One of the ways I assess the robustness of a controversial viewpoint (eg the Gospel) is to hear the informed arguments against it. In other words, I want to see its weak or vulnerable points. This gives me a handle on its overall reliability.
Session 4 gave an overview of external evidences in support of the historical reliability of the Bible. But are there external evidences that are problems for the Biblical account? Well-known critic of the Gospel, Richard Dawkins, in his best-seller The God Delusion dismisses the historicity of the account of the birth of Jesus. He brings up an issue that is considered to be one of the most difficult and serious problems in squaring away the Gospel account of the birth of Jesus and what we know from external evidence.
The issue is that the Gospel of Luke places the birth of Jesus at the time when Quirinius was governor of Syria. (“This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” – Luke 2:1) Josephus places the time of a census while Quirinius was governor of Syria at 6-7 AD. This places Luke’s time for the census far too late compared with other aspects of the birth narrative. So this is considered a serious problem and Dawkins chose it as his example par excellence to illustrate errors in the Bible. Looking at a problem will allow a good overall assessment of the viability of its historicity. So let us examine this in some more detail in this 7 minute video.
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