Chronology and History – Luke 2:1-7

God’s Timing Is Perfect And Everything He Does Is Precise

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Date Debate

Part of the difficulty in determining the dates of various ancient (2000 years ago is ancient relative to today) events is that records were destroyed through various battles in history.  We can now use what records are left, and rely upon archeology to fill in the gaps.  The problem with this approach is that there is some leeway in the Generally Accepted Date (GAD) for these events.  Because of this, we can only make approximations.  If, however, we can tie them to specific astronomical events, we may be able to get a better idea of when they occurred.

Here we find two important historical events that occurred at the time of Jesus’ birth:

  1. Quirinius was pro-Counsel in Syria when Jesus was born. (Luke 2:2)
  2. A census sent Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. (Luke 2:3)

These events will help us to place, along with other clues in the Bible, the time of Jesus birth.

Census Called

The Roman census was a great tool for taxation.  It was called every fourteen years, and required that everyone return to their hometown to be registered and pay their tax.  There were two Roman censuses taken that can be dated around the time of the estimated birth of Christ – 8 B.C.E. and 6 C.E.  However, unlike today with television, email, and rapid transportation, it took time to spread the word to the ends of the dominion of Rome.

Additionally, the Israelites despised having to pay the Romans tax for the privilege of living in the very land that God have given them.  So they did everything in their power to delay paying their taxes until absolutely necessary (“…there is nothing new under the sun…”).  So finally, when the delays would be tolerated no longer by the Roman officials, the Israelites traveled back to the land of their ancestors to pay their taxes.

Governor Guided

Quirinius was the pro-Counsel in Syria when the Roman Census was called in 8 B.C.E.  This helps us to narrow down the time frame.  There have been some claims that the Roman Census of Quirinius took place at 6 C.E., but this may be due to a mistake by Josephus in his writings.

Baby Born

There were two signs in the heavens that date the birth of Jesus Christ.  The first was recorded by the Apostle John in the book of Revelation:

1 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.

Fred Larson, the writer and producer of the film “The Star of Bethlehem”, using Starry Night software, confirmed that an astronomically rare event occurred on September 11, 3 B.C.E.  That morning, the star Virgo rose directly behind the Sun in the sky at sunrise, and the moon was at her feet – the feet of the constellation of Virgo. It is a small crescent moon, because it is the Jewish New Year – Rosh Hashanah. It is a representation of a life just starting. This may possibly be describing the sign of the Son of Man – the conception of Jesus – because conception is the birth of life according to the Jews and (many) Christians. The twelve stars upon her head were the constellation of Leo (for more information, please see the movie “Star of Bethlehem”, and Fred Larson’s website, www.bethlehemstar.com).

The second sign occurred nine months after Virgo was clothed with the Sun, with the Moon at her feet, and the twelve stars crowning her head.  On June 17th, 2 B.C.E., Venus and Jupiter came in close conjunction. They literally stacked upon each other like a snowman. This created the brightest star in the sky that ANYONE had ever seen at that time. And off rode the Magi of the East to Jerusalem.

If you don’t have access to the movie, here is a concise summary of the movie and its conclusions.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Which do I believe, the conclusions of man, or what is written in the Bible?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You continually show us signs and wonders as You work in us and among us.  Father, give me a heart of wisdom and discernment to know the truth, and to search Your scriptures for all things.  Help me to know and understand Your word.  Thank You, Father, for giving us the tools to verify what You have already stated to be fact.  And where there is conjecture, help us to rightly discern the truth of these matters.  Strengthen me in Your work and Your Spirit, that I may know the truth, and that the truth would set me free.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


This blog has been edited for grammatical errors.

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