A Survey of Schürer’s Challenges to the Lukan Census – 7

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


As the Biblical scholar I. H. Marshall observes regarding the possible solutions scholars have posed to Schürer’s challenges,

These considerations show that the character of the census described by Luke is far from impossible, and hence many recent writers are prepared to admit that Luke’s description of a census reflects historical reality. The major difficulty that remains is the date.1

This article is in agreement. As Marshall, et.al, have suggested, extending Luke the benefit of the doubt is not unwarranted. It seems unlikely that he would have jeopardized his own credibility with descriptions of events unknown to his immediate readers. Commentators on both sides of this discussion agree.

By almost any reckoning, the Gospel [of Luke] would have been composed while some would have had at least some second-hand knowledge of events surrounding the birth of Jesus. Such a glaring factual error as is suggested for the [census] passage would have been bound to arouse questions. The Lukan narrative does not provide an overt theological explanation for its particular telling of the events, since the account seems to purport to be a historical account, placing specific events within the context of other events involving actual people in the ancient world, such as Augustus and Quirinius.2


Even if Luke had little historical information about how the census of Quirinius had been conducted, he lived in the Roman Empire and may have undergone census enrollment himself. It is dangerous to assume that he described a process of registration that would have been patently opposed to everything that he and his readers knew.((Brown, ‘Birth’, p. 549.))


Finally, even if Luke were making this up, he would sooner make something up that sounded plausible: in other words, such procedures were probably followed in at least one census within the author’s memory, and we have no way to disprove the use of such a practice in previous provincial assessments.3

Series Navigation<< A Survey of Schürer’s Challenges to the Lukan Census – 6
  1. ‘Luke’, p. 102. []
  2. Porter, ‘The Reasons for the Lucan Census’, p. 170 []
  3. Carrier, ‘The Date of the Nativity in Luke’. []

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