Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Non-institutionalism (Part 1): Church Benevolence

My friend Doug Burleson has been engaged in a series of written and oral discussions with Kyle Pope about divisive issues among so-called “institutional” and “non-institutional” brethren, recently published in the October issues of Truth Magazine and Gospel Advocate.Doug, with whom I wholeheartedly agree, has done a masterful job addressing these concerns, and it is not my intention to try to “improve” upon the material he has presented. Nevertheless, these men were allowed only limited words and space, and I find it helpful to think through and express my own convictions about these matters. 

On Church Benevolence

In defense of his view of saints-only congregational benevolence, Kyle writes, “the record of Scripture is that collective church benevolence (i.e. help provided from the collection taken upon the Lord’s Day) was always given only to Christians…. There is no example of church benevolence to non-Christians—but also in the name for this collection—it is the ‘collection for the saints’ (1 Cor.16:1-2)” (GA 30).

Kyle seems to be reading the biblical text proscriptively (cf. also GA 36), thinking Paul’s allusion to “the collection for the saints” informs his readers that using church funds to help anyone other than Christians is prohibited. Contextually, however, Paul employs this descriptive phrase because the particular collection of funds he has in mind was intended for a special need involving a particular group of saints, viz. impoverished mid-1st-century Judean Christians (see also Rom. 15:25-31; 2 Cor. 8:4; 9:1, 12). When Paul later directs his readers to pray “for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18), surely he is not implicitly forbidding prayers on behalf of the unsaved. When he commends those who have “love for all the saints” (Col. 1:4; Philem. 5), it does not follow that godly love cannot be extended to anyone else.

If 1 Cor. 16:1-4 establishes the only acceptable usage of the Lord’s day collection, was the giving to stop when this particular need was met? If the weekly contributions continued, were the collected funds only to be used to help impoverished mid-1st-century Judean saints, or in principle could cooperative benevolence be extended to any needy saints, whether foreign or local, thus beyond the original intent and specific wording and application of these verses? Moreover, would usage of the funds also be limited to providing for material needs alone? When Paul goes on to invite the Corinthian church to assist him in his ongoing work (1 Cor. 16:6; 2 Cor. 1:16; cp. Rom. 15:24), where was this support to come from? If the Lord’s day collection was intended for saints-only benevolence, how could funds from the same source be used to assist Paul in ministering to unbelievers (Acts 20:22-24)? It seems there has been a dichotomy created here that is neither demanded nor supported by the biblical text.

If 1 Cor. 16:1-4 is proscriptive, what about needy families where one spouse is a Christian and the other is not (7:13-14)? Must congregational benevolent funds be withheld from destitute brethren to avoid helping non-Christian family members, or can church funds be used to assist these families inclusive of unbelievers? Is a specific example in scripture necessary to make this decision? There is no quandary here if 2 Cor. 9:12-13 is taken at face value, where brethren are commended for their liberal sharing with the saints and with “all.”Kyle suggests the “all” is “likely” a reference to saints outside of Jerusalem (GA 36), but he makes an assumption not explicit in the text. Perhaps Paul’s letter to the Galatians provides a better commentary.

The churches of Galatia received the same instructions on giving as the Corinthians (1 Cor. 16:1). As charitable provision is both personal and communal (1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 9:7-8), so too are the directives of Galatians chap. 6. Restoring the erring is an individual as well as a collective duty (Gal. 6:1; cf. 2 Thess. 3:13-15); burden-bearing is the shared responsibility of “one another” (Gal. 6:2) and oneself (Gal. 6:5); supporting gospel teachers is framed with singular terminology (Gal. 6:6), while cooperative applicability is not discounted (1 Cor. 9:11); the principle of sowing and reaping is worded in individualistic terms (Gal. 6:7-8) but is just as relevant communally (Hos. 8:7; 10:12-13; 2 Cor. 9:5-14). Doing good “to all,” beyond “those of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:9-10), cannot be restricted to an individual exercise that somehow prohibits collectivity. Six first person plurals are clustered together in these two verses, followed by the notation, “I have written to you [plural] …” (v. 11; cf. 1:2). Whether a non-Christian is helped by an individual donation or a pool of individual donations, the end result is the same and Gal. 6:9-10 is in no way compromised. 

Kyle says, “If something is authorized, but the exact mechanism to accomplish it is not specified we may consider something an expedient if it helps us accomplish the thing authorized” (GA 31). Charitable kindness “to all” is in fact biblically authorized, serving not only as a Christ-like evangelistic tool but as an expression of godly love.3

--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     1 Kyle Pope and Doug Burleson, “Distinguishing Expedients from Additions: Opening Statements, Church Benevolence, Institutions, Cooperation,” GA 161:10 (Oct. 2019): 28-40; also Truth Magazine 10:63 (Oct. 2019): 22-34.
     2 When Paul delivered the “collection for the saints,” there were multiplied thousands of believing and non-believing ethnic Jews in Jerusalem at the time (Acts 21:20). Later Paul reportedly describes the benevolent funds he delivered as “alms and offerings to my nation [éthnos]” (Acts 24:17), employing a descriptive phrase that earlier in the chapter (v. 2) and elsewhere in Luke’s writings (Luke 7:5; 23:2; Acts 10:22) is inclusive of non-Christian Jews.
     3 Doug expounds upon this last point, citing passages like Matt. 5:45; Rom. 2:4; 1 Tim. 2:4; Tit. 2:11; 3:4 (GA 32, 39).

ADDENDUM: Several years ago my wife and I were in Singapore, and the brethren wanted to take us out to eat every night of the week. The first night we were asked if we liked spicy food, to which we answered affirmatively. Each night thereafter we were taken to restaurants that only served spicy food. Apparently our positive response was interpreted proscriptively, assuming we liked only spicy food and therefore didn’t like non-spicy food. An inference was made that was not a necessary inference.

Related Posts: K. L. Moore, “The Sunday Collection,” Moore Perspective (25 March 2015), <Link>.

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Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Interpretive Ambiguities

     Despite our most diligent exegetical efforts, there are times when precision of meaning in scripture is elusive. Even the apostle Peter acknowledged that some things in Paul’s writings are “hard to understand” (2 Pet. 3:15-16),* one reason being the complexity of the subject matter. Another reason is the simple fact that Paul could readily assume his targeted audience already knew certain things that did not have to be repeated or made explicit, to which secondary readers are not privy. 

     In 1 Corinthians, for example, Paul responds to reports he has heard and questions he has been asked (1:11; 7:1; 11:18; 16:17). While the mid-first-century Christians at Corinth already knew what the issues and questions were, the best we can do is to draw inferences, with less specificity, from Paul’s responses. In other words, we only get to hear one side of the conversation! The apostle repeatedly reminded the Corinthians, either directly (12:2) or rhetorically (5:6; 6:2, 3, 9, 15, 16, 19; 9:13, 24), of what they already knew or should have known.1 We were not present to hear all that Paul and his co-workers had taught orally (4:17) or in previous correspondence (5:9), so we cannot demand, force, or expect precision of meaning that is just not in the biblical text. Even so, as modern-day interpreters we are advantaged by having access to God’s complete revelation that helps fill in some of these gaps of assumed knowledge.

Intentional Ambiguities? 

     Gordon Fee confidently asserts, “you may be absolutely certain: Paul did not intend to be ambiguous.”2 But how can Fee be so sure? Are there occasions when “purposeful semantic ambiguity”3 might have served a useful purpose? If accommodative language allows for multiple interpretive possibilities, this would force readers to think more deeply and to make application to a broader range of circumstances.

     When Paul affirms in 1 Corinthians 7:9 that it is better for a single person to marry than to “burn” (ASV, KJV, YLT), he employs the verbal πυρόω [puróō], which many interpret metaphorically as burning with “passion” or “lust” or “sexual desire” (CSB, ESV, NASB, NET, NIV, NKJV, NLT, et al.). However, by leaving it open-ended as Paul did, readers not only get the sense of intense sexual impulses but are also reminded of the spiritual ramifications if self-control is not implemented and sustained (cf. 5:5, 11; 6:9-10, 18; 7:5; 9:27; 10:6-13).

     Addressing expectations for “the married” (1 Cor. 7:10-11), by using the relatively variable term χωρίζω [chōrízō], is Paul disallowing a bilateral separation (ESV, NIV), a unilateral abandonment (NASB, NKJV), or a formal divorce (NET)? The flexibility of the term allows for all these applications without discounting any of them. The hypothetical split is described in v. 11 as “unmarried,” indicative of divorce, whereas reconciliation to her “husband” (ἀνήρ [anēr], cf. vv. 2-4, 13-16, 34, 39) assumes the marriage is not dissolved. The parallel admonition to the husband concerns ἀφίημι [aphíēmi]; he is not to “leave” or “abandon” or “send away” his wife. But if one does depart” (i.e., disregard the injunction) or if one is separated” (i.e., already in this state), there are only two scriptural options: (a) remain unattached, or (b) be reconciled. 

     In 1 Corinthians 7:36-37 Paul refers to anyone who thinks he might be acting improperly toward τὴν παρθένον αὐτοῦ [tēn parthénon autoû], lit. “his virgin” (HCSB, ISV, N/KJV). What does this mean? Suggestions include “his virgin daughter” (N/ASV), or “his betrothed” (ESV, RSV), “his fiancée” (NLT, NRSV), “the virgin he is engaged to” (NIV), or perhaps his own virginity?4 While interpreters may prefer greater specificity, the apostle’s choice of wording enables his readers to make decisions about whatever situation is most applicable.

     When Paul says the widow is free to marry whomever she wishes “only in the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:39), is he limiting her marital options exclusively to a fellow-believer, or does he mean only an eligible marriage partner in compliance with the Lord’s directives? In support of the former interpretation is the overwhelming weight of scripture references equating the phrase “in the Lord” (or its equivalent) with being a Christian,5 and Paul goes on to argue for his right to take along “a believing wife” [lit. “a sister wife”] (9:5). Nevertheless, “in the way of the Lord” cannot be discounted as a viable interpretive possibility, wherein compliance with the Lord’s instructions is enjoined (cf. vv. 10, 19; 4:6; 14:37). This connotation is supported by Paul’s affirmation earlier in the chapter that God recognizes a believer-unbeliever marriage and expects them to stay together (vv. 12-14). Note also the potential double nuance of the phrase in 4:10, 15a, 17b; 9:1; 11:11; 15:31, 58; 16:19, 24. In Eph. 6:1-2 the apostle instructs children to obey their parents “in the Lord,” then he quotes Deut. 5:16, which says in its fuller context, “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has command you …” (NKJV). Obviously there is no license here to categorically disobey non-Christian parents. The wording of 1 Cor. 7:39 could be an occasion of purposeful ambiguity, conveying a subtle emphasis on the ideal of marrying a believer without explicitly prohibiting the less-than-ideal marriage to an unbeliever.  

     The term κεφαλή [kephalē] (“head”) occurs nine times in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, alternating between its literal sense (concerning what is worn on one’s physical head) and its metaphoric sense (with reference to a position of authority). When Paul speaks of disgracing one’s “head” due to what is worn or not worn on one’s “head,” which head is being disgraced? Is a man disgracing his physical head (representing himself), or his spiritual head (Christ)? Is a woman disgracing her physical head (representing herself), or her spiritual head (man and/or Christ)? Because of this semantic imprecision, the most reasonable answer is “yes – all of the above.” No doubt Paul could have been less ambiguous here, but his wording forces his Corinthian readers to think and to avoid causing disgrace with respect to any of these.

     The expressed wish in 1 Thessalonians 3:12 is that “the Lord may make you increase and abound …” To whom does ὁ κύριος [ho kúrios] (“the Lord”) apply here? “Lord” is a title of honor and reverence, indicative of authority and rule. It can be applied to Jesus (Acts 1:6, 21; 2:36; etc.), to God [the Father] (Acts 2:20, 25, 39; 4:24, 26; etc.), or to both (Matt. 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42; Acts 2:34).6 Throughout 1 Thessalonians reference is made to “the Lord” without specification (1:6, 8; 3:8, 12; 4:6, 15[x2], 16, 17[x2]; 5:2, 12, 27), and the current text is sandwiched between allusions to both “our God and Father” and “our Lord Jesus.” The ambiguity may be intentional, considering the broad applicability of the designation “Lord” and the unity of essence, purpose, and work within the triune Godhead.

     By comparing English translations, one notices a difference in the positioning of the prepositional phrase “in love” at Ephesians 1:4-5. The NKJV reads, “that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us…” The ESV reads, “that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us …” The phrase ἐν ἀγάπῃ [en agápē] (“in love”) is attached to the preceding words of v. 4 in the ASV, N/KJV, NET, and NRSV, but prefaces what follows in v. 5 in the CSB, ESV, NASB, NIV, and RSV. The former applies to the love of those who are holy and blameless, whereas the latter refers to God’s love. The ambiguity may be intentional, compelling readers to think, reflect, interpret, and make application in light of what has already been learned (cf. Acts 20:20, 27). A double nuance pointing in both directions is not inconceivable (cf. 6:23); the people of God should be holy and blameless before him in love, because in love he has predestined (predetermined) to save all who are in Christ – neither to the exclusion of the other. 

     According to Hebrews 2:9, before his exaltation Jesus was in a position lower than the angels. The word employed here, βραχύς [brachús] (“little”), can refer to the degree of rank, “a little lower” (ASV, ISV, N/KJV), or to time, “for a little while lower” (ESV, NASB, NIV). Contextually, however, it does not have to be just one or the other and could readily apply to both: “for a little while was given a position ‘a little lower than the angels’” (NLT).

     Christ’s distinction from the angels and his union with mankind is again affirmed in Hebrews 2:16, where it is said he does not ἐπιλαμβάνεται [epilambánetai] angels as he does Abraham’s seed. The verbal here essentially means to “take hold of” (ERV, YLT), so how is it to be understood in this passage? Is the inspired author affirming that Jesus does not “take on the nature of” angels as he does the seed of Abraham (KJV; cf. TLB), or that Jesus does not “give aid to” angels as he does the seed of Abraham (NKJV; cf. ESV, NASB, NIV)? The answer is “yes” in accordance with the surrounding context; the ambiguity allows both nuances.

Conclusion

     Knowledge of divine truth is attainable, seeing that God desires all to acquire this knowledge for salvation.7 We expect, therefore, the Bible’s inspired message to be consistent, congruent, and understandable. The fact that there are so many conflicting interpretations of the sacred writings and so much religious division is the result of God’s word being misused, misinterpreted, and misapplied.

     When a biblical text is clear and precise, there is no legitimate excuse for rejecting or misconstruing its meaning. When a biblical text is not as clear and precise as we would like, we must be honest enough to acknowledge the uncertainty and ensure that our interpretation is consistent with the overall context of scripture. Ambiguities do not give interpreters license to invent their own preferred meanings, or to dogmatically insist on a particular explanation to the exclusion of other viable options. As we employ common sense and mature reasoning coupled with integrity (Heb. 5:14), the prospect of intentional ambiguities in the biblical record compels us to think more deeply and allows a more direct and comprehensive application of biblical instruction. 

--Kevin L. Moore

*Unless noted otherwise, scripture quotations are the author's own translation.

Endnotes:
     1 This is in contrast to the words, “I want you to know” (1 Cor. 11:3; Col. 2:1), preceding information readers are unaware of and need to be informed about. When Paul speaks of “the present distress” in 1 Cor. 7:26 or those “baptized for the dead” in 1 Cor. 15:29, no further details are given, presumably because the original Corinthian audience already knew about these things. Note also the repeated reminders in 1 Thessalonians of what these readers already knew (1:5; 2:1-11; 3:3-4; 4:1-2; 5:2). 
     2 Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. 4th ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014): 37, emp. in the text.
     3 D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies. 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996): 64. David Filbeck observes that “it sometimes appears that Paul engages in 'deliberate ambiguity' as he dictates 2 Corinthians ... (Problems in Translating, The Bible Translator 4.4 [Oct. 1994]: 401).
     4 Biblically the word “virgin” can also include men (vv. 25-26; cf. Rev. 14:4).
     5 Cf. 1:30; 3:1; 4:15b, 17a; 7:22; 9:2; 15:18, 22; et al. Some appeal to 2 Cor. 6:14-16 as a prohibition against religiously-mixed marriages. Contextually, however, the Christians at Corinth are being reminded to make a complete break, not with all their associations in the world (cf. 1 Cor. 5:9-10; 7:13-14; 10:27; 14:23), but with their idolatrous and sinful past (cf. 1 Cor. 6:18; 10:7, 14). Paul is forbidding unholy alliances with the unbelieving world. While I am a strong advocate of faithful Christians marrying only faithful Christians [read further], this is not what is specifically being addressed here. So what happens when a believer marries an unbeliever? Paul has already affirmed that a marriage involving a Christian and a non-Christian, though not ideal, is sanctioned by God and must not be dissolved (1 Cor. 7:10-14; cf. Matt. 19:6). Therefore, if 2 Cor. 6:14-18 is to be applied to a religiously-mixed marriage, it would mean that the Christian wife or husband must not be in agreement with or participate in the sinful behavior of the non-Christian husband or wife. Leading one’s spouse to Christ should then be a top priority (1 Cor. 7:16; 1 Pet. 3:1-2). See K. L. Moore, “Unequally Yoked Together,” Moore Perspective (17 Aug. 2016), <Link>.
     6 Some would suggest application to the Holy Spirit as well (Acts 5:9; 2 Cor. 3:17-18), but this is much less certain. See K. L. Moore, “The Lord is the Spirit,” Moore Perspective (23 Sept. 2015), <Link>. There are about 722 occurrences of κύριος in the Greek NT (not all in reference to deity); the word does not appear in Titus (except 1:4, BMT) or in the Johannine epistles.
     7 Matt. 7:7-8; John 7:17; 8:31-32; Eph. 3:1-5; 5:17; 1 Tim. 2:3-4; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; et al. (cp. Mark 12:24; 2 Pet. 3:15-16).


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Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Luke’s Alleged Historical Blunder Revisited (Part 2)

External Documentary Evidence

Critics seem unaware (or dismissive) of external documentary evidence corroborating the account in Luke 2:1-5. The Greek papyrus document held in the British Museum, catalogued as P. London 904, is one of “several such edicts,” according to historian/papyrologist Ulrich Wilcken, although it is the only such edict in the collection specifically involving a Roman census. The text reads: “Gaius Vibius Maximus, Prefect of Egypt, says: ‘The enrolment by household being at hand, it is necessary to notify all who for any cause whatsoever are outside their nomes [territories] to return to their domestic hearths [homes], that they also may accomplish the customary dispensation of enrolment and continue steadfastly in the husbandry [care of the household] that belongs to them.1

G. Vibius Maximus was prefect of the Roman province of Egypt in AD 104. Since the 4th century BC, both Egypt and Judea had been under the control of Hellenistic authorities and later the Romans, sharing much in common culturally, linguistically, and politically. According to papyri evidence, the Romans were conducting registrations in Egypt as far back as 11/10 BC and possibly even further to 19 BC. The University of Michigan papyri collection includes P. Mich. 4406a, a census declaration from the village of Theadelphia dated Jan.-Feb. 3 BC, near the end of Augustus’ 27th year. By AD 33/34 the Romans were administering censuses every fourteen years, although the earlier registrations appear to have been seven years apart.These periodic enrolments were for numbering the population according to households but not strictly tax related. In the late 2nd century AD Clement of Alexandria was aware of this periodic enrolment system of the Romans (Strom. 1.21.147). 

That Joseph and Mary were living in Galilee rather than Judea at the time of Luke’s reported census is not a problem. E. P. Sanders, accusing Luke of territorial ignorance as well as conflating the periods of Herod’s reign and the AD 6 Roman census, conjectures: “Luke’s Mary and Joseph, who lived in Galilee, would not have been affected by Quirinius’ census, which covered only people who lived in the two Roman provinces, Judaea and Syria.”However, not only was Joseph a native of Judea and potentially owned property there (Matt. 2:11; Luke 2:3-4), the Roman provincial Judea was divided into five administrative districts, which included Sepphoris, only about 3½ miles (6 kms) northwest of Nazareth (see Josephus, Ant. 14.5.4).

What We Know Despite the Scant Historical Evidence 

Around the time of Christ’s birth, there was a transition in the Syrian governorship between the outgoing Sentius Saturninus (9-7/6 BC) and the incoming, somewhat inept,Publius Quinctilius Varus (7/6-4 BC). Varus would have been responsible for Syria’s internal affairs, while Qirinius was available to provide leadership for its military and foreign affairs.If there was in fact a census during this transition, as Luke reports, Quirinius would be a logical choice for Augustus to put in charge. And because of his competent handling of it, he would later be entrusted with the next one, which Luke also reports (Acts 5:37)

The fragmentary Latin inscription Lapis Tiburtinus acknowledges a distinguished Roman officer who served as imperial legate of Syria “for the second time.” If Quirinius is the subject of this mutilated inscription (as some propose),Luke the historian is exonerated. And if Publius Quinctilius Varus is the subject of the inscription (suggested by others)and Quirinius assisted him as advisor or even procurator (see Justin Martyr, Apology 1.34), again, Luke’s account readily corresponds to the historical facts.  

An imperial census in a client kingdom is not unparalleled. Tacitus reports that during the reign of Tiberius “the Clitae, a tribe subject to the Cappadocian Archelaus … were compelled in Roman fashion to render an account of their revenue and submit to tribute” (Annals 6.41). The Latin inscription Lapis Venetus documents a census on the independent city-state of Apamea in Syria, conducted by a Roman officer named Q. Aemilius Secundus on the order of P. Supicius Quirinius.8

Any alleged historical discrepancies in Luke’s description can readily be resolved “by simply and naturally assuming that this was a registration instituted indeed by the Roman emperor, but executed in accordance with the local usages.”While serving as “an emblem of imperial rule,” any census would of necessity have been “organized at the provincial level and marked by local variation.”10 Rather than purportedly tax-related, this would more practically have served as “an enrollment of the inhabitants, which may have been set on foot for statistical purposes, in order to obtain a complete account of the population, perhaps as a basis for a levy of troops from this as a subject territory.”11

After the death of Caesar Augustus, Res Gestae Divi Augusti (“The Deeds of the Divine Augustus”) were inscribed on two bronze plaques outside his mausoleum, listing thirty-five of his greatest achievements as “he subjected the whole wide earth to the rule of the Roman people.”12 While the original inscription has not survived, numerous copies were made and engraved on temples and monuments throughout the empire. Eighth on the list is a record of three empire-wide censuses that he authorized in 28 BC, 8 BC, and AD 14. Luke’s account of Christ’s birth fits the census of 8 BC, considering the probability that the bureaucracy of the census would have taken years to reach Palestine. In fact, each census is described by Augustus as a “lustrum,” referring to a five-year period. 

Concluding Remarks

If Luke’s critics were consistent, all that is known about ancient history from a single source would have to be rejected. For example, Rome’s Gaul campaign of 56 BC is documented only in Julius Caesar’s Gallic War – “the only contemporary narrative of a major Roman imperialist war, and that by its principal agent.”13 Neither Plutarch (Life of Caesar) nor Suetonius (The Twelve Caesars), each of whom quotes Julius Caesar, makes any reference to this important campaign. Are we, then, to denounce the historical integrity of Julius Caesar, or Plutarch, or Suetonius? Does the silence of other historical records mean it did not and could not have happened?

With the large amount of historical data Luke includes in his two-volume work, “he affords his critical readers so many opportunities for testing his accuracy.”14 A young Scottish archaeologist named William Mitchell Ramsay (1851-1939) was convinced by German theologian F. C. Baur and the Tübingen School that Luke-Acts “was essentially a second-century composition, and never relying on its evidence as trustworthy for first-century conditions …”15 But after years of critical investigation, Ramsay was forced to conclude, “Luke’s history is unsurpassed in respect of its trustworthiness.”16

The “historical blunder” allegation against Luke’s record, perpetuated by antibiblicists and liberal scholars, is not as conclusive as we are expected to believe. As deficiency of external evidence hardly confirms the assumption of factual error, Luke’s historical integrity remains unscathed.

--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     Cited in G. A. Deissmann’s Light from the Ancient East, 2nd ed. (NY/London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1910): 268-69; this is a slightly modified version of the English translation by Lionel R. M. Strachan of the German translation of Ulrich Wilcken. Similar edicts, including BGU 159, 372, Geneva Papyrus 16, P. Fay. 24, are cited in F. G. Kenyon and H. I. Bell, eds., Greek Papyri in the British Museum (London: H. Frowde, et al., 1907): 3:124-25. See also A. S. Hunt and C. C. Edgar, Select Papyri, Vol. 2: Non-Literary Papyri; Public Documents, LCL 282 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1934). 
     Roger S. Bagnall, “The Beginnings of the Roman Census in Egypt,” in Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 32 (1991): 255-65; W. G. Claytor and R. S. Bagnall, “The Beginnings of the Roman Provincial Census” 641-44.
     E. P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus 87.
     In AD 9 Varus was responsible for the devastating loss of three legions in Germanica, so any misgivings Augustus may have had about him were justified.
     W. M. Ramsay, Was Christ born at Bethlehem? 244; cf. J. K. Hardin, Galatians and the Imperial Cult 56. On Quirinius’ military advisory expertise, see Tacitus, Annals 3.48.
     William M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the NT, 4th ed. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1920): 279. It is possible that the expression “for the second time” refers to the second appointment of office but not necessarily to the same province (see A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the NT [Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1963]: 164).
     Ernest L. Martin, “Quntilius Varus and the Lapis Tiburtinus,” Appendix 1 of The Star of Bethlehem2nd ed. (Portland, OR: Associates for Scriptural Knowledge, 1991).
     Cf. Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1964): 237; rev. ed. (1998): 302-306.
     John M’Clintock and James Strong, Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969): 2:185-86. 
     10 W. G. Claytor and R. S. Bagnall, “The Beginnings of the Roman Provincial Census” 637. 
     11 M’Clintock and Strong 2:186; cf. Alfred Plummer, The Gospel According to S. Luke ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1910): 49-52.
     12 A nearly complete copy of Res Gestae Divi Augusti has been preserved on a temple dedicated to Augustus in Ankara, Turkey. To read the entire list in English translation, see “The Deeds of the Divine Augustus,” trans. Thomas Bushnell, <Link>.
     13 A. N. Sherwin-White, “Caesar as an Imperialist,” Greece and Rome 4:1 (March 1957): 36.
     14 F. F. Bruce, The NT Documents 81, 82.
     15 W. M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, 15th ed. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1925): 8.
     16 W. M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery 80. Professor Otto Piper notes, “Wherever modern scholarship has been able to check up on the accuracy of Luke’s work the judgment has been unanimous: he is one of the finest and ablest historians in the ancient world” (“The Purpose of Luke,” The Union Seminary Review 57:1 [Nov. 1945]: 15-25).


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