Each year during Christmas, millions of believers in churches all around the world read of the birth of Jesus from the gospel account recorded in Luke chapter two. And each year the man who governed in Syria at the time of the Lord’s coming is also mentioned. His name is Quirinius, or if you have a King James Version, Cyrenius.
      History records much of the man who was lucky enough to be associated with the birth of our Savior. The earliest historical account we have of Quirinius comes from an inscription found in Pisidian Antioch known as Res Gestae  - 'The Deeds of Augustus Caesar by Augustus'. The inscription places him as consul in 12 B.C. This position was attained by only two prominent Romans every year and they governed as the Roman heads of state. The inscription reads as follows:
      "A great crowd of people came together from all over Italy to my election, more then had ever gathered before in Rome, when Publius Sulpicius (Quirinius) and Gaius Valgius were consuls."   (Res Gestae  10)
      Quirinius was by no means a small figure in Roman politics or in his association with Augustus, Tiberius and Caius Caesar. So respected was Quirinius to the Caesar's that upon his death in 22 A.D. Tiberius honored him before the entire Senate. The following is his tribute as recorded by the Roman historian Tacitus:
      Around this time, he (Tiberius Caesar) requested that the Senate pay tribute to the death of Sulpicius Quirinus with a public funeral. . . . A tireless soldier, who had by his faithful services become consul during the reign of Augustus, and later was honored for his victory concerning his assault on the fortresses of the Homonadenses in Cilicia (The province of Cilcia is located just northwest of neighboring Syria.)
       "Later he was appointed to be an adviser to Caius Caesar in the government of Armenia (Caius was the son of Augustus and was sent administer Syria as an Imperial Legate around 1 B.C., He was then wounded in nearby Armenia in 3 A.D. and later died the following year.) as well as being an advisor to Tiberius, when he was at Rhodes (the Island just off the coast of Asia somewhere between 6 B.C. and 2 A.D.) The Roman emperor spoke of these things before the entire Senate, and praised Quirinus for his excellent service, while he criticized Marcus Lollius, whom he blamed for teaching Caius Caesar the traits of being disobedient and divisive. But most of the citizens were not fond of the memory of Quirinus, because of his involvement in the events surrounding Lepida, whose account I have previously mentioned, as well as the harsh and dangerous power he held during his last years in office.” Tacitus Annals- Book Two  
       This account of Tacitus proves that Quirinius was governing militarily in the area of Syria well before becoming the civilian governor of Syria and taking a second census of Judea in 6 A.D. as recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus.
      Another inscription, which surfaced in the late 1600's, known as the Aemilius Secundus inscription also mentions Quirinius governing in Syria as well as ordering a census. The inscription reads as follows:
      “Quintus Aemilius Secundus, from Palatine, with honors he was decorated in the camp of Divine Augustus under Publius Sulpicius Quirinius legate of Caesar in Syria, prefect of the first Augustan cohort, prefect of the navy’s second cohort. Commanded by Quirinius to conduct a census of the district of Apamea’s 117,000 citizens; He was also sent by Quirinius to capture the fortresses of the Itureans in the mountains of Lebanon.  (Inscriptines Latinae Selectae #2683)
      This inscription shows that the authority of Quirinius in Syria extended to areas south of Syria as well, such as Iturea which lays just north of Galilee.
      It also states that Quirinius governed as an Imperial legate from Syria and was thereby given the authority by Rome to conduct any census to be taken in the provinces nearby.
       Two other inscriptions were found in the early 1900's in Pisidian Antioch which served as a military command center and eastern outpost for the Roman Empire. The two inscriptions read as as follows:
      “C. Caristanius C F Sergius Fronto Caesiaus Iulius, perfect of civil engineers, priest, perfect of P. Sulpicius Quirinius the Duumvir, Perfect of M. Servilius, from this man and with a public edict, a statue was erected with the blessings of the council. (Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae #9502)
Cyrenius Artifact
Stone mentioning Quirinius.
ILS 9502
The second inscription reads:
      “To C. Caristanius Fronto Caesianus Iulius, son of Gaius, from the tribe of Sergia, prefect of civil engineers, military tribune of the twelfth legion, prefect of the Bosporan cohort, priest, prefect of P. Sulpicius Quirinius, duumvir, prefect of Marcus Servilius, prefect . . .” (Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae #9503)
      Marcus Servilius, who is mentioned alongside Quirinius in these two inscriptions, was Roman consul in 3 A.D. Quirinius is also identified as a duumvir which means he was one of two people that jointly held power.  
      And even though all these evidences point to Quirinius governing in the region during the Biblical census, many skeptics continue to argue that Rome would not have taxed or conducted a census in Israel before it became a Roman province in 6 A.D.
      But Josephus records that the Jews were being taxed by the Romans with commands coming from Syria as early as 44 B.C. And the task of raising the funds fell upon the Jewish rulers in power at the time. For example Josephus records: "Cassius rode into Syria in order to take command of the army stationed there, and on the Jews he placed a tax of 700 silver talents. Antipater gave the job of collecting this tax to his sons . . ."  Jewish Antiquities XIV 271
     History also records that just before the birth of our Lord, Judea was being taxed highly under Herod the Great, who was appointed King of Judea by Caesar Augustus, and Herod was subservient to him. After he died, Josephus records the following:
     "Archelaus grieved over the death of his father for several days and then . . . from his throne of gold, he gave a speech to the crowd . . . pleased by his words, the people immediately began to test his sincerity by requesting certain favors from him. Some pleaded for their yearly taxes to be reduced . . . while others asked that he would only take away the excessive sales taxes that were being levied on goods being brought or sold." Jewish Antiquities XVII 200
       He also recorded that the common people hated Herod for taxing them so much. He states: "The amount of people, to whom he lavished his money, were very numerous. And because of this, he was forced to collect it through unjust means. Because he was aware that his subjects hated him for these crimes he committed against them, he did not think it would make any difference to treat them kindly, for it might harm his revenue; he therefore, knowing that his subjects feared him because of his harshness, continued on in pursuit of financial gain.” Antiquities XVI 150-170
      To get an idea of how much he taxed the people, when he died he left ten million pieces of silver to Augustus Caesar and five million to Caesar’s wife Julia and others. (Jewish Antiquities XVII 190)
      We also know that Augustus Caesar ordered a Census in 8 B.C., this would have taken a good two to three years to implement and complete in all the provinces under direct and indirect control of Rome. The following is an account given by Augustus of the census:
      ". . . during my sixth term as consul (28 B.C.), I along with my comrade Marcus Agrippa, commanded a census be taken of the people. I directed a lustrum, the first in forty-one years, in which 4,063,000 Roman citizens were counted. And once again, with imperial authority, I single handedly authorized a lustrum when the consuls of Rome were Gaius Censorinus and Gaius Asinius (8 B.C.), during which time 4,233,000 Roman citizens were counted." (Res Gestae 8 - The Deeds of Augustus by Augustus)
      This census in 8 B.C. seems to have occurred to early in history to be considered the Biblical census in which Joseph and Mary were registered. The early church historians Tertullian, Origen, and Eusibius all held that Christ was born in 2 B.C. and that Herod died the following year in 1 B.C.
       The earliest manuscripts of “Jewish Antiquities” by Josephus also mention that Herod’s son Phillip  died in the 22nd year of Tiberius, which would be 36 A.D. and that he ruled for 37 years. Thus giving a date of 1 B.C. for his appointment as Tetrarch right after the death of his father Herod the Great.
      The Biblical census was probably implemented by Herod to coincide with Rome’s decree that everyone throughout the Empire should give honor to Augustus Caesar. This took place in 2 B.C. when Augustus was given the title “Father of my country” by the Roman Senate and was honored throughout all the empire.
       This is recorded in the annals of Caesar who wrote the following: "while I was administering my thirteenth consulship (2 B.C.) the Senate and the equestrian order and the entire Roman people gave me the title “Father of my country” and decreed that this title should be inscribed upon the vestibule of my house and in the senate-house and in the Forum Augustum beneath the quadriga erected in my honor by decree of the senate.” (Res Gestae, VI.35)
      The Roman historian Suetonius in his work Life of Augustus, 58, also mentions that the title “Father of thy country” was given to Augustus. In 59-60 it states: “Many of the provinces, in addition to temples and altars, established games every five years in his honor in almost every one of their towns.”
       These events in 2 B.C. may have led Herod to place Rome’s symbol, a large golden eagle, on the main gate of the Temple to honor Caesar right before Herod’s death which probably occurred early in 1 B.C. This, and the oath required by all Israel to honor Caesar, is recorded by Josephus in his book “Antiquities of the Jews” Book 17, Chapters 2 and 6:
      “The sect of the Pharisees, who constantly opposed kings with great zeal . . . after the majority of the Jews gave assurance of their good will toward Caesar, as well as to the king’s government, these Pharisees, numbering over six thousand, did not swear the oath . . . They were believed to have had foreknowledge of things to come by Divine inspiration, for they had foretold that Herod’s government would come to an end . . . Later two leaders who were educated in the law and beloved by the people, Judas and Matthias, incited a mob of young men to tear down the large golden eagle which king Herod had placed over the great gate of the Temple. This violated Jewish law which prohibits an idol of any living thing from being put up in the temple.
       These men were arrested and Herod ordered the leaders to be burned alive . . . After this Herod’s illness worsened and he began to suffer greatly.”    
      Josephus also mentions that shortly after Herod’s death a dispute broke out as to who should take over the rule of Herod’s territories. One of the people Caesar asked for an opinion on this issue was from his adopted son Caius, who was being groomed to be the next Caesar. Shortly afterwards Caius was appointed legate in Syria. So if Herod died in 1 B.C. it would correspond with Caius being installed as legate to Syria shortly afterwards.
       Since the Bible says Quirinius was governing in Syria at the time of the census, right before Herod’s death, it would make sense that Augustus would have chosen him to be the advisor to his son Caius who was being sent to that region.
      All these events fit nicely together with what is recorded in the Gospel of Luke. The historian Luke, giving the most accurate account of the census and the one that atheists and infidels refuse to believe, states: "I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good to me to write an orderly account for you . . . 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 governing in Syria.  
      You see, Caesar, whom the Romans held as being Divine, though he was only a mere mortal man, took a census to count all the people in his empire. And also to find out and document which ones were citizens of his kingdom and which ones were not.
      And one day, the One who is not a mere mortal, but truly God, will hold His own registration. And each man and woman will appear before Him face to face. And He will open up the Book of Life to see if you are entitled to be called a citizen of his kingdom. A simple record of what you have done with the message of salvation? That message that the Lamb of God shed his blood on a cross, to die in your place. Do you believe?
Are you registered in the Lamb's book of Life?
      He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him, He came to his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who do receive, to all who do believe in his name, he gave the right to be called Children of God. John 1:10-12 (NKJV)
      For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame; who set their mind on earthly things.  For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.  Philippians 3:18-21 (NKJV)
New Testament Proof
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Photo Links to Artifacts Mentioned in this Article
Aemilius Secundus tombstone
Quirinius artifact
Quirinius Inscription
ILS 9502
Partial Artifact mentioning Quirinius
ILS 2683
Res Gestae - “The Deeds of Augustus”
Res Gestae 10: Account of Quirinius as consul in 12 B.C.
Res Gestae 8: Augustus held three census to count Roman citizens in 28 B.C., 14 B.C. and 8 B.C.
Res Gestae, 6.35  It is important to note that in these census accounts they were not  counting non Romans as citizens, such as those in Judea. So these dates in all likelihood had nothing to do with the Biblical census.
In 2 B.C. Caesar wrote that "while I was administering my thirteenth consulship the Senate and the equestrian order and the entire Roman people gave me the title Father of my country and decreed that this title should be inscribed upon the vestibule of my house and in the senate-house and in the Forum Augustum beneath the quadriga erected in my honour by decree of the senate.”
Suetonius, Life of Augustus, 58, also mentions this title “Father of thy country” given to Augustus. In 59-60 it states: “Many of the provinces, in addition to temples and altars, established quinquennial games (games every five years) in his honour in almost every one of their towns. His friends and allies among the kings each in his own realm founded a city called Caesarea. This event in 2 B.C. may have led  Herod to place a large Roman Golden Eagle on a gate of the Temple in Jerusalem to honor Caesar right before his death which probably occured early in 1 B.C. This is recorded by Josephus in Antiquities Book 17 Chapter 6. It also goes hand in hand with Josephus stating that his allies, one being Phillip,  who renamed the city of Panias to Caesarea Phillipi shortly after Herod Death.  (Note: Herod the Great earlier built another Caesarea, Caesarea  Maritime, which would later become the Roman governing center of Judea.
Tacitus Annals:
Book 1 Chapter 3: Account of Gaius wounded in Armenia.
Records the tribute of Tiberius Caesar to Quirinius before the Senate in 22 A.D.
Book 2 Chapter 4: Account of Gaius Caesar appointment to Armenia.
Book 3 Chapter 48: Records the tribute of Tiberius Caesar to Quirinius before the Senate in 22 A.D. Mentions Quirinius as advisor to Caius Caesar as well as a messenger of Rome to Tiberius who was exiled at Rhodes. Earlier was consul under Augustus and garnered fame by capturing the Homonadensian strongholds beyond the Cilician frontier earning the insignia of triumph. Also mentioned as being an active servant and intrepid soldier.
Lives of the Twelve Caesars - Tiberius XLIX - by Suetonius mentions Quirinius held the title of consul.
Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae (ILS-2683) by Herman Dessau-
Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL3-6687)
Aemillius Secundus Inscription mentioning Quirinius as legate of Syria and ordering a census. English translation based on translation from ‘Documents Illustrating the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius collected by V. Ehrenberg & A.H.M. Jones p.73
Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae (ILS9502 & 9503)
L’Annee Epigrahique (AE1913, 0235 and AE1914, 0260)
Both inscriptions mention Quirinius.
Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae (ILS918) & Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL14-03613) - although no specific man is mentioned in the inscription, the early translators attributed the deeds to be that of Quirinius.
Jewish Antiquities by Josephus :
Book 14: 271-176 Cassius taxes Judea from Syria.
Book 15: 267: Herod introduced pagan games into Judea very early during his reign. He built a theater in Jerusalem. So since Caesar later held games in 2 B.C. along with being named “Father of his country” by the Roman senate. This is probably the date at which Herod placed a Roman Eagle on the Temple gate.
Book 16: 150-170 Herod’s taxing of the people.
Book 17 Chapter 2:  Account of pharisees refusing to take an oath of good will to Caesar and to that of Herod’s government which  was required of all Israel.
Book 17:146 Herod placed a large golden eagle on the Temple gate and Herod’s death.
Book 17:188-193 Herod’s payment to Caesar of 10 million.
Book 17:200 - The speech of Archelaus after Herod’s death and the peoples cry for their taxes to be reduced.
Book 17 Chapter 9 also mentions that when a dispute over who should rule over the deceased King Herod’s territories. One of the people he sought an opinion from was his adopted son Caius Caesar who would became legate in Syria in 1 B.C. or 1 A.D.  If Herod died in 1 B.C. it would correspond with Caius being installed as legate to that region.
Book 17 Chapter 13: Cyrenius sent by Caesar to confiscate Archelaus property and to take account of the peoples belongings in Syria.
Book 18 Chapter 1:  Quirinius came into Syria with a few others to administer that nation, Cyrenius also came into Judea to take account of their substance as well of to dispose of the estate of Archelaus. Archelaus (Matthew 2:22) ruled for 10 years according to Josephus in Antiquities Book 17, So if Herod died in 1 B.C. this would be 9 A.D. for the date of the death of Archelaus.  
Book 18 Chapter 2: The Jewish revolt against the taxation by Quirinius. Also Quirinius appoints Annas as High Priest at the end of this taxation. Coponius, who was sent along with Cyrenius, who was exercising the office of procurator of Judea at this time.
Bible: Luke 3:1 States John the Baptist began his ministry in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar (28 A.D.). Luke 3:23 states that at this time Jesus began his ministry when he was about thirty, If He was 30 this would place the date of his birth in 2 B.C. and would mean that Herod would have died in the spring of 1 B.C. right before Passover according to Josephus. But one must be cautious because the Bible uses the phrase “about thirty” which could mean that he could have been anywhere between his late twenties and early thirties.  
Article: “When was Jesus Born” December 2006 Article, Author: David Hocking
Evidence for Jesus born in 2 B.C.
Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Anti-Nicene Fathers Volume 1
Book III.xxi.3   Robers and Donaldson - Eerdmans 1885
Irenaeus states: “Our Lord was born about the 41rst year of the reign of Augustus”
Since Augustus was first given Imperium powers by the Roman Senate as well as becoming a Consul in 43 B.C., this would place the census at 2 B.C.  
Tertullian , An Answer to the Jews, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume III.
Part I, vii, 8  mentions that Augustus began to reign 41 years before the birth of Christ. And 28 years after the death of Cleopatra who died in 30 B.C. therefore also giving a date of 2 B.C. for the census.
Josephus Re-Examined: Unraveling the Twenty-Second Year of Tiberius, in Chronos, Kairos, Christos II, Author: David W. Beyer, edited by E. Jerry Vardaman, Macon: Mercer University Press, 1998, ISBN 0-86554-582-0 pg. 85  Argument for 1 B.C. date of Herod’s Death as well as 2 B.C. date for Christ’s birth  as held by the church historians Tertullian, Origen and Eusibius as well inferred by Josephus. According to his research most Josephus manuscripts dated prior to 1544 A.D. In Jewish Antiquities Book 18 Section 106, have Phillip (Herod’s son) dying in the 22nd  year of Tiberius, which would be 35/36 A.D. and he ruled for 37 years. Thus giving a date of 1 B.C. or 2 B.C. as for when he was appointed Tetrarch right after Herod’s death.
The Star that Astonished the world, Author Ernest L. Martin. Chapter 8 makes the case for a Lunar Eclipse account recorded in Josephus Antiquities Book 17 Chapter  6 that occurred some time before Herod’s death as most likely the total lunar  Eclipse that occurred in mid January of 1 B.C. allowing time for the events of Herod’s illness, death and funeral before the Passover that year.        
DVD: The Star of Bethlehem - Rick Larson states the earliest copies of Josephus before 1544 A.D. infer a date of 1 B.C. for the date of Herod’s death.
Artwork: Pen and Ink Reproduction of Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae #9502 mentioning Quirinius based upon G.L. Cheesman photo from his book “The Family of Caristanii at Antioch Pisidia.”  Illustrator: John Argubright - Copyright © 2000
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