Introduction: Can You Believe the Bible?
William Ramsay didn't set out to prove the Bible's accuracy. In fact, the young Oxford graduate and budding scholar set sail in 1879 from England for Asia Minor convinced that, based on his university studies, the New Testament—and the book of Acts in particular— was largely a hoax. After all, his professors had taught him that the Bible had been written much later than it claimed to be, so its stories had been fabricated long after the fact and weren't to be taken seriously. The focus of his work was ancient Roman culture. But the more he dug into it, literally and figuratively, the more he came to see that the myriad of tiny details in the book of Acts—place names, topography, officials' titles, administrative boundaries, customs and even specific structures—fit perfectly with newly discovered historical and archaeological finds. He was gradually convinced that, to use his own words, "in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth."
Contrary to all his earlier education, he was forced to conclude that Luke, the author of Acts, was "a historian of the first rank" and that "not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense . . . This author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians." In an outstanding academic career Ramsay was honored with doctorates from nine universities and eventually knighted for his contributions to modern scholarship. He shocked the academic world when in one of his books he announced that, because of the incontrovertible evidence he had discovered for the truthfulness of the Bible, he had become a Christian. Several of his works on New Testament history are considered classics. When confronted with the evidence of years of travel and study, Sir William Ramsay learned what many others before him and since have been forced to acknowledge: When we objectively examine the evidence for the Bible's accuracy and veracity, the only conclusion we can reach is that the Bible is true.
The evidence from archaeology is only one proof of Scripture's accuracy, and that's the focus of this series of articles. We offer you a sampling of the evidence that's available—documentation showing that details of the people, places and events described in the Bible, many of them mentioned only in passing, have been verified by archaeologists and historians. Many excellent books have been published in recent years that verify the dependability of Scripture, and no doubt more will follow as new discoveries come to light. What are the implications of this for you? All the evidence in the world does us no good if we are not willing to believe the Bible enough to put it to the ultimate test—that of doing what it tells us to do. James, the half brother of Jesus, reminds us that mere belief is not enough, because even the demons believe. Instead he tells us we must put our beliefs into action if we are to please God (James 2:19-26). In The Good News we regularly offer articles such as those in this issue to help build your faith. But be sure that you don't neglect the articles that show you how to put your faith and belief into action. God is interested to see how you respond to the truth He makes known to you. Ultimately that is the far more important test.
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