Luke: A Historian of the First Rank

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Starting about 150 years ago, scholars in Europe started rejecting the historical records of Saint Luke. These academics declared that there was no evidence to support the existence of several locations and leaders mentioned in Luke's writings, and therefore, they rejected the entirety of his account. However, I discovered that archaeological finds during the last century have revealed that Luke was a very accurate historian and the two books he authored were absolutely authoritative records of history!

One of the greatest archaeologists of all time was Sir William Ramsay. He studied under the famous German historical schools in the mid-nineteenth century, which taught that the New Testament was a religious treatise written in the mid-200s AD, and not an historical document recorded in the first century. Ramsay was so convinced of this teaching that he entered the field of archaeology and went to Asia Minor to specifically find the physical evidence to refute Luke's biblical record. After years of field study, Ramsay completely reversed his entire view of the Bible and first century history. He wrote:

Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy, he is possessed of the true historic short, this author should be placed along with the greatest of historians. 1

Luke's accuracy is demonstrated by the fact that he names key historical figures in the correct time sequence. He also uses the correct, and often obscure, government titles in various geographical areas, including the politarchs of Thessalonica, the temple wardens of Ephesus, the procouncil of Cyprus, and the "first man of the island" in Malta. In Luke's announcement of Jesus' public ministry, he mentions, "Lysanius tetrarch of Abilene". Scholars questioned Luke's credibility since the only Lysanius known for centuries was a leader of Chalcis who ruled from 40-36 BC. However, an inscription dated to the time of Tiberius (14-37 AD) was found, which records a temple dedication naming Lysanius as the "tetrarch of Abila" (Abilene near Damascus). This matched Luke's account and stunned the liberal scholarship of the day. 2

In the Book of Acts, Paul was brought before Gallio, the proconsul of Achaea. Again, archaeology confirms this account. At Delphi, an inscription from Emperor Claudius was discovered that says, "Lucius Junios Gallio, my friend, and the proconsul of Achaia . . ." Historians date the inscription to 52 AD, which supports the time of Paul's visit there in 51 AD. 3

Later in Acts, Erastus, a coworker of Paul, is appointed treasurer of Corinth. In 1928, archaeologists excavated a Corinthian theatre and discovered an inscription that reads, "Erastus in return for his aedilship laid the pavement at his own expense." The pavement was laid in 50 AD, and the term "aedile" refers to the designation of treasurer. 4

In another passage, Luke gives Plubius, the chief man on the island of Malta, the title, "first man of the island." Scholars questioned this strange title and deemed it unhistorical. Inscriptions have recently been discovered on the island that indeed give Plubius the title of "first man." 5 More: