The Date and Historical Reliability of Acts

By Cris Putnam

Ministry of the Apostles - Fyodor Zubov (1689)

Ministry of the Apostles – Fyodor Zubov (1689)

The dating and authorship of Acts is connected to the date for the Gospel of Luke since Acts is the second of a two volume work by the same author. It was not unusual in Greek, Latin, and Jewish works for an author to divide into volumes as in the case of Luke/Acts.[1] This is evidenced clearly in that both are written for the benefit of a person named Theophilus and Acts begins by referring, “In the first book…” (Acts 1:1).  Many critical scholars date Acts in the 80s mainly due to an anti-supernatural bias concerning Jesus prophecy about the surrounding of Jerusalem in Luke 21. They reason that If Luke is post AD 70 then Acts is even later.[2] However, it is highly significant that there is no mention of the destruction of Jerusalem as fulfilled prophecy, Nero’s persecution or the execution of Paul.  These events are monumental milestones in Christian history yet Acts ends abruptly with Paul still in prison, no discussion of Nero and no mention of the fall of Jerusalem. The most logical conclusion is that the events had not yet occurred.[3] The abrupt ending with Paul still in jail seems decisive. Thus, conservative scholars date Acts in the early sixties. Authorship is not as contentious.

There are compelling reasons to accept Luke as the author. It reads like the author of Acts was present during some of the events he narrates. For instance, during the trip from Troas to Philippi on Paul’s first missionary journey the author uses “we” as if he were there (16:10–17).[4] Evidence in Paul’s letters reveals Luke accompanied Paul (Col 4:14). Furthermore, the uniform testimony of the early church that Luke was the author of the third gospel and of Acts is undisputed.[5] Although Luke was a Gentile he had familiarity with Greek Old Testament.  He had excellent Greek, research and writing skills. He was familiar with the genre of historical writing in the Hellenistic style.[6]  In fact the word, “Acts,” inferred a recognized genre for books that described the great deeds of people or cities.[7] As far as historical detail the book has demonstrated remarkable accuracy. Luke uses the specific correct terms for Roman officials (Acts 18:12; 23:26) and the use of the correct nautical terminology in the account of Paul’s shipwreck has been verified.[8]

A late nineteenth century skeptical archeologist, Sir William Ramsay, started out to prove that Acts was a second century work of fiction and was persuaded by his findings to the contrary. He concluded, “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy…this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”[9] This has been corroborated by the work of modern scholars like Colin Hemer.[10] Because of the accuracy in general details which can be checked is established, we have justification to trust the rest.[11]  One argument for Luke’s accuracy in capturing the words of the apostles is that Peter’s sermon summaries in Acts use idiomatic Greek expressions that also appear in 1 Peter.[12] Finally, the issues of date and author are important because they assure us that our faith is based on reality. Biblical faith is not a leap into the dark or wishful thinking. Rather, it is more akin to earned trust. Like Ramsay’s conclusions because Luke has proven trustworthy in what we can see and verify we have cause to trust him in what we cannot verify.

Here is a nice video from the YouTuber Shazoolo:

 



[1]Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Volume 2: John, Acts. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 223.

[2]D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 297.

[3]Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament : Its Background and Message, 2nd ed. (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 283.

[4]Carson and Moo, An Introduction, 290.

[5]D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 291.

[6]Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Volume 2: John, Acts. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 221.

[7]Carson and Moo, An Introduction, 285.

[8]Lea and Black, The New Testament,  286.

[9]Josh McDowell, Evidence for Christianity (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), 93.

[10] Lea and Black, The New Testament, 286.

[11]I. Howard Marshall, Luke: Historian and Theologian (Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 1970), 69.

[12] Lea and Black, The New Testament, 284.

About Cris Putnam
Logos Apologia is the ministry of Cris D. Putnam. The mission of Logos Apologia is to show that logic, science, history and faith are complementary, not contradictory and to bring that life-changing truth to everybody who wants to know.

Comments

  1. louthesaint says:

    The Acts of the Apostles is my all time favourite. It’s the one I tell all new converts to read. It is full of the original doctrines and practises of the first believers.

    How the denominations have wandered from the truths of the faith contained therein.

    Here is but one of many verses that nobody adheres with any longer Acts2:38 Acts22:16

    • Cris Putnam says:

      My church preaches repentance and baptism; Not sure what you mean by that.

      • louthesaint says:

        We are told by many that salvation has nothing to do with baptism.
        The scriptures that i gave above certainly imply that the necessity of baptism alongside of repentance was the response of Faith to the calling of God. Acts2:38
        A lot of preachers ie: Tele evangelists, negate the command by assuring salvation via the sinners prayer.

        The question is; can there be any salvation without having one’s sins washed away? (And now why do you wait said the Apostle) “Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” Acts 22:16
        Next; can that which demands faith be applied to infants?

        anyway don’t want to get into a discussion on Baptism and its implication.I Just wish more attention was given to the truth’s contained in this Book.
        It is often regarded as only a historical account of the early church, and the doctrinal content is often ignored.

      • Christian says:

        Amen to that, Chris. Repentance is what it’s mostly about for me. One cannot have quality of life without proper repentance.

  2. Matt says:

    Hi Cris,
    I have read Petrus Romanus & Exo-Vaticana & love your work but I cannot find an email address on your site to contact you so I am posting here.

    My pastor recently visited the Holy Land & had recently done sermons based on his visit. If you go to the following web site & listen to the message from 8-4 specifically at 5 minutes in you will hear him speak concerning Jesus potentially having stood near an ancient cave that people believed led to hell (Sheol). This is in reference to Peter & Jesus & the building of the church on the rock that is mis-translated & twisted:

    http://www.dearborncf.com/audio_sermons.cfm

    I had never heard of this place before in such detail & thought it may be of interest to you & maybe Tom Horn, Steve Quayle, etc. This location could be ground zero for the hordes that are unleashed from the earth…and may be where Satan is thrown into the pit for the 1,000 years or…who knows! Sounds important to me.

    Best,
    Matt

    • Cris Putnam says:

      Matt, Yes this is well known – the book of Enoch has the Watchers imprisoned beneath Mt. Hermon. There is a cave there that in the NT era was a grotto of the pagan god Pan. Dr. Judd Burton has done archeological research in the area and discusses this in detail in his book Interview with the Giant.

    • louthesaint says:

      Matt; Revelation9:1-11 Is the passage of which you speak. The release of these spirit entities are for the purpose of Torment to men Rev9:5
      I do not take this literally, that hordes of demons will roam the earth in physical form, or as some say the return of the Nephelims upon the earth ‘Giants eating the people’

      I understand that passage to represent severe ‘demonic oppression/possession’ Men experiencing mental trauma and suicidal tendencies Rev9:6 This is a form of torment that one cannot be cured of.
      I also believe that the previous three trumps would have placed humanity in a state of great fear, opening the door of the soul for such demonic intervention.

      • Matt says:

        Thanks for the comment. I believe that there will indeed be giants allowed to roam free & reek havoc again & take that passage as literal, not symbolic.

        best,
        Matt

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] The Date and Historical Reliability of Acts – On occasion, the propheteers do good work.  Which only makes other, questionable work more suspect. […]

  2. […] Most books of the Bible come under scrutiny in one way or another regarding their reliability. Many try to move the date of writing later to avoid acknowledging prophecies or simply say the accounts recorded are false. The Book of Acts is no exception, it contains plenty of historical details that some find hard to believe. Here is a blog, that includes a good video, providing evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Acts – Logos Apologia – The Date and Historical Reliability of Acts. […]

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