Resolving Christmas Conundrums
by Evan Minton
Christmas is one of my favorite holidays and has been for as long as I’ve walked this Earth. As a kid, it was because I got a boatload of toys on Christmas morning that I got to play with as Mom and Dad prepared Christmas dinner for us and the rest of my family. As someone who is now a born-again Christian, my primary reason has shifted from getting gifts to praising God for taking on human flesh to begin His mission of redeeming fallen humanity. We all know the story: of how Gabriel appeared to Mary, told her she would become miraculously pregnant with Jesus, how Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem where Jesus would then be born, etc. However, those of us who witness to non-believers will encounter some objections about the reliability of the Christmas narrative.
It is the point of this blog post to wrestle with these challenges to the gospels’ reliability.
1: The Census
Luke 2:1-3 says “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.”
The Bible is clear that Jesus was born when Herod The Great was in power and when Quirinius was governor, but (A) Flavius Josephus says Herod died in A.D 4 and (B) secular history attests that Quirinius didn’t become governor until A.D 6? Did The Bible get it wrong?
First of all, I think we should give Luke the benefit of the doubt. In The Book Of Acts In The Setting Of Hellenistic History, the classic scholar Dr. Collin J. Hemer shows that archeology proves that the book of Acts got it right in 84 incidental details. The first chapter of Luke and the first chapter of Acts both give us clues that these books are written by the same author (Luke), such as the fact that they’re both addressed to a man named Theophilus and in Acts, the writer alludes “to my former work” (Acts 1:1). This is one piece of internal evidence that Luke and Acts had the same author. Now, if Acts gets it right in 84 different places, then is it really reasonable to suspect that this same writer would be so sloppy in his previous work? In fact, the famed scholar and archeologist…
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