Luke’s Knowledge of Roman Enrollments

The book of Prof. Ramsay, “Was Christ Born at Bethlehem?” deserves special mention because it gives a new datum for our historical investigations.

Prof. Ramsay affirms that Luke in his statement on the taxing, (Luke 2:1-4), was acquainted with a system of periodic enrolments in Syria, and probably in the East generally, and was not speaking at random. A very brief outline of Prof. Ramsay’s discussion will be given here.

Prof. Ramsay translates the words, Luke 2:2, “that all the world should be taxed,” to mean the Roman world, including the dependent kingdoms, as that of Herod. The later clause, “should be taxed” or enrolled, affirms that “Augustus now ordered enrolments to be regularly made” not the taking of a single census. Luke’s statement will therefore read: “This was the first enrolment”—the first in a series of enrolments, and the only one with which he was here concerned. It was in force in Syria, and was periodic. This first census he distinguishes from that in Acts 5:37, by the use of the article applied to the last, “The census,” i.e., that taken about 7 A.D., when Judaea had become part of the province of Syria, and which was to serve as the basis of taxation.

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Author: Samuel J. Andrews

Keywords: Census, Enrolment, Enrollment, Quirinius, Cyrenius, Registration, Bethlehem census, Bethlehem enrollment, Bethlehem enrolment, Enrolled, Enroled, Taxation, Taxed, Birth of Jesus

Bible reference(s): Luke 2:1-5

Source: The Life of Our Lord Upon the Earth, (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1903), pp. xxvi-xxviii.

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