A Survey of Schürer’s Challenges to the Lukan Census – 1

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series A Survey of Schürer’s Challenges to the Lukan Census


The 19th century theologian Emil Schürer outlined five challenges1 to the historicity of the Lukan census which still stand as representative2 of the ongoing controversy surrounding Luke 2:1-5.3

  1. There is currently no historical evidence of an empire-wide census by Augustus.
  2. Joseph would not have been obligated to travel to Bethlehem for a Roman census.
  3. Judaea, as a vassal kingdom, would not have been subject to a Roman census
  4. Josephus doesn’t mention any census before 6 CE.
  5. Quirinius was not governor of Syria during the time of Jesus’ birth or Herod’s reign.

This article will briefly examine scholarly treatment of these challenges.

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  1. Schürer, ‘A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, Vol 2’, pp.105-43 (1890). []
  2. The majority of commentators on the Lukan census since Schürer follow his listed challenges, often in the same order, even when Schürer is not named. []
  3. 2:1 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus to register all the empire for taxes. 2:2 This was the first registration, taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 2:3 Everyone went to his own town to be registered. 2:4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David. 2:5 He went to be registered with Mary, who was promised in marriage to him, and who was expecting a child.  New English Translation (NET). []

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