Sir William Ramsay (1851-1939) was the first Professor of Archaeology at Oxford University and the leading authority on Asia Minor. He was a skeptic of the New Testament, being educated in a liberal seminary where only 4 books mentioning Paul were taught as genuine history: Galatians, Romans, and 1st and 2nd Corinthians.
Wanting to document the history of Asia Minor, he had great difficulty locating any writings on the locations and customs of the region. The only source with extensive information on Asia Minor was the New Testament Book of Acts, which recorded the explosive growth of the Christian church and the missionary journeys of Paul.
He considered the book of Acts, where Luke records Paul’s travels throughout Asia Minor, as dated very late and full of errors: “I had read a good deal of modern criticism about the book, and dutifully accepted the opinion that it was written during the second half of the second century by an author who wished to influence the minds of people in his own time by a highly imaginative description of the early Church.” Everything would change.
Ramsay made two journeys in 1881-1882, traveling throughout Asia Minor as he documented in detail the areas of Paul’s missionary journeys and the spread of the church in the Roman Empire, publishing two books on his findings: “Paul the Traveler and Roman Citizen” and “The Bearing of Recent Discoveries on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament.” His conclusion after such detailed investigation? We can trust that all 13 of Paul’s New Testament books were written by him, and the book of Acts is an accurate record of history.
“The book of Acts could bear the most minute scrutiny as an authority for the facts of the Aegean world. It was written with such judgment, skill, art and perception of truth as to be a model of historical statement. You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian’s” (Bearing of Recent Discovery, p. 85, 89).
How does Luke describe the early church’s growth? Throughout the book of Acts, the church explodes onto the scene and multiplies: “All who believed were together… and the Lord added daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:44,47). “Many of those who heard the word believed, and the number came to be about 5,000” (Acts 4:4). “Believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (Acts 5:14). “The word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem” (Acts 6:7).
“Multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did” (Acts 8:6). “When they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized” (Acts 8:12). “The churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied” (Acts 9:31). What caused such explosive, continued growth? The Resurrection.
Despite intense pressure and persecution, the early church multiplied because so many believers were committed to telling the world that the Savior, the promised Messiah, had died and risen from the dead. When the Jewish leaders threatened them to not use the name of Jesus Christ in public upon threat of punishment even to death, Peter and John answered “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20-21).
In his article ‘Apologetics and the Growth of the Early Church’, Eric Lyons explained that “Christians increased in number because they put a priority on souls and eternal salvation rather than materialism and earthly matters. They were a praying and preaching people who would not be stopped. For so many early Christians, death was the only thing that would keep them from spreading the Good News of Jesus. It was the death of Stephen and the great persecution against the church in Jerusalem which assisted in the spread of the Gospel in Judea, Samaria, Phoenicia, Cyprus, and many other places around the world (Acts 8:1-4; 11:19-20).”
When Saul, the Jewish persecutor of Christians, is converted to the apostle Paul after his encounter with Jesus Christ (Acts chapter 9), he travels to Cilicia (Acts 16:5) and throughout Asia Minor (Acts 19:10) preaching the Gospel of the risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Paul’s success in preaching the Gospel is so great that his enemies admit that he is turning away many people from their idols and to Christ: “You see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded many people” (Acts 19:26).
As Eric Lyons says in his article, “Within less than 30 years, the Lord’s church had increased to become many tens of thousands of Christians strong.” With Sir William Ramsey’s documented evidence for the historical accuracy of the book of Acts, and with the internal testimony of Acts for the impact of the Resurrection on the growth of the early Christian church, we have yet another strong case for why the Resurrection is true.
The Evidence of Faith’s Substance _ Article #512