In light of the fact it is still only the 5th day of Christmas, I thought it appropriate to link to an article by Dr. Jack Kinneer, Adjunct Professor of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Dr. Kinneer has been lecturing about the evidence that supports the Biblical teaching of Christmas, and an article by Grant Van Leuven in the news section of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary website which summarizes his response to 14 popular myths about the Christmas account found in Matthew and Luke. Among the myths tackled are:
Popular Myth: The census in Luke’s Gospel implies that the birth took place in A.D. 6 because that’s when we know that Quirinius was governing Syria.
Kinneer's Reply: Luke’s own internal chronology indicates that Luke, like Matthew, placed the birth of Jesus in the period right before Herod’s death in 5-4 B.C. While we know from other sources that Quirinius was governing Syria in A.D. 6, it is clear from Luke’s own indications of time that he is referring to an earlier period around the death of Herod the Great (5-4 B.C.) as when Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem for a census registration. Luke does not conflict with Matthew on this. Luke has a dating scheme in chapter 3 rooted in the fifteenth year of Tiberius, and if Jesus was about 30 then, it computes that he was born right before the death of Herod – do the math. Thus, Luke and his readers know information we don’t about when Quirinius had some kind of authority in Syria in the closing years of Herod’s life.
The only bad thing about the article is that it leaves a little too much unanswered. For example, the next myth tackled by Dr. Kinneer leaves provides too little background evidence to be of much use in discussing the dating of Christmas.
Popular Myth: Matthew made up the story about the appearance of a star.
Kinneer’s Reply: No he didn’t. Modern astronomy calculations confirm extraordinary planetary phenomena during this exact time period.
I would personally have liked to have seen what astronomy calculations he is referencing specifically. But overall, it is a nice and interesting piece giving some of the quick answers to the questions about why we have reason to believe the Christmas accounts presented in Matthew and Luke. As the summary says:
"Popular culture suggests, but good scholarship demonstrates," says Kinneer. "Scripture is very precise on the particulars of the Christmas Story. It all fits with other known facts and is easy to see if you’ve done your homework."