Bending scripture for political aims…

An interesting oped in the Daily Telegraph on the way in which some groups use, or misuse, scripture to promote political aims in the name of activism.

The morally superior all the way in a manger
Roger Franklin
MangerIT is a good thing Jesus is the bringer of peace and forgiveness because every Christmas He must be sorely tempted to do quite a bit of smiting. It’s not the commercialisation of his birthday that would bother him so much as the slanders on the good name of his earthly family.

Brothers and sisters, let us shun those who every year at this time proclaim that Joseph and Mary were a homeless couple! There are lies, which all Sunday schoolers know are sins, and then there are those gigantic, jaw-dropping whoppers which come with little horns and pitchforks and do the devil’s work, and this annual misrepresentation of the Holy Family is one of the biggest of the lot.

Those who would have us believe that Mary and Joseph were a couple of down-on-their-luck bums are also inclined to drop a lot of hints that Jesus might have had a better start in life if only Caesar had collected just a bit more tax to “invest” in government-approved mangers.

Others seem to be under the impression that Mary and Joseph arrived in landlocked Bethlehem aboard a leaky boat.

Atheists and believers differ on whether or not God can move mountains, but there is no doubt Jesus is always being asked to lend a hand when there is a barrow to be pushed, and often by the most unlikely suspects.

Consider NSW University of Technology professor of journalism Wendy Bacon, who earlier this week tweeted a message of support for the illegal arrivals she prefers to call asylum seekers.

She was commenting favourably on another Twitter user’s photo of a sign outside a Brisbane church that assured refugees “there’s plenty of room at the inn.”

Now it should come as no shock that Bacon, a lifelong radical, rejects the quaint notion that it should be policy rather than people smugglers deciding how and when they arrive. What does surprise is Bacon’s sudden respect for Christianity. The last time there is a record of her tapping into the spiritual came when she was charged with obscenity and appeared in court dressed as a nun. Just to make sure the magistrate knew how she felt about religion, her habit bore a graphic announcement claiming intimate knowledge of “God’s steel prick”.

How many refugees saw that church’s sign and appreciated its sentiment is unknown, although the ready guess is that the number would have been few.

Then again, boat people were never the intended audience. Why shouldn’t the self-righteous give themselves a little Christmas treat by putting their virtue on display for all to admire? Moral superiority, real and imagined, always makes you feel lovely and warm inside – warmer than a drowned boat person, certainly.

In Toowoomba, copies of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ latest statement on social justice, entitled “Lazarus at the Gate”, were distributed to the faithful and – surprise! surprise! – Australia was relegated to Santa’s naughty list.

“The recent increase in the number of people arriving by boat is insignificant by world standards,” the bishops wrote. “In 2012 … as Pakistan struggled to accommodate 1.6 million refugees, Australia’s political leaders and media whipped up hysteria over the arrival of 17,000 asylum seekers.”

At Eureka Street, a website run and funded by the Jesuits, St Vincent de Paul Society chief executive John Falzon came in on cue with a Christmas hope that capitalism (“not a natural system”) will be replaced by something kinder to outcasts and people like Jesus, who, he assures readers, was “born on the fringes of society”.

This is just too much. It is one thing to see Wendy Bacon misrepresenting a theology she once thought worthy only of a blasphemous, look-at-me parody, but quite another when the chief executive of a religious charity can’t grasp the real meaning of that night in a stable long ago.

Fact is, Mary and Joseph were victims of Big Government – and you can take that as the gospel truth, courtesy of the Gospels themselves. Why did they leave their home in Nazareth? Because the Emperor Augustus ordered all Roman subjects to return to their ancestral homes for a census, thus wasting the couple’s time, money and sandal leather to extract information that might have been just as easily obtained if they had been allowed to remain in their own home.

Why were there no rooms available? Because, after issuing the order to hit the road and be counted, Augustus made no provision to accommodate the overnight population surge.

But surely Mary and Joseph were homeless outcasts, right?

Well, they were away from home but certainly not homeless. Joseph was a carpenter, according to the New Testament, and therefore a skilled artisan – about as likely to be mistaken for a homeless man as the next tradie you see scooting by in a ute.

How Jesus might feel about these misrepresentations is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for sure: those who paint Him as an outcast should give thanks that the Jehovah of the Old Testament, forever afflicting wrongdoers with plagues and torments, was replaced in Jesus’ teachings with the God of love.

Otherwise we could expect an annual blitz of lightning bolts raining down every year at this time.

27 thoughts on “Bending scripture for political aims…

  1. It’s not the commercialisation of his birthday that would bother him so much as the slanders on the good name of his earthly family.

    To say that Mary and Joseph may have been homeless, or refugees is in no way a slander on their good name. This says a lot about the attitude and pre-conceptions of the author – “down-on-their luck bums”. Even if someone is down on their luck, it is not slanderous to say so. The author seems to think that to call someone a refugee or in need is shameful.

    As mentioned before, the family were soon to become refugees as they sought refuge in Egypt when Herod called on the Massacre of the Innocents. During that time they were certainly homeless, so the point is moot.

    But then the author does some political bending of his own – “Fact is, Mary and Joseph were victims of Big Government – and you can take that as the gospel truth, courtesy of the Gospels themselves.” . That’s a huge stretch to make the Gospel fit his own political hobby-horse, and to map the social and economic conditions of the Roman empire on to our present societies. Suffice to say that a census is important for the administration of any government, and collection of data was much more difficult than it is today.

  2. I agree with your disapproval of the ‘down on your luck bums’ quip. It sows a lack of understanding and compassion.

    It is quite likely, however, that Mary and Joseph were accommodated in Egypt amongst the large Jewish community of Alexandria, maybe even by relatives. They did not require visas, nor did they need to seek asylum. They would have used the prevailing trade routes and travelled as part of a caravan. They also had income, both from expensive gifts and from Joseph being an artisan.

    Thy later moved to Nazareth, where Joseph established his business.

    Calling them refugees because they had to be accommodated in a stable is bending truth, however. The reason for this was overcrowding on a short-term basis due to the census.

    But the mere fact of eh census tells us that they were regarded as citizens of a particular place, which makes the claim that they were refugees moot.

    As for the ‘Big Government’ spoof, I think he was using satire based on the ‘stretch’ being made by activists who politicised the situation themselves.

  3. Refugee or not, they were certainly a family in need who were told “There is no room at the Inn”.

    To accommodate a heavily-pregnant woman in a stable is morally repugnant when there were surely other options available. Perhaps the father of one of the other families in the rooms could have traded places with her. Perhaps the inn-keeper could have asked one of his children to sleep on the couch and give Mary the bed.

    I think this is the analogy that is being used here to underscore the present asylum seeker issue. The inflexibility of enforcing rules that say “we are full, you need to go somewhere else” regardless of the needs of the person requesting help, or indeed our capacity to give help is the comparison being highlighted.

  4. Well, maybe you’re right, wazza, and you’ve got a cause to pursue with your liberal left friends who are protesting about the asylum seekers not being accommodated.

    I might be wrong, but I haven’t heard of any groups on the left offering their homes and beds to asylum seekers, though, have you?

    Maybe it’s an opportunity for you to put your money where your mouth is and organise all the people who protest about human rights on this issue into a benevolent society which invites people into their homes for as along as it takes, supporting them, and feeding them, and clothing them, putting their kids through exclusive schools.

    It would be really great because most of the people who are at the vanguard of the protests live in the Green-voting leafy suburbs of inner cities, so the refugees would get a really good start in life.

    Who knows, it might encourage their relatives in the lands from whence they hailed to join them, and the leafy suburbs of major cities could be repopulated by refugees.

    Go for it, wazza.

  5. Ahh… I love a good straw-man

    Unfortunately that isnt even a good straw-man.

    As you know there is mandatory detention for asylum seekers, but there are a lot of people who give time and money to help them. There are a lot of organisations who advocate for them and help them settle into the community. My daughter has visited the local detention centre and tutored the kids.

    Here is an organisation you could start with if you wanted to help :

  6. wazza,
    My daughter has visited the local detention centre and tutored the kids.

    That’s tremendous. You must be very proud. Well done. Really, I mean it.

    We were able to assist many refugees for many years from different places to settle in Darwin and Adelaide through our church programs, and had a member who is deeply involved in Government programs to help get them set up. Many are still members of the church and thriving in the community. There are many genuine refugees, most of whom enter through the correct channels, with visas and checks in place, which can take a long time.

    I don’t think the issue is as simple as it is made out to be. It is very complex. And sad in many ways.

    Using emotive stories out of context is not helpful, though, especially when those who use them don’t actually believe them.

    As you know there is mandatory detention for asylum seekers

    Well, my understanding is that mandatory detention is only for people who arrive illegally by boat who have to be processed offshore because they do not have visas, passports or necessary paperwork and checks to enter the country.

    I understand that the UN convention permits asylum seekers to travel without papers and seek asylum, but since they are mostly coming from Indonesia, which is not a war-torn country, where there are no citizens who are seeking asylum, nor would have any reason to, I would say that the matter is not as straightforward as the left makes out.

    Those who fly in already have the necessary paperwork, visas, checks and are welcomed into the country, having access to all the benefits refugees receive. And there is large intake of refugees and asylum seekers received every year.

  7. It is quite likely, however, that Mary and Joseph were accommodated in Egypt amongst the large Jewish community of Alexandria, maybe even by relatives.

    It’s funny how we add to scripture to support our political bias.

  8. Yes, the title of the post is quite apt.

    First we had the enormous bend and stretch to make the scripture fit the anti-“Big Government” agenda.

    Then the tacking on of bits and pieces to make sure that Joe and Mary never were anything like those nasty illegal arrivals. No, they must have been legal. Even though the government was trying to kill their baby they did the right thing and applied for the correct visas, waited in line, and didn’t impose on any other society – they went and stayed with the rellies.

    What a model they are for today’s asylum seekers. Totally self-sufficient and never reliant upon charity. Joseph probably paid for accomodation in the stable out of his own earnings, he probably donated the gifts from the kings to the local young liberals.

    The original point of using the Christmas story was to elicit compassion by comparing the plight of the asylum-seeker families to that of the holy family (who we identify with). But obviously it dosen’t work because people just put up irrational defences to keep the asylum seekers as that scary “other”


    The asylum seekers are mostly not Indonesian citizens, they are from other countries and are using Indonesia as a transit port. Whether Indonesia is a war-torn country or not is irrelevant, because they dont have the right to work or stay in Indonesia either.

  9. They were refugees because of their flight into Egypt, not because they couldn’t get a room at the Bethlehem Country Comfort! You don’t even understand the arguments, do you Steve?

  10. Ah, here we go. So you don’t like the refashioning of a Biblical account to suit a political view.

    Good. Then the lesson is learned and the point is made.

    The only difference is that if it is reconstructed according to a line you do not agree with you become indignant, but of it supports your political aims you are either silent about it or build on it.

    We can all adjust Biblical accounts to fit our agenda, can’t we? It’s called eisegesis.

    And, Greg, I do understand the arguments. Unfortunately, they have taken advantage of a Biblical story at a time of year when people are persuaded to contribute to causes more easily.

    By the way, I didn’t write the article, I just posted it.

    I will make this observation, though. The refugee/asylum seeker issue has shifted to such an extent that most people, when you bring up refugee or asylum seeker, associate it with people who arrive on a boat and not those who arrive by plane. That is a story in itself.

  11. We can all adjust Biblical accounts to fit our agenda, can’t we? It’s called eisegesis.

    But you are the only one who has adjusted the Biblical account. And then you say that you have taught us a lesson.

    All I said was that Mary and Joseph were refugees. This is a non-controversial statement based on the Biblical text – the Pope agrees with me,-prays-for-the-Synod-29915.html

    It is an adjustment (and therefore eisegesis) to try to make out that they werent refugees, just for the sake of a political position in the 21st century.

  12. Huh?

    The riposte in the article was to a Professor Wendy Bacon, who responded to church sign which said, ‘there’s plenty of room at the inn’. In her response, Prof Wendy ‘tweeted a message of support for the illegal arrivals she prefers to call asylum seekers’.

    So the article, which I did not write, is referencing the journey to Bethlehem, not to Egypt. Mary and Joseph were clearly not refugees when they arrived in Bethlehem, were they? They were citizens.

    They were there for the census which was called by Caesar. They had no choice.

    Maybe running the entire Roman Empire and wanting its citizens present and correct for a census was not the act of big government, but it certainly wasn’t a small enterprise.

    I don’t know who brought up the Egypt part. It wasn’t the article, nor was it Prof Wendy.

  13. Well since we’re splitting hairs…

    Prof Wendy didn’t say they were refugees either. She re-tweeted a photo of a sign which said “Welcome refugees there’s plenty of room at the Inn”

    Thats it. No comment, just a re-tweet of a photo of a sign outside a church

    How is this adding to scripture? No-one is saying Mary and Joseph were refugees at that time, just as they are not saying they were in a boat or that they were trying to get to Australia.

    If anything the reference is to the refugees being in need just as Mary and Joseph were in need at that time.

    I mentioned that Joseph and Mary become refugees a few weeks later when Herod started the Massacre of the Innocents. You tried to argue against this by dreaming up details that aren’t there in scripture.

    So who has manipulated the scripture to fit a particular political view?

    Let’s see if we can finish a thread without you having the last word.

  14. One thing the government won;t allow in any of its offshore detention centres or on Christmas Island…chaplains, don’t want any one telling people whats really going on in them do we?

  15. With wazza’s permission, I’ll just add a comment, but someone else will have to respond in case it’s the last word!

    There was no census….

    Luke 2
    2:1 ¶ And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.
    2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.
    3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
    4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,
    5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.
    6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.

    excerpted from God, Reason, and the Evangelicals
    (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1987), pp. 145-49
    Copyright held by N. F. Gier

    Much has been said about Luke’s excellence as an historian. Luke did indeed emulate the models of historical narrative which were current in his day. But to claim that Luke is a consummate historian by modern standards–as many evangelicals do–is a position which cannot be maintained. In a letter to me, F. F. Bruce concedes that conservative apologists have been too eager to declare Luke’s inerrancy. So eager was W. M. Ramsey to prove Luke correct about the enrollment in Bethlehem that he, according to Bruce, “unwisely damaged his well-founded reputation as a very considerable scholar.” In his Anchor Bible commentary Catholic scholar J. A. Fitzmyer lists other historical mistakes in Luke’s writing and offers the most definitive argument against Ramsey’s claims about the famous Christmas census.

    There is no record of Caesar Augustus’ decree that “all the world should be enrolled” (Lk. 2:1). The Romans kept extremely detailed records of such events. Not only is Luke’s census not in these records, it goes against all that we know of Roman economic history. Roman documents show that taxation was done by the various governors at the provincial level. As we shall see later, the property tax was collected on site by travelling assessors, thus making unnecessary Joseph’s journey away from what little property he must have owned. Gleason Archer quotes a census expert who claims, without documentation, that “every five years the Romans enumerated citizens and their property to determine their liabilities. This practice was extended to include the entire Roman Empire in 5 B.C.E.”1 This goes against the fourteen-year cycle which Archer himself uses to argue that Quirinius was pulled from his busy duties in Asia Minor to do a Syrian census in 7 B.C.E., fourteen years earlier than the one recorded in Josephus and Acts 5:37.

    Imagine a system of taxation based on people returning to their ancestral homes, going back a thousand years in the case of Joseph. By this time the Jews were spread out all over the known world. Can we seriously believe that the Romans would have required them to come back to Palestine, carrying everything they owned? How would the tax officials have assessed their land? In The Rise of Christianity the former Bishop E. W. Barnes remarks: “The Romans were a practical race, skilled in the art of government. It is incredible that they should have taken a census according to such a fantastic system. If any such census had been taken, the dislocation to which it would have led would have been world-wide. Roman historians would not have failed to record it.”7

    In his famous book entitled Jesus, Charles Guignebert states: “It is all outside the plane of reality….It is incredible that such an unusual and disturbing proceeding, as the census spoken of by Luke must necessarily have been, should have escaped all notice in Josephus….” Guignebert continues:

    “We will not unduly stress the peculiarity of the mode of census taking implied in our text, but it is to be noted that it is a very strange proceeding. The moving about of men and families which this reckless decree must have caused throughout the whole of the Empire is almost beyond imagination, and one cannot help wondering what advantage there could be for the Roman state in this return, for a single day, of so many scattered individuals, not to the places of their birth, but to the original homes of their ancestors. For it is to be remembered that those of royal descent were not the only ones affected by this fantastic ordinance, and many a poor man must have been hard put to it to discover the cradle of his race. The suspicion, or rather, the conviction, is borne in upon us at first sight that the editor of Luke has simply been looking for some means of bringing Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, in order to have Jesus born there. A hagiographer of his type never bothers much about common sense in inventing the circumstances he requires”8

    Mary and Joseph would have had some company me thinks. Such as all their rellies in Alexandria, hey Steve. 😉

  17. Yes, well we knew that was coming, didn’t we. I thought about not bothering with the obvious, but Bones set the lair and I decided to spring it and step back.

    One day into the year and Bones has to do what he can to rip away another portion of our beloved scriptures with one of his liberal sources. This time it’s N F Gier, who writes against evangelical reason.

    No matter what anyone puts up on this site which is good and hopeful and an encouragement to faith, men like Bones are ready to cut it down with his liberalism and doubt. He even thinks doubt is a greater friend to him than faith, so he removes as much as he can which is faith building and finds some source of discouragement and arguments against faith.

    Will you also, now, put up Gier’s third chapter form the book, titled ‘The Myth of God Incarnate’, which occludes:

    The arguments of this chapter have attempted to show that there are decided advantages to a religion without a literal divine incarnation. First, one avoids the basic logical problems involved in the concept of a man-God. Why should one add unnecessary logical problems to a world-view which atheists already find burdened with logical difficulties? In other words, the cause of theism is enhanced significantly without the myth of God incarnate. Second, one preserves the seminal discovery of the ancient Hebrews: that God is God and that creatures are creatures; and that one should not mix the nature and attributes of one with the other. Third, one avoids the mythologizing that is inevitable when one wants to speak seriously of a literal God-made-flesh.

    The ancient Hebrews were correct: Philo of Alexandria said that “neither is God in human form, nor is the human body God-like”;(30) and Yahweh himself allegedly declared “I am God and not man” (Hos. 11:9). With regard to the Incarnation the evangelical rationalists would like to have more logic and less mystery, but I believe that conservative Christians generally ought to be content with less reason, weaker beliefs, and more faith. My real sympathies, however, lie with the Christian progressives, primarily the authors of The Myth of God Incarnate, who partially justify their actions with a little history lesson: in the 17th Century the church survived when it was forced to give up a three-story, geocentric universe; with the rise of textual criticism Christianity has not only survived but benefited enormously; and most Christians, even some conservative evangelicals, have also managed to come to terms with modern evolutionary theory. With these major historical adjustments in mind, the Christian liberals see no reason why Christianity cannot give up the myth of God incarnate.

    Gier, is like his now prodigy Bones, a faith thief. God help the liberal sects of the Church (if liberal theology is not an oxymoron) if it listens to men like these.

  18. How amazing! I meant to write ‘concludes’ at the end of the fourth paragraph above, but somehow spellcheck sent up ‘occludes’, a word I did not know.

    It means, ‘to stop, close up, or obstruct (an opening, orifice, or passage)’.

    How apt the word is.

  19. I’m sorry were you presenting an argument for the census?

    “a faith thief” – what’s that?

    Maybe Steve’s faith thief.

    Btw Gier is right about the three storey universe. Do you still believe that?

    I also liked his chapter on INSPIRATION AND INERRANCY

  20. Mary and Joseph would have had some company me thinks. Such as all their rellies in Alexandria, hey Steve.

    I don’t know where Steve pulled that verse from, but I suggest it would require a proctologist with a strong flash-light to find out.

  21. OK so historical possibilities are only acceptable when the support your theories. Surely I was making that point and you confirmed it. You’ll accept a liberal view, even by an atheist who dresses as a nun in an obscenity trial, but if an evangelical proposes an idea it is to be poo-pooed, even if some commentaries consider it a strong likelihood.

    Since there was known to be a large Jewish community at Alexandria when Mary and Joseph travelled to Egypt, it is not a huge stretch to surmise that they may have joined them during the time they were there.

    Adam Clark
    Many Jews had settled in Egypt; not
    only those who had fled thither in the time of Jeremiah, see Jer.
    48; but many others who had settled there also, on account of the
    temple which Onias IV. had built at Heliopolis. Those who could
    speak the Greek tongue enjoyed many advantages in that country:
    besides, they had the Greek version of the Septuagint, which had
    been translated nearly 300 years before this time. Egypt was now
    a Roman province, and the rage of Herod could not pursue the holy
    family to this place.

    They were moving within the Roman Empire. They are not defying authorities to travel from Israel to Egypt. They were on the main trade routes. Scripture only tells us they fled to Egypt. It doesn’t say whether they endured hardship or comfort. I suspect both, but it is speculation on either count.

    My proposal is as valid as any you can put up. Probably more so.

    Or are you saying that the God who warned Joseph and Mary to flee from Herod was unable to provide for them on their journey and sojourn?

  22. OK, so it’s wickipedia, but there is an element of confirmation to it…

    Further waves of Jewish immigrants settled in Egypt during the Ptolemaic era, especially around Alexandria. Thus, their history in this period centers almost completely on Alexandria, though daughter communities rose up in places like the present Kafr ed-Dawar, and Jews served in the administration as custodians of the river.[8] As early as the 3rd century BCE, one can speak of a widespread diaspora of Jews in many Egyptian towns and cities. In Josephus’s history, it is claimed that, after the first Ptolemy took Judea, he led some 120,000 Jewish captives to Egypt from the areas of Judea, Jerusalem, Samaria, and Mount Gerizim. With them, many other Jews, attracted by the fertile soil and Ptolemy’s liberality, emigrated there of their own accord. An inscription recording a Jewish dedication of a synagogue to Ptolemy and Berenice was discovered in the 19th century near Alexandria.[9] Josephus also claims that, soon after, these 120,000 captives were freed of their bondage by Philadelphus.[10]
    The history of the Alexandrian Jews dates from the foundation of the city by Alexander the Great, 332 BCE, at which they were present. They were numerous from the very outset, forming a notable portion of the city’s population under Alexander’s successors. The Ptolemies assigned them a separate section, two of the five districts of the city, to enable them to keep their laws pure of indigenous cultic influences. The Alexandrian Jews enjoyed a greater degree of political independence than elsewhere. While the Jews elsewhere throughout the later Roman Empire formed private societies for religious purposes, or else became a corporation of foreigners like the Egyptian and Phoenician merchants in the large commercial centers, those of Alexandria constituted an independent political community, side by side with that of the indigenous population.
    For the Roman period there is evidence that at Oxyrynchus (modern Behneseh), on the east side of the Nile, there was a Jewish community of some importance. It even had a Jews’ street. Many of the Jews there must have become Christians, though they retained their Biblical names (e.g., “David” and “Elisabeth,” occurring in a litigation concerning an inheritance). There is even found a certain Jacob, son of Achilles (c. 300 CE), as beadle of an Egyptian temple.
    The Jewish community of Alexandria was virtually wiped out by Trajan’s army during the Jewish revolt of 115–117 CE, which destroyed pagan temples.

  23. Me thinks the atheist in the Nun outfit had a better understanding of the scriptures than the Evangelical who was trying to read his politics into scripture.

  24. Myths surrounding Jesus’ birth,

    Matthew claims that the birth of Jesus occurred during the reign of Herod the Great of Judea, a puppet king of the Romans, whom we know died in 4 B.C. Luke also tells us that Jesus’ birth happened during Herod’s reign. Luke even adds what appears to be detailed and historical evidence of the period. He writes that Jesus was born during a census or registration of the populace ordered by emperor Augustus at the time that Quirinius (Cyrenius) was Roman governor of Syria (Luke 2:1-3). In reality, this has to be a fabrication because Quirinius was not governor of Syria and Judea during Herod’s kingship. Direct Roman rule over the province of Judea, where Bethlehem was located, was not established until 6 A.D. In other words, ten years separated the rule of Quirinius from Herod.

    If the census did take place, it was in the year 6 CE, long after Herod’s death. Therefore, Matthew’s stories of the Wise Men’s visit to Herod and the Christchild, and Herod’s massacre of the innocents which caused the holy family to flee to Egypt, are all historically impossible. Moreover, it should be noted that Luke also got his facts wrong about the census of Augustus. Such an imperial census would only apply to Roman citizens of the empire, not to Joseph, a Galilean who was not under direct Roman rule.

    As for the hometown of Jesus’ parents, neither gospel can agree where it was. Matthew has them residing in Bethlehem in Judea, while Luke says they lived in Nazareth in Galilee. Incredibly, Luke has Joseph take his wife Mary, in the last stages of her pregnancy, on an arduous four day journey by foot to Bethlehem because of the census. This assumes that the “census” (i.e. a registration which was to assist in levying a poll or a property tax) was conducted in a most peculiar way. According to Luke, illiterate peasants had to somehow trace their tribal and family heritage back to their ancestral birthplace, and then to report there for registration. The confusion and mass movement of population this would entail was, in fact, contrary to the sensible Roman practice of registering men (women had no political or property rights) for the head tax at their current dwelling place or the chief town of the local taxation district.

    It was important, however, for the authors of both these gospels, that Jesus be born in Bethlehem because it was the city of David from where, it was prophesied, Israel’s ruler would come (Micah 5:2). Even so, John’s gospel, contrary to Matthew and Luke, relates the common knowledge that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem, and that he was not a descendant of David (John 7:41-42).

  25. You’re circumnavigating, Bones. Full circle back to your zen, zoroastrian, atheist sources.

    You can have them. They mean nothing. They’re like damp firecrackers in a flooded basement. All show and no fizz.

  26. “Is it because I is evangelical?”

    No, its because your arguments are crap and motivated by reading a political situation of the 21st century back into a first century narrative. Exactly what you accuse liberals of doing, but havent done in this case.

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