Christian Theology and Apologetics

Jesus, the Reasonable, Reason for the Season

Christmas is almost upon us this year and no other holiday during the year is the spiritual battle more apparent. Courts are ejecting nativity scenes from their lawns due to the pressure of an ever-escalating Post-Christian America. It is at this time of year that “Freethinker” groups attack anything and everything Christmas. They posit that God does not exist and attempt to convince others of their version of “truth” as well. Many unsophisticated Christians have fallen for their tactics, which are amateurish at best.

This Christmas, lets push back; let them know that there is more than sufficient evidence supporting what the New Testament tells us of our Savior—that he was born of a virgin and died for our sins. If this story is true—it is the greatest ever told—but, if it isn’t, then Jesus was a lunatic.

The biblical data starts with a decree being issued in the days of Caesar Augustus; “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria (Luke 2:1-2).” In this passage a peculiar thing is mentioned; this decree was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

At one time it was completely conceded that Luke was wrong in this regard, that Quirinius was a governor at the time of the decree from Augustus; however, more recent discoveries has shed light on this, that Luke was accurate in what he stated. The problem arose out of a lack of information regarding the first reign of Quirinius; at the time scholars only knew of him being governor after the death of Herod because all they had was the information recorded by Josephus, now this is not the case.

Josh McDowell states the following:

Archaeological discoveries . . . show that the Romans had a regular enrollment of taxpayers and also held censuses every fourteen years. This procedure was indeed begun under Augustus and the first took place in either 23–22 b.c. or in 9–8 b.c. The latter would be the one to which Luke refers.[1]

An inscription found in Antioch (ILS 9502,) states that Quirinius was ascribed the post of Antioch in 7 B.C. This clears up what was thought to be a discrepancy regarding what Luke recorded. The implication is that Luke knew what he was talking about; this was not a simple-minded person, he was a historian that knew the facts of his time.

The next piece of data concerns the registration that was required after the decree from Augustus. “And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David.” Romans didn’t normally require people to return to their ancestral dwelling places in order to register; this detail in Luke 2:3-4 only makes since if this was done under Herod, who still kept Jewish methods while he was king. Thus, it confirms, albeit by circumstantial evidence, that Luke is telling the truth.

The next piece of evidence to be looked at is regarding the relationship between Mary and Joseph.

This is what Luke says regarding the registration:

“In order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:5-7).”

The first aspect to focus on is that Luke states Mary was engaged (ἐμνηστευμένῃ, emnēsteuō). There were three stages to a Hebrew marriage: (1) Legal, (2) Engagement, and (3) Wedding Feast/Supper. This means Mary and Joseph were not fully married yet when they had to register. This fits what is called the criterion of embarrassment. This is to say, it would have been embarrassing for first-century Jews or Gentiles for that matter to create this story. If one were to create a story, they should have at least made it believable, but here Luke tells that Mary, who is pregnant with the Messiah is traveling to register his birth, and worse than that, Joseph has to register this child that is not even his. Not only would this have been embarrassing, it could have been dangerous if others wished to accuse them of adultery. Thus, Luke records the story, not because it is easily believed, but because it is true.

Everyone knows the rest of the story; Jesus is born, lives a righteous life, and dies for our sins on the cross. Further investigation into the rest will have to be for another time, but one can be assured that faith in Christ is not only well placed; it is most reasonable. So enjoy your Christmas with friends and family knowing full well that Jesus is the Messiah that he died for your sins and one day He is coming again. He is the reasonable, reason for the season!

[1] Josh McDowell, Evidence for Christianity (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), 94.


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