As many of you know, my time has been stretched thin as of late, but what time I had, I’ve been discussing the Roman Census as discussed in the Gospel of Luke, which I’ve posted about previously here and here. So, in a different conversation, on Citizen Tom’s blog on a post about Romans 13 submission to authority, rebellion, free will, and God’s cosmology, I was approached by a non-theist blogger whom I’ve had a couple of prior discussions about posting his post on why Christianity fails.
I thought being both a promoter of free thought, a seeker of truth, and confident that the truth leads to Jesus Christ, I’d allow the link to remain on my about section. The information on that post is expansive, to say the least; however, as I discussed with the author, it’s not possible to navigate through a shotgun approach in a theist and non-theist dialogue, so I’d have to pick one topic and naturally my discussion pulled toward Luke’s Census:
Professor Taboo, abbreviated to TAB
Hello again Philip.
I wanted to leave this invite for you and hope you will allow it and kindly keep it posted. Some bloggers won’t/haven’t for reasons known and unknown. I also hope for the sake of civil, informative, alternate (much more comprehensive) history that incorporates all extant sources of the 1st – 4th century CE Levant and Fertile Crescent — more critically the Hellenistic Roman Empire — including Independent or Non-Christian sources that reveal an entirely DIFFERENT narrative of “Christianity” or Christology, instead of just Judeo-Christian or Hellenist-Christian sourced tunnel-vison. Also included are Secular viewpoints about Theism/Monism, and a plethora of philosophical, ontological, etymological, agnotological, and epistemological arguments against Theism/Monism. I scrutinize and examine Christianity’s binary-forms of supernatural Revelation: General and Special.
Where can this equitable, expansive work be found? A long, long Page on my blog under “My Library” called Why Christianity Will Always Fail. I warmly invite anyone, absolutely anyone to go read it (a few times!) in its entirety, including the many many support-links embedded for further, expanded, more secular-humanist knowledge and/or less common ignorance.
Nonetheless, I respected your etiquette and viewpoint. Perhpas you’ll have adequate time to look over it. Thank you Philip.
Philip Augustine abbreviated to AUG:
I briefly took a look, the material is expansive, so I would imagine and would tell anyone to look at any objection to Christianity on a case by case basis. I’m sure Professor Taboo will admit these objections have counter points, as I’ve recognize a several of the assertions.
The one thing, I’ll note that I saw confirmation bias was mentioned, perhaps, we’re all for the most part stuck in our positions on these matters.
But It’s good to hear from you again, my friend. I hope you are doing well.
Thank you for taking a quick look Philip. It is indeed “expansive,” as it should be covering some 1.5 plus millenia or 13-centuries of history in that part of the ancient world. There is no escaping it if one genuinely desires to be equitable about the subject. But I knew it would be way too much for most — call it laziness, call it the path of least resistance, or just following the crowd until it no longer benefits the individual or community. These affects are quite human indeed. They are also responsible for human’s shortening forethought/foresight and what makes the annoying frustrating cliché “History always repeats itself” so very unnecessarily true. (sigh)
Yes, there are familiar refutes (they still stand?) and there are newer ones too that I KNOW most all faith-followers and apologists alike are not familiar with. And I am aware that most all world religions, especially the (arrogant?) Abrahamic religions, have an answer for everything imaginable whether true, truthy, faithy, or false. And will in the future too! There’s ALWAYS an escape plan and secret hatch. Hahahaha. This I know — I use to be one of them. (wink)
Confirmation bias is also interrelated to Mob-Herd Mentality and the Placebo-effect as well. That should be kept in mind. Over the last 60,000 to 100,000 years or more humans have been EXTREMELY gullible. Today, it manifests its embarrassing head in other forms.
Thanks again Philip. I am well. I hope you are too Sir!
I’d like to take a more extensive look, it will have to over some time and as I said case by case. Do I agree that there’s arrogance within the Abrahamic religions? Of course, it’s a fairly common trait amongst humans. Now, I wouldn’t necessarily articulate that idea of an escape plan, it’s natural for challenges to be met with a response. However, as you mention epistemology, I’m influenced by the Catholic intellect John Henry Newman in this regard from his work titled “An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent.” The basis of the entire work is that most of what we come to know in our entirety is based on leaps of faith.
Now, I do compare that with a bit of Hume’s rejection of Descarte’s idea that man is entirely rational in their decision. For example, I have no issue with your views and you posting them here to the degree that I believe ultimately humanity as a whole decides based more on emotion rather than logic. Of course, these thoughts necessitate a reflection on why I have my faith in God. The philosophy of Thomas Aquinas’ cosmology naturally appeal to my sensibilities; furthermore, Thomas articulates that discussions on the matter of theology between theist and non-theist must come to an understanding of theism itself. If there is no agreement then there is little else to be discussed about Jesus Christ, Trinity, and other Christian truth claims.
Once there is this element established, one can discuss the truth claims of Christianity. For example, you posit many similarities that I would assert are false equivalence: eg. The “resurrection” of Horus narrative isn’t really a resurrection. Now, I’ve discussed with some other blogging non-theist the historical truths of the old testament but Christianity’s central truth is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So long as one feels confident on this point, the historical points are moot to their hears and perhaps due to their emotion assent to the truth.
You state: Paul had an entirely different vision of salvation and resurrection greatly diverging from his abandoned Jewish heritage and that of the Jerusalem Church’s theology. It was also more suitable and attractive to Gentile Romans and how they understood gods.”
Have you by chance heard of NT Wright’s new book on Paul? NT Wright makes the argument that Paul had no conversion in the traditional sense on the road of Damascus in the traditional sense but rather had to assent to the Messianic Jesus as a fulfillment of the Old Covenant. Wright argues that Paul message is one that can only be fulfilled in the story of the people of Israel.
You also state: “If Jesus of Nazareth had arrived (his 1st coming) in the 18th, 19th or 20th century when precision recording of major world events were eons more advanced than 1st century CE witnessing, reporting and recording, would the facts and details of his extraordinary incomparable acts, teaching, miracles, crucifixion, and resurrection been more convincing, more believable than 40-80 years after the events?”
Now, honestly, and my degree is in history, so studying the textual account of Acts and that it does not end with the death of Paul around 64 A.D. I am of the opinion that the Gospel of Luke and Act are written before this period. I believe that either Mark or Matthew, I’m still debating priority within myself, is written at the latest in 50 A.D. It’s true most secular scholars use the later dates because of the destruction of the temple but even if one doesn’t believe in prophecy or the Gospels, I would ask, “Would have taken a genius to figure out that eventually, the Romans were going to destroy the temple?”
In other posts on this blog, I’ve asserted that synoptic gospels do, in fact, assert Christ’s divinity. In the Christmas posts, I discuss the census for property found in Egypt in the Roman Empire that requires those to travel.
The problem with reading and responding is that I simply do not have enough time. Professor Taboo post appears well researched but I am not under the impression that I’ll change his mind, as I have assented that he’s come to his conclusion based on Hume’s emotional response.
Indeed, “time” is a furocious predator sometimes with an insatiable appetite, eh? LOL None of us can ever know or study all possible relevant and plausibly relevant (in investigation) factors on a person/event so very long ago. It takes, at least in MY case years, many years. Then couple that with too many moral and familial daily obligations often make the task impossible to be an expert in multiple fields. This constraint applies to all, theists, secularists, Christians, and non-Christians alike. I’ve blogged about Agnotology and how pervious it truly is regarding Knowledge.
Specifically, you address ONE contention on my page…
I discuss the census for property found in Egypt in the Roman Empire that requires those to travel.
Would you please share with me that source? I’m very curious to read it and study it closely. And it would be fantastic if there were MORE around the Roman Empire that copy it. Thank you Philip.
Luke’s Census post on Communio provided: Please see above link.
Assuming this census becomes valid and agreed upon by ancient/antiquity scholars, did a Kata Oikian census extend anywhere beyond Egypt? Has there been any corroborating papyrus (like a papyrus Lond. 904, 20f.) to at least HINT that this was possibly done in other remote Roman provinces? Because otherwise this sort of census is highly irregular (to say the least) in Roman governing of the time. Thanks Philip.
Commented about searching for available sources omitted
Do you have access to Journal Research databases? As Alumni, I still can use my schools access to such journal sites. So, I did a bit of research at my university’s database page and came across this article on Roman Census Papyri: entitled:
New light on Roman census papyri through semi-automated record linkage by:
Saskia Hina, Dalia A. Condeb,c, and Adam Lenartc,d
aFamily and Population Studies Group (FaPOS), Department of Sociology, KU Leuven; bDepartment of Biology, University of Southern Denmark; cMax-Planck Odense Center on the Biodemography of Aging, University of Southern Denmark; dDepartment of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Biodemography, Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark
2016, VOL. 49, NO. 1, 50–65
In the article:
“Many details regarding the execution of these censuses remain obscure, including whether and to what extent temporal variation in the aims of these censuses affected recording procedures and the nature of transmitted cen- sus figures”
“For the Imperial period, the dry conditions in the Egyptian desert have preserved a number of census dec- larations that pertain to the first to third centuries CE and have been unearthed at various locations during archaeological excavations”
Naturally, this would indicate why there are few Roman census/tax records and what records we do have exist from Egypt, which is why the Bacchias census in 119 A.D. and the one mentioned earlier discovered in Roman Census Edict 104 A.D. are rare.
The authors continue, “What is clear, how-ever, is that the earliest documents within this body of Roman Egyptian census data date back to the period of the reign of the first Roman Emperor Augustus. That there was some degree of interference by the authorities in Rome with the process of census taking in the provinces is suggested among others by the Edict of the Fasti Ostiensis. This edict was issued by Augustus; the copy through which we know it was found in current Libya, and it describes how (in Cyrene) he had counted all people he had wanted to count .”
A brief overview, but the type of Census Luke talks about, seems to have evidence that this type of census did exist. Now, I would imagine with minimalist school of thought that you seem to hold, even if historians say that Roman documents are few( and here is the key to your asking beyond Egypt) not likely to be found outside of Egypt, that unless a papyrus/document is found that dates to around Herod the Great and mentioned Bethlehem, this material will not suffice. I think it should because as scholars indicate outside of Egypt would be rare, I suppose though this is part of confirmation bias, I see this and say good enough here is evidence and another looks at it says, “not good enough.” Convenient for us both, I suppose.
However, the scholars here indicate that censuses during Emperor Augustus though are, in fact, not rare.
HAH! I see you’ve been doing some work here on the subject of Roman censuses. I appreciate that! This is good stuff. Three things I want to quickly mention seeing that I’m on a quick break at the moment — my “time” at the moment is limited until the weekend. Sorry.
(discussion on blog posts location omitted)
Though I am happy to dig into this ONE subject (or tree in a vast forest) of Roman censuses concerning Luke, we should keep in mind the many, MANY other problems and failures I address in the rest of my Page. Just a friendly reminder. 🙂
Lastly, we also should keep in mind that this discussion/debate is about the TYPE or make-up of Roman censuses — their 3-pronged purpose, why they implemented them, etc. — and whether they were done (across the entire Empire, not just Egypt or Palestine) at the man’s/father’s birth-place or at his place/town of occupation, the latter being much MUCH more reasonable, feasible, and consistent with Rome’s 3-pronged purpose of censuses. The specific DATES of these censuses are what is critical to know or understand, not necessarily whether censuses were done in outer-provinces and if so, how frequently. Though important icing-on-the-cake to also know/understand, that is secondary to whether Quirinius’ census was done in c. 4 BCE and what specific type of 3-pronged data was being collected.
Real quickly, since my time at the moment is limited, here is an excellent resource from Stanford University on the purposes of Roman censuses beginning in the Republic as opposed to the Imperial Age:
I think you’ll find #8 “Serve, pay, and vote: the aims of registration,” 8a, 8b (Fiscal aims), 8c, #9 “The practice of census taking,” and #11e “Citizens outside Italy: registration and emigration.” I think the entire journal article is worth reading closely, several times!
Regarding your last two comments, I’ll likely have to get to them over the weekend. My apologies Philip for my schedule Sir.
Discussion on blog post location omitted
I will certainly concede that your link has several objections: However, you’ve presented an entire body of work over some time and thought. You posted it here. I would think it unfair for me to respond to a shotgun approach of conversation. So, we’ve brought up this one single issue to discuss, an issue that interests me, it’s posted on your link. So, I think it fair to discuss this one particular subject.
One thing to note with looking over this particular article that you’ve provided from Princeton is that it appears to be distinct to Romans in Italy or at least the goal of the particular piece. As the article, which is dated 2016, I posted states that most data on tax census would be unknown; however, searching your article, it appears the scholars have the same issue in regards to the Italian peninsula. You could certainly argue that a date is more important in regards to a census, I would say only in the particulars of the type of government that was in place at the time. I would certainly argue that the Roman government, under an emperor, in 104 A.D. would more similar to Augustus than the early Republican governments leading up to Caesar. Again, much of this is conjecture, as there are few actual documents, as stated by the scholars in each particular article.
So, as I searched for Egypt in the particular article, I found some important information. I think, Egypt being a province it is likely that government censuses operated similarly in outlier provinces rather than in Italy. The Princeton article you cited:
“In Roman Egypt this was not the case. Whereas metropoleis had permanent offices open for census registration, declarations from small communities are dated within a brief period, suggesting instead that the censors went to the village and called everyone to appear, or perhaps went knocking on people’s doors – we can only speculate here. Bagnall and Frier (1994, 17-8).”
In fact, even the Princeton article admits that there is little known of how census’ were conducted in Italy by what documents are known to scholars at this time (p.22):
“Extrapolation from Egypt to Italy may obviously prove to be a dangerous expedition into marshy fields. The numbering and gluing together of the household declarations is suggestive of the method the censors employed to organize their administration in Roman Egypt, but does not necessarily tell us anything about Roman Italy.”
It appears that we actually know about census recording is mostly concluded from the Egyptian documents and attempted to piece together with small bits of information about the Italian peninsula.
I’ll have to take a look at the article a few times like you suggested. 11e Did appeal to some of the issues discussed with the census, but as admitted the Roman institution did have the capability, “All in all, it seems difficult to hold that Rome was a society that was simply too underdeveloped to be capable of organizing such procedures”
It’s also important to frame into what the Gospel of Luke is actually telling us about the Census, which Classical scholars indicate due to Greek language being lost in translation is probably more likely to be like what is represented in your particular article of “small” census in regional provinces over time and as illustrated in the article that I posted.
The Nativity Census: What Does Luke Actually Say?
Author(s): John Thorley
Source: Greece & Rome, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Apr., 1979), pp. 81-84
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Classical Association
Original Text of Comment omitted and Screenshot added to add Greek Text:
Blog Post location text omitted
Regarding more specifics of Roman Republic and Imperial censuses, I think we’ve gotten a bit off track here (on a tree or two despite the forest) about the prevelance of censuses — Italian peninsula or provincial isn’t of critical importance — because as I think we both know from our own quality (extensive?) study of Roman life, politics, economics, demography, etc, from the Republic Era up thru the Imperial Age, scholars know Rome conducted censuses on fairly regular cycles definitely starting in 32/33 CE up into the early 4th-century CE if my memory serves correctly. And the Quirinius census was in 6 CE after King Herod’s death, but Jesus’ approx. birth is 4 BCE. This is why Luke’s account is very problematic at best, and flat wrong/mistaken at worst.
Nevertheless, there is an even bigger problem with Luke’s account. Making Roman citizens and non-citizens in the Provinces to go long, long distances back to their ancestral homes is honestly, ludicrous for a few reasons. One is a chaotic distrubance of the Empire’s economy, out of the some 35-40 reliable census records survived NONE of them ever cover the entire Roman world just various Governors or when the Emperor asks a specific Governor to do one, another is imperfect and/or partially unknown or completely unknown geneologies of Romans and non-citizens, still another is that simply determining “tax tributes” is much easier done by the person’s current place of occupation (while still declaring properties elsewhere to the Magistrate), and because my own time is limited I’ll just quote Dr. Bart Ehrman on this problem of historicity and gospel veracity; he has some very good reasons too:
There are enormous historical problems here. […]
For one thing, there is a major problem with this “first registration” under Caesar Augustus. We have no record of any such thing (first or second), even though we have good documentation about the major events during Augustus’s reign. And this would have been a major event indeed. Luke indicates “all the world” had to register. Well, that can’t be right: he must mean “all the Roman Empire.” But even that defies belief, and not just because it is never mentioned in any historical source. (Point worth making: this is not said to be a local registration, but one for the “entire world”) Are we supposed to imagine that everyone in the Roman empire had to register in the town of their ancestors, the way Joseph did? Joseph’s ancestor David came from Bethlehem, so that’s where he registers. But wait a second. Why does he go to the town where David came from? Why not from the town that David’s great-great-great grandfather came from? Why is he stopping with David? Something odd is going on here.
It’s important to note that the text does not say that Joseph himself was originally from Bethlehem. He registers there because he is from the Davidic line, and David was born there. But how many thousands and thousands of people in Joseph’s time could in one way or another trace their line back to David? Moreover, how would anyone really know? Contrary to what is often said and thought, there simply were not reliable genealogies back then.
But there’s yet a bigger problem. David lived a thousand years earlier than Joseph. Are we to imagine that everyone in the Roman empire is returning to the home of their ancestors from a thousand years earlier to register for this census? And there’s no record of the massive migrations involved in any historical source? They just forgot to mention that part? Even more, how is it even possible? Imagine that to avoid the current fiscal cliff, the Congress works out a deal that we all need to register for a new tax, and the requirement is that we register where our ancestors from a thousand years ago came from. Where will *you* go?
There are more problems with this account. The most famous is the fact that this could not have been, contrary to what the text says, when Quirinius was the governor of Syria, if it was also “in the days of King Herod of Judea” (1:5). We know from inscriptions and the Jewish historian Josephus that Quirinius did not become governor until ten years after Herod died.
Ehrman continues this scrutiny in a following post/article:
Yesterday I discussed Matthew’s account of how it is that Jesus came to be born in Bethlehem, if in fact he “came” from Nazareth. For Matthew it is because Joseph and Mary were originally from Bethlehem. That was their home town. And the place of Jesus’ birth. Two or more years after his birth, they relocated to Nazareth in Galilee, over a hundred
miles to the north, to get away from the rulers of Judea who were thought to be out to kill the child. (That in itself, I hardly need to say, seems completely implausible, that a local king is eager to kill a peasant child out of fear that he will wrest the kingdom away from him…)
Luke has a completely different account of how it happened. In Luke, Bethlehem is decidedly not Joseph and Mary’s home town. The whole point of the story is that it is not. They are from Nazareth. But then how does Jesus come to be born somewhere else? In the most famous passage of the birth narratives, we are told that it is because of a “decree” that went out from the ruler of the Roman Empire, Caesar Augustus. “All the world” had to be “enrolled” – that is, there was a world-wide census. We are told that this was the “first enrollment” made when Quirinius was the governor of Syria.
Since Joseph is “of the house and lineage of David,” and since David (his ancestor from about 1000 years earlier) had been born in Bethlehem, Joseph had to register for the census in Bethlehem. In other words, everyone in the Roman empire is returning to the home of their ancestors (from a 1000 years earlier??? Really? “the entire world?” And everyone in the Roman empire is doing this? How are we to imagine the massive shifts of population for this census? And no other source even bothers to mention it???) (But pursue the questions further: why does Joseph have to register in the town of his ancestor [David] from 1000 years before? Why not an ancestor from 1200 years earlier? or 700 years earlier? or 100 years earlier? Does this even make sense? Why David in particular?).
In any event, since Joseph has to register in Bethlehem, and since Mary is his betrothed, they make a trip to Bethlehem. And it just so happens that this is when Mary goes into labor. So she gives birth to Jesus in Bethlehem. Since there is no room for them in the inn, they lay the child in a cattle manger, and the shepherds come to worship him.
Eight days later they have him circumcised. And then, since they are right next door anyway, 32 days after birth they go to the Temple in Jerusalem and perform the offering for Mary’s ritual cleansing “according to what is said in the Law of Moses” (referring to Leviticus 12), and then, “when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth.”
So even though Jesus was raised in Nazareth (starting when he was just under two months old), he was born in Bethlehem.
But what about the wise men from Matthew who come to find them in a house in Bethlehem, over a year later? Moreover, if Luke is right that they return to Nazareth a month after Jesus’ birth, how can Matthew be right that they fled to Egypt (they’re obviously doing this on foot, so it would, well, take a while), and that they don’t return until much later after
Herod dies. In Matthew they want to return from Egypt to their hometown Bethlehem, but can’t because of Archelaus. But here in Luke their home town isn’t Bethlehem at all, but Nazareth.
There are other irreconcilable problems with Luke’s account. How could this have been the first enrollment when Quirinius was the governor of Syria? Quirinius was not the Syrian governor when Herod was the Judean king. Not even close. Quirinius did not become the governor unto 6 CE. But Herod died in 4 BCE.
So what’s going on here? What’s going on is that both Matthew and Luke want Jesus to be born in Bethlehem even though they both know that he came from Nazareth. Both accounts are filled with implausibilities on their own score (a star leading “wise men” to the east – they wouldn’t be very wise if they thought that a star could lead them in a straight line anywhere — and stopping over a house; a census of the entire Roman world that could not have happened); and they contradict each other up and down the map.
My view is that neither story is historical, but that both have an ultimate objective to explain how Jesus could be the messiah if he was from Nazareth instead of Bethlehem. So they (or their sources) came up with stories to get him born in Bethlehem. These stories are meant to show that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Micah 5:2, and Matthew himself indicates in
clear terms, by quoting the very prophecy.
And so what conclusion can we draw? To me it seems all fairly straight forward. Jesus was not really born in Bethlehem. — from The Bart Ehrman Blog at https://ehrmanblog.org/
But again Philip, these highly plausible (truer, correct) deciphered explanations from broader historical context, compared to the errors of Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts of Jesus’ birth and Gospel authors later finagling them to Micah 5:2, are only the tip of the ice-berg as far as the rest of the New Testament’s and Old Testament’s serious problems, as I address exhaustively on my Page — which as it turns out is NOT exhaustive compared to the work of many other non-Christian secular scholars such as Ehrman and Robert Eisenman to name two. Sorry for this long, long info-comment.
Blog post location text omitted
First off, although I converse with Evangelical Christians, I’m not one. I’m Roman Catholic, I would imagine you’ve figured it out, so my views on scripture can be very different, as Evangelicals and Catholics believe different things.
An example being that I believe the Bible is a library written by different authors during a long period of time in different genres. So, for example, in your post, you mention numbers of people and things: I think numbers are not literal in some book of the Bible, especially the older books. And sometimes, I think that those numbers are used in the New Testament typologically. The number 12 symbolizes Holiness, The number 40 symbolizes a trial, I do not think the world was created in 6 days—Neither did St. Augustine as early as 4th century btw, etc. In fact, the father of the Big Bang theory is a Catholic Priest, Fr. Georges Lemaitre.
In regards to the census, you say:
“Nevertheless, there is an even bigger problem with Luke’s account. Making Roman citizens and non-citizens in the Provinces to go long, long distances back to their ancestral homes is honestly, ludicrous for a few reasons. One is a chaotic distrubance of the Empire’s economy, out of the some 35-40 reliable census records survived NONE of them ever cover the entire Roman world “
I believe I’ve addressed many of your points in my previous comment by the Roman 104 A.D. Egyptian Roman Census which illustrates folks being called back for property, by referencing the article that you provided that did claim the empire was capable of census projects, it also discusses in Egypt that people were allowed extensions.
Furthermore, as I provided, Classical Scholars, do not believe Luke is claiming a one census in the entire Roman world in the original Greek. And perhaps the census in 8 B.C. could be the one. The translation is lost when it carries over into English by the scholarly article I quoted above.
Ehrman is the definition of a dude with an ax to grind, but nonetheless, I think his comment: “even though we have good documentation about the major events during Augustus’s reign,“ is addressed by the few scholarly articles as wrong because we’d have differ on what “major events” were as Ehrman is attempting to use it as a one size fits all. All three of the scholarly articles presented, would more or less say that censuses may of took a period of time, when they came to outer provinces were rushed, gave extensions to the people there (maybe to travel?). The scholars also claim that there not much we can know from the limited census data and that what we physically have we piece together in conjecture. In my original post, I believe I address some of the reasons why Joseph would have traveled to Bethlehem that Erhman brings up.
Also, remember, I’m Catholic, so Church tradition carries as much weight as the scripture. I’d imagine that Evangelicals get caught in scriptural “got you” moments because well, I do it to them too. I mention what my faith teaches so you can have the proper tools in conversation with me:
107 The inspired books teach the truth. “Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.”72
108 Still, the Christian faith is not a “religion of the book.” Christianity is the religion of the “Word” of God, a word which is “not a written and mute word, but the Word is incarnate and living”.73 If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, “open [our] minds to understand the Scriptures.”7
110 In order to discover the sacred authors’ intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking and narrating then current. “For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression.”76
111 But since Sacred Scripture is inspired, there is another and no less important principle of correct interpretation, without which Scripture would remain a dead letter. “Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written.”
So, naturally, you may ask, is there shifting goal posts? Well, honestly, in some aspects of the Old Testament, perhaps, it depends as the Catholic Church holds to the historicism of authors and their genres. So, why do I have a keen interest in the Census?
Well, the Catechism teaches:
126 We can distinguish three stages in the formation of the Gospels:
1. The life and teaching of Jesus. The Church holds firmly that the four Gospels, “whose historicity she unhesitatingly affirms, faithfully hand on what Jesus, the Son of God, while he lived among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation, until the day when he was taken up.”99
All of the contexts of the scripture is connected to the journey towards “eternal salvation.”