Christmas is less than a month away and that means there is a fair amount of discussion in the media and popular culture about the birth of Jesus Christ in a manger in Bethlehem.
Critics have long delighted to point out that the census that plays a key role in Luke’s Gospel account of His birth never really happened. Here’s how Luke put it:
“In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria,” Luke 2:1-2 tells us.
“And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child,” Luke continues in verses 3-6.
“And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn,” Luke says in verses 7-8.
That in a nutshell is the Christmas story that until recent decades in America was well-known to virtually everybody in this country, Europe and much of the rest of the world.
But since the days of “Higher Critics” like Rudolph Bultmann, numerous critics have argued no census was taken that required people to return to their places of birth, so therefore Luke must have made up the whole thing and that means his Gospel — and by extension the other three as well — cannot be trusted as reliable.
But critics have long argued no such census was taken, so therefore Luke must have made up the whole thing and that means his Gospel — and by extension the other three as well — cannot be trusted as reliable.
But guess what? As Tent-Making Christianity’s Drew Covert puts it, archeology has uncovered solid evidence that in fact Luke got it right and his Gospel can be trusted as a credible source about the birth of Jesus.
“Historians have long questioned the idea of people returning to their ancestral home to register for a census. Even by our own modern standards, this seems ludicrous,” Covert writes.
“Can you imagine everyone in a country returning to where they were born to complete a census? It would be sheer chaos. Surely, they claim, this was just a literary device used by Luke to get Jesus’ birth in the correct city to fulfill Old Testament prophesies,” Covert said.
But something found in Egypt puts the issue in an entirely new perspective. So before you conclude Christmas is a nice fable but no more than that, check out the rest of Covert’s post.
By the way, that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem was predicted hundreds of years beforehand by the prophet Micah in the second verse of the fifth chapter of the Old Testament book bearing his name.
Mark Tapscott is HillFaith’s editor, IT jockey, spiritual guide, chief bottle washer and overall Jack-of-All-Trades. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org