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However, Elder notes that Augustus began his reign in 27 BC and says: "Since Augustus records that he set about early in his reign to organize the empire, the first census may have been either in 23-22 BC or in 9-8 BC; the latter would be the census to which the Gospel of Luke refers." (p. That is the totality of Elder's evidence that there was a census in 9-8 BC. Since we haven't talked about stuff like this before, I'm unsure of what you know and don't know, and what background information you accept or don't accept. Although a large error rate would disqualify the manuscripts as reliable texts, a small error rate does not by itself validate the historical accuracy of a manuscript.The big question is whether setting out "early in his reign to organize the empire" means (1) having a census, and (2) having one early in his reign. Thompson (1962) mentions documentary Egyptian evidence of regular 14-year censuses from AD 90 to 230, and Thompson indicates that Ramsay (uncited) speaks of censuses in AD 62, 48, 34 and 20. For one thing, the "original" text might not be accurate, even if it is accurately copied.
So the earliest census Elder cites is AD 20-21, although it is reasonable to infer a census 14 years earlier than AD 20-21, that is in AD 6-7, due to the existence of the poll tax in AD 14. What we're talking about here are changes in manuscripts produced when they were copied by hand, so I would expect the error rate to be pretty small.
The latter would be the one to which Luke refers." (p.73) He cites Elder (pp. Elder cites a "large Egyptian papyrus" telling of enrollments in AD 174-175, 160-161, and 146-47, intervals of 14 years.
He cites earlier papyri telling of enrollments in AD 62-63 and 20-21. 2.1 The Doctrine of Atonement in Luke 2.2 The Endings of Mark's Gospel 3.
Most readers have neither the time nor the inclination for such research, and many conservative Christians are glad to see apparent scholarly support for what they already "know" is true.
Unfortunately for them and the unwary they seek to influence, that support is a mirage and a deception.
I was able to find the primary one of the two references he uses, Elder (1962).