Is the Bible considered a reliable historical resource?

Is the Bible considered a reliable historical resource?

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I realize there is probably a large spectrum of opinions on this matter. Nevertheless, what is the general consensus among academics on the historical reliability of the Bible? Is it a sound historical document or is it simply a book of legends? Considering the number of books that comprise the Bible, are some considered more historically accurate than others?

The overall "feeling" is that it is neither historical fact nor legends. It is a book of stories, many of which have real events that lies behind them, and many that do not. There is a discussion about exactly what is true, though.

The well known stories such as the flood and the exodus generally have no or little evidence behind them, and often a lot of evidence against them. In general, there is very little archaeological evidence, if any, for the stories in the Bible. Attempt to prove that there was a united kingdom under King David etc has been inconclusive, for example.

There are however historical documents that corroborates some things in the Bible, mainly wars and sieges by Babylonian and Persian kings. Many of the kings mentioned in the Bible have left their own written texts and in some cases these agree with the Bible on the events.

See also:

Historicity of the Bible

The historicity of the Bible is the question of the Bible's relationship to history—covering not just the Bible's acceptability as history but also the ability to understand the literary forms of biblical narrative. [1] One can extend biblical historicity to the evaluation of whether or not the Christian New Testament is an accurate record of the historical Jesus and of the Apostolic Age. This tends to vary depending upon the opinion of the scholar.

When studying the books of the Bible, scholars examine the historical context of passages, the importance ascribed to events by the authors, and the contrast between the descriptions of these events and other historical evidence.

According to theologian Thomas L. Thompson, a representative of the Copenhagen School, the archaeological record lends sparse and indirect evidence for the Old Testament's narratives as history. [a] [3] [b] [5] [6] Others, like archeologist William G. Dever, feel that Biblical archaeology has both confirmed and challenged the Old Testament stories. [7] While Dever has criticized the Copenhagen school for its radicalism, he is far from being a biblical literalist, and thinks that the purpose of Biblical archaeology is not to simply support or discredit the Biblical narrative, but to be a field of study in its own right. [8] [9]

Is the Bible Historically Accurate?

The Bible contains two kinds of information. Some of it can be checked some of it cannot. For example, it is not possible to “check” scientifically the accuracy of Genesis 1:1 — “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” While the affirmation is not in any way inconsistent with available scientific data, at the same time the statement is one of pre-human history and therefore does not lend itself to empirical investigation.

On the other hand, the Scriptures contain hundreds of references that arise out of the background of human history. These may be tested for accuracy. If it is the case that the Bible is demonstrated to be precise in thousands of historical details, it is not unreasonable to conclude that its information in other matters is equally correct.

In fact, one of the most amazing features of the Bible is its uncanny reliability in the smallest of details. Let us note a few examples of biblical precision.

(1) During His personal ministry, Jesus once passed through the region of Samaria. Near Sychar, the Lord stopped for a brief rest at Jacob’s well. He engaged a Samaritan woman in conversation, during which He suggested that He could provide the woman with water that could perpetually quench her thirst. Misunderstanding the nature of the Master’s instruction, the woman, alluding to Jacob’s well, declared: “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep” (Jn. 4:11). The statement is quite correct, for even now, some twenty centuries later, Jacob’s well is approximately 80 feet deep — the equivalent of an eight-story building!

(2) Reflect upon another example. In Acts 10 there is the account of Peter’s visit in the city of Joppa. Luke declared that Peter was staying in the home of Simon, a tanner of animal hides. Then the historian said, almost as an afterthought, “whose house is by the seaside” (Acts 10:6). Hugh J. Schonfield, author of the infamous book, The Passover Plot (and certainly no friend of Christianity), has commented on this passage as follows:

“This is an interesting factual detail, because the tanners used sea water in the process of converting hides into leather. The skins were soaked in the sea and then treated with lime before the hair was scraped of” (The Bible Was Right, New York: The New American Library, 1959, p. 98).

(3) Consider another interesting case of Bible precision. When Paul was en route to Rome for trial, the ship upon which he sailed became involved in a terrible storm. When it eventually became apparent that the vessel was in a very dangerous circumstance, the crew cast the ship’s anchors into the water. At the same time, they “loosed the rudder bands, hoisted up the foresail, and aimed the ship towards the beach” (Acts 27:40 KJV).

There is an interesting and subtle point in the Greek text that is not apparent in the King James Version. The original language actually says that they “loosed the bands of the rudders” (plural – see ASV). This is amazingly precise, for in ancient times, ships actually possessed two paddle-rudders, not a single rudder as with modern vessels. In 1969, a submerged ancient ship was discovered in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Cyprus. An examination of the ruins gave evidence of dual rudder-oars by which the boat was steered (see National Geographic, November 1974), thus demonstrating the remarkable accuracy of Luke’s record.

The Bible can be tested — historically, geographically, scientifically, etc. And it always passes the test. Its incredible accuracy can be explained only in light of its divine inspiration.

For further examples, see our book, Fortify Your Faith In An Age of Doubt.

The Historical Reliability of the Gospels

Skeptics have criticized the Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament, as being legendary in nature rather than historical. They point to alleged contradictions between Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They also maintain the Gospels were written centuries after the lifetimes of the eyewitnesses. The late date of the writings allowed legends and exaggerations to proliferate, they say.

Are the Gospels historical or mythological?

The first challenge to address is how to account for the differences among the four Gospels. They are each different in nature, content, and the facts they include or exclude. The reason for the variations is that each author wrote to a different audience and from his own unique perspective. Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience to prove to them that Jesus is indeed their Messiah. That's why Matthew includes many of the teachings of Christ and makes numerous references to Old Testament prophecies. Mark wrote to a Greek or Gentile audience to prove that Jesus is the Son of God. Therefore, he makes his case by focusing on the events of Christ's life. His gospel moves very quickly from one event to another, demonstrating Christ's lordship over all creation. Luke wrote to give an accurate historical account of Jesus' life. John wrote after reflecting on his encounter with Christ for many years. With that insight, near the end of his life John sat down and wrote the most theological of all the Gospels.

We should expect some differences between four independent accounts. If they were identical, we would suspect the writers of collaboration with one another. Because of their differences, the four Gospels actually give us a fuller and richer picture of Jesus.

Let me give you an example. Imagine if four people wrote a biography on your life: your son, your father, a co-worker, and a good friend. They would each focus on different aspects of your life and write from a unique perspective. One would be writing about you as a parent, another as a child growing up, one as a professional, and one as a peer. Each may include different stories or see the same event from a different angle, but their differences would not mean they are in error. When we put all four accounts together, we would get a richer picture of your life and character. That is what is taking place in the Gospels.

So we acknowledge that differences do not necessarily mean errors. Skeptics have made allegations of errors for centuries, yet the vast majority of charges have been answered. New Testament scholar, Dr. Craig Blomberg, writes, "Despite two centuries of skeptical onslaught, it is fair to say that all the alleged inconsistencies among the Gospels have received at least plausible resolutions." 1 Another scholar, Murray Harris, emphasizes, "Even then the presence of discrepancies in circumstantial detail is no proof that the central fact is unhistorical." 2 The four Gospels give us a complementary, not a contradictory, account.

The Date of the New Testament Writings: Internal Evidence

Critics claim that the Gospels were written centuries after the lifetimes of the eyewitnesses. This would allow for myths about Jesus' life to proliferate. Were the Gospels written by eyewitnesses as they claim, or were they written centuries later? The historical facts appear to make a strong case for a first century date.

Jesus' ministry was from A.D. 27-30. Noted New Testament scholar, F.F. Bruce, gives strong evidence that the New Testament was completed by A.D. 100. 3 Most writings of the New Testament works were completed twenty to forty years before this. The Gospels are dated traditionally as follows: Mark is believed to be the first gospel written around A.D. 60. Matthew and Luke follow and are written between A.D. 60-70 John is the final gospel, written between A.D. 90-100.

The internal evidence supports these early dates for several reasons. The first three Gospels prophesied the fall of the Jerusalem Temple which occurred in A.D. 70. However, the fulfillment is not mentioned. It is strange that these three Gospels predict this major event but do not record it happening. Why do they not mention such an important prophetic milestone? The most plausible explanation is that it had not yet occurred at the time Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written.

In the book of Acts, the Temple plays a central role in the nation of Israel. Luke writes as if the Temple is an important part of Jewish life. He also ends Acts on a strange note: Paul living under house arrest. It is strange that Luke does not record the death of his two chief characters, Peter and Paul. The most plausible reason for this is that Luke finished writing Acts before Peter and Paul's martyrdom in A.D. 64. A significant point to highlight is that the Gospel of Luke precedes Acts, further supporting the traditional dating of A.D. 60. Furthermore, most scholars agree Mark precedes Luke, making Mark's Gospel even earlier.

Finally, the majority of New Testament scholars believe that Paul's epistles are written from A.D. 48-60. Paul's outline of the life of Jesus matches that of the Gospels. 1 Corinthians is one of the least disputed books regarding its dating and Pauline authorship. In chapter 15, Paul summarizes the gospel and reinforces the premise that this is the same gospel preached by the apostles. Even more compelling is that Paul quotes from Luke's Gospel in 1 Timothy 5:18, showing us that Luke's Gospel was indeed completed in Paul's lifetime. This would move up the time of the completion of Luke's Gospel along with Mark and Matthew.

The internal evidence presents a strong case for the early dating of the Gospels.

The Date of the Gospels: External Evidence

Were the Gospels written by eyewitnesses of the events, or were they not recorded until centuries later? As with the internal evidence, the external evidence also supports a first century date.

Fortunately, New Testament scholars have an enormous amount of ancient manuscript evidence. The documentary evidence for the New Testament far surpasses any other work of its time. We have over 5000 manuscripts, and many are dated within a few years of their authors' lives.

Here are some key documents. An important manuscript is the Chester Beatty Papyri. It contains most of the N.T. writings, and is dated around A.D. 250.

The Bodmer Papyri contains most of John, and dates to A.D. 200. Another is the Rylands Papyri that was found in Egypt that contains a fragment of John, and dates to A.D. 130. From this fragment we can conclude that John was completed well before A.D. 130 because, not only did the gospel have to be written, it had to be hand copied and make its way down from Greece to Egypt. Since the vast majority of scholars agree that John is the last gospel written, we can affirm its first century date along with the other three with greater assurance.

A final piece of evidence comes from the Dead Sea Scrolls Cave 7. Jose Callahan discovered a fragment of the Gospel of Mark and dated it to have been written in A.D. 50. He also discovered fragments of Acts and other epistles and dated them to have been written slightly after A.D. 50. 4

Another line of evidence is the writings of the church fathers. Clement of Rome sent a letter to the Corinthian church in A.D. 95. in which he quoted from the Gospels and other portions of the N.T. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, wrote a letter before his martyrdom in Rome in A.D. 115, quoting all the Gospels and other N.T. letters. Polycarp wrote to the Philippians in A.D. 120 and quoted from the Gospels and N.T. letters. Justin Martyr (A.D. 150) quotes John 3. Church fathers of the early second century were familiar with the apostle's writings and quoted them as inspired Scripture.

Early dating is important for two reasons. The closer a historical record is to the date of the event, the more likely the record is accurate. Early dating allows for eyewitnesses to still be alive when the Gospels were circulating to attest to their accuracy. The apostles often appeal to the witness of the hostile crowd, pointing to their knowledge of the facts as well (Acts 2:22, 26:26). Also, the time is too short for legends to develop. Historians agree it takes about two generations, or eighty years, for legendary accounts to establish themselves.

From the evidence, we can conclude the Gospels were indeed written by the authors they are attributed to.

How Reliable was the Oral Tradition?

Previously, I defended the early dating of the Gospels. Despite this early dating, there is a time gap of several years between the ascension of Jesus and the writing of the Gospels. There is a period during which the gospel accounts were committed to memory by the disciples and transmitted orally. The question we must answer is, Was the oral tradition memorized and passed on accurately? Skeptics assert that memory and oral tradition cannot accurately preserve accounts from person to person for many years.

The evidence shows that in oral cultures where memory has been trained for generations, oral memory can accurately preserve and pass on large amounts of information. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 reveals to us how important oral instruction and memory of divine teaching was stressed in Jewish culture. It is a well-known fact that the rabbis had the O.T. and much of the oral law committed to memory. The Jews placed a high value on memorizing whatever wri ting reflected inspired Scripture and the wisdom of God. I studied under a Greek professor who had the Gospels memorized word perfect. In a culture where this was practiced, memorization skills were far advanced compared to ours today. New Testament scholar Darrell Bock states that the Jewish culture was "a culture of memory." 5

Rainer Reisner presents six key reasons why oral tradition accurately preserved Jesus' teachings. 6 First, Jesus used the Old Testament prophets' practice of proclaiming the word of God which demanded accurate preservation of inspired teaching. Second, Jesus' presentations of Himself as Messiah would reinforce among His followers the need to preserve His words accurately. Third, ninety percent of Jesus' teachings and sayings use mnemonic methods similar to those used in Hebrew poetry. Fourth, Jesus trained His disciples to teach His lessons even while He was on earth. Fifth, Jewish boys were educated until they were twelve, so the disciples likely knew how to read and write. Finally, just as Jewish and Greek teachers gathered disciples, Jesus gathered and trained His to carry on after His death.

When one studies the teachings of Jesus, one realizes that His teachings and illustrations are easy to memorize. People throughout the world recognize immediately the story of the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, and the Lord's Prayer.

We also know that the church preserved the teachings of Christ in the form of hymns which were likewise easy to memorize. Paul's summary of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 is a good example of this.

We can have confidence then that the oral tradition accurately preserved the teachings and the events of Jesus' life till they were written down just a few years later.

The Transmission of the Gospel Texts

When I am speaking with Muslims or Mormons, we often come to a point in the discussion where it is clear the Bible contradicts their position. It is then they claim, as many skeptics, do that the Bible has not been accurately transmitted and has been corrupted by the church. In regards to the Gospels, do we have an accurate copy of the original texts or have they been corrupted?

Previously, we showed that the Gospels were written in the first century, within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses. These eyewitnesses, both friendly and hostile, scrutinized the accounts for accuracy.

So the original writings were accurate. However, we do not have the original manuscripts. What we have are copies of copies of copies. Are these accurate, or have they been tampered with? As shown earlier, we have 5000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. When you include the quotes from the church fathers, manuscripts from other early translations like the Latin Vulgate, the Ethiopic text, and others, the total comes out to over 24,000 ancient texts. With so many ancient texts, significant alterations should be easy to spot. However, those who accuse the New Testament of being corrupted have not produced such evidence. This is significant because it should be easy to do with so many manuscripts available. The truth is, the large number of manuscripts confirm the accurate preservation and transmission of the New Testament writings.

Although we can be confident in an accurate copy, we do have textual discrepancies. There are some passages with variant readings that we are not sure of. However, the differences are minor and do not affect any major theological doctrine. Most have to do with sentence structure, vocabulary, and grammar. These in no way affect any major doctrine.

Here is one example. In our Bibles, Mark 16:9-20 is debated as to whether it was part of the original writings. Although I personally do not believe this passage was part of the original text, its inclusion does not affect any major teaching of Christianity. It states that Christ was resurrected, appeared to the disciples, and commissioned them to preach the gospel. This is taught elsewhere.

The other discrepancies are similar in nature. Greek scholars agree we have a copy very accurate to the original. Westcott and Hort state that we have a copy 98.33% accurate to the original. 7 A.T. Robertson gave a figure of 99% accuracy to the original. 8 As historian Sir Fredric Kenyon assures us, ". the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established." 9

Do Miracles Discredit the Gospels?

Skeptics question the accuracy of the Gospels because of the miracles. However, this is an issue of worldviews. Those who hold to a naturalistic worldview do not believe an omnipotent creator exists. All that exists is energy and matter. Therefore, miracles are impossible. Their conclusion, then, is that the miracle accounts in the Gospels are exaggerations or myths.

Those who hold to a theistic worldview can accept miracles in light of our understanding of God and Christ. God can intervene in time and space and alter the natural regularities of nature much like finite humans can in smaller limited ways. If Jesus is the Son of God, we can expect Him to perform miracles to affirm His claims to be divine. But worldviews are not where this ends. We also need to take a good look at the historical facts.

As shown previously, the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses to the events of the life of Christ. Early dating shows eyewitnesses were alive when Gospels were circulating and could attest to their accuracy. Apostles often appeal to the witness of the hostile crowd, pointing out their knowledge of the facts as well (Acts 2:22, Acts 26:26). Therefore, if there were any exaggerations or stories being told about Christ that were not true, the eyewitnesses could have easily discredited the apostles accounts. Remember, they began preaching in Israel in the very cities and during the lifetimes of the eyewitnesses. The Jews were careful to record accurate historical accounts. Many enemies of the early church were looking for ways to discredit the apostles' teaching. If what the apostles were saying was not true, the enemies would have cried foul, and the Gospels would not have earned much credibility.

The Gospels

The oral traditions within the church formed the substance of the Gospels, the earliest book of which is Mark, written around 70 A.D., 40 years after the death of Jesus.

It is theorized there may have been an original document of sayings by Jesus known as the Q source, which was adapted into the narratives of the Gospels. All four Gospels were published anonymously, but historians believe that the books were given the name of Jesus’ disciples to provide direct links to Jesus to lend them greater authority.

Matthew and Luke were next in the chronology. Both used Mark as a reference, but Matthew is considered to have another separate source, known as the M source, as it contains some different material from Mark. Both books also stress the proof of Jesus’ divinity more than Mark did.

The Book of John, written around 100 A.D., was the final of the four and has a reputation for hostility to Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries.

All four books cover the life of Jesus with many similarities, but sometimes contradictions in their portrayals. Each is considered to have its own political and religious agenda linked to authorship.

For instance, the books of Matthew and Luke present different accounts of Jesus’ birth, and all contradict each other about the resurrection.

Tacitus connects Jesus to his execution by Pontius Pilate.

Another account of Jesus appears in Annals of Imperial Rome, a first-century history of the Roman Empire written around 116 A.D. by the Roman senator and historian Tacitus. In chronicling the burning of Rome in 64 A.D., Tacitus mentions that Emperor Nero falsely blamed “the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius.”

As a Roman historian, Tacitus did not have any Christian biases in his discussion of the persecution of Christians by Nero, says Ehrman. “Just about everything he says coincides𠅏rom a completely different point of view, by a Roman author disdainful of Christians and their superstition—with what the New Testament itself says: Jesus was executed by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, for crimes against the state, and a religious movement of his followers sprang up in his wake.”

“When Tacitus wrote history, if he considered the information not entirely reliable, he normally wrote some indication of that for his readers,” Mykytiuk says in vouching for the historical value of the passage. “There is no such indication of potential error in the passage that mentions Christus.”

15 Historical Proofs of the Bible

The Bible is essentially a religious history. Even those who wrote the Bible made it clear it was not a secular history, even though secular events are referred to. It is a book about God and his relationship with man. That cannot be proven or dis-proven logically. It is a spiritual matter.

However, people and events mentioned in the Bible can be found in the historical writings of other nearby countries. Also, historical records of the Israelite nations other than the Bible prove the history of the Bible is correct.

The earliest records of the Israelites were written on papyrus, rather than clay tablets that were used by other cultures at that time. Many of those papyri have been destroyed. And yet proof of Biblical events exist.

1. The Smithsonian Department of Anthropology is reported to have said this about the Bible (referring to history, not spiritual teachings.)

“Much of the Bible, in particular the historical books of the old testament, are as accurate historical documents as any that we have from antiquity and are in fact more accurate than many of the Egyptian, Mesopotamian, or Greek histories. These Biblical records can be and are used as are other ancient documents in archeological work. For the most part, historical events described took place and the peoples cited really existed. This is not to say that names of all peoples and places mentioned can be identified today, or that every event as reported in the historical books happened exactly as stated.” (

Here's part of a letter from the National Geographic

I referred your inquiries to our staff archeologist, Dr. George Stuart. He said that archaeologists do indeed find the Bible a valuable reference tool, and use it many times for geographical relationships, old names and relative chronologies. On the enclosed list, you will find many articles concerning discoveries verifying events discussed in the Bible.

National Geographic Society, Washington D.C.

Historical Events from Abraham to Solomon.

2. In 1990 Frank Yurco, an Egyptologist at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago used hieroglyphic clues from a monolith known as the Merneptah Stele to identify figures in a Luxor wall relief as ancient Israelites. The stele itself, dated to 1207 B.C. celebrates a military victory by the Pharaoh Merneptah. “Israel is laid waste” it reads. This lets us know the Israelites were a separate people more than 3,000 years ago. (for more on the steleh)

3. Some historians insist the Canaanites were a dying culture when the Israelites gradually moved in and took over their lands. This actually supports the Bible which has God saying to the Israelites

" And I will send hornets [despair] before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee. I will not drive them out from before thee in one year lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. By little and little I will drive them out from before thee until thou be increased, and inherit the land." Exodus 23:28-30 King James Authorized

Detractors of the Bible claim that there is little proof of the use of slaves in Egypt or of the Exodus, of the conquering of the Canaanites by the Israelites or (prior to 1993) of King David’s reign. But the absence of proof is not proof of absence. It only takes one find to change that picture.

4. For example, until 1993 there was no proof of the existence of King David or even of Israel as a nation prior to Solomon. Then in 1993 archeologists found proof of King David's existence outside the Bible. At an ancient mound called Tel Dan, in the north of Israel, words carved into a chunk of basalt were translated as "House of David" and "King of Israel". This proved that David was more than just a legend.

5. In 2005 Israeli archaeologist Eilat Mazar found King David's palace relying on the Bible as one of her many tools. She says:

“What is amazing about the Bible is that very often we see that it is very accurate and sometimes amazingly accurate.” (from Using the Bible As Her Guide)

Fourth Era: Historical Events From Solomon to the End of the Old Testament

6. R.D. Wilson who wrote “A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament” pointed out that the names of 29 Kings from ten nations (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and more) are mentioned not only in the Bible but are also found on monuments of their own time. Every single name is transliterated in the Old Testament exactly as it appears on the archaeological artifact – syllable for syllable, consonant for consonant. The chronological order of the kings is correct.

7. John M. Lundquist writes

“A significant example of the contribution ancient inscriptions have made to our understanding of the Old Testament is the Moabite Stone, also known as the Mesha Inscription.

Biblical Account

Mesha, king of the Moabites, those distant cousins of the Israelites who lived on the east side of the Dead Sea, is introduced in the Bible in the third chapter of 2 Kings [2 Kgs. 3] as a vassal to the King of Israel, about 849 B.C. With the death of Ahab, Mesha rebelled against this relationship. This prompted Ahab's son, Jehoram, to engage the alliance of Jehoshaphat, the King of Judah, and the King of Edom in a military campaign against Mesha. With the help of prophetic advice from Elisha, the alliance was able to gain a victory over the Moabites. Mesha retreated behind the walls of his citadel, Kir-hareseth, and it was there, upon one of these walls, that he sacrificed his first-born son as a burnt offering in order to invoke the wrath of his god, Chemosh, against Jehoram's army. The Bible tells us that the Israelites were so horrified by this act that they returned home. (See 2 Kgs. 3:27.)

This ends the biblical account of Mesha, and if it weren't for the discovery of the Moabite Stone in 1868 by a German missionary, the story would have ended there.

Moabite Record Confirming Biblical Account

The Moabite Stone is an inscription in the Moabite language, a Semitic language closely related to biblical Hebrew. The inscription, of about thirty-five lines, was chiseled into a piece of black basalt measuring about three feet tall by one-and-one-half feet wide. That inscription, dated approximately 830 B.C., was set up by King Mesha in a temple at Dhiban to commemorate his "victory" over the Israelites. The Moabite Stone, in fact, gives King Mesha's side of the story. As such it provides a rare glimpse from a genuinely ancient but non-biblical source of an incident in biblical history.

The overriding theme of the inscription is very familiar: that the deity, in this case Chemosh, guided Mesha in his trials and finally gave him victory. The inscription states that Chemosh had allowed King Omri of Israel to oppress Moab for many years because of the Moabites' sins. (See Near Eastern Religious Texts Relating to the Old Testament, ed. Walter Beyerlin, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1978, pp. 237-40.) During this time, Omri and his followers had taken much land in Moab and fortified it. (The Bible itself does not mention these campaigns by northern kings-with the exception of the account already quoted from 2 Kgs. 3.) At that point, Chemosh turns his favor toward Mesha and instructs him to defeat the Israelites. Mesha follows instructions, defeats the Israelites, and then uses Israelite prisoners to make repairs on the temple of Chemosh at Dhiban.

From a historian's point of view, Mesha's account of his successful rebellion against Israelite domination can probably be given credibility. As we have already seen, the Israelite-Judahite-Edomite coalition against him in 849 B.C. was successfully rebuffed by the human sacrifice which Mesha offered to Chemosh on the wall of his citadel. (See 2 Kgs. 3.) What's more, if the date of 830 B.C. for the setting up of this monument is accurate, then Mesha's statement about the fate of the house of Omri would also be accurate, since we know that Omri's royal line was wiped out by Jehu in about 842 B.C. (See 2 Kgs. 9.) Thus, Mesha no doubt saw himself and his god, Chemosh, vindicated by events.

The fact that Israel's neighbors viewed their gods in the same light as Israel viewed the Lord, and the fact that certain biblical customs should also be found among some of these neighbors, should in no way disturb anyone. Perhaps the Moabites and others borrowed these customs from the Israelites, or, more probably, since the Moabites are descendants from Abraham's nephew Lot through the latter's daughter (see Gen. 19:37), there would be much in the way of religion and culture that they would share in common. One of the sobering facts that we learn from a study of the Bible during the period of the united and divided monarchies is that sometimes the worship of idols such as Chemosh appears to have been more popular among the Israelites than the worship of the Lord himself. (See 1 Kgs. 11:7 1 Kgs. 19:18 2 Kgs. 17 2 Kgs. 21 1 Ne. 1:19-20.) The Moabite Stone gives us a picture of such an idol as one of his native adherents would have viewed him.

Facts 8-11: Ancient Inscriptions confirming Assyrian Kings' Siege of Jerusalem and Nebuchadnezzar's Conquest

There are a number of other ancient inscriptions that have provided valuable insights into biblical history from a non-biblical perspective. Among these are the Gezar Calendar, the Samaria Ostraca, the Siloam Inscription, the Lachish Letters, and numerous Phoenician and Aramaic inscriptions. (These can be examined in translation, with reference to the originals, in Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, ed. James B. Pritchard, 2nd ed., Princeton: Princeton University, 1955, pp. 320-24 3rd ed., 1969, pp. 653-62.) Among the most important of these are the royal inscriptions of the Assyrian and Babylonian kings. We have inscriptions of the Assyrian kings Sargon II and Sennacherib describing their sieges of Samaria in 721 and Jerusalem in 701, respectively, as well as inscriptions relating the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar's conquests of Jerusalem in the latter years of Judah's existence before the exile. (See Pritchard, 2nd ed., pp. 284-88 3rd ed., pp. 563-64.)

What value have such inscriptions added to our understanding of the Bible? In addition to providing new perspective, they "pinpoint events and . supply a wider view of the biblical past, discovering phenomena in ancient Israel not preserved in its literature." (See Gaalyahu Cornfeld, Archaeology of the Bible)"

From: Lundquist, John (August, 1983) The Value of New Textual Sources to the King James Bible.

The following information is taken from a site dedicated to discoveries made by archaeologists working in and around present day Jerusalem.

12. Ostraca (inscribed potsherds) Over 100 ostraca inscribed in biblical Hebrew (in paleo-Hebrew script) were found in the citadel of Arad. This is the largest and richest collection of inscriptions from the biblical period ever discovered in Israel. The letters are from all periods of the citadel's existence, but most date to the last decades of the kingdom of Judah. Dates and several names of places in the Negev are mentioned, including Be'er Sheva.

13. Among the personal names are those of the priestly families Pashur and Meremoth, both mentioned in the Bible. (Jeremiah 20:1 Ezra 8:33) Some of the letters were addressed to the commander of the citadel of Arad, Eliashiv ben Ashiyahu, and deal with the distribution of bread (flour), wine and oil to the soldiers serving in the fortresses of the Negev. Seals bearing the inscription "Eliashiv ben Ashiyahu" were also found.

Some of the commander's letters (probably "file" copies) were addressed to his superior and deal with the deteriorating security situation in the Negev. In one of them, he gives warning of an emergency and requests reinforcements to be sent to another citadel in the region to repulse an Edomite invasion. Also, in one of the letters, the "house of YHWH" is mentioned. For more information click here.

Fifth Era: Christ

What evidence do we have the he existed?

14. The Roman historian Tacitus writing between 115-117 A.D. had this to say:

"They got their name from Christ, who was executed by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. That checked the pernicious superstition for a short time, but it broke out afresh-not only in Judea, where the plague first arose, but in Rome itself, where all the horrible and shameful things in the world collect and find a home." From his Annals, xv. 44.

Here is a pagan historian, hostile to Christianity, who had access to records about what happened to Jesus Christ.

15. Mention of Jesus can also be found in Jewish Rabbinical writings from what is known as the Tannaitic period, between 70-200 A.D. In Sanhedrin 43a it says:

"Jesus was hanged on Passover Eve. Forty days previously the herald had cried, 'He is being led out for stoning, because he has practiced sorcery and led Israel astray and enticed them into apostasy. Whoever has anything to say in his defence, let him come and declare it.' As nothing was brought forward in his defence, he was hanged on Passover Eve."

That there is any mention of Jesus at all is unususal. As far as the Roman world was concerned, Jesus was a nobody who live in an insignificant province, sentenced to death by a minor procurator.

To conclude, there is plenty of historical proof that the Bible is historically accurate, much more than can be contained in this article.

The Amazing Historical Accuracy of the Bible – Question 2

As we explore the subject of the historical accuracy of Scripture, we will discover it is of vital importance. The Christian faith is an historical faith–it records what God has done in history. This being the case, the historical accuracy of recorded events is of utmost importance. This is true for both the Old and New Testaments.

A number of observations need to be made:

1. The Old Testament Reveals God’s Mighty Works

The Lord often reminded the nation of Israel of His mighty power the deeds which He performed in their history. Thus, the historical accuracy of the Old Testament is of the utmost importance because the revelation of God to humanity was accomplished through His mighty words and deeds in history.

For example, we read in the Book of Exodus how God emphasized His bringing Israel out of Egypt:

The Lord is the One who brought Israel out of the slavery of Egypt. He did this through His miraculous power. The nation was continually urged to remember these mighty deeds of God.

In Second Kings, we again read of God reminding the people of how He delivered their nation from slavery. The Bible says:

The people were again reminded of this great event God performed in the past the miraculous exodus from Egypt.

The people were also expected to remember other Old Testament events. The prophet Micah records the Lord saying the following things to the people:

Again, God urges His people to remember His faithfulness in the past. These passages, along with many others, call attention to the fact that God intervened in history. This is the claim of the Old Testament the Living God has worked His plan in our world.

2. The New Testament: God Came to Our World at a Time in History

We find that the historical accuracy of certain events is also important in the New Testament. The Bible says that Jesus Christ, God the Son, came into our world. John wrote:

The New Living Translation reads as follows:

For a limited period of time, God became a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ. He did this for a number of reasons. One of the reasons was to show humanity what God is like. The Bible says:

The New Testament records the highlights of the life and ministry of Jesus. It assumes that Jesus said the things attributed to Him as well as doing the things the Scripture records. Jesus made God known when He came to earth some two thousand years ago.

Thus, we find the writers of Scripture appealing time and time again to God working in actual historical events to testify to both His existence and power. The entire biblical revelation centers on what God has done in history. However, the truths taught in the Scriptures are only meaningful if the events actually happened. Therefore, the historical accuracy is of utmost importance.

Important Observations on the Historical Accuracy of Scripture

There are a number of important points that need to be made about the Bible and the subject of historical accuracy.

1. Historical Accuracy Is Unique to Judaism and Christianity

It must be stressed that historical reliability is unique to Judaism and Christianity. No other religion has any sort of historical basis on which their belief system rests—none of them! Contrary to all other religions, the events recorded in the Bible happened in real time history. The truth of the Christian faith is based upon the actual occurrence of these events that are recorded.

Therefore, the Scripture is unique in the sense that it is a reliable revelation of God in history.

2. Many of the Doctrines of Scripture Are Based upon Historical Events

There is something else. Many of the key doctrines of the Bible are based upon certain historical events. These include the virgin conception and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These events must have literally occurred for the doctrines to be true. If the events did not happen as the Bible says they did then the teachings that come from these events cannot be true.

3. It Is Important to Understand What the Historical Events Mean

While it is important that the events recorded in the Bible actually occurred as the Scripture says they did, the correct reporting of these events is not enough in and of itself. We need more than the mere accurate recording of an event that took place in history—we need its meaning explained. Not only do we need to know what took place, we also need to know what it means. Scripture records the events plus the authoritative interpretation of these events. Events do not always carry their own interpretation with them. Why, for example, was the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth different from the crucifixion of anyone else? Scripture gives us both the event and the meaning.

The Scripture contains historical facts plus theological meaning—the facts must be accurate and the meaning must be true. It is the facts that are revealed, as well as the meaning of these facts, which give us a coherent understanding of God’s plan.

The Bible Must Be Able to Withstand Historical Investigation

We again emphasize that if the Bible is the Word of God, then it must be able to withstand the most thorough historical investigation. The Bible claims to be the record of God acting in history. The Bible, therefore, must be an accurate historical record of the past.

Thus, historical accuracy of Scripture is of vital importance, for it is the appeal made by the Bible itself to argue for its truthfulness.

Summary – Question 2 Is It Important That the Bible Is Historically Accurate?

The idea of the Bible being historically accurate is important for the following reason: The Scripture itself makes the claim that God has intervened in history. Many of these events have been recorded for us in Scripture.

The people were urged to remember what God had done for them in the past. They were to call to mind actual historical events that took place to remember God’s power and faithfulness. Also the central truth of the Christian faiththat God became a human—happened in history.

The historical accuracy of these claims demonstrates the truth of the Christian faith and its superiority over other religions that have no such verifiable evidence. This makes the historical accuracy of Scripture something that is of vital importance.

Non-Biblical Christian Sources

9. Clement of Rome (95-97 AD)

Clement was martyred in 98 AD for his willingness to spread his belief in Jesus to as many people as possible. The date of his death makes Clement an early source since he would have written his work before his death. This would give him credence as a first-hand account of early Christianity. Although his epistle did not make in into the canonical collection it was still collected by the early church fathers.

We find that Clement was well educated on Old Testament matters and was likewise familiar with the Pauline epistles. In his writings he alludes to Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians, and other New Testament literature (Epistle to the Hebrews, and possible material from Acts, James, and I Peter). Nevertheless, in his letter to Corinth Clement confirms the ministry of the disciples and some of the basic aspects of early Christianity, he writes:

“The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was sent forth from God. So then Christ is from God, and the Apostles are from Christ. Both therefore came of the will of God in the appointed order. Having therefore received a charge, and being fully assured through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and confirmed in the word of God will full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth with the glad tidings that the kingdom of God should come. So preaching everywhere in country and town, they appointed their first fruits, when they had proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons unto them that should believe.”

Clement was, according to Tertullian and Jerome, personally ordained by Jesus’ most intimate disciple Peter of Peter. This, and due to its earliness, is why Clement can be seen as authoritative source for Jesus.

10. Ignatius of Antioch (110 AD +)

Ignatius was a Bishop of Antioch reported, like Clement, to have been appointed to his position by Peter of whom he was a disciple, as well as also believed to be a disciple of Paul and John. Ignatius was arrested by the Romans and executed as a martyr in the arena around 100 AD. Ignatius, like Clement of Rome, writes extensively on the historical Jesus in Trallians, Smyrneans 1, and Magnesians xi.

In his letters he touches on the deity of Jesus (Letter to the Ephesians, ch. 7), the Eucharist (Ignatius to the Ephesians 20:2, Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1), the replacing of the Sabbath with the Lord’s Day (Ignatius to the Magnesians 8:1, 9:1-2, 10:3), and emulates the Apostle Paul by quoting 1 Corinthians 1:19 in a letter to the Ephesians (Letter to the Ephesians 18).

It is possible, judging by Theodoret (393 – c. 458 AD), that Ignatius was appointed to the Antioch by Peter, the disciple. Likewise We are also aware that John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD), the Archbishop of Constantinople, emphasizes the honor bestowed upon Ignatius as he personally received his dedication from the Apostles. One should remain aware that Theodoret & Chrysostom come onto the scene far later, which means that one could question their reliability concerning the link between Peter and Ignatius.

Even though his testimony would ultimately lead to his death, Ignatius was adamant about the things he witnessed. He reinforces early Christian beliefs in the letters he wrote while in prison, and refused to recant his faith in the face of death. There are many other church fathers we could look at.


Narrative Edit

Luke–Acts is a two-part historical account traditionally ascribed to Luke, who was believed to be a follower of Paul. The author of Luke–Acts noted that there were many accounts in circulation at the time of his writing, saying that these were eye-witness testimonies. He stated that he had investigated "everything from the beginning" and was editing the material into one account from the birth of Jesus to his own time. Like other historians of his time, [4] [5] [6] [7] he defined his actions by stating that the reader can rely on the "certainty" of the facts given. However, most scholars understand Luke–Acts to be in the tradition of Greek historiography. [8] [9] [10]

Use of sources Edit

It has been claimed that the author of Acts used the writings of Josephus (specifically "Antiquities of the Jews") as a historical source. [11] [12] The majority of scholars reject both this claim and the claim that Josephus borrowed from Acts, [13] [14] [15] arguing instead that Luke and Josephus drew on common traditions and historical sources. [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21]

Several scholars have criticised the author's use of his source materials. For example, Richard Heard has written that, "in his narrative in the early part of Acts he seems to be stringing together, as best he may, a number of different stories and narratives, some of which appear, by the time they reached him, to have been seriously distorted in the telling." [22] [ page needed ]

Textual traditions Edit

Like most New Testament books, there are differences between the earliest surviving manuscripts of Acts. In the case of Acts, however, the differences between the surviving manuscripts are more substantial than most. Arguably the two earliest versions of manuscripts are the Western text-type (as represented by the Codex Bezae) and the Alexandrian text-type (as represented by the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus which was not seen in Europe until 1859). The version of Acts preserved in the Western manuscripts contains about 6.2-8.5% [23] more content than the Alexandrian version of Acts (depending on the definition of a variant). [3] : 5–6

Modern scholars consider that the shorter Alexandrian text is closer to the original, and the longer Western text is the result of later insertion of additional material into the text. [3] : 5–6

A third class of manuscripts, known as the Byzantine text-type, is often considered to have developed after the Western and Alexandrian types. While differing from both of the other types, the Byzantine type has more similarity to the Alexandrian than to the Western type. The extant manuscripts of this type date from the 5th century or later however, papyrus fragments show that this text-type may date as early as the Alexandrian or Western text-types. [24] : 45–48 The Byzantine text-type served as the basis for the 16th century Textus Receptus, produced by Erasmus, the first Greek-language printed edition of the New Testament. The Textus Receptus, in turn, served as the basis for the New Testament in the English-language King James Bible. Today, the Byzantine text-type is the subject of renewed interest as the possible original form of the text from which the Western and Alexandrian text-types were derived. [25] [ page needed ]

The debate on the historicity of Acts became most vehement between 1895 and 1915. [26] Ferdinand Christian Baur viewed it as unreliable, and mostly an effort to reconcile gentile and Jewish forms of Christianity. [3] : 10 Adolf von Harnack in particular was known for being very critical of the accuracy of Acts, though his allegations of its inaccuracies have been described as "exaggerated hypercriticism" by some. [27] Leading scholar and archaeologist of the time period, William Mitchell Ramsay, considered Acts to be remarkably reliable as a historical document. [28] Attitudes towards the historicity of Acts have ranged widely across scholarship in different countries. [29]

According to Heidi J. Hornik and Mikeal C. Parsons, "Acts must be carefully sifted and mined for historical information." [3] : 10

Passages consistent with the historical background Edit

Acts contains some accurate details of 1st century society, specifically with regard to titles of officials, administrative divisions, town assemblies, and rules of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, [30] including:

  • Inscriptions confirm that the city authorities in Thessalonica in the 1st century were called politarchs (Acts 17:6–8)
  • According to inscriptions, grammateus is the correct title for the chief magistrate in Ephesus (Acts 19:35) and Festus are correctly called procurators of Judea
  • The passing remark of the expulsion of the Jews from Rome by Claudius (Acts 18:2) is independently attested by Suetonius in Claudius 25 from The Twelve Caesars, Cassius Dio (c. AD 150 – c. 235) and fifth-century Christian author Paulus Orosius. [31][32]
  • Acts correctly refers to Cornelius as centurion and to Claudius Lysias as a tribune (Acts 21:31 and Acts 23:26)
  • The title proconsul (anthypathos) is correctly used for the governors of the two senatorial provinces named in Acts (Acts 13:7–8 and Acts 18:12)
  • Inscriptions speak about the prohibition against the Gentiles in the inner areas of the Temple (as in Acts 21:27–36) see also Court of the Gentiles
  • The function of town assemblies in the operation of a city's business is described accurately in Acts 19:29–41
  • Roman soldiers were permanently stationed in the tower of Antonia with the responsibility of watching for and suppressing any disturbances at the festivals of the Jews to reach the affected area they would have to come down a flight of steps into temple precincts, as noted by Acts 21:31–37

Talbert concludes that the historical inaccuracies within Acts "are few and insignificant compared to the overwhelming congruence of Acts and its time [until AD 64] and place [Palestine and the wider Roman Empire]". [30] Talbert cautions nevertheless that "an exact description of the milieu does not prove the historicity of the event narrated". [33]

Whilst treating its description of the history of the early church skeptically, critical scholars such as Gerd Lüdemann, Alexander Wedderburn, Hans Conzelmann, and Martin Hengel still view Acts as containing valuable historically accurate accounts of the earliest Christians.

Lüdemann acknowledges the historicity of Christ's post-resurrection appearances, [34] the names of the early disciples, [35] women disciples, [36] and Judas Iscariot. [37] Wedderburn says the disciples indisputably believed Christ was truly raised. [38] Conzelmann dismisses an alleged contradiction between Acts 13:31 and Acts 1:3. [39] Hengel believes Acts was written early [40] by Luke as a partial eyewitness, [41] praising Luke's knowledge of Palestine, [42] and of Jewish customs in Acts 1:12. [43] With regard to Acts 1:15–26, Lüdemann is skeptical with regard to the appointment of Matthias, but not with regard to his historical existence. [44] Wedderburn rejects the theory that denies the historicity of the disciples, [45] [46] Conzelmann considers the upper room meeting a historical event Luke knew from tradition, [47] and Hengel considers ‘the Field of Blood’ to be an authentic historical name. [48]

Concerning Acts 2, Lüdemann considers the Pentecost gathering as very possible, [49] and the apostolic instruction to be historically credible. [50] Wedderburn acknowledges the possibility of a ‘mass ecstatic experience’, [51] and notes it is difficult to explain why early Christians later adopted this Jewish festival if there had not been an original Pentecost event as described in Acts. [52] He also holds the description of the early community in Acts 2 to be reliable. [53] [54]

Lüdemann views Acts 3:1–4:31 as historical. [55] Wedderburn notes what he sees as features of an idealized description, [56] but nevertheless cautions against dismissing the record as unhistorical. [57] Hengel likewise insists that Luke described genuine historical events, even if he has idealized them. [58] [59]

Wedderburn maintains the historicity of communal ownership among the early followers of Christ (Acts 4:32–37). [60] Conzelmann, though sceptical, believes Luke took his account of Acts 6:1–15 from a written record [61] more positively, Wedderburn defends the historicity of the account against scepticism. [62] Lüdemann considers the account to have a historical basis. [63]

Passages of disputed historical accuracy Edit

Acts 2:41 and 4:4 – Peter's addresses Edit

Acts 4:4 speaks of Peter addressing an audience, resulting in the number of Christian converts rising to 5,000 people. A Professor of the New Testament Robert M. Grant says "Luke evidently regarded himself as a historian, but many questions can be raised in regard to the reliability of his history […] His ‘statistics’ are impossible Peter could not have addressed three thousand hearers [e.g. in Acts 2:41] without a microphone, and since the population of Jerusalem was about 25–30,000, Christians cannot have numbered five thousand [e.g. Acts 4:4]." [64] However, as Professor I. Howard Marshall shows, the believers could have possibly come from other countries (see Acts 2: 9-10). In regards to being heard, recent history suggests that a crowd of thousands can be addressed, see for example Benjamin Franklin's account about George Whitefield. [65]

Acts 5:33–39: Theudas Edit

Acts 5:33–39 gives an account of speech by the 1st century Pharisee Gamaliel (d.

50ad), in which he refers to two first century movements. One of these was led by Theudas. [66] Afterwards another was led by Judas the Galilean. [67] Josephus placed Judas at the Census of Quirinius of the year 6 and Theudas under the procurator Fadus [68] in 44–46. Assuming Acts refers to the same Theudas as Josephus, two problems emerge. First, the order of Judas and Theudas is reversed in Acts 5. Second, Theudas's movement may come after the time when Gamaliel is speaking. It is possible that Theudas in Josephus is not the same one as in Acts, or that it is Josephus who has his dates confused. [69] The late 2nd-century writer Origen referred to a Theudas active before the birth of Jesus, [70] although it is possible that this simply draws on the account in Acts.

Acts 10:1: Roman troops in Caesarea Edit

Acts 10:1 speaks of a Roman Centurion called Cornelius belonging to the "Italian regiment" and stationed in Caesarea about 37 AD. Robert Grant claims that during the reign of Herod Agrippa, 41–44, no Roman troops were stationed in his territory. [71] Wedderburn likewise finds the narrative "historically suspect", [72] and in view of the lack of inscriptional and literary evidence corroborating Acts, historian de Blois suggests that the unit either did not exist or was a later unit which the author of Acts projected to an earlier time. [73]

Noting that the 'Italian regiment' is generally identified as cohors II Italica civium Romanorum, a unit whose presence in Judea is attested no earlier than AD 69, [74] historian E. Mary Smallwood observes that the events described from Acts 9:32 to chapter 11 may not be in chronological order with the rest of the chapter but actually take place after Agrippa's death in chapter 12, and that the "Italian regiment" may have been introduced to Caesarea as early as AD 44. [75] Wedderburn notes this suggestion of chronological re-arrangement, along with the suggestion that Cornelius lived in Caesarea away from his unit. [76] Historians such as Bond, [77] Speidel, [78] and Saddington, [79] see no difficulty in the record of Acts 10:1.

Acts 15: The Council of Jerusalem Edit

The description of the 'Apostolic Council' in Acts 15, generally considered the same event described in Galatians 2, [80] is considered by some scholars to be contradictory to the Galatians account. [81] The historicity of Luke's account has been challenged, [82] [83] [84] and was rejected completely by some scholars in the mid to late 20th century. [85] However, more recent scholarship inclines towards treating the Jerusalem Council and its rulings as a historical event, [86] though this is sometimes expressed with caution. [87]

Acts 15:16–18: James' speech Edit

In Acts 15:16–18, James, the leader of the Christian Jews in Jerusalem, gives a speech where he quotes scriptures from the Greek Septuagint (Amos 9:11–12). Some believe this is incongruous with the portrait of James as a Jewish leader who would presumably speak Aramaic, not Greek. For instance, Richard Pervo notes: "The scriptural citation strongly differs from the MT which has nothing to do with the inclusion of gentiles. This is the vital element in the citation and rules out the possibility that the historical James (who would not have cited the LXX) utilized the passage." [88]

A possible explanation is that the Septuagint translation better made James's point about the inclusion of Gentiles as the people of God. [89] Dr. John Barnett stated that "Many of the Jews in Jesus' day used the Septuagint as their Bible". [90] Although Aramaic was a major language of the Ancient Near East, by Jesus's day Greek had been the lingua franca of the area for 300 years.

Acts 21:38: The sicarii and the Egyptian Edit

In Acts 21:38, a Roman asks Paul if he was 'the Egyptian' who led a band of 'sicarii' (literally: 'dagger-men') into the desert. In both The Jewish Wars [91] and Antiquities of the Jews, [92] Josephus talks about Jewish nationalist rebels called sicarii directly prior to talking about The Egyptian leading some followers to the Mount of Olives. Richard Pervo believes that this demonstrates that Luke used Josephus as a source and mistakenly thought that the sicarii were followers of The Egyptian. [93] [94]

Two early sources that mention the origins of Christianity are the Antiquities of the Jews by the Roman-Jewish historian Josephus, and the Church History of Eusebius. Josephus and Luke-Acts are thought to be approximately contemporaneous, around AD 90, and Eusebius wrote some two and a quarter centuries later.

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