Excerpt from: “Why I am not a Christian” by Keith M. Parsons
One little snag, though, is that the Roman census would not have affected Nazareth in any case, as Galilee was not under Roman rule but had its own ruler, the “tetrarch” Herod Antipas, son of King Herod.
But that is not the only problem connected with the census. Luke is obviously very anxious for us to accept his story about Jesus being born in Bethlehem, so he gives us a lot of detail in explaining it. He actually goes so far as to specify the name of the Roman governor under whom the census was held: Cyrenius. There certainly was a governor of that name (or Quirinius, to put it in its proper Latin form) and, what is more, he is known from Roman sources to have held a census. But the mention of him by Luke in connection with the birth of Jesus creates more problems than it solves. Above all, there is the problem of date. Quirinius certainly conducted a census—but at a time when Jesus would have been ten years old. As it happens, Quirinius’ census can be precisely dated by means of the very detailed account given by the historian Josephus. According to him, Quirinius was sent to conduct his census shortly after Judea had been annexed by Rome, which occurred in the year 6 or 7 of the current era. This census was obviously intended to be an initial “stock-taking” now that Judea was to be governed directly by Roman officials…
Aided by an inscription describing an unnamed Roman military official, apologists have rushed to suggest that perhaps Quirinius had an earlier—and totally unrecorded—tour of duty in the area and that the anonymous official was none other than himself in this role, conveniently dating to the time of Jesus’ birth. Besides the total lack of evidence for jumping to so improbable a conclusion, there is another little snag: the generally accepted date of Jesus’ birth was at a time when Rome had no jurisdiction either in Bethlehem or in Nazareth, so there could have been no census to coincide with Jesus’s birth…. This is because Jesus was born during the lifetime of King Herod “the Great.” Herod died in 4 B.C.E. (Arnheim, 1984, pp 10-11).