The Decree of Caesar Augustus
The Bible records, “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered” (Luke 2:1). Bible critics used to argue that no secular historian of the time mentioned the decree of Caesar Augustus of Luke 2:1. And they attacked the Bible as not presenting valid information.
But recent papyri and inscriptions have been found which present credible support for Luke’s account on every essential fact stated in verses 1–3. From Caesar Augustus’ official records (Res Gestae Divi Augusti i. 8) we learn, that he made at least three general decrees of the Roman Empire during his rule, in 28 B.C., 8 B.C., and A.D. 14.
And it is not strange that none of the three decrees for Caesar Augustus matches exactly with the one to which Luke refers. This is simply because of the difficult political conditions in Palestine and the hostile Jewish opposition to the Roman taxation which caused a delay in doing the royal decree in this part of the empire. In fact, there were similar censuses and surveys in other areas of the empire that were also not implemented at the times stated above, one of those is the census in Gaul at 12 B.C.
It should be noted that the apostle Luke is regarded as a dependable and reliable historian even by those who do not accept him as an inspired writer. It’s worthy to add that neither pagan nor Jewish critics, like Celsus and Porphyry, ever challenged Luke’s correctness on this point.
Any accountable and historical author will not subject himself to criticism by misrepresenting well-known contemporary facts and thus bring shame to his work. And Luke stated how careful he was in gathering his information: “it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account… that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” (Luke 1:3,4).
In His service,