VICTIMS OF ROMAN OPPRESSION AND TAXATION
Each year around Christmas time, we hear a lot of talk of Joseph and Mary, the first family of the Bible, being either homeless or refugees. The purveyors of this social justice misinformation assume that Christians do not read the Bible and thus, know the Gospel Truth! How can anyone read the following and come to the conclusion that (the then-baby) Jesus and His earthly parents were homeless and/or refugees is sophistry.
The underlying basis of this untruth is the inability of Joseph, the caretaker guardian parent of the yet-unborn Jesus Christ to find lodging in Bethlehem for his very pregnant wife, Mary and himself.
In fact, if anything, Joseph, Mary and Jesus and all who were forced to travel many miles for a census for taxation purposes, were victims of an unaccountable occupying government!
Secular history has borne out the following facts:
- Quirinius, the Roman Consul and decorated soldier WAS the overseer of Syria when the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus called for a census. He later became the governor there. The secular historian Josephus and Roman official documents confirmed this.
- The Census unfortunately caused hardship to a lot of poorer people who had to find their way back to the towns of their birth to be counted in the census. Publius Sulpicius Quirinius (c. 51 BC – AD 21) was the assessor of property....or the chief Tax Commissioner for the Romans in Syria and Judea! This taxation was so heavy that it created the zealot movement, of which Judas Iscariot was a part. Censuses were forbidden for the Jews and many Christians will recall what happened when King David disobeyed God. David called for a census in his older days, after God had forgiven him of adultery and murder. This census resulted in thousands killed for David's mistake. Jews remembered that census well, even though it was almost 900 years after the fact!
- The Census was taken that all the known Roman world should be taxed (Luke 2:1 KJV).This tax was area wide across the entire conquered Roman Empire as they needed funds to continue the expansion of their military conquests. The great Jewish historian Josephus, who was friends with the Apostle James wrote the following, from his history of the Jewish people (commissioned by Rome. Josephus wrote: "So Archelaus's country was laid to the province of Syria; and Cyrenius, one that had been consul, was sent by Caesar to take account of people's effects in Syria. Cyrenius came himself into Judea, which was now added to the province of Syria, to take an account of their substance." - Josephus - Antiquities of the Jews - Book 18
- Bethlehem is 7-8 miles south of Jerusalem (still is). Travel for the Census had to have been done in good weather, most likely in late September. Joseph and Mary brought the baby Jesus back to the Temple in Jerusalem to be circumcised eight days after he was born and their part in the census was over. Josephus wrote that over 6000 pharisees refused to obey the Census rules to return to their birth town, and were heavily fined.
Will the facts get in the way of the continued misuse of this temporarily transient couple’s plight for political purposes? Not really. As for the rest of the story, as the great raconteur Paul Harvey used to say, it would appear that after Jesus fulfilled the Torah command on the 8th day in Jerusalem. Then, after that the couple returned to Bethlehem for almost two years. This is where the Persian Magi found them, following the Star of Bethlehem. Here is also where Herod committed the atrocity of having all baby boys age 2 and under murdered to prevent one of them from becoming King of Jerusalem.
God, the Father, was way ahead of the evil Herod. God had Joseph and Mary flee to Egypt to avoid this horrible genocide. Jesus returned with Joseph and His earthly mother Mary, to live as a carpenter in Nazareth, until He began His ministry at age 30. The rest of His Story….as well as history is written in the Scriptures. The Scriptures, confirmed increasingly by archaeological finds and the Faith of billions over 2000 years, reveal that Jesus the Christ, is indeed the Savior of the world. The Holy Spirit testifies to this solid fact, in the hearts of all true believers.