Luke 2:1


King James Version (KJV)

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

American King James Version (AKJV)

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

American Standard Version (ASV)

Now it came to pass in those days, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be enrolled.

Basic English Translation (BBE)

Now it came about in those days that an order went out from Caesar Augustus that there was to be a numbering of all the world.

Webster's Revision

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

World English Bible

Now it happened in those days, that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled.

English Revised Version (ERV)

Now it came to pass in those days, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be enrolled.

Clarke's Luke 2:1 Bible Commentary

Caesar Augustus - This was Caius Caesar Octavianus Augustus, who was proclaimed emperor of Rome in the 29th year before our Lord, and died a.d. 14.

That all the world should be taxed - Πασαν την οικουμενην, the whole of that empire. It is agreed, on all hands, that this cannot mean the whole world, as in the common translation; for this very sufficient reason, that the Romans had not the dominion of the whole earth, and therefore could have no right to raise levies or taxes in those places to which their dominion did not extend. Οικουμενη signifies properly the inhabited part of the earth, from οικεω, to dwell, or inhabit. Polybius makes use of the very words in this text to point out the extent of the Roman government, lib. vi. c. 48; and Plutarch uses the word in exactly the same sense, Pomp. p. 635. See the passages in Wetstein. Therefore the whole that could be meant here, can be no more than that a general Census of the inhabitants and their effects had been made in the reign of Augustus, through all the Roman dominions.

But as there is no general census mentioned in any historian as having taken place at this time, the meaning of οικουμενη must be farther restrained, and applied solely to the land of Judea. This signification it certainly has in this same evangelist, Luke 21:26. Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth, τῃ οικουμενῃ this land. The whole discourse relates to the calamities that were coming, not upon the whole world, nor the whole of the Roman empire, but on the land of Judea, see Luke 21:21. Then let them that are in Judea flee to the mountains. Out of Judea, therefore, there would be safety; and only those who should be with child, or giving suck, in those days, are considered as peculiarly unhappy, because they could not flee away from that land on which the scourge was to fall: for the wrath, or punishment, shall be, says our Lord, εν τῳ λαῳ τουτῳ, On This Very People, viz. the Jews, Luke 21:23. It appears that St. Luke used this word in this sense in conformity to the Septuagint, who have applied it in precisely the same way, Isaiah 13:11; Isaiah 14:26; Isaiah 24:1. And from this we may learn, that the word οικουμενη had been long used as a term by which the land of Judea was commonly expressed. Ἡ γη, which signifies the earth, or world in general, is frequently restrained to this sense, being often used by the evangelists and others for all the country of Judea. See Luke 4:25; Joshua 2:3.

It is probable that the reason why this enrolment, or census, is said to have been throughout the whole Jewish nation, was to distinguish it from that partial one, made ten years after, mentioned Acts 5:37, which does not appear to have extended beyond the estates of Archelaus, and which gave birth to the insurrection excited by Judas of Galilee. See Josephus, Ant. book xx. c. 3.

Barnes's Luke 2:1 Bible Commentary

In those days - About the time of the birth of John and of Christ.

A decree - A law commanding a thing to be done.

Caesar Augustus - This was the Roman emperor. His first name was Octavianus. He was the nephew of Julius Caesar, and obtained the empire after his death. He took the name "Augustus - i. e., august," or honorable - as a compliment to his own greatness; and from him the month "August," which was before called "Sextilis," received its name.

That all the world - There has been much difficulty respecting this passage, from the fact that no such taxing of "all the world" is mentioned by ancient writers. It should have been rendered "the whole land" - that is, the whole land of Palestine. The "whole land" is mentioned to show that it was not "Judea" only, but that it included also "Galilee," the place where Joseph and Mary dwelt. That the passage refers only to the land of Palestine, and not to the whole world, or to all the Roman empire, is clear from the following considerations:

1. The fact that no such taxing is mentioned as pertaining to any other country.

2. The account of Luke demands only that it should be understood of Palestine, or the country where the Saviour was born.

3. The words "world" and "whole world" are not unfrequently used in this limited sense as confined to a single country.

See Matthew 4:8, where Satan is said to have shown to Christ all the kingdoms of "the world," that is, of the land of Judea. See also Joshua 2:3; Luke 4:25 (Greek); Luke 21:26; Acts 11:28.

Should be taxed - Our word "tax" means to levy and raise money for the use of the government. This is not the meaning of the original word here. It means rather to "enroll," or take a "list" of the citizens, with their employments, the amount of their property, etc., equivalent to what was meant by census. Judea was at that time tributary to Rome. It paid taxes to the Roman emperor; and, though Herod was "king," yet he held his appointment under the Roman emperor, and was subject in most matters to him. Farther, as this "enrollment" was merely to ascertain the numbers and property of the Jews, it is probable that they were very willing to be enrolled in this manner; and hence we hear that they went willingly, without tumult - contrary to the common way when they were "to be taxed."

Wesley's Luke 2:1 Bible Commentary

2:1 That all the world should be enrolled - That all the inhabitants, male and female, of every town in the Roman empire, with their families and estates, should be registered.

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