Dismissing the miracles documented in the New Testament is a favorite pastime of many skeptics, and even some liberal-thinking religious leaders. However, this “dismissal” game gets extremely complicated because the miracles are so closely blended with historical facts that separating the two soon becomes like trying to separate two different colors of Play-Doh.® Take, for instance, the plight of Sir William Ramsay. His extensive education had engrained within him the keenest sense of scholarship. Along with that sense of scholarship came a built-in prejudice about the supposed inaccuracy of the Bible (especially the book of Acts). Ramsay noted: “…[A]bout 1880 to 1890 the book of the Acts was regarded as the weakest part of the New Testament. No one that had any regard for his reputation as a scholar cared to say a word in its defence [sic]. The most conservative of theological scholars, as a rule, thought the wisest plan of defence [sic] for the New Testament as a whole was to say as little as possible about the Acts” (1915, p. 38).
As could be expect of a person trained by such “scholars,” Ramsay held the same view—for a while. He held the view only for a brief time, however, because he did what few people of his time dared to do. He decided to explore the actual Bible lands with an open Bible—with the intention of proving the inaccuracy of Luke’s history as found in the book of Acts. However, much to his surprise, the book of Acts passed every test that any historical narrative could be asked to pass. After his investigation of the Bible lands, he was forced to conclude:
The more I have studied the narrative of the Acts, and the more I have learned year after year about Graeco-Roman society and thoughts and fashions, and organization in those provinces, the more I admire and the better I understand. I set out to look for truth on the borderland where Greece and Asia meet, and found it here [in the Book of Acts—KB]. 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, provided always that the critic knows the subject and does not go beyond the limits of science and of justice (1915, p. 89).
The renowned archaeologist Nelson Glueck put it like this:
It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which conform in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible (1959, p. 31).
Considering the fact that the land of Palestine in the days of the New Testament writers tossed and turned on a sea of political, economical, and social unrest, I would say that its historical accuracy is pretty amazing. Travel to the Holy Lands and see for yourself if you doubt New Testament accuracy. Carry with you an honest, open mind and a New Testament, and I assure you that you will respect the New Testament writers as accurate historians by the end of your journey.
Glueck, Nelson (1959), Rivers in the Desert: A History of the Negev (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Cudahy).
Ramsay, William (1915), The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1975 reprint).
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