Caesar Augustus - This was Caius Caesar Octavianus Augustus, who was proclaimed emperor of Rome in the 29th year before our Lord, and died a.d. 14.
That all the world should be taxed - , the whole of that empire. It is agreed, on all hands, that this cannot mean the whole world, as in the common translation; for this very sufficient reason, that the Romans had not the dominion of the whole earth, and therefore could have no right to raise levies or taxes in those places to which their dominion did not extend. signifies properly the inhabited part of the earth, from , to dwell, or inhabit. Polybius makes use of the very words in this text to point out the extent of the Roman government, lib. vi. c. 48; and Plutarch uses the word in exactly the same sense, Pomp. p. 635. See the passages in Wetstein. Therefore the whole that could be meant here, can be no more than that a general Census of the inhabitants and their effects had been made in the reign of Augustus, through all the Roman dominions.
But as there is no general census mentioned in any historian as having taken place at this time, the meaning of must be farther restrained, and applied solely to the land of Judea. This signification it certainly has in this same evangelist, Luke 21:26. Men' s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth, ͅ ͅ this land. The whole discourse relates to the calamities that were coming, not upon the whole world, nor the whole of the Roman empire, but on the land of Judea, see Luke 21:21. Then let them that are in Judea flee to the mountains. Out of Judea, therefore, there would be safety; and only those who should be with child, or giving suck, in those days, are considered as peculiarly unhappy, because they could not flee away from that land on which the scourge was to fall: for the wrath, or punishment, shall be, says our Lord, ͅ ͅ ͅ , On This Very People, viz. the Jews, Luke 21:23. It appears that St. Luke used this word in this sense in conformity to the Septuagint, who have applied it in precisely the same way, Isaiah 13:11; Isaiah 14:26; Isaiah 24:1. And from this we may learn, that the word had been long used as a term by which the land of Judea was commonly expressed. ̔ , which signifies the earth, or world in general, is frequently restrained to this sense, being often used by the evangelists and others for all the country of Judea. See Luke 4:25; Joshua 2:3.
It is probable that the reason why this enrolment, or census, is said to have been throughout the whole Jewish nation, was to distinguish it from that partial one, made ten years after, mentioned Acts 5:37, which does not appear to have extended beyond the estates of Archelaus, and which gave birth to the insurrection excited by Judas of Galilee. See Josephus, Ant. book xx. c. 3.
Other Adam Clarke entries containing Luke 2:1:
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