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Choose Life That You Might Live

Part 11: Does Archaeology Confirm or Undermine The New Testament Accounts?
In spite of the fact that the four Gospels are ancient documents that claim to be eye witness testimony, much of what those men wrote was dismissed as the product of fervent and vivid imagination. Yet, archaeology has corroborated many minute details found in the New Testament. About those details that haven't been substantiated, I only have this to say... Isn't it amazing how we, in our infinite wisdom, think that something in the ancient past cannot possibly be true simply because we haven't found any tangible evidence for it?

Carol Brooks

List of Chapters
For a slightly longer description of each chapter, please go to the Main Index

Part 1: Spiritual not Religious. The question is how do you know that the spiritual path you are on will lead somewhere you want to be? What does it offer you in the long run... beyond this life?
Part 2: Religious Pluralism. It is tragically true that few of those who believe that all spiritual beliefs are valid paths to God seem to have made an in depth study of various religions to see if their claims are based on fact, or fairy dust.
Part 3: Faith and The Bible. Christianity is perhaps the only religion that does not demand 'blind faith' from its followers.
Part 4: God And His Bible. There is far more evidence in favor of the Bible being true, than there is for any of the other 'holy books which usually consist of endless streams of often mind numbing philosophy, with little or no framework or context. The evidence includes the Bible’s humanly impossible authorship, its archaeological and scientific accuracy and  fulfilled prophecy.
Part 5: Alleged Old Testament Discrepancies. The charges are usually careless, overconfident and unsubstantiated.
Part 6: Why Jesus Is Without Equal.  Many so called holy men claim to to be divine or divinely inspired - to have had mystical visions or experiences. So what?
Part 7: The Reliability of The New Testament. If we applied whatever criteria liberal scholars use to dismiss the Gospels, to the evidence for other historical people and events, we would have to dismiss as myth everything we think we think we know about the ancient past.
Part 8: New Testament Differences and Discrepancies  Most alleged 'mistakes' arise from understanding too little about the Bible.
Part 8 b: The Resurrection Accounts  The so-called contradictions are trotted out without a single reference to the possible solutions that can very plausibly and naturally explain them.
 Part 9: The Bible, Then And Now. People commonly reject the Bible because they believe the original text has been changed significantly since it was first written making it a corrupted book. But is there any truth to the charge?
Part 10: Historical Corroboration. Were any of the Gospel accounts substantiated by non-Christian sources?
YOU ARE HERE 001orange Part 11: Archaeology and The Bible. Does archaeology confirm or undermine the New Testament accounts?
Part 12: Is The Evidence Insufficient or Too Obscure? A far more sensible way to look at it is... the more severe the consequences, the fewer risks we should take.
Part 13: The Message of The Bible. The Heaven Jesus was sent to tell us about is no pie in the sky ethereal place 'somewhere out there. In fact, the Bible's description of the coming kingdom is far more practical than that of our theologians. '
Part 14: The Warning of The Bible. We are all under the death penalty. If dying once sounds terrible to you, how does doing it twice sound? -  which is exactly what the Bible says will happen if...
Part 15: Who Is and Isn't a Christian. Since the word originated with the Bible, only the Bible has the right to define what a "Christian" is.
Part 16: Myths and Misconceptions that stem from knowing too little about Biblical Christianity.


The Dead Are Raised
No! Christians didn't misquote the Old Testament to fit their claims that Jesus raised the dead.

Machaerus and John The Baptist
Machaerus, the fortress where John the Baptist was imprisoned and executed has been located in modern day Jordan.

Pontius Pilate

The Pools of Bethesda and Siloam

Luke's Accuracy
 Lysanius, Sergius Paulus and The Three Missionary Journeys Described in The Book of Acts

Not only are they accurate geographical routes, but many places, customs and people were also accurately described such as the titles of various local authorities, the language spoken by the people there, the religious beliefs, customs and structures in those cities etc.
First,  Second  and Third  Journeys

In Between The Second And Third Journeys - Corinth

Back in Jerusalem
Luke's account of the voyage to Rome including an unerring account of what happened when
they encountered a terrible storm at sea

The Two Halves of Acts


The Problem of Quirinius and The Census

Also See
The Book of Acts and Archaeology

and Section
Archaeology And The Bible

The Dead Are Raised
Matthew tells us that when the imprisoned John the Baptist sent word asking Jesus if He was the one they were expecting or if they were to look for another, Jesus told the messengers to

    "... Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them (Gk. euaggelizo). (Matthew 11:4-5 NASB). Also see Luke 7:22   

We have to note that when Jesus and the New Testament authors quoted the Old Testament, they seldom did so verbatim. Instead they gave the gist of what the particular verse (or verses) said. More than enough detail was included that their readers, usually very familiar with the Hebrew Bible, were clear as to what passage they were quoting.

In the case of the Savior's message to John He was, as was His right, actually combining two Messianic prophecies made by Isaiah.

    Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness and streams in the Arabah. (Isaiah 35:5-6 NASB)

    The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted (poor, humble, meek); He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; (Isaiah 61:1 NASB)

In fact, it was a similar combining of two verses from the same prophet that Jesus read and claimed to fulfill in the Nazareth synagogue at the very beginning of His ministry. The underlined text is from Isaiah 61:1, the "recovery of sight to the blind " came from Isaiah 35:5 (Both Above).

    And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, "the Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because he anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord." (Luke 4:16-19 NASB) 

Note: However, Jesus didn't stop at the first verse in Isaiah 61, but went on to partially quote the second verse - "to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord". Why did He stop?  Simply because the rest of the verse (To proclaim ... the day of vengeance of our God) refers to His Second Coming not His First.  This is a perfect example of how Biblical prophecy can and does shift from one time frame to another without any warning.

    After which Jesus closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him as He said, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:21 )

However, this is not the end of the problem.

Because neither Isaiah nor any other prophet of the Old Testament ever said a word about the Messiah raising the dead, critics accuse Christians of adding the raising of the dead part to Matthew 11:5 to fit their stories of Jesus doing just that on several occasions.

However, a fragment of a manuscript (4Q521) titled "Messianic Apocalypse", dating back to before the birth of Christ, was found in the Dead Sea Scrolls very clearly states that the Messiah would raise the dead when He came. In part, fragment 2 reads, (Bold Added)...

    For he will honor the pious upon the throne of an eternal kingdom, freeing prisoners, giving sight to the blind, straightening out the twis[ted.] And for[e]ver shall I cling to [those who] hope, and in his mercy [...] and the fru[it of ...] not be delayed. And the Lord will perform marvellous acts such as have not existed, just as he sa[id, for] he will heal the badly wounded and will make the dead live; he will proclaim good news to the poor and [...] he will lead the [...] and enrich the hungry. [...] and all [....] [01]

This ancient Jewish community in Qumran was very apparently expecting the Messiah to perform some miraculous deeds when He came - not the least of which was raising the dead.

Not only is the phrase "proclaiming good news to the poor" in 4Q521, a direct quotation from Isaiah 61, but in both Jesus' message to John and 4Q521, the raising of the dead comes immediately before preaching the good news to the poor. Jesus was quite obviously quoting a body of work that has been lost to us.

However, note that in His reply to John the Baptist who was imprisoned at the time, Jesus did not repeat the part about the Messiah freeing the prisoners found in both Isaiah 61:1 and the Qumran manuscript. This perhaps because He did not want to give John false hope.

Which takes us to where John was imprisoned and executed.

Machaerus and John The Baptist
Mark 6:16-29 tells the story of John the Baptist who spoke out against Herod Antipas' marriage to Herodias, his brother Philip's wife. (Note: Antipas, who ruled from about 4 BC until 39 AD was son of Herod the great). Herod had John arrested and bound in prison but did not do him any physical harm because he was afraid of John whom he knew to be a righteous and holy man. In fact, Herod actually enjoyed listening to John. However, Herodias (who had a grudge against John) and her daughter conned him into having John beheaded.

The Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus mentioned John in his Antiquities of the Jews, writing that John the Baptist

    "was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death" [02]

Macherus, the fortress where John was imprisoned and executed has been located in modern day Jordan. The Herodian palace, including rooms, a large courtyard, and an elaborate bath has been found within the fortified area along with fragments of the floor mosaic. Farther down the eastern slope of the hill are other walls and towers that more than likely are the "lower city," of which Josephus wrote in The Jewish War 7.6.4. [03]

Pontius Pilate
It wasn't long ago that many scholars questioned whether Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor said to have ordered Jesus' crucifixion, ever existed.

It needs to be once again pointed out that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were independent witnesses. Two of them (Mark and Luke) weren't even Jesus' disciples, and one (Luke) wasn't even a Jew who may or may not have ever met Jesus. Each of the four wrote their accounts down separately and it was only until much later that they were included in what we now call "The Bible".

In virtually every other case, an ancient document that spoke of a Roman governor for whom we had no other evidence, would be prized as 'unique'. But the fact that Pilate was only mentioned several times in the Gospels was, quite simply, not good enough. After all, the authors were 'those ridiculous, fairy tale inventing' Christians who could not possibly get historical details right. As with everything, cynics wanted 'independent' confirmation of Pilate's existence.

Well 'independent corroboration' is exactly what the skeptics got with the 1961 discovery of a damaged block (82 cm x 65 cm) of carved limestone, found in the archaeological site of Caesarea Maritima, and currently on view at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Called The Pilate Stone the block dates back to 26–37 CE, and the four lines of writing on it say,

    To the honorable gods (this) Tiberium

     Pontius Pilate,

     Prefect of Judea,

     had dedicated SEE The Pilate Inscription

This not only confirms that Pontius Pilate existed but also verifies that he was governor (not procurator) of Judea, just as the Gospel accounts report, a position which would have given him the authority to condemn Jesus or, should he have chosen to do so, pardon Him.

    Note: a procurator is an agent who is authorized to act on behalf of another whereas a prefect is a high administrative official

The Pools of Bethesda and Siloam
John 5:1–15 records how Jesus healed an invalid by the Pool of Bethesda. In verse 2 John says it had five porticoes

    Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. (John 5:2 NASB)

Until the 19th century, there was no evidence outside of John's Gospel for the existence of this pool; therefore, scholars argued that the gospel was written later "probably by someone without first-hand knowledge of the city of Jerusalem". Besides which five porticoes was a "puzzling feature suggesting an unusual five-sided pool, which most scholars dismissed as an unhistorical literary creation" [04] .

 Until, of course, the discovery of the remains of a pool that matched the description in John's Gospel.

    "When this site was excavated, it revealed a rectangular pool with two basins separated by a wall - thus a five-sided pool - and each side had a portico... So why a pool with two basins? The archaeological evidence shows that the southern basin had broad steps with landings, indicating that it was indeed a mikveh. (What Is a Mikveh?) The northern basin provided a reservoir, or otzer, to continually replenish and repurify the mikveh with fresh water flowing south through the dam between them. Jerusalem's pilgrims would flock to the Bethesda Pool and Siloam Pool to purify themselves in these public mikva’ot and, at times, to seek healing. " [05] 

Ian Paul: theologian, author, speaker, academic consultant describes it as having "five colonnades - not in a pentagon, but as a rectangle with one colonnade crossing the middle. [06]

(If you copy and paste the links in Endnotes 04 and 05 into your browser you can see photographs of the actual ruins and of the scale model in Jerusalem respectively.

The Gospel of John also tells us that Jesus anointed a blind man's eyes with mud then told him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam (John 9:6-7). This pool discovered in 2005 was probably also a mikveh (Sometimes spelled Mikvah).

Luke's Accuracy
Luke was a physician and historian who authored both the Gospel that bears his name and the book of Acts - the story of the fledgling church. Together these two books make up close to one quarter of the New Testament. The fact that Luke was obviously an intelligent and educated man who wrote very eloquently in near classical Greek takes a back seat to whether or not he was an accurate historian. In other words we have to ask whether Luke was a credible witness to the events he wrote about.

The fact that he was so meticulous about recording dates, names, titles, locations and other details, makes it relatively easy to check his facts. However, all too many times, scholars and critics pooh-poohed something Luke wrote, only to have him proved right by a subsequent archaeological discovery.

For example, Luke was extremely precise about when John the Baptist's ministry began...

    Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. (Luke 3:1-2 NASB)

Many critics scoffed at the idea that Lysanius was tetrarch of Abilene, because the only known Lysanius was ruler of Chalcis (a town on the island of Euboea in Greece) about 50-60 years earlier. However, there seemed to be were two government officials with the same name.

The discovery of an inscriptions from Abila (northwest of Damascus) showed that an younger official named Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene between the years AD 14 and 29. This Lysanias was probably the spoken about in Luke and may have been a son of Lysanias I. In fact this is a distinct possibility because Abilene was one of the districts into which the original kingdom was split up after the death of Lysanias I.

Because Josephus does not refer to a second Lysanias some believe that he was actually referring to the original Lysanias even though he died decades earlier.

Sergius Paulus
Similarly, in Acts 13:7, Luke also said the proconsul was an intelligent man called Sergius Paulus. This was also rejected by critics until an 1887 discovery of an inscription which said a Sergius Paulus was appointed as proconsul in A.D. 47.

The Three Missionary Journeys Described in The Book of Acts
Virtually everything we know about Paul's three missionary journeys comes from the book of Acts. However, I am not sure how many people realize how accurately Luke portrayed those journeys.

While I think we can safely assume that at least some people of the time had knowledge of certain general details (such as the names and titles of governors) that Luke included in his account, one can hardly believe that specific routes that extended all the way from Judea, into Asia and Europe were known to anyone other than a person who had actually traveled to those areas.

But Luke went much further than mentioning the specific routes they took. He also included some very precise details about the places they visited, such as the titles of various local authorities, the language spoken by the people there, the religious beliefs, customs and structures in those cities etc.

While it is impossible to cover every detail of Paul's three journeys, the points below are best understood with accompanying maps HERE

The First Journey
From Seleucia to Perga, via Cyprus and Paphos
Paul's first odyssey began in Syrian Antioch (different from Pisidian Antioch) when the Holy Spirit made it clear that Barnabas and Paul were to be set apart for a particular purpose. (Acts 13: 1-3)

    So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper... Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; but John left them and returned to Jerusalem. But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. (Acts 13:4-5, 13-14 NASB)

In other words, Barnabas and Paul went by sea from Seleucia to Salamis, the principal city of ancient Cyprus, located on the east coast of the island. They then probably took the southern coastal roads, traveling in an arc until they reached Paphos, a coastal city in south west Cyprus, from where they took a boat to the mainland arriving at Perga in Pamphylia (modern Turkey) where John Mark left them, then on to Pisidian Antioch. They then stopped in Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, all of which were in the Roman province of Galatia.

Remembering that Luke could not have looked up a map of the area on his computer the details he provides of this first journey, are extremely accurate.

    1) Salamis on the east coast of Cyprus, was the island's primary port. Seleucia, 16 miles away from Antioch was that city's seaport. Apparently, on a clear day, one can see Cyprus from Mount Casius, just south of Seleucia. Both places were bustling cargo ports and there was doubtlessly much coming and going between them. (The map on THIS page shows how close the two places were) There is also little doubt that those who journeyed to Antioch from Cyprus in Acts 11:20 would have traveled between these two ports, taking advantage of the frequent shipping traffic.

    2) However, the Jews in Antioch instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. The apostles then went to Iconium (modern day Konya) where they preached in the synagogue (14:1), but the people were divided and some made an attempt to stone them. When Paul and Barnabus became aware of this, they fled to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe (14:5-6 ),

    Note the geographical accuracy of the last mentioned three places. Derbe was a small town in the region of Lycaonia, only about 20 miles from Lystra. [07]

    3) We are also told that Paul healed a life-long cripple in Lystra. "And, when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, "The gods have become like men and have come down to us. And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker" (Acts 14:11-12 NASB). According to The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

    The accuracy in detail of this part of the narrative in Acts has been strikingly confirmed by recent epigraphic discovery. Two inscriptions found in the neighborhood of Lystra in 1909 run as follows: (1) "Kakkan and Maramoas and Iman Licinius priests of Zeus"; (2) "Toues Macrinus also called Abascantus and Batasis son of Bretasis having made in accordance with a vow at their own expense (a statue of) Hermes Most Great along with a sun-dial dedicated it to Zeus the sun-god." [08]

    4) Additionally, although the educated classes spoke Greek, and Latin was also understood, many of the less educated people in those cities continued, for a long time, to use their native language. (e.g. Phrygian was in use at Iconium till the 3rd century of our era). [09] Hence, Luke's comment that the people raised their voices "in the Lycaonian language".

Summary: Luke was right about the location of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe and right about the people using their own language. He also correctly identified the gods worshipped in Lystra.

The Return Journey
The apostles then wended their way back, taking the same route they came by. Lystra to Iconium and to Antioch. They passed through Pisidia and came into Pamphylia. After preaching in Perga they traveled the short distance to Attalia. However, they did not return to Cyprus but sailed directly to Syrian Antioch. (14: 21-25)

    Note: Attalia was a maritime city of Pamphylia, which served as the port of entry from Egypt and Syria. This means that there had to have been quite a few sailing vessels that plied the route between Attalia and Syrian Antioch. To this date Antalya is Turkey's biggest international sea resort, located on the Turkish Riviera

Second Journey
This was a very long journey that began and ended in Jerusalem. It took Paul back to Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch. Then after traveling through Troas, Philippi, Thessalonica and Athens he went onto Corinth where he stayed for some time. After a short visit to Ephesus, Paul set sail to Caesarea, then made his way back to Jerusalem.

A few high points in terms of accuracy are...

    1) Luke correctly named Troas (16:8)

    2) He rightly identified Philippi as a Roman colony (16:12). Philippi, built by Herod the Great, was the capital of the Roman province of Judaea, the seat of the governors or procurators, and the headquarters of the Roman troops.

    3) Luke wrote that they (himself included) went outside the gate of the city to the riverside on the Sabbath day, where they began speaking to the women who had assembled there (Acts 16:13). Philippi was built on a hill near the river Gangites.

    4) Among the women they spoke to was one "named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira (modern Akhisar in western Turkey), a seller of purple fabrics" (16:14). According to Wikipedia

    Thyatira was famous for its dyeing facilities and was a center of the purple cloth trade. Among the ancient ruins of the city, inscriptions have been found relating to the guild of dyers in the city. Indeed, more guilds are known in Thyatira than any other contemporary city in the Roman province of Asia including copper smiths, tanners, dyers, leather workers, wool workers and linen workers.  

    One inscription found on a monument from Hierapolis, a little over 100 miles away from Thyatira, says

      The grave and the place beneath it belong to Marcus Aurelius Aegillus, Marcus Aurelius Aelianus Aegillus, and Marcus Aurelius Akindynos Drakontios. The brothers, Aelianus and Akindynos, will be buried in it. But it is not lawful for anyone else to be buried or to bury another here. If someone opens or obtains the grave, he will pay a fine of 500 denaria to the board of chairs of the purple-dyers or to the superintendents of the year. Whatever inheritance I left behind, I left it so that, out of the interest, the ones who have inherited it may enjoy themselves each year at my tomb, and the yearly interest will be 144 denaria. [10]

    5) When the apostles left Philippi, they "traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews" (17:1). Not only was the Via Egnatia a major Roman highway that ran though Philippi towards Thessalonica, but there was synagogue in that city.

    6) In 17:6, Luke called the city authorities "politarches". An inscription in white marble, found inside one of the main western gateways to Thessaloniki in Salonica, Greece lists six Politarchs ('Rulers of the Citizens') thus conforming that this was indeed a proper title. The inscription is in the British museum in London. [11]

    7) Luke says that when Paul stopped in Athens, which seemed to be an unplanned visit, observing the city full of idols his "spirit was provoked". There is little question that Athens had an abundance of temples and idols. Beginning with the Parthenon, the chief temple of Athena, which contained a colossal statue of the goddess and is admired by tourists to this very day. Then there was the huge temple of Zeus, the temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion, the temple of Hephaestos (the Theseion), and the temple on the Ilissus. Also, since emperor worship was very prevalent, there were statues and altars dedicated to the various emperors. And, as verse 17 says, there was a synagogue in Athens. [For more on Paul in Athens copy and paste into browser http://www.freewebs.com/reformationalphilosophy/Sewell/Acts17.pdf]

In Between The Second And Third Journeys - Corinth
Paul worked in Corinth for about a year and a half after returning from his second missionary journey..

At that time as Luke said Gallio was proconsul of Achaia a province of the Roman Empire located in the southern part of Greece of which Corinth was the capitol. The Jews tried to make a case against Paul but Gallio was of the opinion that it was an internal religious dispute, not a matter for the Romans..

    But while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat (Gk. bema) , saying, "This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the law." But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, "If it were a matter of wrong or of vicious crime, O Jews, it would be reasonable for me to put up with you; but if there are questions about words and names and your own law, look after it yourselves; I am unwilling to be a judge of these matters." And he drove them away from the judgment seat. (Acts 18:12-16 NASB)

The Gallio Inscription is a letter (in several fragments) which was discovered early in the 20th century at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, Greece. It was written by the Roman emperor Claudius c. 52 CE and confirms that his "friend" Gallio (brother of Seneca the philosopher) was proconsul. SEE

    Note: In Ancient Greece, the bema, usually located in the town forum or marketplace, was a raised platform from which officials gave public addresses and heard legal cases. The bema at Corinth was built around 44 B.C.E. out of huge blocks of stone, originally covered with blue and white marble. Also See The Bema or Judgment Seat of Christ in Part VII of What And Where is 'Heaven'?

Third Journey
On this very long third journey which began in Syrian Antioch and ended in Jerusalem, Paul did not plant any new churches that we know of. His sole purpose seems to have been to strengthen believers in the places he had already been (See Acts 18:23). Here are a few excerpts from the tail end of Paul and Luke's journey

    But we, going ahead to the ship, set sail for Assos, intending from there to take Paul on board; for so he had arranged it, intending himself to go by land. (14) And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene.  (15)  Sailing from there, we arrived the following day opposite Chios; and the next day we crossed over to Samos; and the day following we came to Miletus. (16)  For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.  (17)  From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. (Acts 20:13-17 NASB)

    When we had parted from them and had set sail, we ran a straight course to Cos and the next day to Rhodes and from there to Patara;  (2) and having found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. (3)  When we came in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left, we kept sailing to Syria and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload its cargo. (Acts 21:1-3 NASB)

    When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and after greeting the brethren, we stayed with them for a day.  (8) On the next day we left and came to Caesarea, and entering the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we stayed with him. (Acts 21:7-8 NASB)

Back in Jerusalem
When Paul arrived in Jerusalem at the end of his Third Missionary Journey he went up to the Temple where some "Jews from Asia" accused him of bringing Greeks into the temple and thus defiling it. They dragged Paul out of the temple and tried to kill him but summoned to the scene the commander of the Roman cohort in Jerusalem tried to find out what had happened. but could not because of the uproar. He then ordered Paul to be brought into the barracks.   

    Then all the city was provoked, and the people rushed together, and taking hold of Paul they dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. While they were seeking to kill him, a report came up to the commander of the Roman cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. (Acts 21:30-31 NASB)

Notice the phrase "a report came up to the commander". According to Vincent's word studies, these troops were quartered in the tower of Antonia, which was at the northwestern corner of the temple-area, and communicated with the temple-cloisters by staircases.

Buying Roman Citizenship

    The commander came and said to him, "Tell me, are you a Roman?" And he said, "Yes." The commander answered, "I acquired this citizenship with a large sum of money." And Paul said, "But I was actually born a citizen." (Acts 22:27-28 NASB)

 Luke was correct. Apparently "Those who were very wealthy could buy citizenship, but this was unusual as the price was very high" [12]

Paul was born a Roman citizen to which there were advantages. They had legal protection and could not be imprisoned or tried by another system, which is why the Roman commander, who had put Paul in chains, was afraid when he found out that he was a Roman citizen. (Acts 22:28-29).

The conflict eventually led to Paul being detained by the Romans and remaining in custody until he invoked his right as a Roman citizen to appeal his case to Caesar himself. So the governor arranged for Paul to be taken by ship to Rome under escort as a prisoner on charges of sedition and causing serious unrest in Jerusalem.

The Storm At Sea
The following is an account of the sea voyage to Rome which saw Paul on an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy 

    (4) From there (Sidon) we put out to sea and sailed under the shelter of Cyprus because the winds were contrary. (5) When we had sailed through the sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. (6)  There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy, and he put us aboard it. (7) When we had sailed slowly for a good many days, and with difficulty had arrived off Cnidus, since the wind did not permit us to go farther, we sailed under the shelter of Crete, off Salmone; .....   Because the harbor was not suitable for wintering, the majority reached a decision to put out to sea from there, if somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.  (13) When a moderate south wind came up, supposing that they had attained their purpose, they weighed anchor and began sailing along Crete, close inshore.  (14) But before very long there rushed down from the land a violent wind, called Euraquilo; (Acts 27:4-7, 12-14 NASB)

See map of Paul's journey to Rome HERE (Scroll Down)

The following details in Luke's account could not have been more precise. (Much of this information comes from John Sanidopoulos' web site which is no longer being added to [13])

     Correct use of the commonly joined names of Cilicia and Pamphylia to describe the coast (27:4).

     Reference to the principle port at which to find a ship sailing to Italy (27:5-6). 

     The typically slow passage to Cnidus (a city or headlan) in the face of a northwest wind (27:7).

     The locations of Fair Havens and neighboring Lasea (27:8)

     Correct description of Fair Havens as poorly sheltered for wintering (27:12).

     Description of the tendency of these climes for a south wind to suddenly  a violent northeast, the gregale (27:13). 

    (Note: gregale, also called euroclydon, or euraquilo, are strong and cold wind that blows from the northeast in the western and central Mediterranean region, mainly in winter. Most pronounced on the island of Malta, the gregale sometimes approaches hurricane force and endangers shipping there. 

     The nature of a square rigged ship to have no option but be driven before a gale correctly stated (27:15).

     Precise name and place given for the island of Clauda (27:16).

     Appropriate sailor's maneuvers at the time for a storm (27:16-19).

     The fourteenth night judged by experienced Mediterranean navigators, to be an appropriate time for this journey in a storm (27:27). The proper term for this section of the Adriatic Sea at this time (27:27).

     The precise term, bolisantes (to heave the lead) for taking soundings. The position of probable approach of a ship running aground before an easterly wind (27:39).

    "Traditional soundings are measurements of depth made by lowering to the bottom a cord with a lead or another dead weight at the end, and knots at regular intervals ... When the dead weight reached the bottom, the cord slackened, was pulled up, and the depth was measured from the dead weight to the waterline of the cord when it slackened. There was actually no sound involved in this measurement." [14]

Castor and Pollux
At the end of three months we set sail on an Alexandrian ship which had wintered at the island, and which had the Twin Brothers for its figurehead.  (Acts 28:11 NASB)

    Castor and Pollux (the Dioscuri) are figures from Greek and Roman mythology considered the twin sons of Zeus or Jupiter. Semi-divine figures, the twins were credited with the role of saving those in trouble at sea or in grave danger in war. They were particularly associated with horses and sports." They "were linked with Sparta especially and had their own temples in Athens and on Delos" [15]

 See more about Acts and Archaeology HERE

The Two Halves of Acts

Finally, as said by J.P. Moreland

    Cambridge New Testament scholar G.N. Stanton has discovered that the grammar, literary style, theological motifs and emphases, tone and use of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament are different from Acts 1-12 than those in chapters 13-28. Also, the speeches in Acts 1-12 contain a number of Semitic phrases and other features that indicate that it is a Greek translation from an early Aramaic source.

    This is what we should expect if these speeches were historically accurate. Since Peter is the speaker in Acts 12, he is addressing Jewish audiences in Aramaic. But since Paul is speaking in Acts 13-28, he is addressing a Gentile audience. Hence, he is speaking in Greek. So these issues only strengthen our confidence in these speeches as being historically reliable. [16]

It is impossible to cover every detail of Luke's historical accuracy. But  not only were his names, titles, places, locations, customs, religious practices, and routes exceedingly accurate, but he takes us on a conducted tour of the Greco-Roman world, giving us a tremendous feel for the places and events he describes.

One can walk the streets or saunter through the market places of Corinth, listen to the philosophical discussions in Athens, feel the pulse of Diana worship in Ephesus, and huddle in a boat as a gale threatened to blow one's sailing vessel to smithereens.

Most of all, one can almost experience first hand and therefore appreciate what tremendous difficulties Paul and his companions went through while traveling such long distances in the first century. On the other hand, one can also marvel at the gradual but sure building of the foundations of the Kingdom that often began in a market place or synagogue with a few who heard and believed.

How can one doubt that Luke accompanying Paul almost every step of the way was an eyewitness of the events and places and faithfully recounted these journeys even describing some small details. In other words, he has proved to be a tremendously reliable historians, which is why I am not particularly concerned with...

The Problem of Quirinius and The Census
A Population Registration?
In Luke 2:1-2, Luke says that when Mary was pregnant, a census was carried out by having everyone return to their place of origin to be counted.

    And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, (Luke 2:3-4 NASB)

This sounds like an extremely strange way to carry out a census as it probably threw the entire country into disarray. However, an edict issued by C. Vibius Maximus, Prefect of Egypt, was found on a papyrus dated back to 104 AD. It required taxpayers who were living elsewhere to return to their original homes for registration.

    The census by household having begun, it is essential that all those who are away from their nomes be summoned to return to their own hearths so that they may perform the customary business of registration and apply themselves to the cultivation which concerns them. [17]

Note: the above site says the word "nomes" means "an Egyptian administrative district". However, others have translated this document to read "those who are away from their 'homes'", which seems to be the obvious choice given the context.

Regardless, the argument is made that this census required people to return to their current place of residence, not to their birthplace. However, we should note that Luke does not say that people returned to their birthplaces merely telling us that "everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.  (Luke 2:3 NASB)

Joseph went to Bethlehem because he was "of the house and family of David" where David was born and raised), not necessarily because Joseph himself was born there. Additionally, it is not necessarily true that this census was for the purpose of taxation. As said by Glenn Miller...

    We actually cannot tell from the term itself, from the passage, or from the passage's context--but all three of these items suggest that it was a simple 'population registration', and not specifically about tax assessments. [18]

And there were such population censuses. A papyrus fragment from the village of Bacchias in Egypt is a census declaration made in 119 A.D. It reads in part, as follows

    To Ptolemais, village secretary…

    from Horos, the son of Horos, the son of Horos, his mother being Herieus, of the aforesaid village of Bacchias… I register myself and those of my household for the house-by-house census of the past second year of Hadrian Caesar our Lord.” [19]

During The Time of Quirinius?
However, the larger problem is that Luke also said "this census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria". However, Syrian records indicate that Quirinius was not governor during this time. One problem that has given critics much fodder is that in his book Case For Christ Christian apologist Lee Strobel referred to ,

    An eminent archaeologist named Jerry Vardaman has done a great deal of work in this regard. He has found a coin with the name of Quirinius on it in very small writing, or what we call 'micrographic' letters. This places him as proconsul of Syria and Cilicia from 11 B.C. until after the death of Herod.” [20]

This cannot be true. The technology necessary to inscribe coins with letters so small that they could only be read with a magnifying glass could not have existed so early. And, in any case, one has to wonder why anyone would want to engrave microscopic lettering on a coin. Besides which the coins appear to be so worn that much of the detail has been lost which makes it unlikely that microscopic writing would have survived. Also See Pseudohistory in Jerry Vardaman's Magic Coins. Copy and paste the following URL into your browser https://cdn.centerforinquiry.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/29/2002/03/22164752/p39.pdf)

Finally, as said by Richard Racy

    "... the letters are all in Latin but appear on a coin cast in an area of the world that only used Greek letters, and Vardaman also sees such Latin letters as ‘J’ and ‘W’ that were non-existent in ancient Latin and did not appear in Latin until the Middle Ages. [21]

This whole Quirinius issue is complicated with arguments and counter arguments raging on both sides. See Links Below. However, one possibility I had never heard before was brought up by Richard Racy. In his book he talks about 'antedating' ( assigning to a date prior to that of actual occurrence) one of the "quirks in ancient practices that would never be tolerated in modern scholarship". As He says,

    It was extremely common for ancient rulers to date the beginning of their rule from the earliest date possible. Tiberius, for instance, dates the beginning of his emperor-ship from ten years before the death of Augustus because that was when Augustus designated him to be heir. Other rulers used all sorts of excuses to make their time of rule seem as long and as impressive as possible. If Quirinius did something similar, it is entirely possible that Luke unknowingly accepted the earlier date. [22]

Frankly this is the only explanation that makes sense especially considering Luke's impeccable track record which makes it highly next to impossible that he made a mistake of this magnitude.

If you wish to read more about this you can do so on the following web sites.


    Glenn Millers Think Tank http://christianthinktank.com/qr1.html

    Quirinius the Governor of Syria by Sir William Mitchell Ramsay

 Continue To Part 12: Is The Evidence Insufficient or Too Obscure?
The Bible very clearly tells us that we all have a choice to make in this life - the most important choice we will ever make. If the Bible is indeed the word of God the consequences for the individual who chooses to ignore or counter the evidence with clever arguments will have devastatingly fatal consequences. In view of which, perhaps we should not be demanding greater evidence but wake up to the fact that a far more sensible way to look at it is this... the more severe the consequences - the fewer risks we should take. HERE

Endnotes (Chapter 11)
[01] Ben C. Smith. Qumran scroll 4Q521. http://www.textexcavation.com/qumran4q521.html

[02] Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews - Book XVIII.  Book XVIII, 5:1-2. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/josephus/works/files/ant-18.htm

[03] Josephus. Jewish War. Of the War — Book VII http://penelope.uchicago.edu/josephus/war-7.html

[04] Biblical Archaeology Society. The Bethesda Pool. Biblical Archaeology Society Staff.

[05] ibid.

[06] Ian Paul. Are the six stone jars in John 2 historic or symbolic?

[07] Derbe and Lystra. https://www.bibleplaces.com/derbelystra/. Also See Easton Bible Dictionary

[08] International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online. Lystra  https://www.internationalstandardbible.com/L/lystra.html

[09] ibid.

[10] Grave of Aegillus with Bequest to Purple-dyers (212-300 CE)

[11] https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1877-0511-1

[12] h2g2 - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Citizenship in the Roman Republic. https://h2g2.com/approved_entry/A44922512

[13] John Sanidopoulos. The Historicity and Reliability of Acts of the Apostles. July 29th, 2010.

[14] BibleVerseStudy.com. https://www.bibleversestudy.com/acts/acts27-adriatic-sea.htm

[15] World History Encyclopedia.

[16] J.P. Moreland, The God Question: An Invitation to a Life of Meaning. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers January 1, 2009), Pg. 110

[17] Census Edict for Roman Egypt. http://www.kchanson.com/ANCDOCS/greek/census.html

[18] Glenn Miller. The Lukan Census -- Updated. http://christianthinktank.com/qr1.html

[19] Paul Maier, In the Fullness of Time, (Kregel Publications; Rev Upd Su edition (February 3, 1998), Pg. 4.

[20] https://faithgateway.com/blogs/christian-books/case-for-christ-video-study-lee-strobel

[21] Richard R. Racy. Nativity: The Christmas Story, Which You Have Never Heard Before. Publisher: Authorhouse (November 1, 2007) Page 44

[22] ibid.


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