This topic is mainly a discussion on whether Mary could have realistically been present in Bethlehem for the big occasion Christianity requires.
1) Luke 2:1 Luke 2:1 claims a census was decreed by Caesar. This is not entirely unusual, in that the Romans held a census every 5 years.
The issue comes however with the Book of Luke's unfounded further claim, of every man having to return to their place of birth. This is a HIGHLY unusual requirement with a Roman Census.
This single decree would create a massive drain on the Empire's economy in several forms:
Spent resources on travel
Lost work time on travel
Possibility of death to travelers (which was a real hazard in long journeys)
It is obvious that the reason Luke would create this stipulation within the census is to have Mary in Bethlehem at the time of the Saviors birth.
Not to mention Joseph, being a descendant of David (we are told this, at least), went from Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to a city called Bethlehem.
The problem of the town lies in the author telling us Joseph's ancestry and because of his ancestry he had to leave his home town and travel to Bethlehem in Judea.
The above tells us, and rather plainly, that this tax involved the individuals ancestry and where they were registered.
2) Would Mary have traveled? Assuming the Census did occur as Luke describes, for Joseph to have brought his wife on such a journey would have been highly unusual. Women were considered property are the time, as such they were incapable of owning property. This fact would have made Mary as necessary for presence as all the rest of Joseph's property, including his land. If such a journey was required, Joseph would have had a local tax collector endorse his property statements as authentic, and merely provided the "paperwork" to the Bethlehem authorities.
3) Mary's Pregnancy Assuming the Census occurred as stipulated in Luke, and that Joseph wanted to bring Mary along for whatever reason his heart desired, we are still left with two other major issues.
a. Mary being "heavy with child" would have most certainly meant losing her child on such a massive journey. Even if she had rode, the rough roads, and constant jarring would have caused hemorrhaging within her Uterus, as a result of the child being constantly rubbed against it's walls. Also, the child would be enduring traumatic injury with each violent jar.
b. Even if by some miracle, Mary made it to Bethlehem with pregnancy in tact, she would still have the difficulty of the return journey, having just given birth, which would drastically increase her chance of mortality. Not to mention the opportunity it would present the child to expire through sheer exposure, and once again enduring the traumatic episodes of jarring due to rough roads.
These points make it quite clear that the required placement for the claimed birth of Jesus cannot be met with the real conditions that existed at the time. It also cannot be met historically, as not even the Christian champion Josephus mentions a census having occurred.
Are there any other thoughts on this subject? Perhaps any rebuttals?
Edited by Michamus, : minor formatting, no textual changes
I think that although your points about Mary's pregnancy are reasonable they cannot be proved.
What do you mean they cannot be proved? Is a 99.9% chance of fetal demise not a good enough probability to simply conclude that it would have occurred?
is this kind of Roman census referenced anywhere in contemporary historical sources?
No. The type of census stipulated in Luke is not found in any historical references of any kind. An excellent review on what a Roman census was can be found here. It is quite clear that a Roman census does not require one to return to their home town.
if so, did a census of this kind take place in the right place at the right time?
No. There were three censuses during the reign of Caesar Augustus 28 BC, 8 BC, and 14 AD. Quirinius did not take up Governorship until 6-7AD.
This would obviously mean that the first Roman census to occur with Quirinius as Governor of Syria would have been 14AD. This is at least 8 years too late for the supposed birth of Jesus.
This has actually been a subject mentioned many times. Modern Christian authorities simply brush it under the rug by making serious logical leaps.
I kid you not, I actually had one individual try and tell me that when Luke said first census of Quirinius as Governor, what it really meant was the census prior to Quirinius becoming Governor. :eek:
What also must be taken into account, that the general population was illiterate, and historical documents were very rare, and expensive. They didn't have the capabilities we do today of simply going to a library, or looking these things up on the web.
You must also take into consideration that statements like the ones I have made would have been punished with death and censorship up until the last couple centuries.
I am not the first to make these arguments though. These arguments (with the exception of the high probability of fetal demise) have existed since the late 1700s.
I don't accept the 99.9% figure - what evidence do you have for it?
Are you serious? How about my credibility as a medical professional? How about the fact that woman slipping and falling 2 feet (distance from hips to ground) can cause fetal demise? That's not even taking into consideration the amount of jostling she would experience on an 80 mile journey. This would take 2 weeks of horseback travel.
Of course, a simple google search would have yielded similar results.
You must also take into consideration the frequent restroom breaks, decrease in cleanliness making her more prone to infection. Also, her general lethargic state that most women experience late 3rd trimester.
If Joseph did make Mary come along with him (which has already been determined completely unnecessary) in her stage of pregnancy, then he was a garbage husband and father.
Are you assuming that the Romans did not require married women to be registered along with their husbands?
As I stated, Mary's presence was required just as much as Joseph's land was required. I don't know if you realize this, but women being considered anything but property is a modern concept.
Don't take my word for it though, do a google search on "Roman Census" and find out for yourself.
If the census required all 'families' to be registered, then why is it unusual that a man and his wife would go to register as a family?
No, a census never "required all 'families' to be registered in person. A Roman Census was an opportunity for a Roman citizen to state his status, and what property he possessed. A Roman citizen also had the ability to grant his slave(s) freedom by declaring him a Roman Citizen on the census, rather than as his own property.
Notice that the gender "he" and "his" is specified, in that only a man could be a Citizen, any other person was considered a member of the Citizen's house.
Here is a great article on the stipulations of Roman Citizenship.
Also, since it is not required for Mary to be present for this census that is completely unfounded historically, it would be HIGHLY UNUSUAL for her to travel in her late stage of pregnancy .
Then again, don't take my word for it... look it up yourself.
This is really far fetched. Her uterus would not have hemorrahaged on such a trip. The journey is said to be 3 days.Thats not really a massive trip.
ROFL! It is an 80 mile journey... are you seriously describing a 26 mile a day journey as a leisurely stroll? That would be 12 hours of constant walking a day for three days.
Also, I would take your medical analysis on whether her uterus would hemorrhage or not more seriously, if you actually had any formal medical education... or could spell hemorrhage correctly.
It would have been a slow walking pace, which would most likely be a nice smooth ride...like being on a rocking horse.
Unlike you Peg, I have actually walked on the type of roads Mary would have walked on for several hours, and it is painful. It is anything but a "smooth ride" that is "like being on a rocking horse". I can only imagine how seriously painful it would be if I were a woman in her LATE 3rd trimester.
I mean, we are seriously talking about a woman who is in her 34th to 38th week of pregnancy walking on rough roads for 80 miles. Are you seriously telling me this would not be difficult?
Heavily pregnant women are out plowing fields in some 3rd world countries and they manage quite well.
I know Peg, I have seen pregnant women out in these fields weeding out crops and irrigating. There is a huge difference between this, and walking 80 miles straight on rough roads.
In case you try and ask another silly question like "how do you know they were pregnant with a Burka on?", do I really have to describe what a pregnant woman would look like with a sheet over her?
At the worst Mary would have been uncomfortable but not in any pain and certainly not in great danger.
Quite a naive assessment if you ask me.
They first went to the temple in Jerusalem ( 5.5 mile journey ) in obedience to the Mosaic Law, to make an offering of purification. This is a requirement of law at the 40th day. So they were in Bethlehem all that time until they went to Jerusalem.
Do you not think I took that into consideration? Do you think a woman can have fully recovered from her baton death march in 2 months, to make the march again? Seriously Peg, I wonder about you sometimes.
There is also the incident of herod attempting to kill all infant boys up to the age of 2 which indicates that Herod has some idea of the age of the child born to mary.
Of which there is also no evidence.
I notice that you had no rebuttal to my historical* dates in regard to the timing of the only census that was even remotely close to the supposed date of Jesus birth as well, and the complete lack of an historical evidence for a "Luke style" census having ever occurred at all*. Then again, I wouldn't be surprised if you threw that out to in favor of whatever your heart desires.
They agree that the timing was about 3-2ï¿½BCE. Some scholars call attention to the fact that the term used by Luke, and usually translated "governor" is he.ge.mon'. Its a Greek term used to describe Roman legates, procurators, and proconsuls, and it means, basically, a 'leader' or 'high executive officer.' Some suggest that, at the time of what Luke refers to as the 'first registration' Quirinius served in Syria in the capacity of a special legate of the emperor exercising extraordinary powers.
ROFL! So when the author of Luke wrote Governor, what he really meant was something other than governor? The logical gymnastics keep coming!
This also helps to understabd Josephus's reference to a dual rulership of Syria. He speaks of two people, Saturninus and Volumnius, serving simultaneously as 'governors of Syria.' So its possible that Quirinius served simultaneously either with Saturninus (as Volumnius had done) or with Varus prior to Herodï¿½s death (which likely occurred in 1ï¿½BCE).
Judging by the fact that you didn't even get Herod's date of death correct... I am highly skeptical of everything you just stated without references.
Luke's account has been proved accurate in reference to Quirinius as governor of Syria around the time of Jesus birth. The historical evidence backs him up.
Luke's account has required gymnastics in both logic, and evidence. This is so that the moderately to poorly educated christian can believe the book to be accurate in reference to Quirinius as governor of Syria around the time of Jesus birth.
Every history scholars well know that ab omissio (that is, from an omission of a fact in a text) no one can prove that an event cited in a different text has never occurred.
Every scholar also knows the two initial conditions a scholar must take into account when reading a reference to another event/document from an ancient document: 1)Why is the information being cited? 2)What is the bias of the author?
In this case the response would be 1)So as to show a fulfillment of prophecy 2)The author is almost definitively christian, and therefor has a nearly complete bias.
Not only that, your argument of ad omissio would hold more merit, if: 1)we were talking about a more obscure empire 2)we didn't have an abundance of information on how a Roman Census worked 3)we didn't have 3 dates in proper distance from one another for a Roman Census(28 BC, 8 BC, and 14 AD) 4)we didn't have historical evidence of Quirinius' initiation into governorship, and it being his first governorship.
You are trying to say "we don't know", when it is quite clear that we do know.
What is the probability that a Mars-sized body would strike the early earth, throw off a large amount of earth material which would be captured by earth's gravity and condense to form our moon? This is extremely improbable, but it is apparently what happened.
Actually, the probability of that occurring is 100%. (Post Hoc Probability Fallacy)
Or what is the probability that you would wake up exactly when you did this morning, follow exactly the schedule that you did, with the exact conversations and events that occurred?
Once again, the probability of that occurring is 100%. (Post Hoc Probability Fallacy)
We must be careful when discussing probabilities of past events. Low probability does not mean that the event didn't happen.
Actually, I agree with you on this point. We must be careful when discerning probability of past events. So let's carefully discern the probability of this event.
For this to have occurred as written in Luke, several highly improbable things must have happened.
A Roman Census must have occurred that there are no recordings of ever occurring.
This is highly improbable as we have amble historical evidence on the Roman Empire and how it operated. The Romans were known for their meticulous behavior when it came to record keeping. We currently have corroborated sources that clearly indicate 3 census dates near that time period. What is even more damning (oh the irony) is that none of those census dates correspond with the purported census date in Luke.
This same Roman Census would have to directly contradict all prior, and following Census methodology.
Not once in recorded history has a Roman Census required the stipulations put forth in Luke. Roman Citizens were the only individuals allowed to participate in the census, and would declare their citizenship with their local bureaucrat, or government representative. The Roman Census was also an opportunity for a Roman Citizen to declare his slaves as Citizens by simply including them in the census under the title "Citizen" (though this rarely occurred).
This same Roman Census would have required an unprecedented movement of citizens throughout the Empire.
A Census of this magnitude would have shown on business records in the form of massive sales transactions (think "no room in the inn") that would occur Empire-wide. We have found no corroborating documentation of such a massive business flux.
Now let's compare the probability of all these factors to another possible scenario:
The Roman Census mentioned in Luke was a later applied fabrication to attempt to fulfill an earlier "prophecy" which was perceived to have required the messiah to have come from Bethlehem.
Given the fact that we have ample evidence of people making stories up. Also taking into consideration the abundant evidence that people will make stories up if they have a vested interest in the truthfulness of the story. With finally the lack of evidence supporting the authenticity of the story, with corroborating data stating that in fact the story more than likely couldn't have happened as described, I would say it is massively more probable the story was fabricated.
Where do you get "heavy" with child? Lk 2:5 only says that she was pregnant.
Are you serious? Surely this is a joke?
quote: Luke 2: 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
Did you not think to perhaps read the story before commenting?
The grammar of Luke 2:2 is investigated in The Problem of Luke 2:2, which concludes:
Sadly, I feel the author will be holding his breath forever on that one. I already addressed the likelihood of any new information coming out that may corroborate Luke's story as being nil in Message 59.
Perhaps if we were discussing a more obscure empire you would have hope.
Yes, most of the population was illiterate. In fact, 97% of the population was illiterate.
quote: Source Conclusion - Comparative data show that under Roman rule the Jewish literacy rate improved in the Land of Israel. However, rabbinic sources support evidence that the literacy rate was less than 3%.
Are you really saying that because there were no newspapers or books or pamphlets most people were illiterate???
Actually, he was obviously referring to newspapers, printing presses, and pamphlets in the sense that wide dissemination was not possible in the First Century CE as it is today.
ancient nations invented the written word without books, newspapers and pamphlets...give them some credit.
Indeed they did. You must realize though that these were the wealthy for the time period that created these languages and used them. The common farmer really had (and still has in 3rd world countries) no need, or means of becoming literate.
The apostles and early disciples were able to read and write, Jesus was reading aloud in the synagogues from a young age...
Peg, you should really think about what you write/say more thoroughly before you write/say it.
Jesus was obviously speaking to Hebrew Scholars and Rabbi. Also, reading aloud to people does not necessarily mean the people listening know how to read. Have you ever read a young child a book? By your own logic, that child knows how to read, because you are reading to them.
so I think you can safely conclude that most people could read and write in the first century.
No, you cannot safely conclude that most, or even remotely close to most of the population was literate at the time. For one to make such a statement is a serious mark against their perceived intelligence on such matters as ancient history.How hard they must find it, those who take authority as truth, rather than truth as the authority. -unknown