The New Testament is Archaeologically Verifiable
The Accuracy of Luke
Sir William Ramsay, an English historian and prolific writer, was a product of a mid-19th century education and, as a result, held a pervasive anti-Biblical bias. He believed the historical accounts in the book of Acts had been written, not in the time of the apostolic Church, but in the mid-second century. If this were true, Acts could not have been written by Luke, the traveling companion of the apostle Paul. The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts would, therefore, be less than an accurate record of history. But Luke claimed to have been with Paul as the two men trudged over the cobblestone roads of the Roman Empire. He claimed to write as one who watched as Paul was used by God to bring a young convert back to life after a fatal fall (Acts 20:8-12). In spite of this claim, Ramsay was skeptical of Luke and the historical record of Acts, and he set out to disprove it.
As a result, Ramsey began a detailed study of the archaeological evidence, and he came to a disconcerting conclusion: the historical and archaeological evidence supported the fact that Luke not only wrote the Book of Acts in the first century, (during the time of the apostles), but also wrote an accurate account of history. Rather than Luke being a historical fraud, Ramsay concluded that:
“(There are) reasons for placing the author of Acts among the historians of the first rank” (Sir William Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1925, p. 4).
Luke is Confirmed by the Historical Evidence
Ramsay became convinced of Luke’s reliability because Luke wrote about the work of the early Church as it existed within the context of secular events and personalities of the day. In Luke’s Gospel account we are introduced to Pontius Pilate, Herod the Great, Augustus and other political players. In Acts we meet an even larger group, including Sergius Paulus, Gallio, Felix, Festus and Herod Agrippa I and II. Luke not only writes about these people, but he mentions details, (sometimes relatively minute details), about these folks:
“One of the most remarkable tokens of (Luke’s) accuracy is his sure familiarity with the proper titles of all the notable persons who are mentioned . . . Cyprus, for example, which was an imperial province until 22 BC, became a senatorial province in that year, and was therefore governed no longer by an imperial legate but by a proconsul. And so, when Paul and Barnabas arrived in Cyprus about AD 47, it was the proconsul Sergius Paullus whom they met . . .’ (F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, 1973, p. 82).
Luke’s narrative is confirmed by the minute and particular detail with which he writes about the offices and titles of officials of the Roman Empire. In every case he gets it right, as confirmed by archaeological discoveries many centuries later. As Ramsay discovered, this level of accuracy requires that the author be well versed in the intricacies of the politics of the day. As a point of comparison, few of us would do as well if we were quizzed about the exact official titles of national and international political figures that surround us today.
In the past, critics have claimed that Luke was in error in several places in his narrative of the life of Jesus and the Acts of the Apostles. Yet again and again, Luke has been proved reliable by the archeological evidence. Let’s take a look at some areas of doubt that have been eliminated through archeology…
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