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 Cyrenius (Quirinius) was governor of Syria.)3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.” Luke 2: 1-3 (emphasis my own)
Merry Christmas! I am at the age . . .no this is not a Viagra commercial . . .of grown kids at Christmas. On Christmas Eve the oldest child was with her in-laws to be; the male child was at work and the baby child went out to dinner with her gentleman caller's Mom and Pop. I had taken my lady love to O'Hare Airport for her flight to Florida and Christmas with her family. I hit the early Mass.
I love the Christmas Gospel of Luke, always have, from the time that I was able put words together. I had hours of time to enjoy the quiet and peace of Christmas Eve having already spent more than was prudent on gift cards and gift certificates for loved ones - also one of those 'You are at the age of . . .getting things done' harbingers aging male mandates - get something they will like.
Luke got me at Quirinius this year. I recalled a social gathering a few years back that was peopled by folks of diverse opinion - out of the comfort zone one might say. Such occasions test ones moral mettle with statements so outrageous that one feels compelled to respond, but decorum dictates a conversational moderation that would flummox St. Francis of Assisi.
As it was a Holiday gathering, edgy wags found it necessary to challenge the spirit of the season. A Cliff's Notes Know It All took to harping that Luke's gospel was a key contradiction in the synoptic gospels and further proof that Christianity, faith, the Bible, the Vatican, The Vienna Boys Choir and God His Own Bad Self are fabulous yarns crafted for squares, rubes, dummies and helots. This particular tweedy-loud mouth exercised his gums with factoids gleaned from other clever agnostic Volvo owners - "If Quirinius ruled Syria in 6 AD, Hooowwwww does one explain the Nativity after the birth, marked by the Census of Augustus sooo necessary to the proof demanded by believers that the historical Jesus must be accepted?"
I knew about Quirinius, Publius Sulpiciius Quirinius. He was a favorite of Emperor Augustus and distinguished Middle East hand for the Empire. He served in Syria for many, many years and conducted not one census, but two.
I was under the very strictest of orders commanded by a diminutive woman of great charms and manners not to engage any person on any subject of a controversial nature . . .whatsoever. My three score and change in size tens treasures readings of not only scripture, but also Tacitus, Suetonois, Dio Casius, Horace, Virgil, and the I Clausius novel of Robert Graves. So, I had some ammo. All of my bullets remained in my mental magazine on this occasion and I offered, " Hey, I like Christmas. You try these phlyo doughed shrimps?" Q.E.D.
The tweedy goof held the floor. I take a back seat to no man, in being a confrontational pain in the rump, but I managed to choke down my prideful bile as well as a number of phylo dough wrapped goodies in deference to the season and the orders from herself.
I got me a huge thank you for allowing an opportunity to conversationally yank down the britches of a snotty dope. Quirinius stayed in my guns. You see, Luke was no slouch. Not only had the physician who attended to St. Paul written the gospel, but also the Acts of the Apostles, in which Luke clearly presents his knowledge of the Roman tax and census table of organization ( Acts 5:37). It was also clear from my reading of scholars like Dave Miller, PhD, that Luke's use of the phrase prote egeneto (first took place) indicates that there was another census by Publius Sulipicius Quirinius in 6AD - there was a second census. Professor Miller's 2003 essay on the contradictions surrounding Quirinius concluded
Getting in the last word sure does stroke the old ego, but it sadly affirms the Viagra advertisement's 'this is age of getting things done' . . .artificially.In addition, historical sources indicate that Quirinius was favored by Augustus, and was in active service of the emperor in the vicinity of Syria previous to and during the time period that Jesus was born. It is reasonable to conclude that Quirinius could have been appointed by Caesar to instigate a census-enrollment during that time frame, and his competent execution of such could have earned for him a repeat appointment for the A.D. 6/7 census (see Archer, 1982, p. 366). Notice also that Luke did not use the term legatus—the normal title for a Roman governor. He used the participial form of hegemon that was used for a Propraetor (senatorial governor), or Procurator (like Pontius Pilate), or Quaestor (imperial commissioner) [McGarvey and Pendleton, n.d., p. 28]. After providing a thorough summary of the historical and archaeological data pertaining to this question, Finnegan concluded: “Thus the situation presupposed in Luke 2:3 seems entirely plausible” (emphases my own)
This is the Season of being better than we usually are three hundred and sixty four days of the yowling year. Merry Christmas!!! Prote Egeneto - it was the First, but it certainly will not be the last.