(at Bethlehem of Judæa, b.c.5.)
^C Luke II.1-7.
^c 1 Now it came to pass in those days [the days of the birth of John the Baptist], there went out a decree [a law] from Cæsar Augustus [Octavius, or Augustus, Cæsar was the nephew of and successor to Julius Cæsar. He took the name Augustus in compliment to his own greatness; and our month August is named for him; its old name being Sextilis], that all the world should be enrolled. [This enrollment or census was the first step in the process of taxation.] 2 This was the first enrolment. [Publius Sulpicius Quirinius was governor of Syria, a.d.6-11, and made a census of his province at that time, as Luke well knew (Acts v.37). We have no other record showing either his governorship or a census made by him at the time of the birth of Christ. But he was held in high favor by the Emperor, and was, about the time of the birth of Christ, carrying on a war just north of Syria, in Cilicia, and it is therefore easy for us to accept Luke's statement that as imperial commissioner or as governor of Syria he made such a census.] made when Quirinius was governor [Quirinius was doubtless twice governor of Syria, his first term being about b.c.5-1. The Greek word hegemon, which Luke uses for governor, would be used for either of the Roman titles, viz.: Proprætor, or senatorial governor; or Quæstor, or imperial commissioner. Quirinius may have commenced the enrollment as Quæstor and finished it ten years later as Proprætor. He was well-known character in that age. Harsh and avaricious as a governor, but an able and loyal soldier, earning a Roman triumph for successes in Cilicia, and being honored by a public funeral in a.d.21] of Syria. [A Roman province including all Palestine, and a tract four or five times as large lying to the northeast of Palestine.] 3 And all went to enroll themselves [The enrollment may have had no reference to taxation. It was more probably to ascertain the military strength of the various provinces. The Romans enrolled each person at the place where he was then residing; but permitted the Jews to thus return to their ancestral or tribal cities and enroll themselves as citizens of these cities], every one to his own city. [The city where his ancestors had been settled by Joshua when he divided the land -- Josh. xiii.-xviii.] 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth [see ch. i.26], unto Judæa, to the city of David [after the lapse of ten centuries the name of David still cast its fragrance over the place of his birth -- I. Sam. xvii.12], which is called Bethlehem [Meaning |house of bread.| It was the later or Jewish name for the old Canaanitish village of Ephrath, the Ephrath near which Rachel died (Gen. xxxv.19). It was marked by Micah as the birthplace of Messiah -- Mic. v.2; Matt. ii.5, 6], because he was of the house and family of David; 5 to be taxed with Mary, who was betrothed to him [see Matt. i.25], being great with child.6 And it came to pass, while they were there, the days were fulfilled that she should be delivered. [The early Christians made no record of the date of Christ's birth; we find no mention of December 25 earlier than the fourth century. The Eastern church celebrated Christ's birth by a feast called Epiphany, which means manifestation. They chose January 6 as the date for this feast, for they reasoned that if the first Adam was born on the sixth day of creation, the second Adam must have been born on the sixth day of the year. The Western church celebrated Christ's birth on the 25th of December by a feast called Natalis, which means Nativity. But Pope Julius I. (a.d.337-352) designated December 25 as the proper day, and the Eastern churches soon united with the Western churches in observing this day; and the custom has become universal. We do not observe this day because of the Pope's decree, but because of the tradition on which the Pope's decree was founded.] 7 And she brought forth her firstborn [This word in no way implies that the Virgin subsequently had other children. Jesus, the only begotten, is also called the firstborn -- Heb. i.6] son; and she wrapped [having none to help her, she swathed him in bands with her own hands] him in swaddling clothes [the new-born Jewish child was washed in water, rubbed with salt, and then wrapped in bands or blankets, which confined the limbs closely -- Ezek. xvi.4] , and laid him in a manger [Justin Martyr, who born about the beginning of the second century and suffered martyrdom a.d.165, first tells us the tradition that the stable in which Jesus was born was a cavern. Caves, however, were never used for stables except when opened on the sides of hills. The one at Bethlehem is a cellar fourteen feet under the level surface. Justin must, therefore, be mistaken], because there was no room for them in the inn. [Eastern inns had landlords like our own. The inn was full at this time because of the number who had come to be enrolled. Inns contained rooms for persons and stalls for animals: there was no room in the former, but there was in the latter.]