Nazareth or Bethlehem or...?
I have heard the explanation of Jesus of Nazareth being born in Bethlehem because the family had to move down their for a census. I am wondering how much truth there is behind this. If you could help, I would be much obliged.
I have found some information around the internet which claims to refute this, but I am wondering if there is any truth behind these refutations.
Luke 2:1-7 describes Joseph and Mary as residents of Nazareth in the Galilee. They would have had to travel for about a week to cover the approximately 90 miles (140 km) from Nazareth in the Galilee south to Bethlehem in Judea. 2 Luke says that they had to do this in order to take part in the Roman census and taxation. Jesus was born while they were in Bethlehem. This version of the Christmas story seems a little strange, for many reasons:
|In 1st century Judea women "...were considered second-class citizens, akin to slaves." 3 Only Joseph would be required to register with the authorities, because "the husband was the spiritual and legal head of the house." 3 The presence of his teenaged fiancé or wife would be redundant. Mary would hardly have made the 100 mile trip while about 9 months pregnant unless it was absolutely necessary. Joseph would have traveled without Mary, and probably in a group to give better protection from bandits. 4|
|Aviram Oshri, a senior archaeologist with the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA), has said: "Basic medical knowledge tells you that a heavily pregnant woman could not ride a donkey that kind of distance without losing her baby." 5 Although medical knowledge was primitive in those days, that much information would have been generally known. Joseph and Mary would not have had access to a method of transportation other than walking on foot or by riding on an animal.|
|There is no record of a worldwide census as stated Luke having been made in the last decade BCE. If one had been conducted, it would have been so disruptive that its effects certainly would have been recorded at the time in many Roman documents. A local census was taken by Quirinius during 6 CE, but that would have been when Jesus was about ten years of age. Also, it was held in Judea, but not the Galilee where the Gospel of Matthew said that Joseph lived. 6|
|It makes absolutely no sense to require Jews and other inhabitants of the Roman Empire to return to their ancestral town for registration. The economy of the Empire would be devastated if everyone had to make such a visit. The transportation facilities would be hopelessly overloaded. Censuses are generally taken where people live -- in ancient times and now.|
|Circa 6 BCE, when Jesus was believed to have be born, it would have been impractical to require adults to return to the ancestral city of their tribe. Because of the extermination and scattering of Jews in the Northern Kingdom, and the enslavement and exile of the remaining Jews in Babylon of whom relatively few returned, many, if not most, Jews in Judea at the time would not be aware of their tribal identification.|
Questions I have regarding the above refutations:
Did censuses in those times actually not require counting women? Were women really considered second-class citizens?
Does 'basic medical knowledge' really say that a mother would lose her child riding on a donkey for a week? I would imagine the jarring of a donkey, especially with a mother being in full term, would not kill a baby...
Are there any records of a census at the time of Jesus' birth? If there isn't any record, wouldn't that still just be an argument from silence?
Even if we were to admit that the Bethlehem birth was a fakery designed to shoehorn Jesus into the prophecy, wouldn't that still suggest something? Wouldn't the fakery suggest that there had in fact been a man wondering around making a big fuss? If Jesus never existed in the first place, why not just call him Jesus of Bethlehem?
Thanks in advance for your help!