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Monday, December 25, 2006

The Role of Taxes in the Birth of Christ

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:1-7 (KJV).

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Comments

As a matter of faith, OK. But there is serious doubt about the historical accuracy of this passage with respect to there being a tax census at the time (and, for that matter, a birth in the scene described). There is, however, no doubt that Galilee was a hotbed of tax opposition which during this period in history sometimes broke out in rebellions that were surpress with ruthless efficiency.

The Christian movement was much more that just a tax rebellion but the corrupting influence tax revenues had on the Temple certainly are important. In the Temple, money changers were the target of Jesus' anger because the faithful were victimized by outrageous exchange rates offered to them when they came to pay their Temple tax and pay to enter Temple-operated baths for ritual purification.

Posted by: Joe | Dec 26, 2006 4:02:09 AM

In the 19th Century most of the historical accuracy of the Bible was doubted. Archaeology has verified the historicity of the Bible, and this passage will also likely be confirmed; however, maybe tax records would not have been preserved for two thousand years. Why presume that Luke falsified the record?

Posted by: Beau | Dec 26, 2006 6:03:59 AM

One of my theology profs once cautioned, beware of statements made about the life of Jesus that can be used to argue for the fulfillment of prophecy, then a common form of reasoning. Many have not been confirmed by historical evidence: the census, the town Jesus was born in, the flight to Egypt etc. ... but as I stated, the statements need not be confirmed by the historical evidence -- nor need they be viewed as falsification -- when they serve as articles of faith.

Posted by: Joe | Dec 27, 2006 4:14:53 AM