That Highly Inefficient Roman Census

Reading about the census in Luke 2, it seems highly inefficient, having people travel to their ancestral home.

For Joseph, that meant going to Bethlehem, known as the City of David. But why stop at David? Joseph was also a descendent of Boaz, and Joseph, and Isaac. How did he know the lineage cut-off point? Did he get a letter in the mail? Was there a Census Bureau website he could consult? Was the rule, “Wherever your descendents lived at the time of David, that’s where you go”?

And why should the Romans care about everyone’s ancestral home? Wouldn’t they be more interested in, “How many people currently live in Nazareth? How many currently live in Capernaum?”

If we did the US census that way, imagine the confusion, with people traveling all across the country. I would go to either Lake Odessa or Lowell in Michigan…or maybe Kadoka, South Dakota. Maybe I would arrive in Lake Odessa and be told, “A-L is in Lowell. Only M-Z is in Lake Odessa.” Or maybe they would say, “No, Dennies have to go to South Dakota.” That would be a bummer.

What about immigrants who had no ancestral home in Israel? Where did they go to register? I’m sure the Romans wanted to tax them like everyone else.

How did people prove they had registered? Did they get a paper of some kind? It’s not like a Roman soldier could call up the office in Bethlehem and ask, “Did a Joseph from Nazareth register there?”

These are my questions for today.

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