Re: Cyrenius vs Quirinus

Carl W. Conrad (
Tue, 17 Dec 1996 09:29:20 -0600

At 9:16 AM -0600 12/17/96, Vanetten.Edward wrote:
> In Luke 2:2 the KJV translators used Cyrenius
> instead of Quirinus. Does anyone know why?
> Was Cyrenius a nickname, cognomen, Greek
> transliteration of a Roman name, or what?

My guess is that the KJV translators didn't know exactly who Quirinius was
and that they thought the spelling of the name indicated it was derived
from the North African Greek city of Cyrene. In fact, however, the Greek
KYRHNIOS transliterates quite well--in the pronunciation of Luke's era--the
pronunciation of the Latin name Quirinius--and of course it would be a
Roman functioning as governor. If they DID know of Quirinius, they might
have had problems with the fact that Quirinius wasn't governor of Syria
until 6 A.D., whereas the birth of Jesus is also said by Luke to occur
while Herod the Great is still ruling Judea, and Herod died in 4 B.C. So:
they may have thought it couldn't be Quirinius. There have been many and
various ways of dealing with the problem of the anachronistic dating, but
naming the governor Cyrenius is not really one of the more adequate

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR