Luke: One of the Greatest Historians

Dr. LukeI recently got in a discussion about the historical reliability of the 4 Gospels and I realized that I really don’t know very much about this topic. So … I went to a source that has served me well in the area of Apologetics for many years – Josh McDowell, “Evidence That Demands a Verdict.” I’ve only just begun, but here’s one thing I found significant. It’s a statement by Sir William Ramsay.

“Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy … this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”[1]

He also wrote

“Luke’s history is unsurpassed in respect of its trustworthiness.” [2]

Who is Sir Willam Ramsay? According to McDowell he is one of the greatest archaeologists of all time. Here’s Wikipedia on him …

Sir William Mitchell Ramsay (15 March 1851, Glasgow –20 April 1939) was a Scottish archaeologist and New Testament scholar. By his death in 1939 he had become the foremost authority of his day on the history of Asia Minor and a leading scholar in the study of the New Testament.

William Ramsay paid particular interest in the New Testament events, particularly the Book of Acts and Pauline Epistles. When he first went to Asia Minor, many of the cities mentioned in Acts had no known location and almost nothing was known of their detailed history or politics. The Acts of the Apostles was the only record and Ramsay fully expected his own research to prove the author of Acts hopelessly inaccurate since no man could possibly know the details of Asia Minor more than a hundred years of the event. He therefore set out to put the writer of Acts on trial. He devoted his life to unearthing the ancient cities and documents of Asia Minor. After a lifetime of study, however, he concluded: ‘Further study…showed that the book could bear the most minute scrutiny as an authority for the facts of the Aegean world, and that it was written with such judgment, skill, art and perception of truth as to be a model of historical statement’ (The Bearing of Recent Discovery, p. 85). On page 89 of the same book, Ramsay accounted, ‘I set out to look for truth on the borderland where Greece and Asia meet, and found it there [in Acts]. You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian’s and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment…’ When Ramsay turned his attention to Paul’s letters, most of which the critics dismissed as forgeries, he concluded that all thirteen New Testament letters that claimed to have been written by Paul were really his. [3]

[1] Ramsay, Sir W. M., The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1915, p. 222.
[2] Ramsay, W. M., St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1962 (originally published in 1895), p. 81

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