In The Census of Quintilius (Chapter Twelve), DR Martin focuses upon a difficulty in the identification of Quintilius Varus as a census taker at the time of Jesus' birth:
"Luke said that Jesus was born at a census when Quirinius (KJV: Cyrenius) was a ruler in Syria. This reference has been an enigma to historians for generations because no such census of Quirinius has been found by historians which could have occurred from 7 to 1 B.C.E. Scholars have stated that Luke simply did not know what he was talking about, and that he probably got his facts mixed-up with the census of Quirinius that took place in C.E. 6/7. There is undisputed evidence that Quirinius was governor beginning in C.E. 6/7 and that he conducted a census at that time (even Luke mentioned it ― Acts 5:37). But up to now, no available information has been discovered to show that Quirinius was an administrator (and a census taker) in 3/2 B.C.E. or in previous years. This new historical research, however, can find that census of Quirinius in the historical records which took place at Jesus’ nativity. In the New Testament, Luke actually states that the “census” was an enrollment or a registration of some kind. He does not say what Quirinius’ census was for; but we now can discover the reason for his census.
"Let us recall from the last chapter that Tertullian said that Roman records supported the fact that censuses (he used the plural) were conducted in Palestine at the time of Jesus’ birth. Tertullian said they took place at the time when Saturninus was governor of Syria. Tertullian, though, said nothing about Quirinius as conducting those censuses. This early Christian scholar also identified the year with that which we now reckon as 3/2 B.C.E. If the biblical narrative given to us by Luke and that of Tertullian can be married together, how could it be that two governors (Saturninus and Quirinius) were then in Syria at the same time? This poses a problem and it has been one of long standing.
"Perhaps Josephus provides a clue to help straighten out the mystery. The historian mentioned that actually there were “governors” (plural) in Syria during the rule of Saturninus. 1 While during the earlier governorships of Titius and Quintilius Varus, Josephus spoke of a “governor” (singular), 2 but during the administration of Saturninus why does he mention the plural “governors”?
"How many governors were there at this time? Josephus mentions the names of Saturninus and Volumnius. Were these the only men to whom Josephus was referring? Or, could Quirinius be considered as well? This is the very time Luke in his Gospel places the administration of a census by Quirinius. Since it is clear that Saturninus was the regular governor, it must be held that the rule of Quirinius was of a different and special nature. Such special status could well accord with the other types of commands that Quirinius held as attested in the historical records.
"Quirinius’ war against the Homonadenses, for which Tacitus singled him out for praise, has been called a “special command.” 3 This status is also reflected in an inscription which mentions Quirinius “as holding an honorary municipal office at Antioch-by-Pisidia.” 4 And it was certainly a special command for Quirinius when he became rector of the young Gaius Caesar when Gaius acquired residential authority at Antioch over the eastern provinces in C.E. 1. 5 Gaius was probably not strictly called the governor of Syria at the time (C.E. 1 to 4) and it may well be that Quirinius was responsible for running the everyday affairs of government. Tacitus said that Quirinius was one having “considerable talents for business.” 6 This could account for his selection as being “guardian” of Gaius who was the heir to the Empire. Too, as our historical reconstruction shows, Quirinius already had experience in Syria by administering the censuses Tertullian talked about in 3/2 B.C.E. which took place during the time when Saturninus was governor. All these references indicate special commands for Quirinius throughout his entire governmental career. There are other historical records about Quirinius which show his special assignments..."
We, as Christians, should know better than to question Luke's veracity! DR Martin's research concludes in support of Luke and his claim that Jesus was born at a census:
"The simplicity and reasonableness of the explanation in this chapter is a strong point in its favor. And interestingly, this historical information harmonizes the Paphlagonian inscription with Tertullian (quoting Roman records); this agrees with Justin Martyr (quoting Roman records) and with Luke (writing to a Roman nobleman). Orosius and Moses of Khorene the Armenian historian confirm it.
"This means that the “census” of Quirinius which has eluded any positive identification by modern historians is now found in several historical sources and some of them right at the time the “census” occurred according to the chronology of the New Testament and that of secular history. In a word, the “census” of Quirinius associated with the nativity of Jesus has been found."
Martin, Ernest L. “The Star of Bethlehem: The Star that Astonished the World.” 30 DEC 2012. <http://www.askelm.com/star/star014.htm>
You can purchase the hardbound version of The Star of Bethlehem: The Star that Astonished the World, by DR Ernest L Martin at amazon.com.
You can read or listen to The Star of Bethlehem: The Star that Astonished the World at the ASK ELM website.
You can also listen to David Sielaff’s wonderful audio interview with George Ann Hughes at the Byte Show. These files bring us up to date, for David Sielaff continues the work of Ernest L Martin today. You will find the full interview at The Byte Show. Scroll way down to The Star of Bethlehem series, in fourteen parts.
Also available are all eleven parts of The Star of Bethlehem interviews Ernest L Martin did with Jeff Rense at ASK ELM.