It should go without saying that – as a believer – I can trust that apparent contradictions within scripture may have solutions even if we can’t see them at the moment. To me, that’s a given. However, there are some cases where historical logic requires us to prioritize the veracity & reliability of some details in scripture as opposed to others. I can still believe they’re all perfectly true, but the elements that seem contradictory belong on the back burner at the beginning of event reconstruction.
With that, consider afresh the case for Luke’s Census. Typically, discussion either begins with Quirinius or arrives there very quickly. Too often, faith-based arguments for dating the census focus almost entirely on dating the career of Quirinius. Too many sloppy apologists still treat Luke 2:2 as an absolute proof text, believing their interpretation of it is authority enough to reshuffle decades of ancient chronology. Of course, skeptical viewpoints that toss out the whole thing because of Quirinius are just as embarrassing.
My whole point – so far – is that we should leave poor Quirinius alone for a while. Yes, of course I believe there is a good solution to explain away the apparent contradiction, but defending verses is not my top priority. Reconstruction is. Besides, even the best, most sound apologetics are aimed at unbelievers, who just aren’t my mission field. This Story of Faith (which we believe is also true and historical) belongs first and foremost to the Ecclesia of Jesus Christ. We should not merely spend the resources of our heritage fighting against unbelieving arguments. We should rebuild this Story as a whole, in the full context of history. We both need and deserve to view it with much more integrity.
To that end, as believers, let’s not allow the more troubling details to steal our whole focus. I’m shelving apologetics for a decade or four. Let’s do more than guess a year and leave it bare. Let’s attempt to actually reconstruct the full historical context of Luke’s Census. What do you say?