Sunday, March 12, 2006

Historical Accuracy

I just read this post here: http://www.ex-christian.net/index.php?showtopic=7553&hl=

It so impressed me I had to duplicate some of it. It really nails down that old Christian error about the historical accuravy of the bible.


"The problem with your posting (I really can’t figure when you think Jesus was born), other than it is a mish-mash of “cut and paste”, is that you are going to Christian sources that quote Christian sources from nearly a third of a millennium after the fact. If you had gone to the historic records and writing of persons that lived during that period, you would have discovered that with the Romans, censuses were conducted for purposes of taxation and In his account of the major events of his life, Augustus wrote that he conducted official censuses in 28 BCE, 8 BCE, 6 CE and 14 CE. Dio Cassius the Roman historian wrote that in 6 CE Caesar Augustus set up a fund to benefit the Roman military and had kings and certain communities contribute to it. He also made a sizable contribution and promised to do so each year. When this did not provide sufficient funds to keep the military going, he issued a worldwide decree that there would be a 5% inheritance tax on estates/inheritances, something beyond normal taxation. Such taxation would require a census to register transferable assets, such as land, and to record genealogies to establish “very near relatives” (Roman History LV 25:5-6).
Josephus noted the effects of this decree in Judea: “Now Cyrenius, a Roman senator, and one who had gone through other magistracies, and had passed through them till he had been consul, and one who, on other accounts, was of great dignity, came at this time into Syria, with a few others, being sent by Caesar to be a judge of that nation, and to take an account of their substance. Coponius also, a man of the equestrian order, was sent together with him, to have the supreme power over the Jews. Moreover, Cyrenius came himself into Judea, which was now added to the province of Syria, to take an account of their substance, and to dispose of Archelaus' money; but the Jews, although at the beginning they took the report of a taxation heinously, yet did they leave off any further opposition to it." (Antiquities. XVIII 1:1). He further reported "a certain Galilean, whose name was Judas, prevailed with his countrymen to revolt; and said they were cowards if they would endure to pay a tax to the Romans, and would, after God, submit to mortal men as their lords." (Wars II 8:1). In Antiquities XX 5:2, he wrote of "Judas who caused the people to revolt, when Cyrenius came to take an account of the estates of the Jews." As Josephus noted, Caesar’s 5% tax was to be on estates/inheritances of all but the poor and near relatives, not on the people.

The census attached to this taxation was also noted by Luke: "Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away some people after him, he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered." (Acts 5:37) This shows that Luke was speaking of the same census/taxation as Josephus, the 6 CE census/taxation conducted under Cyrenius (P. Sulpicius Quirinius).

A listing of the Governors of Syria from 10 BCE to 7 CE are as follows:
BCE 10-9 M. Titius
BCE 9-6 Gaius Sentius Saturninus
BCE 6-3 P. Quinctilius Varus
BCE 3-1 L. Calpurnius Piso
BCE 1-4 CE Gaius Julius Caesar
4-6 CE L. Volusius Saturninus
6-7 CE P. Sulpicius Quirinius
The individual that served in the period of 6 – 3 BCE, P. Quinctillus Varus has often been claimed by Christians to the the “Cyrenius” of the NT, even though Quinctillus sounds nothing like Cyrenius (Greeks were noted for at least getting close to the sound of a name) and there was not a census decreed by Caesar Augustus during that period. The ironic fact is that during the campaigns of P. Sulpicius Quirinius (the real Cyrenius), Quinctillus served as a subordinate officer under his command.

In order to ascertain the birth date of Jesus, several parameters must be met:
Matthew reports that the birth was during the reign of Herod the Great (died 4 BCE) and Luke reports that the birth was during the census decreed by Caesar Augustus during the tenure of Quirinius as Governor of Syria (prior to the death of Herod, Judea was not part of Syria, but instead a “patron” state) and Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist (reported by Luke to have started his mission in the “fifteenth year of Tiberius reign, which would be 28 CE and reported by Josephus as having been executed by Herod in 36 CE – which in itself is a problem). He would have been tried before Pontius Pilate and executed by his troops, according to Roman records and Josephus, Pilate served from 26 CE to 36 CE, being recalled to Rome in 36 CE. If these parameters can’t be met, then it is demonstrated that the gospels are in extreme error and will remove your claim of the value of the bible as a historical report.

If Jesus was born during Herod’s reign, then he would have been born prior to 2 BCE, but there was no census decreed by Caesar Augustus after 8 BCE until 6 CE, plus at that time Cyrenius was not the governor of Syria. If Jesus had been born any time prior to the death of Herod, then he would have been 30 years old and starting his ministry prior to John the Baptist and would have been crucified prior to John being executed by Herod, so clearly we can rule out Matthew as having the correct information. If Jesus had been born in the year 1 CE, he would have come to John to be baptized in 30 CE, the second year of John’s ministry. But he would have been crucified 4 years before John was executed by Herod and the gospels are very specific that John died first. If he had been born during the 6 CE census, then he would have started his ministry the same year that John was executed and would have been executed by someone other than Pontius Pilate, which can rule out Luke as a valid record of history. Hmmmm, now instead of cut and pasting, YOU tell me when Jesus was born, because your bible is nearly worthless as history! "- Heimdall

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