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Re: [XTalk] The census of Quirinius: Carlson's rendering of Lk. 2.2

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  • John C. Poirier
    I meant to send this yesterday. I don t have a comment on the exchange between Ken Olson and Stephen Carlson, except to note that I just read Fabian Udoh s
    Message 1 of 7 , Sep 1, 2006
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      I meant to send this yesterday.

      I don't have a comment on the exchange between Ken Olson and Stephen Carlson, except to note that I just read Fabian Udoh's book *To Caesar What is Caesar's: Tribute, Taxes, and Imperial Administration in Early Roman Paelstine 63 B.C.E.-70 C.E.* (BJS 343; Providence, RI: Brown University Press, 2005), and I noted he has a good discussion of the census of Quirinius and other censuses (pp. 155-57, 211-19). (For a number of other matters as well, this is an important book for historical Jesus studies.)

      John C. Poirier


      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Ken Olson
      To: crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Thursday, August 31, 2006 9:01 AM
      Subject: [XTalk] The census of Quirinius: Carlson's rendering of Lk. 2.2


      [I sent this yesterday at 1:39 PM, but it seems to have gotten lost in the wilds of cyberspace. Apologies if it shows up twice).

      Nearly two years ago Stephen Carlson suggested the translation, "This [decree to get registered] became the/a most important registration when Quirinius was governing Syria" for Lk. 2.2 on his weblog Hypotyposeis here:

      http://www.hypotyposeis.org/weblog/2004/12/luke-22-and-census.html

      The discussion has recently restarted on the Internet Infidels list at;

      http://www.iidb.org/vbb/showthread.php?t=169615&page=3

      As the discussion there seems to have become bogged down in pointless bickering, I'd like to start one here on Crosstalk with a few criticisms of Carlson's hypothesis.

      1) Carlson makes a good point in differentiating between Augustus' decree that there would be an enrollment or census in Lk. 2.1 and the enrollment being carried out in Lk 2.2. However, reading the beginning of 2.2 as "This enrollment" (i.e., the one the previous verse tells us that Augustus decreed should take place) seems to me to be perfectly compatible with the translation "first came to pass during Quirinius' governing of Syria" for what follows. This would mean either that no one had carried out the decree before or, perhaps more likely, that it had not been carried out in Judea before, though the latter qualifier is not made explicit in the text.

      2) I see no need to take 2.2 as being parenthetical or as distinguishing Quirinius' enrollment from the enrollment that counted Joseph in Lk. 2.4-2.5, unless we first adopt Carlson's interpretation of it and/or want to save Luke from self-contradiction. I don't see 2.2 as digressive but as progressive. (1) Augustus decrees there should be a enrollment; (2) Augustus' decree is carried out while Quirnius is governing Syria; (3) Everyone (presumably in the Judean bailiwick of Quirinius) goes to his home city to be counted; (4-5) Joseph, like everyone else in Judea, goes to his ancestral home town to be counted.

      3) Carlson's translation "most important" does not really catch the meaning of PRWTOJ in the examples he gives. The enrollment of Quirinius was, no doubt, an important historical event in first century Jewish history because it established Roman rule in the region and precipitated a rebellion. But PROTWJ does not mean "very important" in the sense of "historically significant" or even "well known" in the examples given. It seems always to mean "exceeding other things in its class in the quality or qualities of that class." A first sinner sins more than other sinners, one is commanded to follow a first commandment even before other commandments (one is, in a sense, more commanded), a first cause is more of a cause than other causes. To give another example from BDAG, a first or best robe (Lk. 15.22) takes precedence over other robes by whatever qualities robes are judged. It does not mean "a prominent rob." Similarly, I don't think that a first enrollment can mean simply "historically significant" or "notable." A PRWTH enrollment would have to be a "leading enrollment", "foremost enrollment" or "superlative enrollment" in that it surpassed other enrollments as an enrollment. That is not an impossible reading, and no doubt some scenario could be imagined to make it fit. Quirinius' enrollment could, for instance, have counted more people more accurately than other enrollments. But on the face of it, it doesn't seem to make much sense in the context of Lk. 2.2. In particular, I don't think it makes as much sense as the reading that takes "first" in the temporal sense.

      Best,

      Ken

      Kenneth A. Olson
      MA, History, University of Maryland
      PhD Student, Religion, Duke University

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    • dhindley@compuserve.com
      John,
      Message 2 of 7 , Sep 1, 2006
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        John,

        <<I don't have a comment on the exchange between Ken Olson and Stephen Carlson, except to note that I just read Fabian Udoh's book *To Caesar What is Caesar's: Tribute, Taxes, and Imperial Administration in Early Roman Paelstine 63 B.C.E.-70 C.E.* (BJS 343; Providence, RI: Brown University Press, 2005), and I noted he has a good discussion of the census of Quirinius and other censuses (pp. 155-57, 211-19). (For a number of other matters as well, this is an important book for historical Jesus studies.)>>

        Yes, I read the dissertation that this book is based upon, and he makes some very interesting points, not just about the census. Many points he makes go against common opinion (for example, Udoh has a much more favorable view of Herod's rule than most critics grant him), although he does quantify his opinions very well. I had posted a review of this dissertation here on Crosstalk some while ago (favorably, by the way), but it drew no responses at all.

        Prof. Udoh also did not think it worthy of his time to respond to my emails asking about prospective publication date at that time. Maybe he was not an "email" kind of guy (not uncommon among some academics, I suppose). I'll have to get a copy of the book, now that it is finally out.

        Respectfully,

        Dave Hindley
        Cleveland, Ohio USA
      • David C. Hindley
        Ken, Can I ask where you intend to go with the answer? Doe you have a hypothesis in development that this solution might support or shoot down? While I have
        Message 3 of 7 , Sep 3, 2006
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          Ken,

          Can I ask where you intend to go with the answer? Doe you have a
          hypothesis in development that this solution might support or shoot
          down?

          While I have seen Stephen's solution on his site before, I've not
          allowed myself to be drawn into the debate, as it tends to devolve
          into tit for tat bickering, as you noted on the Internet Infidels
          site.

          I did open the link to Stephen's site that you provided, and noted he
          explained that, "... though Joseph's travel to Bethlehem was
          occasioned by Augustus's decree (i.e. the registration of 8 BC), the
          most important registration from Augustus's policies was the one that
          took place when Quirinius was governor (and that led to the revolts
          in Galilee). Thus Luke is distinguishing the registration that Joseph
          obeyed from that most prominent one in AD 6, not confusing it."

          Stephen's text historcical reasoning for treating Lk 2:2 as
          parenthetical is also credible, and probably correct:

          "The reason this parenthetical would have been important is the view
          that Josephus published in his books on the Jewish War in 75 or so
          and in his Jewish Antiquities around 93, identifying the AD 6 census
          as a major cause of the Jewish War sixty years later. Since I date
          the composition of Luke to be quite a few years after 70, it is only
          natural that Luke would want to mention it, even if it was not the
          census Josephus Joseph was responding to."

          My problem with Stephen's solution is not so much that it avoids
          crediting Luke with the apparent error of equating the registration
          of Qurinius with that which preceeded Jesus birth. The equation of
          the two events (census of 6 CE being the cause of Joseph's trek to
          Bethlehem) poses its own problems if one assumes that the author of
          Luke is the same as that of Acts, considering the apparent
          familiarity the author of Acts had with recent historical events,
          people and geography, making it a significant blunder on the author's
          part.

          However, I am not sure that making Joseph respond to a supposed
          original decree of Augustus issued around 8 BCE (as distinct from the
          most famous one that took place in Judea in 6 CE) really solves the
          problem. This may be what John Poirier was suggesting when
          recommending Fabian Udoh's laters work, as Udoh calls into serious
          question any assumption that Herod would have been subject to such a
          decree (if the decree is really historical).

          Udoh agrees with Schurer that even if Herod's kingdom was required to
          pay tribute to Rome (something he allows, with qualifications as to
          period of reign and amounts involved, whether it was really "tribute"
          or rather periodic exactions of money or services, and the manner by
          which Herod extracted the necessary funds from his subjects), "the
          payment of a lump sum as tribute is quite different from an exaction
          by the Romans of direct taxes from individual citizens of the
          country" (citing Schurer, revised edition, vol i, p. 416, n. 85).

          It would seem that the latter condition would have had to be the case
          for Joseph to have felt obligated to respond to a Roman decree
          and "register" in Judea, and even then the issues of the kind of tax
          (es) he would be registering for and the historical evidence for the
          manner by which these kinds of tax registrations would have actually
          been conducted are kind of side-stepped.

          Personally, I would take Luke 2:2 as an attempt by the author of Luke
          to explain unspecified rumors that Joseph claimed Davidic descent by
          laying claim to land associated with the family of David (which may
          have had political ramifications for early Christians in the late 1st
          century), by treating it as (or something like) Joseph's fulfillment
          of a Roman tax obligation. It takes the edge off a rumor or tradition
          that would have reflected unfavorably on circumstances of Christian
          origins.

          Unfortunately, not enough is known about land tenancy in Judea to
          support such an idea beyond question, although there is more
          information available than most people are aware. The political
          constitution of the Jewish state, its relationship to Herod's kingdom
          (which are not necessariuly identical), and how posession of land was
          traditionally managed in either case, really should be examined much
          more closely than it usually is.

          Respectfully,

          David Hindley
          Cleveland, OH USA


          --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, "Ken Olson" <kenolson101@...>
          wrote:

          <<I'd like to start one here on Crosstalk with a few criticisms of
          Carlson's hypothesis.

          1) Carlson makes a good point in differentiating between Augustus'
          decree that there would be an enrollment or census in Lk. 2.1 and the
          enrollment being carried out in Lk 2.2. However, reading the
          beginning of 2.2 as "This enrollment" (i.e., the one the previous
          verse tells us that Augustus decreed should take place) seems to me
          to be perfectly compatible with the translation "first came to pass
          during Quirinius' governing of Syria" for what follows. This would
          mean either that no one had carried out the decree before or, perhaps
          more likely, that it had not been carried out in Judea before, though
          the latter qualifier is not made explicit in the text.

          2) I see no need to take 2.2 as being parenthetical or as
          distinguishing Quirinius' enrollment from the enrollment that counted
          Joseph in Lk. 2.4-2.5, unless we first adopt Carlson's interpretation
          of it and/or want to save Luke from self-contradiction. I don't see
          2.2 as digressive but as progressive. (1) Augustus decrees there
          should be a enrollment; (2) Augustus' decree is carried out while
          Quirnius is governing Syria; (3) Everyone (presumably in the Judean
          bailiwick of Quirinius) goes to his home city to be counted; (4-5)
          Joseph, like everyone else in Judea, goes to his ancestral home town
          to be counted.

          3) Carlson's translation "most important" does not really catch the
          meaning of PRWTOJ in the examples he gives. The enrollment of
          Quirinius was, no doubt, an important historical event in first
          century Jewish history because it established Roman rule in the
          region and precipitated a rebellion. But PROTWJ does not mean "very
          important" in the sense of "historically significant" or even "well
          known" in the examples given. It seems always to mean "exceeding
          other things in its class in the quality or qualities of that class."
          A first sinner sins more than other sinners, one is commanded to
          follow a first commandment even before other commandments (one is, in
          a sense, more commanded), a first cause is more of a cause than other
          causes. To give another example from BDAG, a first or best robe (Lk.
          15.22) takes precedence over other robes by whatever qualities robes
          are judged. It does not mean "a prominent rob." Similarly, I don't
          think that a first enrollment can mean simply "historically
          significant" or "notable." A PRWTH enrollment would have to be
          a "leading enrollment", "foremost enrollment" or "superlative
          enrollment" in that it surpassed other enrollments as an enrollment.
          That is not an impossible reading, and no doubt some scenario could
          be imagined to make it fit. Quirinius' enrollment could, for
          instance, have counted more people more accurately than other
          enrollments. But on the face of it, it doesn't seem to make much
          sense in the context of Lk. 2.2. In particular, I don't think it
          makes as much sense as the reading that takes "first" in the temporal
          sense.>>
        • Stephen C. Carlson
          ... Thanks for your comments, David. I ended up backing off of such a ... Stephen Carlson -- Stephen C. Carlson
          Message 4 of 7 , Sep 3, 2006
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            At 04:43 PM 9/3/2006 +0000, David C. Hindley wrote:
            >However, I am not sure that making Joseph respond to a supposed
            >original decree of Augustus issued around 8 BCE (as distinct from the
            >most famous one that took place in Judea in 6 CE) really solves the
            >problem.

            Thanks for your comments, David. I ended up backing off of such a
            claim in my third post in the series, as follows:

            |What other historical implications can be made from this understanding of
            |Luke 2:1-7? Unfortunately, it tells us very little about what happened at
            |the turn of the era other than that the author believed that some census was
            |conducted in the Roman sphere of influence that required Joseph to travel
            |from Galilee to Bethlehem. It is unclear, however, whether the author's
            |knowledge or sources were any more specific than that.

            Stephen Carlson
            --
            Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
            Weblog: http://www.hypotyposeis.org/weblog/
            Author of: The Gospel Hoax, http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1932792481
          • RSBrenchley@aol.com
            Message 5 of 7 , Sep 12, 2006
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              <<<<In 1912, however, the discovery by W. M. Ramsey of a fragmentary
              inscription at Antioch of Pisidia arguably established Quirinius was
              in Syria on a previous occasion. (1) His role was more military to
              lead a campaign against the Homanadenses, a tribe in the Taurus
              Mountains. This is confirmed by Tacitus. This means that Quirinius
              would have established a seat of government in Syria, including
              Palestine, from the years 10 to 7 BCE. In this position he would have
              been responsible for the census mentioned by Luke. This census of 7
              BCE would therefore have been the "first" census taken when Cyrenius
              was governor (Luke 2:2) and the historically documented census of 6/7
              CE was really the second. There is further evidence of this first
              census of 7 BCE in the writings of Tertullian who records the
              census "taken in Judea by Sentius Saturninus." (2) C. Sentius
              Saturninus was Legate of Syria from 9 to 6 BCE. Another inscription,
              the Lapis Tiburtinus, was found in 1764 near Tivoli (Tibur). Composed
              after 14 CE, the inscription names an unknown personage who was
              legate of Syria twice. The man is described as having been victorious
              in war. There is considerable dissension among scholars as to whether
              the unnamed person is Quirinius. I think it is more likely that it
              does indeed refer to the famous consul and soldier.>>

              I am not so sure I want to postulate a hypothetical "first"
              governorship of Syria by Quirinius when there is a very real L.
              Calpurnius Piso who better fits the wording of the inscription in
              question (ILS 918).>>


              I'm sure that you're right about Piso, and the inscription is of course
              partial, with the name missing. I'm no Latin expert, and perhaps someone can
              confirm this, but I believe that '...legatus pr pr divi Augusti iterum Syriam et
              Phoenicen optinuit' actually refers to his 'serving again as a legate of the
              divine Augustus', ie he had served as a legate elsewhere in the past. I'm not
              sure whether or not this would fit Piso.

              There is a further problem in that the campaign against the Homonadenses
              was carried out by P Quintillius (or Quinctillius) Varus, who was governor
              immediately after Herod the Great's death, and was responsible for suppressing
              a Jewish uprising at that time. Luke's 'Quirinius', on the other hand,
              appears to be P Sulpicius Quirinius, the legate who is recorded by Josephus as
              having carried out a census at the time of the establishment of the Province of
              Judea, after the exile of Archelaus in 6 AD.

              With apologies for the late reply.

              Regards,

              Robert Brenchley



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