Friday, August 27, 2010

William Ramsay's book on Acts

A lot of the archaeological confirmations of Acts come from archaeologist Sir William Ramsay. Here is a link to his book, St. Paul the Traveler and Roman Citizen.

Sometimes I think there should be an outsider test for Bible scholars. Would anyone consider for two seconds a next-generation date for a book that has been this heavily supported by archaeological evidence, if that book didn't have to be in the Bible? It is as if the claim that Luke was a companion of Paul is an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence.

18 comments:

Walter said...

It could be that there are other possible reasons to date Acts in the second century. I am reading some of Pervo's work now to see what other arguments he has besides the Josephan parallels.

Stay Tuned.

Steven Carr said...

'Would anyone consider for two seconds a next-generation date for a book that has been this heavily supported by archaeological evidence, if that book didn't have to be in the Bible?'

Well, normal historians don't give the time of day to anonymous, unprovenanced works that plagiarise without saying other anonymous, unplagiarised works.


And historians date books by when they are first mentioned as existing.

When was 'Acts' first mentioned as existing?

I assume Christians actually want to do history, and so want to at least pretend to do what historians do - ie date books by the date that they first appear in the world.

Steven Carr said...

'Would anyone consider for two seconds a next-generation date for a book that has been this heavily supported by archaeological evidence, if that book didn't have to be in the Bible? '

Translation.

'Luke' got the census wrong.

Nobody has ever found a town called Arimathea.

Nobody has ever found any evidence for Judas, Thomas, Lazarus, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea etc.

Walter said...

From my thread over at FRDB:

David Trobisch accepts a 2nd C date for Acts:

"The sharp-eyed Trobisch accepts the thinking of John Knox (Marcion and the New Testament, 1942) and Hans von Campenhausen (The Formation of the Christian Bible, 1968) that the New Testament in the form we have it is largely a counterstrike against the Marcionite Sputnik: already a counter-testament to Marcion’s Apostolicon. It was already evident that the inclusion of Matthew, Mark, and John was an attempt to lose the Gospel of Marcion (a shorter predecessor of Luke) in the shuffle, as was the padding out of Luke to make it Catholic (not to mention the “ecclesiastical redaction” of John, originally heavily Gnostic and Marcionite, as Bultmann showed). Acts and the Pastorals were the product of whoever padded Luke and (according to Winsome Munro) added a domesticating Pastoral Stratum to Marcion’s Paulines. Acts, of course, parallels Peter and Paul in order to heal the breach between Catholicism (=Peter) and Marcionite Christianity (= Paul), or rather to co-opt the latter in the interest of the former. The grab bag of the Catholic Epistles was simply ballast, counterweight to the Pauline letter corpus."

[from R. Price's review of The First Edition of the New Testament]

Victor Reppert said...

The other point I forgot to put in my original post is that the argument against the New Testament hinges on the idea that, with time between events and writing, the more room there is for distortion and falsehood to creep in. But if so much accurate information got preserved over such a long period of time, then that argument is undermined.

In other words, late-dating Acts doesn't really help the skeptic, even if you could do it. Why go there?

Victor Reppert said...

I'm going to read both Pervo and Hemer, to see whether Pervo answers Hemer, or just sidesteps the evidence. I hope you will do the same.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic,

You have inspired me to seek out classic and modern resources on the book of Acts question.

I hope you read it and thus have a chance to make yourself aware of the latest views, and the wealth of "book of Acts" discussions going on among bibliobloggers and others.

http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2010/08/luke-acts-dates-history-and-other.html

Tim said...

... the Gospel of Marcion (a shorter predecessor of Luke) ...

(yawn)

This piece of 18th century German silliness has been buried so long ago (even in Germany, by Hahn, Volkmar, Hilgenfeld, and ultimately even Ritschl) that it is quite ridiculous to see it raising its head again.

The unanimous testimony of the fathers -- Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian -- that Marcion mutilated an extant gospel of Luke is confirmed not only by quotations from Luke that precede Marcion (e.g. Ignatius's Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 3:1-2; Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians 2:3) but by detailed examination of the internal evidence, particularly the Greek of those portions of Luke that are not present in Marcion's Gospel. Luke's Greek stands out like a fingerprint. The same author wrote the whole of our canonical Luke.

Walter said...

This piece of 18th century German silliness has been buried so long ago (even in Germany, by Hahn, Volkmar, Hilgenfeld, and ultimately even Ritschl) that it is quite ridiculous to see it raising its head again.

Yeah, I found the theory mildly interesting, but it is not really the position that I hold to.

Even Ramsay postulates a travel-document; he simply believes that Luke himself wrote the diary as he was traveling with Paul. My theory is that a next-generation Christian might have obtained this travel-document to craft his history of the Church.

A point against Acts being a dutiful recording of literal history would be in the multitude of parallelisms found between Peter's adventures and Paul's. The parallels introduce an element of artificiality to the author's narrative.

Although the document could have been written by a fellow traveler with Paul, I think it is just as plausible that it could have been written by a later believer who had access to a written source that is no longer extant today, which could account for some of the precise historical details on Paul's journeys, while the author had to get a little creative in crafting history in the earlier parts of Acts that were not covered in the travel-diary. So, I remain skeptical that the historical precision of Paul's travels can in any way validate the supernatural tales that coexist in "Luke's" popular narrative.

I am still researching whether there is any good reason to date it later than 80-85 CE.

reborn1995 said...

victor,

i realize this isn't spot on topic, but i've been wanting to ask you:

Suppose tomorrow a plethora of archeological evidence was discovered that suggested a white race did, in fact, live in North America centuries before Columbus or the Vikings.

Then what would be the difference between the Bible and the book of Mormon in terms of veracity?

--guy

Victor Reppert said...

Well, how much book of Mormon detail could be connected to them archaeologically?

Ain't gonna happen, though.

reborn1995 said...

i'm certainly not saying i think it's likely. but i guess what i'm really after is this: if there were archaeological evidence that at least *seemed* to support the book of Mormon, how would that affect the historical case in favor of the bible, if at all?

i say this because i find myself quick to point out that no Mormon can show me any of the gold coins from antiquity mentioned in the book of Mormon. And i take that as a point of weakness in their case. But what if tomorrow, there were strange coins found in North America that fit the descriptions? How then do we distinguish the case between the veracity of the BOM vs. the Bible? Would it just be a matter of degree?

--guy

O'Brien said...

...

[from R. Price's review of The First Edition of the New Testament]


Demonstrating once again that Robert Price is a crackpot.

O'Brien said...

"The unanimous testimony of the fathers -- Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian -- that Marcion mutilated an extant gospel of Luke is confirmed not only by quotations from Luke that precede Marcion (e.g. Ignatius's Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 3:1-2; Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians 2:3) but by detailed examination of the internal evidence, particularly the Greek of those portions of Luke that are not present in Marcion's Gospel."

Some of Marcion's alleged 'mutilations' were possibly common textual variants in the West. Moreover, Marcion really didn't redact a whole lot.

Tim said...

Some of Marcion's alleged 'mutilations' were possibly common textual variants in the West. Moreover, Marcion really didn't redact a whole lot.


I suppose it depends on what you mean by "a whole lot," but the omission of Luke 1:1 - 4:30, with the exception of 3:1-2, is a pretty large omission. After that the excisions are a lot spottier.

The text of Luke from which Marcion is working does have affinities to the Western text type, which strongly suggests that it was old and had already been re-transmitted a number of times by the time it came into Marcion's hands.

O'Brien said...

Yes, Dr. McGrew, the Nativity is a significant chunk but perhaps Marcion had a version of Luke that lacked it. In any event, you and I agree that Robert Price's claim is pure flatulence. Both he and Hermann Detering are crackpots. (The latter, in addition to absurdly dating Mark to the Bar Kokhba revolt, conjured a "Marcionite Galatians" out of the ether and claims it is the original text.)

O'Brien said...

Mythicist Spambot wrote:

"Nobody has ever found a town called Arimathea."

Mythicists claimed that Nazareth did not exist during the first century. Even the "great" skeptic James Randi (incidentally, I do appreciate his work exposing frauds like Peter Popoff) repeated that claim on his youtube channel. But, lo and behold, archaeology recently proved them wrong.

heavenlywitnesses said...

Hi,

William Ramsay (1851-1939).
is fascinating, and it is fun going over his chapters and checking the history in Acts .

I've noticed that opponents of New Testament historicity never really want to go into the heart of the Ramsay studies. You get a variety pack of canned responses, and each one tends to be on a pet hobby horse. (See above :) ).

Allow me to add that Adrian Nicholas Sherwin-White, (1911-1993) and Colin J. Hemer (1930-1987)follow in the Ramsay lineage. And Henry Joel Cadbury
(1883–1974) has some interesting writings on these topics.

Offhand, I'm not aware of any writers today on quite the same level as Ramsay .. or Hemer or Sherwin-White. Also note that Ramsay did object at times to corruptions in the hortian text as being incompatible with a full and sound exposition.

Steven Avery