Quirinius, Governor of Syria When Jesus Was Born?

Quirinius – if not for his name found in the Gospel of Luke, he would be all but forgotten. His name presents probably the greatest challenge to validating the five tight date parameters established by Luke and Matthew for the birth of Jesus of Nazareth – Caesar Augustus, his  census decree, King Herod, Quirinius governing in Syria and a celestial star event.

LK 2:1-3 “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.” NKJV

Matthew’s Gospel first says Herod was King when Jesus was born; later Luke confirms Herod as King and adds the limiting parameters of Quirinius governing in Syria and a census decreed by Augustus.[1]  Problem – Herod’s reign and Quirinius governing in Syria do not overlap in the timeline of secular history.

In his day Quirinius (Cyrenius in Greek) was a famous, powerful Roman Consul, the highest Senate rank achievable.[2] His resume included stints as a provincial governor in Crete & Cyrene, Galatia, Pamphylia, possibly Asia and was a war hero for his military victories – all prior to 4 BC.[3]

Jewish history views Quirinius quite differently, known as the infamous governor of Syria who in 6 AD imposed the Roman provincial taxation that triggered a Jewish revolt.[4] It understandable how the contemporary reading audience of Luke would easily recognize a reference to Quirinius.

Luke 2:2 offers three clues about Quirinius. It does not say Quirinius took the census – it only says that Quirinius was governing Syria. It suggests there was more than one census associated with Quirinius. And it contains a rarely used Greek word.

“This census first took place…” if there was a first apographe registration associated with Quirinius, there had to be a second.[5] Common author of the Gospel of Luke and the Books of Acts makes a second reference to an apographe registration:

ACT 5:37 “After this man [Theudas], Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census [apographe], and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed.” NKJV

Luke’s scenario is benign and implies the oddity that Mary also had to register. [6] By contrast, the Acts scenario is circumstantially different – it sparked a revolt. Neither is associated with a Roman lustrum census last taken in 8 BC.

Unique to the Gospels is Luke’s twice-used word hegemoneuo, a special form of hegemon. Two words with different definition distinctions, yet both are typically translated into English as “governor.”

Greek hegemoneuo is not a noun, a title name; rather it is a verb meaning “to act as ruler” as in acting with the authority of a governor.[7] Its root word hegemon, appearing 19 times in the New Testament, is a name title, a noun meaning ““a leader, that is, chief person (or figuratively place) of a province: — governor, prince, ruler,” usually translated as “the governor.”[8] Think of an administrator vs. the administration.

Luke and Acts use the hegemon title reference 8 times, but only Luke exclusively uses hegemoneuo just twice to describe the acting roles of both Quirinius and Pilate. Appearing in very close proximity: [9]       

LK 2:2 “This census first took place while Quirinius was governing [hegemoneuo] Syria.”

LK 3:1 “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor [hegemoneuo] of Judea…” (NKJV)

Pilate was a Procurator, a Roman Prefect, not a Legate governor of a Roman province who was appointed by Caesar requiring Consul rank.[10] Pilate’s responsibilities included Roman financial affairs and vested judicial power over life and death decisions – a governor.[11] Quirinius is described using exactly the same word, hegemoneuo.[12] In the eyes of the Jews, the Roman distinctions of rank made little difference because both had virtually the same fearful absolute Roman governing authority.

Luke is not alone in treating the procurators acting as governors – so did Josephus and Caesar Augustus. Josephus made numerous references to “Saturninus and Volumnius…the presidents of Syria.”[13] Saturninus was the legate governor and Volumnius was the procurator.

Caesar, in a letter sent to Herod referenced by Josephus, instructed the King to seat three Syrian judges for the murder plot trial of Herod’s two sons. Augustus called out by name Saturninius and Pedanius as the two “presidents” of Syria, and the procurator Volumnius: [14]

“Caesar had ordered the court to be assembled…The presidents set first, as Caesar’s letters had appointed, who were Saturninus, and Pedanius, and their lieutenants that were with them, with whom was the procurator Volumnius.” – Wars

In effect there were three governing authorities in Syria toward the end of Herod’s reign – 2 presidents and a procurator.[15] A few years later, Varus and Sabinus independently rushed to Jerusalem after Herod died to secure his estate.

“Varus, the president of Syria,” according to Josephus, also identified Sabinus as both “Caesar’s procurator” and “Caesar’s steward for Syrian affairs”[16] Who was the other “president” at the time of Herod’s death? Josephus didn’t say.

Secular history recognizes Saturninus as the legate Roman governor of Syria circa 9-6 BC.[17] Varus was legate governor from at least 6-4 BC, perhaps into 3 BC and possibly again in 1 BC leaving a complete gap in 2 BC.[18]

Independently, several 19th century historians tackled the Quirinus enigma.[19] Not all were in complete agreement in their conclusions and timelines; however, their research results were in relative agreement that Quirinius served in a governing capacity in Syria prior to his infamous 6 AD governorship.[20]

Some historians concluded that Quirinius first governed in Syria sometime during 6-1 BC; more notably others narrowed the time frame to the years of 3-2 BC.[21]  No definitive secular historical evidence could be found by any of these historians that positively identifies a governor of Syria during the years of 3-2 BC, thus Quirinius as governor could not be definitively ruled out.[22]

Two 20th century archeological discoveries of ancient inscriptions may provide the strongest evidence that Quirinius governed twice in Syria. Research by Dr. Gerard Gertoux concluded these two inscriptions identify Quirinius as the governor of Syria during the 3-1 BC timeframe.[23] One called out Quirinius by name…two times:

“Q[uintus] Aemilius Secundus s[on] of Q[uintus], of the tribe Palatina, who served in the camps of the divine Aug[ustus] under P. Sulpicius Quirinius, legate of Caesar in Syria, decorated with honorary distinctions, prefect of the 1st cohort Aug[usta], prefect of the cohort II Classica. Besides, by order of Quirinius I made the census of 117 thousand citizens of Apamea.”– Titulus Venetus inscription [24]

Gertoux makes the case that the Quirinius census registration of Apamea, Syria, was part of the special census taken in 2 BC as part of the Breviarium of Augustus. Further, such a census would have required the assistance of King Herod in Judea. Specific to Apamea, it could not have been the 8 BC lustrum of the Roman Empire nor could it be the 6 AD taxation that was exclusive to Judea.

Quirinius cannot be ruled out by any secular historical record as governing in Syria during the 6-1 BC time; instead just the opposite – research by multiple historians indicate Quirinius did govern in Syria at some point during those 5 years. Is Luke’s reference then corroborated that Qurininius governed in Syria at the time of a census registration decreed by Caesar Augustus while Herod was alive?


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[1] Matthew 2. Luke 1-2.
[2] KJV. Kurenios <2958> Net.bible.org. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=2958>
[3] Gertoux, Gerard. “Dating the two Censuses of Quirinius.”  Titulus Venetus (CIL III; ILS 2683).  Inscription. p 9.  <http://www.academia.edu/3184175/Dating_the_two_Censuses_of_Quirinius>   Consuls.” History of Ancient Rome. 2018. <http://www.unrv.com/government/consuls.php>   “Senatorial Provinces.” History of Ancient Rome. 2018. <http://www.unrv.com/government/senatorial-provinces.php>  “Consul.” Livius.org. Ed. Jona Lendering. 2018. <http://www.livius.org/cn-cs/consul/consul.html>  “P. Sulpicius Quirinius.” Livius.org. Ed. Jona Lendering. 2018. <http://www.livius.org/su-sz/sulpicius/quirinius.html>  Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. The Complete Works of Josephus. Trans. and commentary. William Whitson. 1850. Book XVIII., Chapter I.1. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
[4] Acts 5.  Smallwood, E. Mary.  The Jews Under Roman Rule: From Pompey to Diocletian. 1981. pp 151-156.  <http://books.google.com/books?id=jSYbpitEjggC&lpg=PA151&ots=VWqUOinty4&dq=census%20Syria%20Rome&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false>  Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVIII, Chapters I-IV.
[5] NRSV. Luke 2. Net.bible.org. Greek text. “protos” <4413>” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com>
[6] Smallwood. The Jews Under Roman Rule. p. 152.  Ando, Clifford. A Companion to the Roman Empire.  Ed. David s. Potter.  pp 178-179, 186.  2006.  Academia.edu. <https://www.academia.edu/649274/The_Administration_of_the_Provinces>  .
[7] Net.bible.org. Luke 2:1 footnote #5 and Greek text. “hegemoneuo <2230>”  Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. Josephus. Antiquities. Book VIII, Chapter XV; Book X, Chapter IV; Book XIV, Chapters IX, XII; Book XVIII, Chapter VI.  Josephus. The Life of Flavius Josephus. n.d.  #9, #17.  Josephus. Wars of the Jews. Book I, Chapter XXVII.3. Josephus. Against Apion. Book II, #22.
[8] Net.bible.org. Luke 2:1 footnote #5 and Greek text. “hegemon <2232>” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. Josephus. Antiquities. Book VIII, Chapter XV; Book X, Chapter IV; Book XIV, Chapter IX; XII; Book XVIII, Chapter VI..  Josephus. Life. #9, 17.  Josephus. Wars. Book I, Chapter XXVII.  Josephus. Against Apion. Book II, #22.  “Pontius Pilate.” Livius.org. Ed. Jona Lendering. 2018. <http://www.livius.org/pi-pm/pilate/pilate01.htm>  “legate.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2018. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/legate-Roman-official>
[9] Josephus. Wars. Chapter IX.  Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVII, Chapter XI; Book XVIII, Chapter V. “Tiberius.” Livius.org. Ed. Jona Lendering. 2018. <http://www.livius.org/articles/person/tiberius>
[10] “Pontius Pilate.” Livius.org.  “legate.” Encyclopædia Britannica.  Josephus. Wars. Book I, Chapter XXIV.6, Book II, Chapter VIII, XIV. Josephus. Antiquities. Book XV, Chapter III,  Book XVII, Chapters IV & XX; Book XVIII, Chapter III; Book XIX. Chapter XIX; Book XX, Chapter I.
[11] “Procurator.” Livius.org.  “Governor (Roman).” Livius.org. <http://www.livius.org/gi-gr/governor/governor.html>  “Procurator.” Merriam-Webster. 2018. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/procurator> “Procurator.”  Jewish Virtual Library. 2008. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/procurator>
[12] Net.bible.org. Luke 2:1 Greek text, footnote #5; “hegemoneuo <2230>”; “hegemon <2232>”; “hegemoneuo #2230” (Greek Word Study).  (Thayer); “hēgemoneuo <2230>” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/greek/2230.html>
[13] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVI, Chapters IX, XI; Book XVII, Chapter IX-XI; Book XX, Chapter XVIII.  Josephus. Wars. Book I, Chapter XXXI; Book II, Chapter II.  Antiquities.  Josephus. Life. #11.
[14] Josephus. Wars. Book I, Chapter XXVII.  Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVI, Chapter XI.
[15] Ramsay, William M.  “Was Christ Born in Bethlehem?”  2010. Biblehub.com. Chapter 11. <http://biblehub.com/library/ramsay/was_christ_born_in_bethlehem/index.html>
[16] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVI, Chapter IX; Book XVII Chapters, IX, X.  Josephus. Wars. Book II, Chapter II.
[17] “Syria.”  Regnal Chronologies.  Doig, Kenneth F.  New Testament Chronology. 1990. Chapter 5.  <http://nowoezone.com/NT_Chronology.htm>   Schurer, Emil. A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ.1890. <http://books.google.com/books?id=BRynO3W9FPcC&pg=PP1#v=snippet&q=Tiberius&f=false>
[18] “Ancient History Sourcebook: Res Gestae Divi Augusti, c. 14 CE.” Davis, William Steams, ed. 1912. <http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/14resgestae.asp>  Ramsay.  Was Christ Born in Bethlehem?  Chapter 11. “Syria.” Regnal Chronologies. n.d. <http://web.raex.com/~obsidian/Syria.html#Syria> Schurer. A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ. Volume 1, page 351.  Martin, Ernest L. The Star of Bethlehem: The Star That Astonished the World. Chapter 10. <http://askelm.com/star/star000.htm#_edn11%3E%20%3Chttp://web.archive.org/web/20170111193244/http://www.askelm.com/star/star001.htm>
[19] Davis, J. “Quirinius.” Schaff. History of the Christian Church, Volume I. “Chronology of the Life of Christ.” Chapter 2, Sec 16.  Ramsay.  Was Christ Born in Bethlehem? Chapter 11.
[20] Schaff.  History of the Christian Church, Volume I. “Chronology of the Life of Christ.” Chapter 2, Sec 16.    Davis, J.. “Quirinius.”  Sieffert, F. “Census.” The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Vol. II:  Basilica – Chambers. 1952. <http://www.ccel.org/s/schaff/encyc/encyc02/htm/iv.vi.ccxxx.htm>
[21] Davis, J. “Quirinius.”  Schaff. History of the Christian Church, Volume I. “Chronology of the Life of Christ.” Ramsay. Was Christ Born in Bethlehem? Chapter 11. Tacitus, Gaius Cornelius. The Annals.109 AD. Book III. Trans. Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb, <http://classics.mit.edu/Tacitus/annals.html>  Davis, J.. “Quirinius.”  Smith, William.  A School Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. 1857. “Vice’sima.” <https://archive.org/stream/schooldictionary00smituoft#page/n9/mode/2up/search/publicani>  “Cilicia.” Livius.org. Ed. Jona Lendering.  2018. <http://www.livius.org/cg-cm/cilicia/cilicia.html>  “Cilicia.”  UNRV History |The Roman Empire. 2017. <http://www.unrv.com/provinces/cilicia.php>  “Cilicia.” Livius.org. Ed. Jona Lendering.  2014.  <http://www.livius.org/cg-cm/cilicia/cilicia.html>  Mommsen, Theodor. The Provinces of the Roman Empire from Caesar to Diocletian. Volume 1. 1887. Chapter VIII., pp 347 – 397. <http://books.google.com/books?id=_WAKAAAAIAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=asia%20minor&f=false>  Boak , Arthur Edward Romilly.  A History of Rome to 565 A. D. 1921. p 277. 2010. <http://www.gutenberg.org/files/32624/32624-h/32624-h.html>  Schurer. A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ. Volume 1, pp 351-354.  “Syria.” Regnal Chronologies.  “Varus, Quintilius.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14647-varus-quintilius>  Doig. New Testament Chronology. Chapter 5.
[22] Schurer. A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ. Volume 1, pp 352-353.  “Syria.”  Regnal Chronologies.  “List of Roman governors of Syria.”  Wikipedia.com. 2018.  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_governors_of_Syria>   Sieffert, “Census.”  Gertoux. “Dating the two Censuses of Quirinius.”  p 8.
[23] Gertoux. “Dating the two Censuses of Quirinius.” pp 3-5.  Gertoux, Gerard. “Dating the death of Herod.” 2015. p 1. <http://www.academia.edu/2518046/Dating_the_death_of_Herod>
[24] Gertoux. “Dating the two Censuses of Quirinius.”  Titulus Venetus (CIL III; ILS 2683).  Inscription. p 4.

An Unusual Roman Census Decree By Caesar Augustus

Traditional Nativity stories refer to the “census” decreed by Caesar Augustus. It was the motivation for Joseph to take Mary in her eight month of pregnancy to Bethlehem 90-miles away when Matthew and Luke say she gave birth to Jesus of Nazareth. Secular historical timelines present a conflict with these Gospels.

LK 2:1-3 “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. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.” NASB

Surprisingly the word “census” is not used in some of the Gospel English translations. One reason is that nowhere in the original Greek texts is found the Latin word censēre .[1] In a parallel comparison, the translated English word “census” appears only once in any of the four voluminous works by Josephus, an Antiquities reference to a census taken by Moses.[2]

Derived from the Latin word censēre is the English word “census” whereas the only possible Greek equivalents are the two words, apographo and apographe, with very similar meanings.[3] By definition, as a verb, apographo means an activity to “write off (a copy or list), i.e. enrollment.” The noun, apographe, means “an enrollment, by implication an assessment,” the actual registry data produced by the enrollment activity.

As a verb, apographo the activity, is used in Luke 2, verses 1 and 3 while the noun, apographe the registry document, is used in verse 2. Both Greek words have been interchangeably translated in English Bible translations using variations of five different words – “census,” “registered,” “enrolled,” “numbering,” and “taxed.”[4]

Applying the Greek definitions to Luke’s account, Augustus issued a decree for an enrollment activity in verse 1. The actual enrollment register (list) documentation was completed while Quirinius was governing in Syria in verse 2. Everyone had to travel to his own city for the enrollment activity in verse 3.

Backdrop to the historical context are the multiple facets associated with a Roman censēre where enumeration of Roman citizens was the prized objective. Augustus took three lustrum Roman censuses during his 44-year reign.[5] In Caesar’s own words:

“I made a census of the people with Marcus Agrippa as my colleague. I conducted a lustrum, after a forty-one year gap, in which lustrum were counted 4,063,000 heads of Roman citizens. Then again, with consular imperium I conducted a lustrum alone when Gaius Censorinus and Gaius Asinius were consuls (8 B.C.E.), in which lustrum were counted 4,233,000 heads of Roman citizens. And the third time, with consular imperium, I conducted a lustrum with my son Tiberius Caesar as colleague, when Sextus Pompeius and Sextus Appuleius were consuls (14 A.C.E.), in which lustrum were counted 4,937,000 of the heads of Roman citizens.” – The Deeds of Augustus

Roman lustrums involved a lesser known religious component. A sacred ceremony at the conclusion of a lustrum involved the Censor offering a sacrifice to the god Mars on behalf of Rome’s citizens.[6]

Taxation comes into play because data collection from a censēre was typically used to determine a tax valuation, an assessment or appraisal. A Roman procurator was then responsible for actual tax collection activities managed through local authorities.[7]

Abuses of tax collection were rife, a natural consequence of the Roman tax collection system. Publicani purchased franchise rights to collect taxes through an auction held in Rome.[8] A franchise inherently involves making a profit, but Rome didn’t care about how the proceeds were collected as long as the government received its expected revenue. This opened the door to dishonest and abusive behaviors to collect more revenue than was necessary by the franchise owner’s tax collection agents known as publicans, the despised tax collectors of the Gospels such as the Disciple Matthew.[9]

Syncing Luke’s account with the Augustus census in 8 BC does not come without controversy concerning historians, religious scholars, and detractors who take varied and opposing positions. According to Luke, the birth of Jesus occurred when Quirinius governed in Syria making the year 8 BC too soon under known or possible historical scenarios.

Further complicating the picture is the controversy surrounding the date of Herod’s death. Matthew’s Gospel first established the limiting parameter that Herod had to be alive, corroborated in Luke where two more parameters were added – the “census” and Quirinius factors.[10]

Secular historical calendars place Herod’s death in 4 BC. This year is determined from the printed accounts of Josephus’ Antiquities on which the secular timeline is reckoned. The calculation is based on the anchor date of the 20th year of the reign of Tiberius.[11]

Investigation by historian buff David Beyer on the Antiquities content included travel to major world libraries holding handwritten copies predating the first printings that came as a result of the invention of the Gutenburg press in 1544.[12] He discovered all existing handwritten manuscripts of Antiquities actually say Herod’s death occurred during the 22nd year of Tiberius, not the 20th year. Recalculating, the 2-year difference translates into Herod’s death occurring in 2 BC or early 1 BC – not 4 BC.[13]

Building on Beyer’s discovery, Dr. Earnest Martin’s research points to a special set of circumstances in 2 BC.[14] Rome was in the height of its glory commemorating the 750th anniversary of its founding and was the same year as the Silver Jubilee reign of Caesar Augustus.

Inspired by the circumstances of 2 BC, the Senate bestowed upon their emperor the honor of Pater Patriae, the “Father of the Country.” Augustus considered it to be one the highlights of his reign listed in The Deeds of Devine Augustus. To underscore this honor, prompted by the Senate Augustus decreed a “registration” to be taken of the entire Roman Empire claiming allegiance to him as Pater Patriae.[15]

Dr. Gerard Gertoux conducted independent research where the results corroborate the findings of Beyer and Martin. Dr. Gertoux concluded that Luke’s “census of the world” occurred in 2 BC and was not for taxation purposes. Gertoux determined that Caesar’s motivation for the “census” was to quantify the entire resources of Rome as part of his breviarium totius imperii eventually to be read at his funeral along with the unveiling of his Res gestae divi Augusti (The Deeds of Augustus).[16]

Research evidence produced by Beyer, Martin and Gertoux establishes a 2 BC timeline for a special “census” registration decreed by Augustus that occurred before the death of King Herod in late 2 BC or early 1 BC. These findings are consistent with the three dating parameters documented in the accounts of Matthew and Luke – Augustus, his census decree, and during Herod’s reign.

Perhaps the strongest evidence of Luke’s reference that a registration decree was issued by Augustus has nothing to do with history and is best presented with a question. How likely is it that Joseph would risk taking Mary, a young pregnant teenage girl, away from her comfortable home and family on a difficult, treacherous week’s long journey on the back of a donkey to Bethlehem 90 miles away knowing it was quite possible that Mary could give birth in the wilderness along the way – unless the Town Crier’s announcement gave them no other choice?[17]


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[1] “Census.”  Merriam-Webster. 2018. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/census
[2] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book 3, Chapter 12.4. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[3] Luke Greek text. Net.bible.org. “apographo <583>” and “aprographe <582>.” n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com>
[5] Augustus, Caesar.  The Deeds of the Devine Augustus (Res gestae divi Augusti). #8. Trans. Thomas Bushnell. 1998. <http://classics.mit.edu/Augustus/deeds.html>
[6] “Lustrum.” Livius.org. Ed. Jona Lendering. 2018. <http://www.livius.org/concept/lustrum>
[7] Smallwood, E. Mary.  The Jews Under Roman Rule: From Pompey to Diocletian. 2nd Ed. 1981. pp 151-152. http://books.google.com/books?id=jSYbpitEjggC&lpg=PA151&ots=VWqUOinty4&dq=census%20Syria%20Rome&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false Smith, William. “Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography.” 1901. 3rd Ed., Vol. 1. “Censor”, “Publicani” and “Vectigalia.” <https://books.google.com/books?id=Cu89AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA403&lpg=PA403&dq=greek+word+for+census&source=bl&ots=LM1MjmCiJt&sig=1_yjJgyNxcCcSWZvf0QK69IJuMw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjx0oPA04DYAhXo6YMKHebvAEwQ6AEIejAK#v=onepage&q=census&f=false “Procurator.” Livius.org. Ed. Jona Lendering. 2018. <http://www.livius.org/concept/procurator>
[8] Smallwood.  The Jews Under Roman Rule. p 152.
[9] Matthew 9; Luke 5. Smith, W. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. “Censor.” “Publicani” and “Vectigalia.”
10] Matthew 2; Luke 1. Smallwood. The Jews Under Roman Rule. Appendix E, p 568.
[11] Josephus.  Antiquities of the Jews. Book XVIII, Chapters IV.6 and V.4.  Bernegger, P.M. “Affirmation of Herod’s Death in 4 B.C.” Journal of Theological Studies Vol. 34, no 2. 1983. pp 526-531. <http://www.redatedkings.com/postings/Bernegger.pdf> Schurer, Emil. A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ. Volume 1. 1890. pp 464-465, footnote 165. <http://books.google.com/books?id=BRynO3W9FPcC&pg=PP1#v=snippet&q=Tiberius&f=false> Doig, Kenneth F.  New Testament Chronology. 1990. Chapter 4.<http://nowoezone.com/NT_Chronology.htm>
[12] Chase, Jeffrey S. “The Gutenberg Printing Press.” n.d. <http://www.cs.duke.edu/~chase/cps49s/press-summary.html>
[13] Beyer, David W.  “Josephus Reexamined:  Unraveling the Twenty-Second Year of Tiberius.” pp 90-93, 95-96.  <http://books.google.com/books?id=mWnYvI5RdLMC&lpg=PP1&dq=isbn%3A0865545820&pg=PA85#v=snippet&q=beyer&f=false> Wolfram, Chuck. “The Herodian Dynasty.” 2004. <http://web.archive.org/web/20151013221102/http:/freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~cwolfram/herod> Martin, Ernest L. The Star of Bethlehem – The Star That Astonished the World. Chapter 13. <http://askelm.com/star/star000.htm#_edn11
[14] Gertoux, Gerard. “Dating the two Censuses of Quirinius.”  n.d.  pp 6-7. <http://www.academia.edu/3184175/Dating_the_two_Censuses_of_Quirinius>
[15] Augustus. The Deeds of the Devine Augustus. #35.  “pater patriae.”  Nova Roma. 2017. <www.novaroma.org/nr/Pater_Patriae_(Nova_Roma)>  “pater patriae.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2018. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/pater-patriae> Martin. The Star of Bethlehem. Chapter 13.  Mosley, John. “Common Errors in ‘Star of Bethlehem’ Planetarium Shows.” Reprint from Planetarian, Third Quarter 1981. <http://www.ips-planetarium.org/?page=a_mosley1981> Gertoux. “Dating the two Censuses of Quirinius.” p 7.
[16] Gertoux. “Dating the two Censuses of Quirinius.”  pp 6-7.  Davis, William Steams, ed.  Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources. Vol. II: Rome and the West. 1912-13. pp. 166-172. <http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/14resgestae.asp>  Schaff, Philip. “Chronology of the Life of Christ.”  History of the Christian Church, Volume I: Apostolic Christianity. A.D. 1-100. 1890. Chapter 2, Sec 16.  <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc1.i.II_1.16.html>
[17] “Distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem.” DistanceFromTo.net. 2018. <https://www.distancefromto.net/between/Nazareth/Bethlehem> “What is the distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem?” Reference.com. 2017. <https://www.reference.com/geography/distance-between-nazareth-bethlehem-6ac7e95c8360c7c7#> Bing.com/maps. Modern day mileage calculation from Bethlehem to Nablus (Nazareth) <https://binged.it/2mNpBy8>



Implications of the Miracles

Miracles performed by Jesus of Nazareth reported by the Gospels, if true, would have dual implications. Not only would they serve to corroborate that Jesus is the Messiah, they would also demonstrate the integrity of the Gospels.

Did Jesus actually perform miracles? Aside from the obvious Christian perspective, at least some Jewish authorities support the Gospel’s accounts of miracles and wonders. Encyclopedia Judaica noted without any disclaimer that the miracles ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels define him as a “miracle maker and preacher”:[1]

“…Matthew, Mark, and Luke present a reasonably faithful picture of Jesus as a Jew of his time. The picture of Jesus contained in them is not so much of a redeemer of mankind as of a Jewish miracle maker and preacher.  The Jesus portrayed in these three Gospels is, therefore, the historical Jesus.” – Encyclopedia Judaica

All four Gospels contain accounts of Jewish religious leaders wanting retribution for Jesus when he performed miracles on the Sabbath.[2] To support their accusation of violating the Sabbath, they first had to acknowledge these miracles had occurred:  restoring a withered hand; healing a woman with an 18-year infirmity that kept her doubled over; healing a man who had been an invalid for 38 years; and restoring sight to a man born blind.

Jewish sage Rabbi Maimonides in his premier Jewish work Mishneh Torah (circa 1180 AD) commented on miracles by the Messiah.[3] With Jesus of Nazareth apparently in mind when mentioning the miracle to “resurrect the dead,” a miracle only attributed to Jesus, Maimonides expounded that performing “miracles and wonders” was not proof of the Messiah because miracles are not a requirement for the Messiah…

Mishneh Torah launched Maimonides into celebrity status causing a great response from the Jewish community of his day sending him letters with questions, some to which he responded in what is known as Responsa (Teshuvot).[4] One question was posed by Rabbi Jacob al-Fayumi of Yemen regarding the Isaiah 52-53 parashah prophecy.  Known as the Epistle Concerning Yemen, Maimonides’ Responsa clarified his views about “the signs and wonders” that Isaiah prophesied would be performed by the Messiah:[5]

“…there shall rise up one of whom none have known before, and the signs and wonders which they shall see performed by him will be the proofs of his true origin…”

“…and so confounded at the wonders which they will see him work, that they will lay their hands to their mouth; in the words of Isaiah, when describing the manner in which the kings will hearken to him, At him kings will shut their mouth; for that which had not been told them have they seen, and that which they had not heard they have perceived.” – Rabbi Maimonides

Author of the book, the Gospel of Luke, in his second, the Book of Acts, quoted the Disciple Peter who said the miracles of Jesus of Nazareth attested to the fact that God was manifesting Himself through Jesus:[6]

Act 2:22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know ––” NKJV

If the Gospel accounts of miracles are indeed true and serve to attest that God manifested Himself through Jesus, this is based on the Gospels being credible sources. For those who believe the Gospels are the result of a conspiratorial effort to make Jesus appear to be the Messiah or are fictional books merely comprised of recycled materials, then their accounts of miracles are deemed baseless.[7] Comparing all four Gospels – literary analysis – offers a different perspective. 

Contrary to popular perceptions, the four Gospel accounts of miracles have less in common with each other than they have in common. A total of 35 miracles are recorded that occurred before the crucifixion of Jesus, but only one is common to all four – the feeding of the 5000. One of the most famous miracles is Jesus walking on water and it does not even appear in Luke![8]

Less than a third of the miracles, only 10, are commonly recounted by the three Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Nearly half of all the miracles performed before the crucifixion, 17 in all, are uniquely detailed by a given Gospel author – 3 by Matthew, 2 by Mark, 6 by Luke and 6 by John.[9] Both instances of Jesus resurrecting the dead are exclusively narrated, the first in Luke and the second in John.[10]

If the allegation was true that the Gospels are the result of a conspiratorial effort to make Jesus appear to be the Messiah, the question begs to be asked, then why did the alleged Christian conspirators – authors, witnesses, translators, transcribers – fail to make their fictional Messiah profile appear to be stronger by tightly syncing up their accounts of miracles, signs and wonders performed by Jesus? Undoubtedly, it was not a coordinated effort.

The greatest miracle story ever told in the history of the world, detailed by all the Gospels, is the unique self-resurrection from the dead by Jesus of Nazareth – the sole basis of Christianity. No credible evidence has ever been produced to debunk the miracle of the Resurrection.[11]

Often overlooked are the miracles, signs and wonders recounted after the crucifixion. The same day of the reported Resurrection, Jesus appeared to Cleopas and his traveling partner on the road to Emmaus, sat down to dinner and prayed with them, then vanished before their eyes.[12]

Later that evening, Mark and Luke describe when the resurrected Jesus suddenly appeared inside a locked room terrifying those present; then after eating and speaking with them, Jesus instantly disappeared.[13] John exclusively reports it happened again 8 days later in the locked room with the doubting Disciple Thomas present who was allowed to touch the healed wounds of Jesus.[14]

John, the eyewitness, described a miraculous fish catch orchestrated by the resurrected Jesus that took place on the Sea of Tiberius (Sea of Galilee).[15] Outside of the Gospels in the Book of Acts, Jesus rose in the sky and disappeared into a cloud.[16]

Multiple reports of miracles, signs and wonders based on witness accounts were recounted by the authors of the Gospels – do they attest to integrity of the Gospels and the reality that Jesus of Nazareth was sent by God as the Messiah…and if they do, what does that say about Gospels’ claim of the greatest and unique miracle, the Resurrection?

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[1] “Jesus.” Encyclopaedia Judaica. Page 246.  CR “Jesus.”  Encyclopedia.com. <https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/jesus>
[2] Matthew 12; Mark 3; Luke 6, 13; John 5, 9.
[3] Maimonides, Moses.  Mishneh Torah.  Moznaim Publications.  Jewish year 4937 (1177 AD).  Trans. Eliyahu Touger.  Chabad.org. 2018. <https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188356/jewish/Melachim-uMilchamot-Chapter-11.htm>  Rich, Tracey R.  “What Do Jews Believe?”  Judaism101. 2011. <http://www.jewfaq.org/beliefs.htm>
[4] Mangel, Nissen. “Responsa.” Publisher:  Kehot Publication Society. 2018. Chabad.org.  2014.  <http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/107783/jewish/Responsa.htm>
[5] Maimonides .“Letter to the South (Yemen)”.  Neubauer and Driver.  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters.  pp 374, 375. <https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=advent&f=false>
[6] Acts 1:3, 15; I Corinthians 15. Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Heresies. Philip Schaf, ed. Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume I. Book III, Chapter XIV.1. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. 2005. <http://www.ccel.org/search/fulltext/Heresies> Aherne, Cornelius. “Gospel of Saint Luke.”  The Catholic Encyclopedia. Volume 9. 1910. New Advent. 2015. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09420a.htm>  Cline, Austin. “Luke the Evangelist: Profile & Biography of Luke.” About.com|Agnosticism/Atheism.  n.d. <http://atheism.about.com/od/biblepeoplenewtestament/p/LukeEvangelist.htm>  Singer, Isidore; Adler, Cyrus, et. al.  The Jewish Encyclopedia. Volume 9. “Luke.”  Page 251. 1912. <http://books.google.com/books?id=lfoOtGOcIBYC&lpg=PA594&ots=6qoCfVVUz7&dq=wave%20sheaf%20encyclopedia&pg=PA594#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[7] Gloag, Paton J.  Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. pp vii-viii, 1-3. 1895.  Online Books Page. Ockerbloom, ed.   <http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008728595>  “Gospel Contradictions.” 2000. Walker, ed. PositiveAtheism.org. n.d. <https://web.archive.org/web/20150324003025/http://www.positiveatheism.org/mail/eml9449.htm>  Smith, Ben C. “Gospel manuscripts – The manuscripts extant for the four canonical gospels.” TextExcavation.com. 2018. <http://www.textexcavation.com/gospelmanuscripts.html> Vick, Tristan D. “Dating the Gospels: Looking at the Historical Framework.” Advocatus Atheist. 2010. <http://advocatusatheist.blogspot.com/search?q=Dating+the+Gospels>  “New Testament.”  Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11498-new-testament> Etinger, Judah. Foolish Faith. Chapter 6. 2018. FoolishFaith.com. <http://www.foolishfaith.com/book_chap6_history.asp> Shamoun, Sam. “The New Testament Documents and the Historicity of the Resurrection.” Answering-Islam.org.  2018. <http://www.answering-islam.org/Shamoun/documents.htm>
[8] “The Miracles of Jesus.” Bible.org. 2018. <https://bible.org/series/miracles-jesus> Fairchild, Mary. “37 Miracles of Jesus.” ThoughtCo. 2017. <https://www.thoughtco.com/miracles-of-jesus-700158> Ryrie Study Bible. Ed. Ryrie Charles C. Trans. New American Standard. “The Story of Jesus.” “Part 13 –His Miracles of Nature.” n.d. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. <https://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CN171-MIRACLES.htm> “The Story of Jesus.” “Part 14 –His Healing Miracles.” n.d. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. <https://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CN175-HEALING.htm> “Gospel of John.” Theopedia.com. n.d. <https://www.theopedia.com/gospel-of-john>
[9] Fairchild. “37 Miracles of Jesus.” Ryrie. “The Miracles of Jesus.” 
[10] Luke 7; John 4.
[11] Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20; I Corinthians 15. Strobel, Lee. The Case For Christ. 1998. Part 3.
[12] Luke 24; CR Mark 16.
[13] Mark 16; Luke 24. NET.
[14] John 20. NRSV.
[15] John 16. “Gospel of John.” Theopedia.com.  “The Book of John.”  Quartz Hill School of Theology. n.d.  <http://www.theology.edu/biblesurvey/john.htm>  Smith, Barry D. “The Gospel of John.”  Crandall University. 2015. <http://www.mycrandall.ca/courses/NTIntro/John.htm>
[16] Acts 1.