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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary

Cyrenius

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(ci ree' nih uhss) The Roman official mentioned in Luke 2:2 as the governor of Syria when the birth of Jesus took place. Some translations of the New Testament use the name Cyrenius, an Anglicized form of his Greek name, while others use the Latin form Quirinius. His full name is Publius Sulpicius Quirinius. Throughout his varied career, Quirinius served as consul of Rome, military leader, tutor to Gaius Caesar, and legate (governor). He died in A.D. 21.

Luke's reference to Quirinius as governor during the nativity has caused some scholars to question Lucan historical accuracy. It is established that Quirinius was legate in Syria from A.D. 6-9, but this date is far too late for Jesus' birth, which occurred prior to the death of Herod the Great who died in 4 B.C. Luke's historical reference seems in direct conflict with non-biblical sources establishing that either Saturninus (9-7 B.C.) or Varus (6-4 B.C.) was legate of Syria during Christ's birth.

The discovery of an ancient inscription has shown that a legate fitting the description of Quirinius served two different times in Syria. Apparently the nativity occurred during Quirinius' first tenure in Syria as legate with primary responsibilities for military affairs, while Varus was the legate handling civil matters. Quirinius served a second term in A.D. 6-9.

This solution affirms Lukan accuracy without overlooking other known historical sources.

Stephen Dollar

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Cyrenius'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/c/cyrenius.html. 1991.

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