The Doctor Who Wrote History -- By: Clifford A. Wilson

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 02:2 (Spring 1989)
Article: The Doctor Who Wrote History
Author: Clifford A. Wilson

The Doctor Who Wrote History

Clifford A. Wilsona

Areopagus or Mars’ Hill (knoll in foreground). Acropolis in background.

The question is often asked, “Does archaeology throw any light on the New Testament?” The answer, of course, is “Yes.” But it stands to reason that there will not be as much new information about the New Testament as there has been regarding the Old Testament. The period of the Old Testament extended for thousands of years, whereas the writings of the New Testament are confined to the first century AD.

In this article we shall consider only one way in which archaeology has added its testimony to the accuracy and background of the New Testament. We shall glance at one of the most challenged of all the New Testament writings - the Acts of the Apostles.

The Challenge Against Luke

According to the New Testament itself, Luke was a physician and wrote the Acts of the Apostles as well as the Gospel bearing his name. But many scholars of a generation past claimed that the Acts of the Apostles was the work of a much later hand. German scholars of the famous Tubingen school were especially outspoken against Luke’s genuineness. The argument of many was that someone wrote these documents at least a century, and possibly two centuries, after the time of Luke. But now there is not such confident criticism, largely because archaeological evidence has come forth to support the claim that Acts was written by an eyewitness.

For instance, Acts 6:9 mentions

the Synagogue of the Libertines. This was a synagogue for the “liberated ones,” the “freedmen.” We now know that there were literally hundreds of synagogues for various groups of people in Jerusalem at this time - there was the Synagogue of the Weavers, the Synagogue of the Embroiderers, and many others.

We know from archaeological evidence that there was a strong trade union movement in the times of our Lord. These trade unions were formed for two main reasons: first, to get the obvious benefits of association in manufacturing and trading activities; and, secondly, to provide a basis for fellowship and social life. One important aspect was the provision of suitable arrangements for a decent burial. Otherwise, it was all too likely that poorer people would be buried simply by being tossed into a hole dug in the earth - a most unacceptable burial for pious Jews. People with similar interest and activities came together in a way that was not unlike the functions of unions ...

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