Quirinius, P. Sulpicius°

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QUIRINIUS, P. SULPICIUS °, Roman commander and administrator at the beginning of the first century c.e. Quirinius did not belong to an aristocratic family; his rise to power was due to his own abilities and the support of Augustus and his stepson Tiberius with whom he enjoyed a relationship of unwavering friendship. He achieved his reputation as a result of his military exploits in Africa and Asia Minor. He reached the peak of his public career in the year 6 c.e. when he was appointed governor of Syria. He was responsible for laying the foundations of the organization of the new province of Judea, after *Archelaus, son of Herod, had been dismissed from the post of ethnarch of Judea. Quirinius himself, accompanied by Coponius, newly appointed governor of Judea, arrived in order to conduct a general census of property in the new province, and to deal with the possessions of Archelaus (Jos., Ant., 18:1ff.). The census aroused widespread opposition among the Jews, but thanks to the influence of the high priest, *Joezer b. Boethus, it was carried out without serious disturbances. However, extremist circles, headed by *Judah the Galilean and *Zadok the Pharisee, who incited the people to rebellion maintained that the institution of the census symbolized servitude to the Romans. Quirinius also introduced changes into the high priesthood. He dismissed Joezer b. Boethus and replaced him by *Anan b. Seth (Jos. Ant., 18:26), the first high priest of the house of Anan. Scholars dispute the passage in Luke 2:1–2 where the census of Quirinius is mentioned in connection with the birth of Jesus. An inscription discovered in Tibur Tivoli, Italy, has been regarded as referring to Quirinius and as a result an attempt has been made to maintain that Quirinius served twice as governor of Syria, the first time being during Herod's lifetime. But even if the inscription refers to Quirinius, it fails to prove that he served twice as governor of Syria.


T. Mommsen, Res gestae Divi Augusti (1865), 115ff.; Schuerer, Hist, 197; R. Syme, The Roman Revolution (1939), 399; Roos, in: Mnemosyne, 9 (1941), 306–18; H. Dessau, Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae 1 (1892), no. 918; D. Magie, Roman Rule in Asia Minor, 2 (1950), 1322–23; E. Gabba, Iscrizioni greche e latine per lo studio della Bibbia, no. xviii, 52–61.

[Menahem Stern]