The statement of Luke, however, still puzzles historians, for the Gospel dates the events surrounding the birth of Jesus to the reign of Herod the Great, who by the accounts of Josephus, Strabo, and Tacitus died in 4 BC, nearly ten years before Quirinius became governor of Syria. Josephus does, however, document a census taken early in Quirinius' term of office.
Before becoming governor of Crete and Cyrene in 14 BC, Quirinius served in the Roman army, possibly participating in Caesar's campaign that culminated in the battle of Actium in 31 BC. For the following decade he served in Spain, and upon assuming his first governorship, Quirinius defeated the Marmarici, a tribe of desert raiders. In 12 BC he was named a consul in Rome as a favorite of Augustus. Six years afterward he was dispatched to govern Pamphylia-Galatia in the east, where another successful military campaign there earned him honors in Rome.
By AD 1, Quirinius had become chief advisor to Augustus' son Gaius Caesar and, when he saw Augustus' support shift to his stepson Tiberius, entered the latter's camp of followers. Four years later he became governor of Syria with nominal authority over Judea and served in that posting until AD 12, when he returned to Rome as a close associate of Tiberius. Nine years later Quirinius died and was given a public funeral.