The Bible is Wrong About History
the Romans have a census?
HUMANIST'S CLAIMS ABOUT: History and the New Testament
the New Testament, the second chapter of Luke asserts that shortly before the
birth of Jesus, the emperor Augustus ordered a census throughout the Roman world.
Luke claims that every person had to travel to the town of his ancestors for the
census to be taken. He identifies the census as the reason for Joseph and Mary
traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Jesus is said to have been born.
his book Gospel Fictions, Randall Helms says this type of census was never taken
in the history of the Roman Empire. He points out its ridiculous to think
the practical Romans would require millions of people to travel enormous distances
to towns of long-deceased ancestors merely to sign a tax form. Likewise,
in Asimovs Guide to the Bible, Isaac Asimov affirms that the Romans would
certainly arrange no such census.
Let's start with a little background
on the referenced Randall Helms book:
In chapter three,
called Nativity Legends," he writes: We must remember
that for the Christian generation that produced our Gospels, the Bible consisted
only of what Christians now call the Old Testament, and a particular version thereof,
the Greek Septuagint. But, before they wrote the New Testament, Christians created
another entirely new book, the Old Testament, turning the Septuagint into
a book about Jesus by remarkably audacious and creative interpretation.
So it appears we have another fiction writer
who makes up things to support his accusations against the Bible. For example,
open your Bible. In the front will be a section describing the sources used for
translation. In most cases the Old Testament is translated from the BIBLICA HEBRAICA,
with some use of other sources such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Yes, about 2/3 of
the Old Testament quotes in the New Testament come from the Septuagint. Why? Because
the language of their readers was Greek. Just as I quote from an English language
translation of the Bible in these web pages, because you read English. The writers
of the New Testament did the same. Helms statement above is pure fiction.
what is the accusation? "It's ridiculous to think
the Romans would require millions of people to travel enormous distances."
So this accusation is based on atheists thinking it is ridiculous... not on any
facts. We should stop here... that's nothing. Just personal opinion. But, let's
go on and look at some facts... I love facts:
First, a little history
about Rome. The Roman Republic (508 BC to 27 BC) became the Roman Empire in
the year 27 BC. According to the Roman
Empire web site, the census in the Roman Republic was very important:
five years, each male Roman citizen had to register in Rome for the census. In
this he had to declare his family, wife, children, slaves and riches. Should he
fail to do this, his possessions would be confiscated and he would be sold into
slavery. Throughout the entire republican era, registration in the census was
the only way that a Roman could ensure that his identity and status as a citizen
So this type of census was historically
common in Rome. Biblical scholar Harold Hoehner writes:
papyrus dated to A.D. 104, records an Egyptian prefect who ordered Egyptians to
return to their ancestral homes so that a census could be taken. In first century
Rome, since the Jews property was linked to their fathers (i.e. patriarchal),
the Romans would certainly have allowed them the custom of laying claim to their
family estate for taxation. - Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological
Aspects of the Life of Christ 1977, page 15.
Let's go back
to the humanist's expert, Randall Helms, and see what he specifically writes about
"In his anxiety to relate the
Galilean upbringing with the supposed Bethlehem birth, Luke confused his facts.
Indeed Luke's anxiety has involved him in some real absurdities, like the needless
ninety-mile journey of a woman in her last days of pregnancy--for it was the Davidic
Joseph who supposedly had to be registered in the ancestral village, not the the
Stop here. Mary was not a Levite,
she was of the Davidic line through Nathan. So there is another fiction. And also,
she was not necessarily in her last days of pregnancy. That is a common myth even
Christian believe. But, what does scripture say? Joseph and Mary get to Bethlehem,
and... While they were there, the days were completed
for her to give birth. (Luke 2:6) Scripture does not say how long it was
after they arrived until she gave birth. (Click
here for details about what happened in Bethlehem. Be sure to watch the video.)
Let's continue with what Helms' writes:
yet, Luke has been forced top contrive a universal dislocation for a simple tax
registration: who could imagine the efficient Romans requiring millions in the
empire to journey scores or hundreds of miles to the villages of millennium-old
ancestors merely to sign a tax form! Needless to say, no such event happened in
the history of the Roman Empire." - Randall Helms, Gospel Fictions,
1989, pages 59 & 60.
What do we have? Just more opinion.
The picture of "millions" being dislocated is pure fiction. People in
those days did not travel much, nor move from their ancestral homes. They typically
stayed together in family groups. So the vast majority of people were already
where they needed to be for the census. And as you read above, while it was a
tax census, it still involved more than signing your name on a tax form. That
is yet another humanist fiction.
Also, what is described in Luke seems
to be the height of efficiency. The problem with taking a census is those
few people who do move around. In those days, taking a census could take months...
or a year or two. How can you ensure everyone is counted, and that people are
not counted twice? You specify the place where they will be counted. And their
ancestral home is the only place that makes sense.
Only the men had to
register. So why did Mary go? Where are they going? To the family home of
both Joseph and Mary. Of course she wanted to go. Of course she wanted to have
the baby with her family there. And where did they go after the baby was born?
They didn't go... they stayed in Bethlehem. Their family was there and that was
where they wanted to be.
humanists version of history is based on fiction solely created to provide a way
to attack the Bible. It is neither historically true, nor is it true to human
nature (the desire to be with family, for example).
Next: New Testament
The third chapter
of Luke contains a genealogy tracing Christs ancestry back only 76 generations
to Adam. According to Genesis chapter 1, Adam was created along with the rest
of the universe during the course of one week.
Bible thus views the human race and the universe as having existed for a relatively
short period, probably no more than several thousand years. In fact, for many
centuries the orthodox Christian position to doubt which was to risk damnation
was that the creation took place sometime between four and six thousand
years before Christs birth.
Historians and scientists
give a much longer historical record. They say the universe is between 10 and
20 billion years old, the earths age is approximately 4.6 billion years,
and humans evolved from ape-like ancestors during the last few million years.
we get to the age of the earth, another big topic. We'll tackle this one on
the next page: click here...