Term Paper: Historicity of Acts for Centuries

Pages: 12 (3162 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] Although we cannot rely upon archaeology to establish and sustain our faith, having physical evidence that confirms the historical context of God's saving acts causes the sincere person to accept the Bible as God's Word."

For example, if an archeological finding proves that some pieces of an ancient document are historically correct, scholars can assume that much of the document is reliable. Due to the fact that many of the New Testament writers have proved themselves reliable in this respect, many scholars see the New Testament as a reliable source.

Sir William Ramsay, a famous archaeologist, was a skeptic of the historicity of the book of Acts when he began his explorations in Asia Minor. However, after extensive research, he began to change his opinion.

After studying Acts 14:5-12, he realized that Luke was very specific about the places, people, and events in his works. In this passage, Luke wrote that Paul and Barnabas fled from Iconium to "Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia" (14:6).

Ancient geography formerly assumed that Iconium was a city of Lycaonia. Many Bible critics viewed this passage as an example of the lack of description by the author of Acts, and therefore evidence against divine inspiration. However, Ramsay suggested that this was not the case. Iconium was not a part of Lycaonia. Instead, it belonged to Phrygia, a completely different district of Asia Minor.

Ramsey discovered inscriptions that distinctly revealed that Phrygian was spoken in Iconium right up to the end of the second century. This verified the accuracy of Luke's statements and changed Ramsay opinion of the accuracy of Acts. After further studies, he became an advocate of the accuracy of Luke's scholarship.

According to Ramsey, "The present writer takes the view that Luke's history is unsurpassed in respect of its trustworthiness. At this point we are describing what reasons and arguments changed the mind of one who began under the impression that the history was written long after the events and that it was untrustworthy as a whole."

Additional archeological studies have proven the book of Acts to be reliable in its mention of commerce. For instance, Acts 16:11-15 discusses the city of Philippi, where Paul and others talk to some local women. One of the women is described as "Lydia...a purple merchant from the city of Thyatira..."

The name Lydia is a hint that Thyatira was located in the ancient kingdom of Lydia, which was a merchant area known for creating purple dyes made from the juice of the madder root.

Additionally, the accuracy of Acts has been proven when comparing the stories of religious activities and practices of its authors to modern findings. Paul refers to the people of Athens as "very religious."

This matches the writings of other ancient writers, including Sophocles and Josephus. In addition, Luke's account of attempted exorcism by the Jewish Seven Sons of Sceva in Acts 19:13-16 can be correlated with Jewish practices of the first century.

An architect named.T. Wood has had a tremendous effect on proving the historical accuracy of the book of Acts. After reading the tale of the silversmiths of the Ephesian goddess Artemis in Acts 19:23-41, Wood started an excavation project in 1863, eventually discovering the Temple of Artemis.

Wood found, buried deep in the earth, a magnificent pavement, colossal pillars, and cylinders created in honor of Artemis. During his project, Wood found evidence revealing the interior of the temple, which was decorated with vibrant colors, and lots of gold and silver. An altar was found behind the temple, along with several statues of the goddess made from bronze, gold, ivory, and silver.

Wood's discovery was in line with Luke's description of the states of Artemis, which were described in great detail by Luke in Acts 19: 23-41.57. Luke discussed how the craftsmen of Artemis, influenced by Demetrius, responded to the threat that Paul's preaching had on their lives saying: "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians" (vv. 28, 34). Many ancient inscriptions confirm that these very words were often used in prayer in ancient times.

Philip Schaff, a well-known scholar pointed out that the final two chapters of Acts have provided more information about the details of ancient sea navigation than any other document of antiquity. This observation shows that the Bible is one of the most historically sound ancient documents in existence.

In the book of Acts, Luke talks about a sea voyage from Palestine on which he was shipwrecked while traveling to Italy with Paul and others H.J. Holtzmann describes this as "one of the most instructive documents for the knowledge of ancient seamanship."

James Smith of Jordanhill, a renowned yachtsman who was very familiar with the part of the Mediterranean Sea on which Paul sailed, was amazed at the remarkable accuracy of Luke's account. He wrote:

do not even assume the authenticity of the narrative of the voyage and shipwreck contained in the Acts of the Apostles, but scrutinise St. Luke's account of the voyage precisely as I would those of Baffin or Middleton, or of any antient [sic] voyage of doubtful authority, or involving points on which controversies have been raised. A searching comparison of the narrative, with the localities where the events so circumstantially related are said to have taken place, with the aids which recent advances in our knowledge of the geography and the navigation of the eastern part of the Mediterranean supply, accounts for every transaction -- clears up every difficulty -- and exhibits an agreement so perfect in all its parts as to admit but of one explanation, namely, that it is a narrative of real events, written by one personality engaged in them, and that the tradition respecting the locality is true."

When examining the evidence for the historicity of Acts, the most reasonable conclusions are (1) that the Book of Acts was most likely written by an eyewitness of the events reported, and (2) that the author was greatly concerned with accuracy.

According to the traditional view that the author was Luke, the accuracy of the narrative is simply explained. The writer was an eyewitness of most events following chapter 16, and for prior events he took his account from the stories of his companion, Paul. If Luke is a trustworthy historian in the Book of Acts, therefore he must also be a trustworthy historian in the Gospel bearing his name.


Luke states his purpose in writing in the beginning of Acts. His primary purpose as a historian is to persuade his readers to recognize the divine authority behind the events of the Church.

Volume one recorded what Jesus began to do and teach and volume two talks about what Jesus continues to do and teach through His disciples who are empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

From the beginning of the book of Acts, Luke, who was an eyewitness of Jesus' life and a traveling companion of the apostle Paul, proves himself to be a reliable and trustworthy source of information, and never shows a glimpse of personal interest or fiction in his accounts. Although many scholars have pinpointed discrepancies in his stories, other scholars have shown that these things can be explained.

Luke is believed to have been a trained historian, who would carefully check over his facts and accounts, investigating and verifying every fact and detail. He refers to his meticulous ways when he uses the words "having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first."

The words "having had perfect understanding" are literally, "having closely traced." He is referring to his careful investigation of all sources, oral and written, which he uses to account for Jesus' ways and teachings.

Throughout history, researchers have greatly strengthened the historical credibility of the Acts. The book of Acts has been archaeologically proven as a reliable and accurate source through many discoveries.

A great deal of the names, positions, social practices, titles, customs and historical data used in Acts has been proven accurate throughout history. After studying Acts for three decades, Ramsay summed up the historicity of Acts excellently, saying, "Luke is a historian of the first rank" and "should be placed along with the very greatest of historians."


Bruce, F.F. Are the New Testament Documents Reliable? London: IVP, 1943.

Bruce, F.F. New Bible Commentary, 3rd. ed. Leicester: IVP1989.

Bruce, F.F. The Book of the Acts, revised edition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989.

Carson, D.A., Moo, D.J. And Morris, L. An Introduction to the New Testament. Leicester: Apollos, 1992.

Lee, Jeong Woo. Introduction to the Book of Acts. Biblical Times, 2002.

Lyons, Eric. M.Min. The Accuracy of Acts. Apologetics Press, Inc. 2001.

Marshall, I.H. Acts. Leicester: IVP, 1983.

Marshall, I.H. Luke-Historian and Theologian. Exeter: The Paternoster Press, 1984.

Metzger, Bruce. The New Testament: Its Background, Growth, Content.

Ramsay, Sir William. The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1915.

Thomson, J.A. The Bible and Archaeology. Grand Rapids: The Paternoster Press, 1962.


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