The Birth of Jesus
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
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. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
What’s up with all the details?
Who is Caesar Augustus? Who is Quirinius? Who cares?
At least, that’s what I’ve thought in the past. One of the finer points in this part of the birth of Christ narrative is the Census. For some reason it just didn’t strike me as all that important … until I realized that the whole reason Jesus was born in a barn is because Joseph & Mary were traveling to participate in the Census in Bethlehem.
But how does Caesar Augusts & Quirinius fit? Now that’s weird right there.
The reason behind this little nugget of information is its historical significance. Ancient documents outside the scriptures verify that these two officials ordered and carried out this particular Census, thereby validating this part of the biblical account of the birth of Jesus. In fact, some ancient records in Egypt indicate a worldwide census decreed by Caesar Augustus in 8 BC which reached the Middle Eastern area two to four years later due to political difficulties in the region. This points to the birth of Christ roughly between 3 or 4 BC. Pretty cool stuff.
Now …. as far as Joseph and a pregnant Mary traveling 70 miles on a donkey, that’s a whole other story.