And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.(Luke 2:1-6)
The “seed of the woman”, the Messiah Saviour promised from the very beginning in Genesis chapter three, came into the world at a time appointed by God himself, the ‘fulness of time’.
By this time, the series of Jewish exiles and captivities had seeded the known world with Synagogues in nearly every town of any size. The conquests and cultural colonization of Alexander the Great had made Hellenism the common culture, and Greek the ‘lingua franca’of the known world.Everyone spoke Greek and the Hebrew Bible had been translated into Greek(the Septuagint).
The Roman empire had cleared the Meditteranean of the infestation of pirates, and had threaded the entire known world with excellent paved roads, making travel and trade safe and easier than ever before in history. Roman law imposed a kind of order upon the world, the pax Romana.
The Roman world also imposed a religious pluralism, one could worship in any fashion as long as due allegiance was paid to the Emperor, in the form of a pinch of incense to the ‘genius of the Emperor’ at spacial government shrines.
A special status was afforded the Jews, who thought it abominable to pray to the Emperor, instead they pledged to pray for the Emperor.
Julius Caesar’s nephew, Octavian, took upon himself the name of his benefactor and uncle, thus He was called Caesar. It was said of him that he initiated the golden age of peace and prosperity.It seemed inevitable that all of the world was Rome.
In 27 BC Octavian Caesar accepted the name Augustus,”One worthy of worship or veneration”. Thus Caesar was called, the “Lord”, “Son of God”, the “Divine Emperor”, and “the Savior of the world”.His emissaries were called evangelists, and his messages were called gospels.This was the beginning of the cult of Caesar worship.
His birthday announcement called for the date to become the new beginning of the year, and virtually deified Him;
The most divine Caesar…we should consider equal to the Beginning of all things…; for when everything was falling [into disorder] and tending toward dissolution, he restored it once more and gave to the whole world a new aura; Caesar…the common good Fortune of all…the beginning of life and vitality….All the cities unanimously adopt the birthday of the divine Caesar as the new beginning of the year….Whereas Providence, which has regulated our whole existence…has brought our life to the climax of perfection in giving to us [the emperor] Augustus, whom it [Providence] filled with strength for the welfare of men, and who being sent to us and our descendants as Savior, has put an end to war and has set all things in order; and [whereas,] having become [god] manifest (phaneis), Caesar has fulfilled all the hopes of earlier times …in surpassing all the benefactors who preceded him…, and whereas, finally, the birthday of the god [Augustus] has been for the whole world the beginning of good news (euangelion) concerning him [therefore let a new era begin from his birth]. Horsley, Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder, 23.
The Holy Land had burned with the fires of Messianic expectation in the days of the Maccabean revolt, in which the Anti-God measures of the pagan Greek oppressor Antiochus Epiphanes were resisted until Judea gained a brief independence in 142 bc..
In 63 bc, Rome intervened in a civil war in Judea, and took control over the Holy land, installing an Edomite convert to Judaism , King Herod.
Herod, with all of his flaws, was one of the greatest builders of the Ancient world. One of his projects was the restoration and refurbishment of the temple of God in Jerusalem.His forts , palaces, aqueducts and the temple project caused him to load the people of Judea down with excessive taxes, which came on top of the heavy Roman taxes, and the temple tithes.
Herod was somewhat scrupulous about keeping kosher, but was paranoid about possible usurpers to the Kingdom. HE once killed a Son he suspected of having ambitions to his throne, causing Caesar to quip,”It is safer to be Herod’s pig, than his son”.
Late in the pregnancy of Mary, word came that Caesar instituted a census, an enrollment to number the people of the Empire for the purposes of taxation. Herod instituted his own enrollment at the same time, this causing Mary and Joseph to have to travel to Bethlehem, the city of Mary and Joseph’s tribal clan, to be counted.
Caesar thought He was sovereignly issuing his decree, in order to build his army, cities and to better order his Kingdom. Millions of people were inconvenienced and relocated for the census. But all of this took place to fulfill the ancient prophecy of the Messiah,
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.(Micah 5:2)