When I was in college, a history professor told the class that the Bible is filled with historical errors? Was he right?
Let’s take a look at one of their favorite targets.
Many secular historians insist that the census reported in Luke 2:1-2 did not take place. What is their evidence?
Some have charged Luke with committing an error on the basis of the fact that history records that Publius Sulpicius Quirinius was governor of Syria beginning in A.D. 6—several years after the birth of Christ.
So, did Luke screw this up?
One New Testament scholar wrote, “Luke demonstrated his awareness of a separate provincial census during Quirinius’ governorship beginning in A.D. 6 (Acts 5:37). In view of this familiarity, he surely would not have confused this census with one taken ten or more years earlier. Hence Luke claimed that a prior census was, indeed, taken at the command of Caesar Augustus sometime prior to 4 B.C. He flagged this earlier census by using the expression prote egeneto (“first took place”)—which assumes a later one (cf. Nicoll, n.d., 1:471). To question the authenticity of this claim, simply because no explicit reference has yet been found, is unwarranted and prejudicial. No one questions the historicity of the second census taken by Quirinius about A.D. 6/7, despite the fact that the sole authority for it is a single inscription found in Venice. Sir William Ramsay, world-renowned and widely acclaimed authority on such matters, wrote over one hundred years ago: “[W]hen we consider how purely accidental is the evidence for the second census, the want of evidence for the first seems to constitute no argument against the trustworthiness of Luke’s statement” (1897, p. 386).
In addition, historical sources indicate that Quirinius was favored by Augustus, and was in active service of the emperor in the vicinity of Syria previous to and during the time period that Jesus was born. It is reasonable to conclude that Quirinius could have been appointed by Caesar to instigate a census-enrollment during that time frame, and his competent execution of such could have earned for him a repeat appointment for the A.D. 6/7 census (see Archer, 1982, p. 366). Notice also that Luke did not use the term legatus—the normal title for a Roman governor. He used the participial form of hegemon that was used for a Propraetor (senatorial governor), or Procurator (like Pontius Pilate), or Quaestor (imperial commissioner) [McGarvey and Pendleton, n.d., p. 28]. After providing a thorough summary of the historical and archaeological data pertaining to this question, Finnegan concluded: “Thus the situation presupposed in Luke 2:3 seems entirely plausible” (1959, 2:261).”
Skeptics allege other errors but their arguments are all from silence. In other words, if a second source does not cite the event, they dismiss the Biblical account as untrustworthy because the authors of Scripture were “ideologically driven” but do you see a problem with such an objection? They assume other sources aren’t! This is completely arbitrary.
So, the next time someone says, “the Bible is full of errors,” use the Columbo method to pin them down and graciously show them that an argument from silence is just not a strong argument.