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February 16, 2011 – Luke 2

Click here to read Luke 2 on BibleGateway.com

Heads up, my friends. Prepare thyself for an abrupt turn. After a couple weeks hanging with Job and his oh-so-encouraging buddies, we’re gonna take a little break and visit with the New Testament homies. If you don’t know yet, we use the McCheyne Bible Reading plan (see the link above) which uses 4 chapters a day, so we bounce around within that list a little bit on this site according to a strict schedule of whenever-we-feel-like-it. So, we’re gonna look at Luke for a while, but don’t worry, we’ll return to Job before the big finale.


One of the odd things about the Bible, which we don’t always see as odd because of familiarity, is how the Bible often identifies a particular historical timeframe for its narrative. For many other religions (though not all), the time frames are hazy. For instance, can you identify the year that Hercules wrestled the Hydra? How about the first time Thor used his hammer (the god, not Ironman’s buddy)?

The Bible, on the other hand, uses dates quite frequently, and few Biblical authors do it more than Luke. Of course, he didn’t have the handy BC-AD system that we have, but he did follow the predominant dating pattern of his day, which was by ruler. So, in Luke 2, our passage for today, he writes that the census that forced Mary and Joesph to Bethlehem took place during the governorship of Quirinius, as opposed to the various other censuses that may have been taken at different times.


So, the question is: why do the Bible authors use dates? It really doesn’t add anything to the narrative. Jesus could have been born at any time, theoretically, and still had the same message. It could have been a census, or flood, or boredom, or anything that might have forced Mary and Joseph to travel, but Luke uses a census. Why?

One reason is because Luke was focused on writing an “orderly account” (chap. 1, ver. 3), and most scholars will agree that he was attempting to write as factually as possible. Part of that mission would be to set accurate timeframes, so that his readers could check on those facts.

But a more important reason may be that God was purposefully showing that His hand works in the real world. The lifestyle and morality that the Bible teaches is not some distant theory that happens in a fantasy land, it’s about a Savior and a plan that applies to real life. In order to fully reflect reality, the narrative of the Bible must take place in reality.

That should give us real people hope, even if it doesn’t do much for poor Thor.  At least he still has his hammer.

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