One of the most eminent archaeologists, William Ramsay, spent thirty years on research related to the period described by St Luke. Looking into the Gospels, he was amazed to discover that their authors remained faithful to historical facts in the smallest of detail.
He began his research with a sceptical attitude, treating the Gospels’ accounts as legends or as later records written down in the second century, invented for the purpose of justifying the faith. However, as he continued his research, Ramsay had to look into the Gospels increasingly often, and he was amazed to discover that their authors remained faithful to historical facts in the smallest of detail. In the end, Ramsay was compelled to acknowledge that “Luke is a historian of first rank. … This author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians. […] The history penned by Luke is unsurpassed in terms of credibility.”
There are allegations that the Gospels mistakenly indicated the circumstances of the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem: that there was not, and there could not have been, a census at the time (and even if there was, people would have been recorded where they were, without having to go to their place of origin), that Quirinius was not Governor of Syria until ad 6, etc. These are completely unfounded allegations.
In Pisidian Antioch, archaeologists have found an inscription which seems to suggest that Quirinius was Governor of Syria about 7 bc, which is in the time when JesusChrist was born. John Elder speculates that he could have held that position twice: during the life of Herod the Great (as reported by Luke), and ten years later, in ad 6 (as reported by a historian from the late first century, Josephus). On the other hand, John Rhoads, a professor at Concordia University in Chicago, after careful examination of the historical works of Josephus, a Jewish rebel pardoned by Rome, came to the conclusion that Josephus could have confused the dates of the reign of Quirinius and the census carried out by him. Rhoads points to the fact that in the works of Josephus there are often mistakes in dates, and some of the events described in them twice give the impression that something happened twice. Josephus also mistakenly combined other events he had read about in the works of earlier historians into one. Trying to restore the source data that Josephus could have used, Rhoads comes to a reasonable conclusion that the historian made a mistake in dating the census in Judea at ad 6 (approx. ten years after Herod’s death), while Luke the Evangelist rightly placesthis event within the lifetime of Herod the Great (J. H. Rhoads, “Josephus Misdated the Census of Quirinius”, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 54/1 (2011), pp. 65–87).
At least twelve Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled by the sheer fact of Jesus’ birth at that particular time and place, and into this particular family
Grad R. Jeffrey points out that the Romans regularly conducted censuses, and he cites the contents of an ancient document containing guidelines on how the census should be carried out. It says: “Because of the approaching census it is necessary that all those residing for any cause away from their homes should at once prepare to return to their own governments in order that they may complete the family registration of the enrollment” (Grant R. Jeffrey, Jesus: The Great Debate (Toronto: Frontier Research Publications, 1999), pp. 72–73.). In this way, archaeological discoveries and research confirm that Luke carefully examined all the circumstances of the birth of the Lord Jesus and described them thoroughly, according to the truth, as he himself pointed out: “I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.” (Luke 1:3–4).
“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.” (1 John 4:2–3)
In his Ecclesiastical History (6:1), Eusebius of Caesarea underlines that when Jesus Christ was born under the reign of King Herod — the first non-Jew to reign over Israel – an important prophecy from the Book of Genesis was fulfilled: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and the obedience of the peoples is his.” (Gen 49:10). In this way, God wanted to show his chosen people that Jesus was the only true king of the Jews, which provoked the fury of Herod, who knew the prophecies of Scripture and about the widespread expectation of the Messiah. At least twelve Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled by the sheer fact of Jesus’ birth at that particular time and place, and into this particular family. Five of them are cited by St Matthew in the first chapters of his Gospel. Josh McDowell, in The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999), points out that at least 250 years must have passed between the writing of these prophecies and their fulfilment in the person of Christ. On this basis, even the greatest of sceptics can be convinced that this event was planned and carefully prepared by no one else than God, the Creator of heaven and earth, to bring salvation to humanity. For we see that over the ages God revealed Himself in history, to finally give us “his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life”. (John 3:16).
“Luke is a historian of first rank. … This author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians. […] The history penned by Luke is unsurpassed in terms of credibility.”
No man could have been able to plan for himself the circumstances of his own birth, which is why we are absolutely sure that this means the true God taking on true human nature: “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:6–11). Therefore God grants his affirmation only to those who profess faith in the true incarnation of the Son of God: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.” (1 John 4:2–3).
Let us become children of God
St Paul explains: “when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.” (Gal. 4:4–5). Thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God adopts us as his own children, when we disassociate ourselves from sin and live in a state of sanctifying grace, receiving the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist. “Becoming a child” for God — this is the condition for entering the kingdom of heaven. To do this, you have to humble yourself, to become small; what is more, you have to “be born again” (John 3:7), born “of God” (John 1:13), in order to “become children of God” (John 1:12). The Mystery of Christmas is fulfilled in us, when Christ “is formed” in us (Gal. 4:19; CCC 526). Let us remember that Jesus cannot “be formed” in us if we love sin more than God. Our attachment to sin prevents the presence of Jesus in our lives, and only genuine, sincere confession and a firm resolve to break away from sin can make us true children of God. Then Jesus will dwell in us and will cleanse our hearts, and will let us fully experience his love, and in the last day “He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the powerthat also enables him to make all things subject to himself.” (Phil. 3:21).