QI – General Ignorance

I’m not sure how they arrived at a discussion of Luke’s account of the census at the time of Jesus birth. As usual when it comes to things Biblical Stephen Fry created much hilarity at the lack of credibility in Luke’s version of events.

There is no record of a census that fits Luke’s timing (true)
Luke’s is the only account that includes this (true)
Luke made it up to make the facts match prophesy as Luke was the gospel writer who was particularly keen to show prophesy fulfilled (ah … no)

Actually, it’s on the third point that the whole thing unravels. Matthew was the writer who constantly referred back to prophesies, after all he was writing for a Jewish audience. Luke was writing for someone called Theophilus. It isn’t clear exactly who this was but it was definitely a gentile audience and quite possibly a Roman citizen.

So if prophesy fulfillment was the object, Matthew would have been the one to do it. If it was made up, a Roman citizen was most likely to see through it (it was only 60 or so years after the event, after all). It seems much more likely Luke included it because his reader would appreciate the information (whereas Matthew’s readers were more likely to be offended at the memory). 

Indeed there is no record of the census and, as Fry was keen to point out, a census didn’t involve going back to one’s place of birth. And that’s why QI has the “nobody knows” joker. There are many things in history that nobody knows, though there has been much speculation on this one and any of the suggestions could be true. It’s worth checking them out, they are quite interesting but, in the end, nobody knows.

~ by electrictelegraph on November 13, 2011.

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