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Luke 2:1

1 About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire.

Luke 2:1 Meaning and Commentary

Luke 2:1

And it came to pass in those days
When John the Baptist was born, and Christ was conceived, and his mother pregnant with him, and the time of his birth drew on. The Ethiopic version reads, "in that day"; as if it was the same day in which John was circumcised, and Zacharias delivered the above song of praise: that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus; second emperor of Rome; the name Caesar was common to all the emperors, as Pharaoh to the Egyptians, and afterwards Ptolemy. His name Augustus, was not his original surname, but Thurinus; and was given him, after he became Caesar, to express his grandeur, majesty, and reverence; and that by the advice of Munatius Plancus, when others would have had him called Romulus, as if he was the founder of the city of Rome {z}: by him a decree was made and published,

that all the world should be taxed;
or "registered", or "enrolled"; for this was not levying a tax, or imposing tribute upon them, but a taking an account of the names of persons, and of their estates; and which might be, in order to lay a tax upon them, as afterwards was: for the payment of a tax, there was no need of the appearance of women and children; and so the Arabic version renders it, "that the names the whole habitable world might be described, or written down": such an enrolment had been determined on by Augustus, when at Tarracon in Spain, twenty seven years before; but he was diverted from it by some disturbances in the empire, so that it was deferred to this time, in which there was a remarkable interposition of divine providence; for had this enrolment been made then, in all likelihood it had not been done now, and Joseph and Mary would not have had occasion to have come to Bethlehem: but so it must be; and thus were things ordered by an infinite, and all wise providence to effect it: nor did this enrolment reach to all the parts of the known world, but only to the Roman empire; which, because it was so very large as it was, and in the boasting language of the Romans was so called, as, Ptolemy Evergetes


F1 calls his kingdom, (kosmov) , "the world". Though some think only the land of Judea is meant, which is called the earth, in ( Luke 21:26 ) and "all the world", in ( Acts 11:28 ) but the other sense seems more agreeable; and so the Syriac version renders it, "that all the people of his empire might be enrolled": and the Persic version, "that they should enrol all the subjects of his kingdom"; and is justified by the use of the phrase for the Roman empire, in several passages of Scripture, ( Romans 1:8 ) ( 10:18 ) ( Revelation 3:10 ) ( 13:3 ) . Now at the time of this enrolment, and under this august emperor, and when the whole world was in a profound peace, was the Messiah born, the King of kings, and the only potentate; the Shiloh, the peaceable and prosperous, the Prince of Peace, and Lord of life and glory; and that, in order to redeem men from that worse subjection and bondage they were in to sin, Satan, the law, and death, than they were to the Roman emperor. The Jews say F2, the son of David shall not come, until the kingdom (of Edom, or Rome, as some copies read, in others it is erased) shall be extended over all Israel, nine months, according to ( Micah 5:3 ) . The gloss on it is, that is, "all the world", in which the Israelites are scattered.

F26 Suetonius in Vita Octav August. sect. 7.
F1 Apud Fabricii Biblioth Gr. Tom. 2. p. 608.
F2 T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 98. 2.

Luke 2:1 In-Context

1 About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire.
2 This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3 Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for.
4 So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David's town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there.
5 He went with Mary, his fiancŽe, who was pregnant.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved.