The Roman Census, Bethlehem and Nazareth

Many authors have already written about the Roman Census, Bethlehem and other aspects of the “Christmas Story” of Jesus’ birth. Some elements derive completely from folklore and aren’t even mentioned in the bible, other important bits are only mentioned by one gospel writer but not by others, and all of them include historical errors. Prof. Richard Dawkins provides one the best summaries as to why the authors of the gospels would want to believe there was a reason for Jesus to be born in Bethlehem:

When the gospels were written, many years after Jesus’ death, nobody knew where he was born. But an Old Testament prophecy (Micah 5:2) had led Jews to expect that the long-awaited Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. In the light of this prophecy, John’s gospel specifically remarks that his followers were surprised that he was not born in Bethlehem: ‘Others say, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said, That Christ shall cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?’

Matthew and Luke handle the problem differently, by deciding that Jesus must have been born in Bethlehem after all. But they get him there by different routes. Matthew has Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem all along, moving to Nazareth only long after the birth of Jesus […]. Luke, by contrast, acknowledges that Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth before Jesus was born. So how to get them to Bethlehem at the crucial moment, in order to fulfil the prophecy? Luke says that, in the time when Cyrenius (Quirinius) was governer of Syria, Caesar Augustus decreed a census for taxation purposes, and everybody had to go ‘to his own city’. […]

Except that it is historical nonsense, as A.N. Wilson in Jesus and Robin Lane Fox in The Unauthorized Version (among others) have pointed out. David, if he existed, lived nearly a thousand years before Mary and Joseph. Why on earth would the Romans have required Joseph to go to the city where a remote ancestor had lived a millenium earlier? […] Moreover, Luke screws up his dating by tactlessly mentioning events that historians are capable of independently checking. There was indeed a census under Governor Quirinius – a local census, not one decreed by Caesar Augustus for the Empire as a whole – but it happened too late: in AD6, long after Herod’s death.”

The God Delusion” by Prof. Richard Dawkins (2006)1

Now many would say why quote a hard core known atheist, when we Muslims would not buy many of his arguments either, like while referring to David he writes “if he ever existed”?  Because when you represent something as the word of God and it is not, then the result is many sincere people turn away from the so-called word of God, because it does have mistakes in it.  In recent times,christianity has done the greatest damage to turn people away from God; more then the atheists’ themselves.

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