When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah.Luke 1:5
At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.Luke 2:1-2
Luke not only tells the family story but he places it in the world wide context. Why does he do that? For authenticity and accuracy, he is anchoring this story in truth – it really did happen like he told it. But he also realizes this story goes beyond the bounds of just another family story – this story is for all mankind. The empire and the world need to know this story.
This story is set in the time of Herod the Great. It was common to set the date of when an event happened by telling the name of the king who was ruling at the time. Herod the Great is to be distinguished from another Herod who was ruling at the time Jesus was crucified. There were two different Herods. Herod the Great was appointed King of Judea by the Roman Senate in 40 BC. He died in 4 BC. Josephus wrote that the death of Herod the Great took place in the spring of the year 750 UC – Universal Time, soon after Nisan 1st. Jesus must have been born at the latest in 749 or at the beginning of 750. Meaning that BC / AD time is set at least four years too late.
Luke sometimes calls the other Herod, Herod the Tetrach. The expression in the days of Herod refers to a dark period of suffering for the Jews. He was appointed by the Romans but hated by the Jews. Judea represents the southern part of Palestine of which Jerusalem was the main city. Luke uses this gloomy period of Israel’s past to set the scene for the dawn of the glorious new age. The notion of “this glorious age” led the ancients to change time settings to Before Christ (BC) time and Anno Domini (AD) time meaning in the year of our Lord or as some refer to it as “after the master”. But as indicated above the zeal to divide time with the Coming of Christ resulted in the setting of date for Christ’s appearance being at least one year, maybe up to six years too late. Why up to six years? Because after Herod ascertained the timing of star’s appearance he gave orders to kill all male children up to two years old and under. Hence Jesus has to have been born between 6 and 4 BC.
There are more references to time settings in the Gospel of Luke, namely 2:1-2, 3:1, 3:23 but we will deal with those matters when we come to the verse concerned, not now.
Suffice to say here that Luke sets this story in a world wide setting because it had worldwide significance. It was the realization of the significance of this event that made the leaders of time change the method of telling time. Something so significant had happened which would change the course of human history. The coming of the Saviour of the World / Son of God / Son of Man was significant enough to change the way we recorded time. It ought to change everything else too. An event so amazing ought to revolutionize your life and change your life direction. Listen carefully to Luke’s story as we proceed. He will revisit this significance many times. In Luke’s mind, this cultured, doctor-come-historian this story is worth telling and worth retelling in an ordered thorough way simply because of its impact and significance. Allow it to change you too.
If the Christmas story is true, bow down. If it isn’t, bow out. Anything in between is dishonest.Rick Atchley
Our lives are not destined by the stars but by the Son.Rick Warren
A Christian should resemble a fruit tree with real fruit, not a Christmas tree with decorations tied on.John Stott