Posted on December 23rd, 2008
Sometimes living 10 miles from church really stinks. It would be nice to skateboard over there and check out Just’s Luke commentary, see what Fr. Brown has to say, and look at the CPH lectionary book. I think that the Luke 2 gospel for Christmas Eve gives Luke 2.2 as saying something like, “This registration took place before Quirinius was governor of Syria.” At least, I think I remember seeing that when I was proofreading the bulletin. [Update: It turns out I was wrong. I just know I saw it somewhere, though.] However, the version of ESV in my Accordance program has, “This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria,” with a footnote for reading it the way I’ve rendered it the first time, above. The NKJ has, “This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.” The big problem is that Quirinius isn’t governor of Syria, according to Josephus, until A.D. 6. The Anchor Bible Dictionary essentially says that Luke is wrong, and there’s no way to reconcile it with history. That answer is not entirely satisfactory for me.
Another nice thing would be to check out a Greek grammar. Maybe some seminary student can explain this to me. In the Greek, the adjective prote comes immediately after apographe; wouldn’t that mean that it’s the “first registration”? I would like to translate this passage, “This first registration happened [when] Quirinius was governing Syria.”
I’m no expert in this, but if Luke wanted to say that the registration happened before Quirinius was governor, wouldn’t he have used a different word than prote? And another thing: Could it be that prote here refers to what follows, so that it would read, “This registration happened the first [time] Quirinius was governing Syria.” That would square with what I found here. It also fits with with the Tiburtine Inscription found in 1746 (see here under “Nineteenth Century”), which mentions a Roman ruler who ruled in Syria two times.
In order to believe in Biblical inerrancy, it seems to me that Jesus has to be born nearly a year before the reign of Herod the Great ends (4 B.C., to square it with Mt. 2), but also at a time when Quirinius had some sort of rule in Syria.
So, these are my yet-unanswered questions:
- Did CPH/COW change the ESV text of Luke 2.2? [Update: No]
- If so, who authorized that, and on what grounds? [Update: Now I wish they had!]
- What is the best translation?
- Is it possible to harmonize Luke with the historical data that we have?
- Is it possible to harmonize Luke with Matthew?
I really want the last two answers to be “Yes,” but I’m not sure how to get there. It’s 10:30 at night, and I just took a bunch of drugs for this blasted cold, otherwise I’d drive over to church and try to track this down right now. It’s really bugging me, when I should be writing a sermon.