Summary: Meacham starts out by saying that Luke has a problem in getting Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem since he has them living in Nazareth, so Luke apparently grabs at history to select an event– a census– to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Meacham quotes Brown who claims that Luke’s history is “dubious on almost every score.” Meacham claims there was no global or local census. He claims that Luke must have manufactured the account for effect– making a theological point. He mentions his belief that Matthew had them living in Bethlehem all along, and that Luke had to add all the touches about there not being room for him and his birth in the stable. He claims Luke took from Old Testament passages all the details that the Messiah needed, and then claims that the rest of the incidents are either unprovable, or simply “nice touches”. He then links the story of the virgin birth of Christ to Augustus’ birth– a familiar story for people at the time– which would have given the Gospel writers the ability to use a familiar story with the gentile audience.
First off, let’s remember a main flaw that Meacham has– he doesn’t believe that there were any eyewitnesses around for the birth. He seems to keep forgetting or dismissing the possibility of the Magi, shepherds, Mary, Joseph, etc. from having any input into the gospels, or argues from silence that since we don’t have these people speaking in later parts of the gospel accounts that means they were not around. And, lest we forget when these books were published, there was plenty of opportunity for those who knew to challenge these accounts. Seriously, do you think Paul, Peter, et. al. would be willing to have false or conflicting accounts floating around?
This is directly the question when it comes to the census. Everyone would have laughed at Luke’s account of a census that took people back to their parental lineage birthplace had it not happened. They would have known about the conditions of housing during the time. And while typing this, I was thinking of more witnesses– do you think that people didn’t notice that the couple in the stable had a baby?
The link between the virgin birth and Augustus shows one thing– Satan has been trying to duplicate or put up false Messiah’s for a long time. His first attempt was in the Old Testament time, and he has had many times since. To slime the character of the Gospel writers because of disbelief in the supernatural is revolting.