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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE - Chapter 2 - Verse 2
Verse 2. And this taxing was first made, &c. This verse has given as much perplexity, perhaps, as any one in the New Testament. The difficulty consists in the fact that Cyrenius, or Quirinius, was not governor of Syria until twelve or fifteen years after the birth of Jesus. Jesus was born during the reign of Herod. At that time Varus was president of Syria. Herod was succeeded by Archelaus, who reigned eight or nine years; and after he was removed, Judea was annexed to the province of Syria, and Cyrenius was sent as the governor (Josephus, Ant., b. xvii. § 5). The difficulty has been to reconcile this account with that in Luke. Various attempts have been made to do this. The one that seems most satisfactory is that proposed by Dr. Lardher. According to his view, the passage here means, "This was the first census of Cyrenius, governor of Syria." It is called the first to distinguish it from one afterward taken by Cyrenius, Ac 5:37. It is said to be the census taken by Cyrenius, governor of Syria; not that he was then governor, but that it was taken by him who was afterward familiarly known as governor. Cyrenius, governor of Syria, was the name by which the man was known when Luke wrote his gospel, and it was not improper to say that the taxing was made by Cyrenius, the governor of Syria, though he might not have been actually governor for many years afterward. Thus Herodian says that "to Marcus the emperor were born several daughters and two sons," though several of those children were born to him before he was emperor. Thus it is not improper to say that General Washington saved Braddock's army, or was engaged in the old French war, though he was not actually made general till many years afterward. According to this Augustus sent Cyrenius, an active, enterprising man, to take the census. At that time he was a Roman senator. Afterward he was made governor of the same country, and received the title which Luke gives him.
Syria. The region of country north of Palestine, and lying between the Mediterranean and the Euphrates. Syria, called in the Hebrew Aram, from a son of Shem (Ge 10:22), in its largest acceptation extended from the Mediterranean and the river Cydnus to the Euphrates, and from Mount Taurus on the north to Arabia and the border of Egypt on the south. It was divided into Syria Palestine, including Canaan and Phoenicia; Coele-Syria, the tract of country lying between two ridges of Mount Lebanon and Upper Syria. The last was known as Syria in the restricted sense, or as the term was commonly used.
The leading features in the physical aspect of Syria consist of the great mountainous chains of Lebanon, or Libanus and Anti-Libanus, extending from north to south, and the great desert lying on the south-east and east. The valleys are of great fertility, and yield abundance of grain, vines, mulberries, tobacco, olives, excellent fruits, as oranges, figs, pistachios, &c. The climate in the inhabited parts is exceedingly fine. Syria is inhabited by various descriptions of people, but Turks and Greeks form the basis of the population in the cities. The only tribes that can be considered as peculiar to Syria are the tenants of the heights of Lebanon. The most remarkable of these are the Druses and Maronites. The general language is Arabic; the soldiers and officers of government speak Turkish. Of the old Syriac language no traces now exist.
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