Marcus Borg argues that Lukes Nativity was written to replace Caesar Augustus, the other “son of God”

Biblical scholars argue that Lukes story of the Nativity was specifically fashioned to present Jesus as a replacement of Ceasar Augustus:


“In Luke’s birth story, the key to seeing its political meaning is Roman imperial theology, which includes the divine conception of Caesar Augustus, the greatest of the Roman emperors and ruler when Jesus was born. He was conceived by the god Apollo in the womb of his mother Atia. His titles included “Son of God,” “Lord,” “Savior,” bringer of “peace on earth.” Inscribed on coins and temples, the public media of the day, they continued to be used by most emperors after Augustus.”

“Thus there was already a “Son of God,” “Lord,” and peace-bringing “Savior” in the world in which Jesus lived and in which early Christianity emerged. Roman imperial theology is the historical context for understanding the use of this language.”

“Luke’s story of Jesus’ birth… deliberately counters and challenges Roman imperial theology. It includes divine conception, and thus Jesus, not Caesar, is the “Son of God.” Early Christians saw in Jesus the alternative to an imperial world based on injustice and violence.” (1)

Marcus Borg, world renowned scholar, former president of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars.

There are two very different Nativity stories

The “Nativity Story” we are so familiar with is really two separate stories that have been woven together to make a “third.”

When you look at each tale individually you will note that both are rather different, containing mostly unique elements that are not shared by the other. In fact, many (but certainly not all) academic biblical scholars would argue that they are so different they are impossible to reconcile.

It is because of differences like these that Raymond Brown, a leading Catholic New Testament scholar admits that of the options we have, “one must be ruled out… [that is] that both accounts are completely historical.1

Why is this the case? E. P. Sanders, a widely respected New Testament scholar says this is because “on many points, especially about Jesus’ early life, the evangelists were ignorant… they simply did not know, and, guided by rumor, hope or supposition, did the best they could.2
nativity comparison



1. Brown, Raymond, ‘The Birth of The Messiah,’ p 25

2. W.D Davies and E. P. Sanders, ‘Jesus from the Jewish point of view’, in The Cambridge History of Judaism ed William Horbury, vol 3: the Early Roman Period, 1984.


Matthew and Luke provide contradicting dates for the Nativity

Most historians state the Nativity story was not wholly historical. One of the many reasons is that the Gospel of Matthew dates the birth of Jesus during the reign of Herod, while Luke’s Gospel dates it about 12 years *after* Herods death.

a. Matthew says Jesus was born “in the days of Herod the king,” (Mat 1:28) in fact the Magi are shown talking to the King himself, clearly this happens when Herod the Great is alive.

b. Yet Luke on the other hand, speaks of an empire-wide census that occurs when “when Quirinius was governor of Syria” (Luke 2:2).


Herod the Great died in 4 B.C. and Quirinius only became governor of Syria in 6 A.D., that’s a difference of 12 years. (Not to mention the fact that this census, purportedly took place throughout the whole Roman empire, is never mentioned by the Romans, who were meticulous historians, and recorded much smaller events.)


There are currently many different ways apologists try to “explain away” this problem (claiming ancient historians were wrong, inventing duplicate censuses/governorships with no evidence, etc.) More honest evangelicals, like Dr Wallace of DTS, admit that this is “one of the greatest difficulties in the Bible… [which] cannot be resolved with certainty” and that evangelicals should not give “implausible solutions” for this. (1)


Raymond E. Brown, a Catholic admitted that attempts to reconcile this discrepancy are “dubious on almost every score, despite the elaborate attempts by scholars to defend Lucan accuracy.” Other well known scholars W. D. Davies and E. P. Sanders state that, “on many points, especially about Jesus’ early life, the evangelists were ignorant … they simply did not know, and, guided by rumour, hope or supposition, did the best they could.” 2


1. Wallace, Dan., ‘The Problem of Luke 2:2 “This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria’ “

2. Brown, Raymond., The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke, Anchor Bible; Updated edition (1999), page 413.