FACT CHECK: Did Pope Francis Say That Jesus Was Born During A Census Taken By King David?

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

The Associated Press reported that Pope Francis said Jesus was born during a census taken by King David.

Verdict: False

Pope Francis did not say that Jesus was born during a census taken by King David. He was comparing the census taken during David’s time and when Jesus was born.

Fact Check:

Pope Francis presided over Christmas Eve Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, according to Vatican News. RELATED: Does This Photo Show Pope Francis Wearing An Oversized White Puffer Coat?)

The Associated Press reported that during his homily, Pope Francis recalled “that Jesus was born during a census meant to reinforce King David’s power, Francis warned against ‘the quest for worldly power and might, fame and glory, which measures everything in terms of success, results, numbers and figures, a world obsessed with achievement.'”

This, however, is false. Pope Francis did not recall that “Jesus was born during a census meant to reinforce King David’s power” as the Associated Press reported. Instead, he compared the census, which is found in the Book of Samuel, to the census described in the Gospel of Luke.

Pope Francis said during his homily:

“King David, tempted by large numbers and an unhealthy sense of self-sufficiency, sinned gravely by ordering a census of the people. He wanted to know how powerful he was. After some nine months, he knew how many men could wield a sword (cf. 2 Sam 24:1-9). The Lord was angered and the people suffered. On this night, however, Jesus, the ‘Son of David’, after nine months in Mary’s womb, is born in Bethlehem, the city of David. He does not impose punishment for the census, but humbly allows himself to be registered as one among many.”

Pope Francis said earlier in his homily,”‘A census of the whole earth’ (cf. Lk 2:1). This was the context in which Jesus was born, and the Gospel makes a point of it. The census might have been mentioned in passing, but instead is carefully noted. And in this way a great contrast emerges.”

The full text show that Pope Francis was speaking about the census described in the Gospel of Luke when he described Jesus’ birth.

King David lived about 1000 years prior to the birth of Jesus, according to Britannica. In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus is said to be a descendant of David, according to Catholic Answers Magazine.

The Associated Press later updated its story on Dec. 29, writing, “Recalling that Jesus was born during a census, which in the scriptures had ‘negative associations’…” and removed the reference to Jesus being born during King David’s census.

Check Your Fact reached out to the Associated Press and the Vatican for comment and will update this article if responses are provided.

Update 1/02/2024: The Associated Press updated its story to note that Pope Francis did not say that Jesus was born during the census taken by King David. 

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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