Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Luke, A Historian "Par Excellent" [sic]? (1)

From the Errancy discussion list, August 17, 1997:
Otsen has posted the trite fundamentalist argument about Sir William
Ramsay, who was presumbably a biblical skeptic until he studied the
writings of Luke, after which he was so impressed by Luke's historical
accuracy that he became a dedicated Christian.  When Ramsay was
discussed earlier on the list Steve Carr noted in a posting to Errancy
date May 10th that Ramsay was actually a "Bible-believing historian." 
Carr made the following statement in his posting:

"In Ramsay's book, he describes how as a young man at Oxford ( a place
which *did* not accept religious sceptics), he studied the 39 Articles
of Faith for his Divinity exam. He corresponded with Bishop Lightfoot.
He spent months studying the NT and the OT (which he described as life-
giving). He describes the Epistle to Galatians as especially moving. He
was reminded often of his mother's love for Paul."

If Carr's information is correct, Ramsay would hardly have been as
swayed by German liberalism as Otsen claimed in his McDowell
regurgitation that was recently posted on Errancy.

As we have already noted in brief responses to Otsen.  The information
that he sent to us is "old hat" that has been answered so many times
that one would think inerrantists would be embarrassed to keep wagging
it out, but it is remarkable how would-be biblical apologists keep
rehashing arguments that have been discredited over and over.  In
reading Otsen's posting, I get the distinct impression that he
thought that he was sending us information that would bowl us
over and leave us speechless. The information below is what I sent
to Jerry McDonald's list in response to the same hackneyed information
about Sir William Ramsay that Bill Carrell (a former member of this list)
posted in an attempt to establish that the Bible is the inerrant word of
God.  Perhaps Otsen would like to respond to it.  If so, I will gladly post
it on the list, since he seems unwilling to join us.

Bill Carrell had said that Luke was recognized as a historian "par excellent
[sic]" to which I made the following response.

Oh, he is?  By whom?  I suppose now that we can expect to hear Carrell
tell us all about Sir William Ramsay, who was converted from a
skeptical view of the NT  after extensive research into Near-Eastern
history, which included studies in the book of Acts. Ramsay said that
the writer Luke demonstrated "authority for topography, antiquities and
society of Asia Minor."  In my debate on the resurrection at Columbus
College, Dr. Norman Geisler ascribed this quotation to Ramsay: "It
was gradually borne in upon me that in various details the narrative
showed marvelous truth."  Geisler then claimed that "(a)s a result,
Ramsay discovered that Luke was a first-rate historian," which, I
suppose, would be equivalent to saying that Luke was a "historian
par excellent" [sic], as Carrell is now claiming.   Geisler's own
conclusion from Ramsay's evaluation of Luke's writing was this: "In
Luke's references to 32 countries, to 44 cities, and 9 islands, there
were no errors. This being the case, Luke's prior narration of Christ's
death and resurrection (which are integral parts of his Gospel) should
be accepted as authentic as well. And since it is in accord with that of
the other Gospels on the basic facts about the death and resurrection of
Christ we have here an archaeological confirmation of the basic
historicity of  these documents on these essential facts" (excerpted from
Geisler's first speech, Columbus College, Columbus, GA, March
1994, transcript by *Apologetics Press, Inc.).

Of course, we can't hold Carrell responsible for what Geisler may think, but
I suspect that Carrell's reasons for thinking that Luke was a "historian par
excellent" [sic] are similar to Geisler's.  So let's look at what we have here.
If Geisler quoted Ramsay correctly, Ramsay was impressed with the
accuracy of Luke in "topography, antiquities, and the sociology of
Asia Minor."  I have heard fundamentalists cite Sir William Ramsay's
opinion of Luke many times, but I have yet to hear any of them refer to
any supernatural event that Luke recorded in either Acts or his gospel that
has been confirmed by extra-biblical historians or documents
convincingly enough to give credibility to the many extraordinary,
supernatural claims that Luke recorded in either Acts or his gospel. 
To the contrary, these praises about Luke's accuracy as a historian
always concern topography or his descriptions of social life or such like,
involve the extraordinary or supernatural.  So if Luke was such an
amazingly accurate historian, I would think that this opinion of him
would also be based on convincing confirmation of at least some of the
supernatural claims that we find in his works.  Maybe Bill Carrell will
tell us, then, which of the following extraordinary claims in the book of
Acts have been extra-biblically confirmed convincingly enough to
establish Luke's credentials as a "historian par excellent" [sic]?

1.  Was it the ascension of Jesus recorded in Acts 1:6-11?

2.  Was it the baptism of the apostles in the Holy Spirit on the day of
Pentecost (2:1-4)?

3.  Was it the apostles' speaking in tongues on the day of Pentecost (2:4)?

4.  Was it Peter's healing of the lame man at a door of the temple (3:2-10)?

5.  Was it Peter's striking Ananias and Sapphira dead (5:1-11)?

6.  Was it the laying on of the apostles' hands that impressed Simon the
Sorcerer so much that he offered the apostles money for the same gift

7.  Was it Paul's vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9, 22, 26)?

8.  Was it Peter's raising Dorcas from the dead (9:39-41)?

9.  Was it the vision in which Cornelius saw an angel telling him to send
men to Joppa to bring Peter to him (10:1-8)?

10.  Was it the trance that Peter fell into on his housetop in which he saw
a vision of the great sheet containing animals of all kinds (10:9-16)?

11.  Was it the "Spirit" telling Peter that he should go with the men who
had been sent by Cornelius (10:19)?

12.  Was it the incident where the chains fell off Peter's hands while he
was in prison and an angel led him by all the guards without being seen
and finally to the gate that opened of its own accord (12:5-10)?

13.  Was it the incident where an angel of the Lord struck Herod, who was
then eaten of worms and "gave up the ghost" (12:22-23)?

14.  Was it the Holy Spirit speaking to the prophets and teachers at the
church in Antioch to tell them to separate Paul and Barnabas for the work
that the Holy Spirit had called them into (13:1-3)?

15.  Was it Paul's striking Elymas the sorcerer blind (13:4-12)?

16.  Was it Paul's healing the lame man at Lystra (14:8-10)?

17.  Was it the vision of the Macedonia call that Paul received (16:9-10)?

18.  Was it Paul's casting out the spirit of divination from the woman in
Philippi (16:16-18)?

19.  Was it the earthquake that shook all the doors of the prison open
when Paul  and Silas were in jail at Philippi (16:25-26)?

20.  Was it the special miracles that God worked through Paul so that the
sick who carried away from his body handkerchiefs or aprons were cured
of their diseases and the evil spirits went out of them (19:11)?

21.  Was it the case of the man possessed of the evil spirit that leaped
upon the sons of Sceva and mastered them when they tried to cast the
spirit out of the man (19:13-15)?

22.  Was it Paul's raising from the dead the young man Eutychus, who
went to sleep while Paul was preaching and fell from an upper chamber
window and killed himself (20:7-11)?

23.  Was it the case of the disciples at Tyre who said to Paul "through the
Spirit that he should not set foot in Jerusalem" (21:4)?

24.  Was it the case of Philip the evangelist in Caesarea, who had the four
daughters who prophesied (21:9)?

25.  Was it the case of the angel who appeared to Paul during the storm at
sea and told him that there would be no loss of life but only the loss of
the ship (27:22-24)?

26.  Was it the case of the viper, which Paul shook off without harm when
he was shipwrecked (28:3-6)?

Now these are all extraordinary claims that Luke made in just the book of
Acts.  Let Carrell please tell us which one or ones of these have been
verified by corroborating evidence.  If none have, then on what basis does
Carrell say that Luke was a historian "par excellent" [sic]?  Is he taking
the same position that Geisler and apparently Sir William Ramsay did, that
Luke's accuracy in ordinary matters like typography, geography, and
contemporary social conditions is reason enough to believe that Luke's
narration of extraordinary, supernatural claims "should be accepted as
authentic as well"?  If so, I would like to hear his rationale for such a
bizarre conclusion as this.  What he is saying is that not a single
extrabiblical writer or document corroborates any of the many
extraordinary claims that Luke made, but we should believe them
anyway, because Luke was accurate in his geography.  How simplistic
can one be?

Now if Carrell wants to stick to his position about Luke's historical
accuracy, I will gladly identify some historical claims that Luke made that
weren't so accurate.

Carrell dropped this subject like a hot potato, and I suspect that Otsen
will too.  However, I will send to the list a reposting of some of the
historical errors that have been identified in Luke's writings.

Farrell Till

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