Category: Historicity

A Survey of Schürer’s Challenges to the Lukan Census – 1

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series A Survey of Schürer’s Challenges to the Lukan CensusIntroduction The 19th century theologian Emil Schürer outlined five challenges1 to the historicity of the Lukan census which still stand as representative2 of the ongoing controversy surrounding Luke 2:1-5.3 There is currently no historical evidence of an empire-wide census by Augustus. Joseph […] 

Historicity of the book of Acts (5)

Paul’s Commission: Acts 9:1-2 It has been claimed there is no historical basis for Paul’s commission from the High Priest to extradite from Damascus to Jerusalem any Jews who had become Christians,1 and that neither the High Priest nor the Sanhedrin had any jurisdiction in Damascus.234 Evidence & Commentary Peerbolte raises a parallel in the history of the Maccabees, in […] 

Historicity of the book of Acts (3)

Peter’s address: Acts 4:4 Robert Grant claimed that the population of Jerusalem was too small for 5,000 converts to Christianity.1 Grant’s estimate of the population of Jerusalem relied on an influential study by Jeremias in 1943, 2 3 but did not mention that Jeremias calculated a far higher population figure for festival seasons such as passover, at which he estimated […] 

Historicity of the book of Acts (2)

Some verses in Acts use the second person plural (‘we’), indicating that the writer is participating in the events he is describing. The traditional interpretation (that the writer was an eyewitness, the traditional Luke),1 was challenged in the twentieth century.2 Although there currently exists no scholarly consensus on the “we” passages,3 three interpretations in particular have become dominant: a) the […] 

Historicity of the book of Acts (1)

How historically accurate is the book of Acts? Current scholarly attitudes range widely; 1 German theologian Adolf von Harnack’s extreme criticism has been discredited, 2 but Ramsay’s views 3 are considered exaggerated, 4 and Sherwin-White’s praise 5 is qualified. 6 Professor of Religion Charles Talbert judges Acts to be consistently accurate with regard to many details: 7 8 Thessalonican city […] 

The Merneptah Stele: Earliest evidence for Israel in Canaan?

Israel In Canaan The Merneptah Stele is a pillar erected by Pharaoh Merneptah, recording his conquests in 13th century BCE Canaan.1 Among them, Merneptah records the Israelites, proving they were established in Canaan by then.2 Challenges A minority of Biblical scholars have challenged the reading of the Merneptah Stele,3 suggesting that it does not refer to the Israelites; representatives of […] 

Does the archaeological ‘Low Chronology’ disprove the Biblical narrative?

The Challenge The ‘Low Chronology’ is a proposed redating of the Iron Age,1 dating the reigns of David and Solomon to a time during which there is no archaeological evidence supporting them.2 The Objections Proposed at least as early as the 1980s,3 the redating received almost no support,4 and was resisted strongly by the archaeological consensus.5 Objections were raised by […] 

Did Luke use Josephus when writing Acts?

The Claim It has been claimed that Luke used the writings of Josephus (specifically ‘Antiquities of the Jews’).1 2 Since Josephus wrote in 93 CE, this would date Acts no earlier than this time.3 The following passages are claimed as examples of Luke’s dependence on Josephus. * Luke 3:1: Josephus and Luke record the census of Quirinius, but Luke’s differs […] 

Were camels domesticated in the time of Abraham?

The Challenge WF Albright, one of the most famous 20th century archaeologists, argued that the camel was not domesticated until around the 1st millennium, well after the time of Abraham.1 This was considered persuasive by many Biblical scholars, who were convinced that references in Genesis to camels in Egypt during the time of Abraham2 are anachronistic. 3 4 5 The […] 

What is archaeological ‘minimalism’?

Definition The ‘minimalist’ view is that archaeology provides little or no support for the Biblical history.1 2 The best known adherents are Philip Davies,3 Lester Grabbe,4 Niels Lemche,5 Thomas Thompson,6 and Keith Whitelam.7 However, Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman are the only two prominent archaeologists associated with minimalist views. Kenneth Kitchen Kitchen8 has raised numerous objections to minimalist claims, rejecting […]