Quirinius of Syria (Lk 2:2-2:2)

“This was the first registration.

It was taken

When Quirinius was

Governor of Syria.”

 

αὕτη ἀπογραφὴ πρώτη ἐγένετο ἡγεμονεύοντος τῆς Συρίας Κυρηνίου.

 

Luke noted that this first registration was taken (αὕτη ἀπογραφὴ πρώτη ἐγένετο) when Quirinius was governing Syria (ἡγεμονεύοντος τῆς Συρίας Κυρηνίου).  Quirinius was the legate of Syria from 6 CE-12 CE.  He was born 51 BCE and died at the age of 72 in 21 CE.  He did take a census or registration for tax purposes in 6 CE when he took over.  This led to the revolt of Judas the Galilean and the formation of the Jewish Zealots, who opposed Roman rule.  They opposed this census for the purposes of taxation by Quirinius, the Governor of Syria.  The one problem is that this census took place 10 years after Herod had died.  However, the birth of Jesus and John was placed during the reign of Herod.  Thus, there is a problem with this dating by Luke, who may have been confused about these historical details.

 

The gathering with Pilate (Mt 27:62-27:62)

“The next day,

That is,

After the day of Preparation,

The chief priests

And the Pharisees

Gathered before Pilate.”

 

Τῇ δὲ ἐπαύριον, ἥτις ἐστὶν μετὰ τὴν Παρασκευήν, συνήχθησαν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι πρὸς Πειλᾶτον

 

This is unique to Matthew, who said that the next day or the tomorrow (Τῇ δὲ ἐπαύριον), after the day of Preparation (ἥτις ἐστὶν μετὰ τὴν Παρασκευήν), the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate (συνήχθησαν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι πρὸς Πειλᾶτον).  Now we have the problem of dating the crucifixion.  What does the following day mean?  This tomorrow was the day after the day of Preparation.  Was it the day of preparation for the Sabbath or the day of preparation for Passover?  Perhaps Passover fell on the Sabbath.  Anyway, the chief priests were joined by the Pharisees, but not the elders or presbyters of Jerusalem as in all the other preceding meetings.  Why did the Pharisees suddenly show up here?  There were no elders, scribes, or Sadducees at this meeting before Pilate, the governor of Judea.

The Christocentric Calendar

Dennis the Short (470-544 CE) or Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian monk who worked in Rome, came up with the idea of dating everything from the birth of Christ, instead of the Roman counsels who had held office.  In 525 CE, he developed his Christocentric calendar, but he was off by a few years in his calculations, since Jesus may have lived from 6 BCE-26 CE.  His dating system was known as Anno Domini, the year of Our Lord.  This AD system did not become popular until the Carolingian Reform of the 9th ninth century and the promulgation of the Gregorian calendar in the 16th century.  Since then, all world events have centered on the birth of Christ.  At the 2000 millennium year celebrations even non-Christian countries such as China and India celebrated the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ.  In the twentieth century, Jewish and Christian scholars adopted the term CE, or Common Era, showing a neutral stance towards Christ.  Now practically every country dates things from the birth of Christ, whether they consider themselves Christian or not.  2018 CE means 2018 years since the birth of Christ, the Common Era.  The time before Christ is called BC, before the Common Era, BCE.

The two-source theory

Dating an ancient document is never an exact science.  However, today general scholarship about the New Testament books holds that the short Gospel of Mark was the oldest Gospel.  The first letter of Paul to the Thessalonians was the oldest document, from around the year 50 CE.  Mark, with a hypothetical other source (Q=Quelle) that is now lost, became the source for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  The Gospel of John was generally considered to be the last of the gospels, around 90 -100 CE.

Yahweh speaks to Joel (Joel 1:1-1:1)

“The word of Yahweh

Came to Joel,

The son of Pethuel.”

Like most prophets, the word of God came to Joel. The problem of dating when Joel was active as a prophet is difficult. Joel does not have a unique name, since it was a quite common name. He probably lived in Judah during the post-exilic Persian rule. He may have been a Temple prophet in the Second Temple times. Thus, putting him between 400-350 BCE does not seem out of place. His father was Pethuel, but this is the only time that his name appears in the biblical literature.

The time and place of Ezekiel’s first vision (Ezek 1:1-1:3)

“In the thirtieth year,

In the fourth month,

On the fifth day

Of the month,

As I was among the exiles

By the river Chebar,

The heavens

Were opened.

I saw visions

Of God.

This was the fifth day

Of the month

Of the fifth year

Of the exile

Of King Jehoiachin.

The word of Yahweh

Came to

The priest Ezekiel,

The son of Buzi,

In the land

Of the Chaldeans

By the river Chebar.

The hand

Of Yahweh

Was on me there.”

The dating is very precise here. This is the 30th year, probably from his birth around 623 BCE during the reign of King Josiah. Ezekiel writes in the first person singular. He said that he was among the exiles at the Chebar River, a small canal near Erech that ran into the Euphrates River in northern Babylon. On the 5th day of the 4th month the heavens opened to provide visions of God to him.  Once again, there is precise information about the date, as this was the 5th year of the exile of King Jehoiachin that had occurred in 598 BCE. Thus this year would have been 593 BCE. Ezekiel’s father was Buzi, a Jerusalem priest, so that he was from a family of priests. The word of Yahweh came to Ezekiel in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar. Yahweh put his hand on him. Thus the opening scene is set with this 30 year old exiled Jerusalem priest by a river bank with the rest of the exiles, when a heavenly vision appeared to him.

Baruch writes the book of Jeremiah (Jer 45:1-45:3)

“The word

That the prophet Jeremiah

Spoke to Baruch,

The son of Neriah,

When he wrote

These words

In a scroll,

At the dictation

Of Jeremiah,

In the fourth year

Of King Jehoiakim

The son of King Josiah

Of Judah.

Thus says Yahweh!

The God of Israel!

To you!

O Baruch!

You said.

‘Woe is me!

Yahweh has added sorrow

To my pain.

I am weary

With my groaning.

I find no rest.’”

This is a very brief chapter that almost seems like it should have been after chapter 36, where Baruch was writing the scroll dictated by Jeremiah. In fact, the dating of this section puts it back during the 4th year of King Jehoiakim (609-598 BCE) around 605 BCE, at least 20 years prior to the passages just concluded. These words of Yahweh, via Jeremiah, are addressed to Baruch himself, the secretary scribe of Jeremiah. Baruch had said that Yahweh was adding to his sorrow and pain. He was getting weary because he had no rest. Like the preceding chapter, this small chapter has a different numbered chapter in the Greek translation of the Septuagint, chapter 51, not chapter 45 as here.