I'm just curious as to what Luke is referring to here. Is he referring to "the world" or "the inhabited land" as the whole Roman Empire or only the province of Judaea?

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. - Luke 2:1 (NASB)

One of them, named Agabus, stood up and indicated by the Spirit that there would definitely be a severe famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius. - Acts 11:28 (NASB)

In these verses, the expressions "world" and "inhabited earth" are, in Koine Greek, οἰκουμένην.

  • An insight which we may gain from Toynbee is that any established civilisation tends to regard itself as "the world". As for example, the modern United States. Feb 1 at 19:18

1 Answer 1


It means the inhabited earth, and specifically the old Roman empire, as Caesar Augustus only had authority to tax his kingdom. It would not apply to anyone outside Caesar's dominion.

Strong's Gr. 3625, "oikoumené" is defined as the inhabited earth, and used as "(properly: the land that is being inhabited, the land in a state of habitation), the inhabited world, that is, the Roman world, for all outside it was regarded as of no account." Source: Biblehub

It is the same word Jesus used in Matt. 24:14 that the gospel would proclaimed throughout the "oikoumene", the inhabited earth of the Roman empire before "the end" came.

See my post "Frequent Mistakes - Part IV: Where Was All The World?" at my blog ShreddingTheveil for more in depth study.

  • The concept explained, can be seen in this verse: Paul’s Desire to Visit Rome: First of all,[a] I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the whole world. Romans 1:8
    – Betho's
    Feb 2 at 2:40
  • Two thousand years before Augustus, Naram-Sin of Akkad called himself King of the 4 Quarters of the World and King of the Universe, even though his actual empire was confined to part of Iraq. So claiming to be king of everything was a pretty old custom. Feb 2 at 3:32

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