QUIRINIUS (QUIRINUS), cwai-rin'i-us, PUBLIUS SULPICIUS: His Life. A Roman general and administrator; b. at Lanuvium (c. 20 m. s. of Rome); d. in Rome 21 A.D. As a reward for military and administrative services he was raised by Augustus to the office of consul in the year 12 B.C. Later he waged successful war against the Homonadenses in Cilicia, and was granted the honor of a triumph. He was assigned as adviser to Caius Cæsar when this youth, a nephew and adopted son of the emperor, was engaged in the reduction of Armenia to order. He secretly paid court to Tiberius, who at the time was but a prince living in retirement on the island of Rhodes. From 6-9 A.D. he was legatus Augusti, i.e., governor, in Syria. At his death the Emperor Tiberius wrote to the senate asking that a public funeral be decreed. In this letter, the emperor recalled the attentions paid to him by Quirinius at Rhodes and praised him for his good offices, apparently in preventing at that time misunderstandings between Tiberius and Caius Cæsar. But to the people generally the memory of Quirinius was by no means dear, because of his persistence in the trial of his wife Lepida, whose conviction he secured on the charges of adultery, attempted poisoning, and treasonable dealing, but who had the sympathy of the people; and also because of his sordid avarice even in his old age (Tacitus, Annales, iii. 48; Strabo, xii. 6, 3, and 5; Josephus, Ant., XVII., xiii. 5, XVIII., i. 1, ii. 1). As a necessary conclusion from the facts recited by Tacitus, and in view of Roman governmental principles, it is inferred that Quirinius was governor of Syria, not only 6-9 A.D., but also at the time of the war in Cilicia, probably during 3-2 B.C., in succession to Varus (Zumpt, Mommsen, Schürer). Ramsay dates this earlier Syrian administration--not a governership, however--and the conquest of the Homonadenses in 4-3 B.C. at the latest, but perhaps earlier; and Quirinius' proconsulship of the province Asia (attested, he believes, by the Tivoli inscription) at latest 3-2 B.C.
Luke's References. In the book of the Acts Luke mentions an enrolment of the people which was made in Judea and provoked bitter opposition (Acts v. 37). This was the census which, according to Josephus, was taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria and Coponius was procurator, i.e., between 6-9 A.D. (Ant., XVIII., i. 1, ii. 1; War., II., viii. 1). In the Gospel also Luke mentions an enrolment in Palestine (see CENSUS). It was part of a general enumeration decreed by Augustus for the entire Roman empire. It led to the visit of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, and was thus in a way the occasion of the birth of Christ in that town. Luke calls this "the first enrolment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria" (Luke ii. 2). Now the birth of Christ took place before the death of Herod the Great (Matt. ii. 1; Luke iii. 1, 2, 23). Herod died in the year 4 B.C. How then can Luke say that Quirinius was governor of Syria? C. Sentius Saturninus held that office from 9 or 8 to the first half of the year 6 B.C.; and was succeeded by P. Quinctilius Varus, who continued until 4 B.C.
The "First Enrolment." Here, then, is a matter for investigation, and, if possible, elucidation. No evidence has been adduced against the genuineness of the verse in Luke, or of the reading "Quirinius" in that passage. Nor does any suspicion of error attach to the statements of Josephus which fix the date of the administrations of Saturninus and Varus and of Quirinius, a decade later, when Judas of Galilee revolted. As to Luke's statement that the enrolment, which was being conducted at the time of Christ's birth, took place "when Quirinius was governor of Syria," Mommsen and Schürer, for example, have expressed the opinion that the evangelist erred. But this summary dismissal of Luke's testimony as erroneous has not been deemed wholly satisfactory by scholars, for Luke shows himself well informed on historical matters and his accuracy has been vindicated in many other instances. Moved by considerations of this kind Zumpt, in the middle of the last century, having found reason to believe that Quirinius held the office of legate of Syria in 3-2 B.C. in succession to Varus, gave it as his opinion that the first enrolment began indeed during the administration of Saturninus, but was completed during the first governorship of Quirinius, 3-2 B.C. In principle this is the theory of Ramsay also. His modification consists in that he does not regard Quirinius as sole legate for Syria and successor to Varus (as do Zumpt, Mommsen, and Schürer); but as a legate for a special purpose, who was associated with the legate appointed for the general administration. And Ramsay elaborates the theory of Zumpt in that he offers an explanation for the delay in completing the census, his explanation being the same as that given long ago by Hales. It is known that under the Roman government a periodic enumeration of households was conducted in Egypt every fourteen years, reckoned from 23 B.C., the imperial year of Augustus. Professor Ramsay finds evidence of an enrolment in Syria, too, according to the fourteen-year cycle; Tertullian referring to one during the governorship of Saturninus, Josephus to one in 6 A.D., and Tacitus to one in 34 A.D. Thus an enrolment was due in Syria in the year 8 B.C. and made; but in Herod's kingdom it was probably delayed for some time, for Herod had gotten himself into trouble with Augustus. With the consent of Saturninus, governor of Syria, Herod had marched an army into Arabia to redress certain wrongs which he had received (Ant., XVI., ix. 2). This proceeding was misrepresented to the emperor, who notified Herod, probably in the year 8 B.C., that henceforth he would treat him as a subject. Some time afterward the whole nation of the Jews, except 6,000 Pharisees, took an oath of fidelity to Cæsar and the king jointly (Ant., XVII., ii. 4). Obviously the two acts, the oath and the enrolment, form part of the new policy of Augustus toward Herod. The date of the enrolment and the oath may be the year 6 B.C.; for Herod would have had little difficulty in obtaining leave from Saturninus to postpone the numbering until the embassy, which, after Augustus announced the change of policy toward him, he was sending to Rome to seek a reconciliation with the emperor and a restoration of the old order, should return and report the result of its efforts. Herod was finally obliged to order the census, and it was probably taken in the summer of the year 6 B.C., when Quirinius was a special legatus Augusti to Syria, invested with the command of the army and entrusted with its foreign affairs, such as the relations between its several states and Rome, particularly where tension existed and military intervention might be necessary. Quirinius stood in exactly the same relation to Varus, the governor of Syria, as at a later time Vespasian did to Mucianus. Vespasian conducted the war in Palestine while Mucianus was governor of Syria; and Vespasian was legatus Augusti, holding precisely the same title and technical rank as Mucianus. See CENSUS, II., §§ 4-5.
JOHN D. DAVIS.