The question concerning Quirinius also involves the date of the census described in Luke 2. It is known that Quirinius was made governor of Syria by Augustus in AD 6. Archaeologist Sir William Ramsay discovered several inscriptions that indicated that Quirinius was governor of Syria on two occasions, the first time several years prior to this date.^4 Within the cycle of taxation-censuses mentioned above, an earlier taxation would be dated from 10–4 BC.^5 Another possibility is
1 See Bruce, Christian Origins, p. 192, for example.
2 Ibid., pp. 193–194.
3 Ibid., p. 194.
4 Robert Boyd, Tells, Tombs, and Treasure(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), p. 175.
5 Cf. Bruce, Christian Origins, pp. 193–194 with Boyd, Tells, p. 175. Bruce prefers the date 10–9 BC for the empire-wide census, with that which took place in Judea occurring a few years later. Boyd places the date of the earlier census at 6–5 BC, which coincides closely with the accepted dates for Jesus’ birth.
From Gary R. Habermas, The Historical Jesus – Ancient Evidence For The Life Of Christ (in print at Amazon)
Bruce’s suggestion that the Greek in Luke 2:2 is equally translatable as “This enrollment (census) was before that made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.”^6 This would mean that Luke was dating the taxation-census before Quirinius took over the governorship of Syria. Either possibility answers the question raised above.
Therefore, while some questions have been raised concerning the events recorded in Luke 2:1–5, archaeology has provided some unexpected and supportive answers. Additionally, while supplying the background behind these events, archaeology also assists us in establishing several facts. (1)A taxation-census was a fairly common procedure in the Roman Empire and it did occur in Judea, in particular. (2)Persons were required to return to their home city in order to fulfill the requirements of the process. (3)These procedures were apparently employed during the reign of Augustus (37 BC–AD 14), placing it well within the general time frame of Jesus’ birth. (4)The date of the specific taxation recounted by Luke could very possibly have been 6–5 BC, which would also be of service in attempting to find a more exact date for Jesus’ death. Yohanan—Crucifixion Victim