Christ's Birth...The Question of Quirinius
by Robert Driskell 12/16/2010 / Christian Apologetics
The Horns of a Dilemma
One method of debate popular among atheists, is to present a viewpoint held by Christians, ignore the reasons Christians hold to that viewpoint, present the atheist's viewpoint, ridicule the Christian perspective, and then smugly posture themselves as if the matter is settled.
As Christmas approaches, the biblical account of the birth of Christ is a favorite target of this type of diatribe by skeptics. The account of His birth found in the Gospel of Luke has been a prime target of late. One of the issues atheists bring up is that Luke writes:
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. (Luke 2:1-2 NASB)
History records that Quirinius' first census was taken in 6 AD. This census would be much too late for the birth of Jesus.
The Bible also says that Herod was instrumental in the story of Jesus' birth. Herod died around 4 B.C.
The skeptic rightly points out that this poses a dilemma: If Jesus was born during the first census taken by Quirinius in 6 AD, He could not have been born during the lifetime of Herod who died in 4 BC, ten years earlier. And vice versa.
The Christian Response
There are several legitimate philosophical and historic answers to this problem that will briefly be cited here followed by sources for further study, if one wishes.
The Christian, or the honest seeker, need not be put off by the atheistic answers from non-believers. The God of the Bible is the God of Truth. He is not afraid of anyone investigating His claims.
It is dangerous to blindly follow anyone or anything without learning about the subject first. Even Jesus said that we should count the cost before deciding to follow Him. He wants us to think about these things.
Much information exists that presents reasonable, valid, and archeologically verifiable evidence for Luke's statements concerning the birth of Christ.
If one grants the possibility that God exists and is who He says He is, then shouldn't we check out the evidence for His existence?
1.The Bible As History by Werner Keller, p. 383 f. (1956)
2.He Walked Among Us by Josh McDowell and Bill Wilson, p. 200 f. (1988)
3.The MacArthur Study Bible, note on Luke 2:2, (1997)