A Brief Sample of Archaeology Corroborating the Claims of the New Testament

by J Warner Wallace

Sir William Mitchell Ramsay, a 19th Century English historian and prolific writer, held a pervasive anti-Biblical bias. He believed the historical accounts in the Book of Acts were written in the mid-2nd Century. Ramsay was skeptical of Luke’s authorship and the historicity of the Book of Acts, and he set out to prove his suspicions. He began a detailed study of the archaeological evidence, and eventually came to an illuminating conclusion: the historical and archaeological evidence supported Luke’s 1st Century authorship and historical reliability:

“(There are) reasons for placing the author of Acts among the historians of the first rank” (Sir William Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, p. 4).

Ramsay became convinced of Luke’s reliability based on the accurate description of historical events and settings. Ramsay wasn’t the only scholar to be impressed by Luke’s accuracy:

“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?, p. 82).

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Luke’s narratives include detailed and specific descriptions related to the locations, people, offices and titles within the Roman Empire. In fact, many of Luke’s claims were eventually confirmed by archaeological discoveries:

Related to Quirinius
Luke wrote that Joseph and Mary returned to Bethlehem because a Syrian governor named Quirinius was conducting a census (Luke 2:1–3). Archaeological discoveries in the nineteenth century revealed Quirinius (or someone with the same name) was also a proconsul of Syria and Cilicia from 11 BC to the death of Herod. Quirinius’s name has been discovered on a coin from this period of time, and on the base of a statue erected in Pisidian Antioch.

Related to Erastus
In Romans 16:23, Paul wrote, “Erastus, the city treasurer greets you.” A piece of pavement was discovered in Corinth in 1929 confirming his existence.

Related to Lysanias
Luke described a tetrarch named Lysanias and wrote that this man reigned over Abilene when John the Baptist began his ministry (Luke 3:1). Two inscriptions have been discovered that mention Lysanias by name. One of these, dated from AD 14–37, identifies Lysanias as the tetrarch in Abila near Damascus…

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