The problem of Luke’s statement about Quirinius may be easily solvable, but this is not necessarily apparent from the outset. Therefore, logic demands we set this point aside for a while. It’s just not a good starting point.
Likewise, the description of returning to one’s hometown seems problematic at face value. This detail also may wind up being solid, but if we are trying to start fresh it does not give us any sure footing at all. At least, not to begin with.
The final questionable item will prove less troublesome than the other two – although we don’t know that know, officially. That is, that Augustus decreed the inhabited world should be registered. We will come back to this point before addressing the other two, which are more difficult.
Isolating each detail is a temporary strategy. Eventually, they must all reconnect. But to begin any fresh analysis, we have to sift through what seems most or least immediately, apparently reliable.
In all this, one thing is sure. If Luke is entirely accurate, he’s been very unclear. Perhaps he was simply trying too hard to be succinct. Whatever the case, it should not prove insurmountable for our faith. But to sort out these facts AND place them firmly among the events of history, with chronological precision, it’s going to take quite a bit of work.
Fortunately, there is a simple way through.
To be continued…