is somewhat forced and unnatural, and it would be doubtless not have come to anyone's mind except for anxiety to solve the difficulty of chronology.  …
             2. The second solution is suggested by Tertullian's statement:" The Jewish race was from the beginning so clearly distinguished into tribes and communes and families and households, that no man could easily be of unknown descent, at least from the recent census of Augustus, of which perhaps the records were still on display." ADV MARCIONEM, iv, 36). According to this solution, the census would have been begun by Quirinius and completed by Saturninus, who was governor of Syria from 8 to 6 B.C., and St. Luke attributes it to Quirinius, the more important of the two. This is admissible; the year 6, and even, if necessary, the year 7 B.C., would be suitable for the Savior's birth.
             3.  However, a third solution seems to us to be preferable. It is certain that there were sometimes two imperial legates in the same province. Thus in Africa in the year A.D. 75 we find two governors, one *charged with taking the census*, the other in command of the troops, and both styled *Legati Augusti* on a milestone, which is an official document.  Josephus, too, mentions two men who were simultaneously legates in Syria, Sentius Saturninus and Volumnius, whom he several times calls "governors". The same could very well have been true at the time of Christ's nativity, if Quirinius was at that time occupied in fighting the Homonadenses. If this expedition took place between the years 7 and 5 B.C., which is probable, several points would be explained. First, the presence of a second legate charged with the administration of Syria and the registration of Palestine; secondly the mention by Tertullian of Sentius Saturninus as the official charged wit the registration; finally, the statement of St. Luke attributing the registration to Quirinius, who was the principal personage. Note that St. Luke does not say: "This registration was carried on by Quirinius, the legate of Syria," but "under Quirinius" The Vulgate is too specific on this account.

#13

As it happened, his accession began in August. If getting “real” is what you want to do, google up how the Romans measured reigns: They used an accessional system. So, according to Tertulian, the Lord was revealed in AD 26.


#14

If by Tertulian reckoning, the year that Jesus was revealed would be AD26 and that would be when John baptized Jesus. However within 2 months Jesus was on the road preaching. 3 years of ministry would still end up AD29. Most calculations for Jesus death is 30 - 33 AD. It is not in the range, close but not quite.:smiley:

Eusebius in his Church History also states 15th year of the reign of Tiberius same as Luke with an added snippet of info placing that event in the 4th year of governorship of Pontius Pilate. According to the Chronicle of Eusebius, Jesus was crucified in the 19th year of Tiberius. If we use Tertulian’s 12th year of Tiberius, Jesus would have been on the road for 7 years which is not supported at all by mainstream scholars. I think that would be a tough problem for you to overcome.


#15

Eusebius wrote 300 years after the fact, and Tertullian 200 years.

And “scholars” have been doing the dance trying to make Luke come out “right” for 1700 years.

Josephus is a near-contemporary of both Jesus and Paul. He writes about characters found in the crucifixion story. Looking at him and Tacitus and the NT, A.D. 36 is an inevitable conclusion.


#16

Great effort.

But I think this illustrates the “can’t see the forest for the trees” problem.

A case can be made for a 12-11 B.C. birth date for Jesus, but setting Luke’s census there is not one of them.

August’s census was a huge affair and a seminal event acknowledged by Josephus. Whole families were ordered to report to the city of their birth- or family “tribal” land- for a counting. It was a big deal.

In 12 B.C., Augustus would not care. Herod ruled the East with Augustus’ complete confidence. Josephus suggests that at that time the reality was that Marcus Agrippa, Augustus, and Herod the Great were co-emperors of the Empire.

Augustus even gave Herod the amazing power to name his own successor.

Now, if Luke had said that HEROD had ordered the census, then you might have something. But Herod could care less as long as taxes were paid and people worked on his various projects. Then, he was in the middle of building Caesarea and the Second Temple.

Herod the Great gave Augustus all the money he requested and then some. Herod would even spend his own money to build sumptuous edifices in other kingdoms and provinces.

Augustus would not even think about ordering a census. It would be insulting to Herod. And Augustus would gain nothing by it.

But when it was clear that the son of Herod the Great, Archelaus, was simply not working out in Judea and Samaria, Augustus was forced to turn it into a province, with tight Roman control and some sort of tax mechanism where before Augustus had left it to Archelaus.

The big picture.


#17

Can you share your sources to come up with the AD 36?


#18

I’d be interested in seeing more people chime in about this discrepancy.


#19

[quote=ericc]If by Tertulian reckoning, the year that Jesus was revealed would be AD26 and that would be when John baptized Jesus. However within 2 months Jesus was on the road preaching. 3 years of ministry would still end up AD29.
[/quote]

Jesus was baptised later in AD 26 because Johns arrival had to be after Pilate had been installed as Prefect. Then Jesus’ baptism came after that; estimates vary between October - December. Then Jesus was 40 days in the wilderness, then his ministry began in passover month, AD 27. Hence Jesus’ ministry ended 3 years after that - Passover AD 30.

[quote=ericc]Eusebius in his Church History also states 15th year of the reign of Tiberius same as Luke with an added snippet of info placing that event in the 4th year of governorship of Pontius Pilate. According to the Chronicle of Eusebius, Jesus was crucified in the 19th year of Tiberius.
[/quote]

I must admit, “the 4th year of Pontius Pilate” is a curly one. As for Eusebius’ 19th year crucifixion, I conclude that his history opts for Lukes count. In other words, 15th year plus 31/2 years equals 19th year.

Incidentally, are you aware that Eusebius mentions the destruction of the temple occurring 40 years after Christ’s death?


#20

Why does any of this matter? It doesn’t have any bearing on the Gospel or Christian teaching.

People couldn’t just pull out a phone back then and Google when things happened. Maybe Tertullian was recalling the year from memory and had a lapse in memory. Or maybe Tertullian’s words reflect a tradition he was taught. Or maybe Tertullian felt St. Luke’s dating was wrong, so he gave what he felt the right year was.

Doesn’t matter. The Evangelists were inspired to convey the Gospel of Christ’s life, teachings, death, and resurrection. They did that. The Church continued to do that. A little historical discrepancy between St. Luke and a later Christian author is a trivial issue. Neither St. Luke or Tertullian were inspired to be infallible historians.

To answer your question though:

Why the difference? Was one of them mistaken, or is there another explanation?

We don’t know why the difference is there. Maybe one was mistaken. Maybe neither was. Maybe both were.

Yes, there might be another explanation. Maybe this discrepancy was just irrelevant in the grand scope of the Christian worldview. Two witnesses to a crime give a statement. One says the criminal looked in the window two times before smashing it to burglarise the house. The other says the criminal looked thrice before smashing the window. “Why the discrepancy,” you may ask. I may ask, “What is it about your outlook on life that makes you even ask this question?”


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