Does the Gospel of Luke have a blatant historical error in recording Jesus' birth?
The fact a census was controversial for first-century Jews may provide an answer...
Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem because of a census when "Quirinius was governor of Syria." This is a problem since he was "governor" of Syria in 6 A.D. The Gospels state Jesus was born during Herod the Great's reign which ended eight years earlier in 4 B.C.
Is God's word in error? Was Jesus born during Herod's reign or Quirinius' governorship? Do such questions make believers angry?
On the first day, the kids learned that the first-century Jews tended to be cautious about a census, especially a Roman one. The previous post also mentioned some of the biblical issues with a census in the Jewish mindset of the time (and even in modern times). This dynamic may actually help us with the timeline problem. (See "Was Luke Mistaken" below.)
The census brought up the issue of to whom the Jews "belonged" and who was in control. They were God's people, not Rome's, not Caesar's, and not Quirinius. The kids were challenged to think about to whom they belong. They may get angry over things they can't control in this world, but they need to remember that God is bigger than anything they face.
As a reminder of this part of the story, and the Jewish revolt with a census, the kids got an Angry Birds Star Wars Wii game. What better way to think about defeating imperial oppression than slingshotting birds at Darth Hog!
Was Luke Mistaken?
Luke 2:2 says this was the "first" census of Quirinius. This would indicate there were other censuses later. Based on some Roman texts found in the 1920's, this "first census" could have taken place around 7/6 B.C. (notice B.C.). Ten years later, 6 A.D. a census mentioned by Josephus occurred and revolt broke out. In other words, the census of 6 A.D. may have been a second or third during Quirinius' official duties in the region. Luke 2:2 also states (in the Greek) that Quirinius was "governing" in Syria, not the noun "governor." Quirinius had duties in Syria at the time of Jesus' birth, but later had an official position.
The arguments that Luke is inaccurate date to the mid-19th century, but since then we have discovered new evidence that shows Luke was not as mistaken as once thought. The Roman records mentioned above shows frequent censuses took place in various places of the Roman Empire, and at times, across the whole of the empire as well. This is the kind to which Luke refers.