In a story about the USA census National Public Radio took a dagger to Luke, the Physician, and author of the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament. Why bother NPR? It is a silly thing to do. The unnamed commentator (that is all she is, not an expert) said that the census that Luke recorded likely did not happen at the time of the birth of Jesus. “Likely”? Why even both mentioning. It was irrelevant to the current USA census and the commentator was missing some data.
Except for the understanding of Doctor Luke, no one in the modern era can be certain that a census did or did not happen. Here is the conclusion of Biblical Archaeology.
… Quirinius’s personal chronology is not fully known, particularly around the years of Jesus’ birth. Thus, it is not impossible that he held another office at the time which Luke appropriately describes with (h[gemoneuontoj thj Suriaj) hegmoneuontos tēs Surias, a description as we saw which could also appropriately describe the office from which he took his well-known census. In short, it is most likely under this otherwise unattested office that Quirinius officiated over what Luke describes. To say more would go beyond the present evidence; to say otherwise, would, as we saw, strain the syntax. As such, I. Howard Marshall is probably right when he suggests that Luke’s full vindication lies buried somewhere, waiting to be unearthed.51 Until then, Luke’s historiographical track record (well-documented in other places52) and the implausibility of such a monumental miscalculation, especially considering his method of and purpose for writing (cf. Luke 1:1–4),53 should forestall the rather premature conclusions noted initially. Moreover, for those of us with a high view of Scripture, the fact that Luke’s record is indeed part of Scripture suggests that these conclusions are not only premature but are, in the end, simply wrong. Further evidence will only demonstrate this more conclusively.
Time will tell. Maybe in eternity we will know (if it is at all relevant then).