Census of Quirinius

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The Census of Quirinius was a census of Judaea taken by Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, Roman governor of Syria, upon the imposition of direct Roman rule in 6 CE.[1]

The census[edit]

In 6 CE Publius Sulpicius Quirinius (51 BCE-21 CE), a distinguished soldier and former Consul, was appointed Imperial Legate (governor) of the province of Roman Syria. In the same year Judea was declared a Roman province, and Quirinius was tasked to carry out a census of the new territory for tax purposes. The census sparked a rebellion, and while the majority of Judeans were eventually persuaded by the High Priest to participate, those who still resisted formed the nucleus of the Zealot movement.[2][3]

The new territory was one of the three portions into which the kingdom of Herod the Great was divided on his death in 4 BCE. His son Archelaus was given Judea but complaints of misrule prompted his removal and Judea and Samaria, the core of Herod's former kingdom, were now administered directly by Rome under the general supervision of the governor of Syria. Galilee and other areas remained autonomous.[4]

Luke's Gospel and the date of the birth of Jesus[edit]

Mary and Joseph register for the census before Governor Quirinius. Byzantine mosaic c. 1315.

The Gospel of Luke dates the birth of Jesus by the reign of Herod (73 BCE-4BCE) - "In the days of King Herod of Judea..." (Luke 1:5) and by the census of Quirinius:

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. (Luke 2:1–7)

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Gruen 1996, p. 157.
  2. ^ Freeman 2009, p. 4.
  3. ^ Blomberg 1995, p. 12.
  4. ^ Gruen 1996, p. 156-157.