3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
1901 ASV Translation:
3 And all went to enrol themselves, every one to his own city.
The Nestle/Aland 26 has a different word for "own" in the phrase "his own city" than the Textus Receptus. This difference indicates that someone deliberately altered the sense of "his own" because the word the Textus Receptus uses is so different in spelling from the word used in the Nestle/Aland 26 that it cannot be explained in terms of visual or audio error. The question is "why?". What is the difference between the term "his own" in the Textus Receptus and the term "his own" in the Nestle/Aland 26? The word the Textus Receptus uses signifies "one's own" as uniquely one's own -- as opposed to a more collective idea of ownership [see BAG, p. 370], while the word the Nestle/Aland 26 uses signifies "one's own" as the consequence of a "reflexive idea" [see BAG, p. 211]. It seems, then, that someone thought that one, or the other, of these ideas was either erroneous or too imprecise, and, thus, in disregard for the text he had, altered it to suit his concerns.
I. Clearly, Luke wished for Theophilus to be able to tie the birth narrative to the historical issues. However, the historical issues are not even in the same ball park in terms of significance as the theological issues. There are tons of "historical" facts that can be mentioned if "historicity" is the issue, but if "theology" is the issue, only those historical facts which clarify the theological issues involved will be useful. As we have seen, Luke wished for Theophilus to ponder the difference between the "theology" of "Judas of Galilee" (who despised "servanthood" and thought "not being a servant of Rome" worth the shedding of the blood of hundreds of his kinsmen) and the theology of that One born in Bethlehem in obedience to the decree of Rome -- even though it was driven by enormously ungodly motivations.
II. Just as clearly, the "governorship" of Quirinius in Syria is not nearly as significant to "history" in respect to Judea as the regency of Herod. This means that Luke chose Quirinius' "governorship" in Syria to be the foil that forces Theophilus to ponder.
I. There is a difference in the way the AV handles the verb "tax" besides the choice of "tax" as opposed to "enroll". This difference is that the AV takes the form of the word to be a "passive voice" verb ("to be taxed") while the ASV takes the form to be a "middle voice" verb (indicating the reflexive sense of "to enroll themselves"). This is an interesting alteration of translation.
A. It is interesting in light of the fact that the revision of the ASV in the NASB omits the "voice" issue altogether by translating the verb erroneously as an "active" voice.
B. It is interesting in light of the fact that there is no difference is spelling between the "middle" and "passive" in the form used -- indicating a "translator's choice".
C. It is interesting in light of the fact that the contributing issue is whether the translator sees the people as "victims" (passively being mistreated) or as "participants" (actively involving themselves in the treatment). Clearly, the translator(s) of the AV tended toward the "victimization" idea while the translator(s) of the ASV tended toward the "active participation" idea. That Luke has a theology of willing service rather than compelled obedience implies that "all" went without a sense of grudging necessity -- exactly in harmony with the "lesson" he seeks to get across to Theophilus (that the proper response to divinely apportioned authority is willing submission). There is, however, this question: can Luke really mean that "all" went to their city in a compliant mindset? Probably not. It would be unusual indeed for "all" to have the same attitude toward anything, let alone "being enrolled". But, this raises the question of whether the biblical text uses "all" as we often do: to express a majority attitude? The answer is "yes". Language is, at best, an imprecise tool of communication. If I say "everyone rushes to get his taxes done by April 15", I am not lying though there are several categories of people who do not rush to get their taxes done by April 15. There are those who got them done shortly after Jan. 1. There are those who owe no taxes. There are those who refuse to file tax forms. There are those who file for an extension. Etc. The statement "everyone rushes..." is not, by design, an attempt to say "everyone rushes...". It is, rather, an attempt to create a general impression of a host of folks "rushing to get their taxes done". That is not an illegitimate use of language; it is merely an imprecise use of language that actually accomplished the intention.
D. It is also interesting in light of the fact that Luke repeated himself in 2:5 and there used a form that is "middle voice" without question...implying that that was his idea all along.
II. Then there is the issue raised by the alteration of the text as indicated by the difference between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26.
A. There had to be a reason for the copyist to alter the text.
B. The reason could not have anything to do with a simple "copyist error" -- the words are too distinct in sound and spelling.
C. All "reasons" ultimately find themselves grounded in "T"heology (the way one views God -- as distinct from "t"heology as the way one views the derivative issues). Not, however, are all "reasons" clearly tracable to the "T"heology that drives them. Motives arise from deep, hidden wells (no one can know the heart except the God Who reads it without difficulty), and the inter-co-mingling that goes on in the paths which allow them to arise to the surface and produce actions is so highly complex that great wisdom is required to identify the "why" of many actions. This is one of the root "reasons" for Luke's focus upon his "name him John" thesis: God must be assumed to be "gracious" above all considerations. [This thesis, of course, means that we must have a legitimate concept of "grace", or "Yahweh is Gracious" is turned on its head by flawed definition.]
D. That all motivations have their ultimate root in "T"heology means that the corruption of the text by a copyist was driven by his own Theology. Not knowing the copyist is a distinct disadvantage. But it is not necessary that we know him. What is necessary is that we know the God of all Theology/theology so that we may understand what He said.
1. It is unlikely that "all" went to their "own" city in the sense of the word used by the copyist of the Textus Receptus because...
a. That word implies a proprietary interest (this is "mine").
b. God never encourages that kind of interest (nought is "mine" and nought is to be used as if it were "mine").
2. It is more likely that "all" went to their "own" city in the sense of the word used by the copyist of the Nestle/Aland 26 because...
a. That word signifies "identity with" on the basis of one's own personal identity.
b. "All" went to the cities of their derivation according to birth and tribal boundaries as decreed by God, not their own choices. Since the individuals had nothing to do with the cities to which they "belonged" (their identification with their "city" was decreed upon them by the actions of God and their progenitors), there is no proprietary interest here. Though men often took great pride in their "origins" [...I am of the tribe of...], it was a mistake to use them as a basis for pride as Paul clearly points out in 1 Corinthians 4:7. Pride is the bane of humanity from which we never seem to extricate ourselves.
3. The point is this: the subjects of Rome who lived in Judea submitted to the authority behind the decree [God -- Romans 13:1-2] and went to the cities to whom "they belonged" (as opposed to the cities which "belonged to them").
E. The alteration of the text was theologically driven by the resistance man has to the concept of biblical servanthood. The Nestle/Aland 26 text and its ASV translator(s) had a better "T"heology of God as Gracious than did the Textus Receptus and its AV translator(s). The bottom line is that God as Gracious is the Provider of What He Requires for all who embrace Him as Gracious.