census at the time of the birth of Christ and what it made me realise

am I living in the past? according to all my references, right now it’s still the 3rd of May 2002. Even though I’m in South Africa. But the above report “What did the census at the time of the birth of Christ accomplish?” was added on the 07-May-2002

am I falling behind, guys? or is there anything that happened in the last four days that I can try to avert? …seeing that I’m still living in the past…


That’s okay. I’ve got an email in my “sent” folder to my boss that was apparently sent on April 5th, 2004. It takes a while to get used to writing from the future, but you adjust.

Welcome to the boards!

I have to ask: You have an email address as your user name, but choose to hide your email address in your profile. There’s got to be a story here. Enquiring minds want to know.

Firstly, welcome to the boards, wimperman! :slight_smile:

Secondly, no, you’re here in the present with the rest of us. I don’t know if this is done in South Africa, but in the U.S., many magazines are “post-dated” to increase their shelf life. While The Straight Dope is not a magazine, but a newspaper column, there may be something similar behind the dating of the column.

Zev Steinhardt

about the e-mail address as name, well, well, well.

there’s this silly autocomplete thing in IE. and quick fingers don’t go well with refuse-to-double-check-simple-stuff-me.

do you know if there’s a way to change my name in this place? should I create a new profile.



Do not create a new profile. That would be a very bad thing to do.

Email TubaDiva and explain things, she’'ll help you out.

I rather suspect you got a link to that Staff Report via the email newsletter thingy. I don’t get that, so had I not opened this thread I would not have seen this item until it appeared on the home page. I hazard that’ll be on the 7th.

Right. The Staff Report will be published on Tuesday, May 7… but people who “subscribe” get advance notice (usually sent the Friday before).

We work under the supposition that the earth will still be spinning on May 7, of course. If not, then we’ll have bigger worries than a few days of pre-dating.

I changed your name for you…hope it’s the one you wanted, this time!


Three cheers for the resumption of staff reports. (Hip hip horray!!) :slight_smile:

Another fine piece by Dex.

And there’s this theory too.

thanks lynn, for the change. 'tis much better. hmmmm… later then.


Sorry; I meant to include some explanatory text with that link. In brief though, that article discusses some of the historical timing details regarding the census reported by Luke.

The link is to a site that takes up the argument (mentioned in the Staff Report) that Quirinius served twice, and so the census mentioned was taken under his earlier rule, a decade earlier.

That argument has no supporting evidence… I think the link (I looked at it only quickly) provided by JThunder says there an inscription that possibly mentions that someone held a some office at two different times, and that could possibly be Quirinius.

The article makes one other point that is just plain stupid. It argues that there WAS a census of all the Roman Empire because Augustus says that he was made emperor “by the authority of the senate and all the Roman people” (I may have got the quote slightly wrong.) The article says that he could not have been elected emperor “by all the Roman people” without some sort of empire-wide vote, and that’s just silly. Emperors ALWAYS say they were elected by “the people” even if there were no election; and the phrase “Senate and People of Rome” (SPQR) was used commonly to maintain the illusion of democracy.

None of those arguments, even if you grant them, can overcome the objection that no authority in power would conceivable order a census that required people to travel to the home city of a remote ancestor. Such a requirement would have disrupted trade, lives, and – the PURPOSE of such a census – tax-collection.

In short, while there may (conceivably) be an argument that has a census connected with Jesus’ birth, there is no argument that such a census would require Joseph to move to Bethlehem where his many-many-generations ago grandfather lived.

Not to mention the problem of “which ancestor?”

<< Not to mention the problem of “which ancestor?” >>

That’s actually not so much of a difficulty to my mind, although many New Testament scholars do raise that question as another argument against such a census.

However, the Bible (Torah) very clearly describes which of the twelve tribes of Israel occupied which territory. And tribal associations were fairly important, so it would not be surprising that Joseph (or anyone) would know to go to the territory that was assigned to their tribe way back when.

What is absurd is supposing that a census would require such a thing.

OK, but even if you know which tribe you belong to (patrilinially, I suppose?) each territory is a big place. And presumably people moved around a fair amount, or how would Mr. and Mrs. Christ have ended up in Nazareth?

Sorry if I was unclear, Rob. The point(s) you raise are often raised by New Testament scholars as arguments that there could not have been such a census as reported. I mentioned a few of those points in the Staff Report that I thought were self-sufficiently compelling, and I deliberately did not mention this one because I thought it would lead to an endless round-about.

That is, if you believe that Luke speaks only literal truth, then you have an easy counter-argument to this one… that would go on and on. Each tribal territory was fairly small (heck, the whole of Israel is fairly small, imagine it divided into twelve tribal areas!). And by the time of the birth of Jesus, the tribes were (probably) no longer existent per se; certainly, by that time, people no longer lived within their ancestral tribal areas. Thus, Joseph and Mary (or their grandparents) could have easily moved away from the ancient tribal areas.

I felt it best to avoid that round-robin in the Staff Report.

I agree that the whole notion of a census where you go back to ancestral lands raises the “which ancestor” question, and “which lands” (since some of the cities existing at the birth of Jesus did not exist hundreds of years before, and some of the ancient cities had been demolished by invaders.)