My last few columns have been written to address an issue one of my readers brought up and has been gracious enough to allow me to write about. In his letter to me, he stated, “The bible is a book of mythological tales without any basis in historic fact other than a Jewish man named Jesus lived and died under Roman rule. So did many others in those times.”
I have to respectfully disagree with my reader’s assessment. No other book, either ancient or modern, has undergone as much critical study as the documents that are included in our Bible. No other ancient book has withstood the test of time as has the Bible. Over and over again archeology has substantiated the dead on historical claims of the Bible.
So to claim that it is nothing more than a book of mythological tales without any basis in historic fact is either a statement made from lack of personal study or the statement of a critic who is unwilling to accept the findings of the critical study of the Scriptures.
Every year at Christmas and Easter, Luke is subject to particular attack as one who propagated the religious myth that grew up around Christ. This is very odd, given the fact that modern day Italian scholars consider Luke as the best source of first century Roman history that we have.
Luke, was not a disciple of Christ, in that, he is not one who walked with Christ while he was on this earth. In fact, Luke is the only gentile writer (with the possible exception of the author of the book of Job) included in the canon of Scripture.
Luke was a gentile physician by trade and a careful investigative reporter by avocation. His two books, the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts were commissioned works by a Roman official who sent his personal physician (most likely) to gather information regarding the reports that were coming to him out of the middle East.
Luke begins his Gospel account with these words, “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:1–4, NIV84).
Those are hardly the words of one whose intent is to weave a fanciful story. By his own testimony Luke tells his reader (in this case the Roman official Theophilus) exactly what his careful and studied historical investigation has revealed.
Lee Strobel, himself an investigative reporter and former atheist, set out to dismantle the “Christian Myth.” He was honest enough to look at the facts, and this former atheist and critic is an accomplished Christian apologist.
He writes of Luke, “The general consensus of both liberal and conservative scholars is that Luke is very accurate as a historian. He’s erudite, he’s eloquent, His Greek approaches classical quality, he writes as an educated man, and archaeological discoveries are showing over and over again that Luke is accurate in what he has to say.”
Another prominent scholar, Sir William Ramsey, says of Luke “He is amazingly accurate; he never puts a foot wrong.”
The argument that the Bible we have is nothing but mythological tales without any basis in historical fact is simply not true. Anyone who approaches the manuscripts with any degree of personal integrity is forced to recognize the uniqueness of the ancient manuscripts and has to answer the difficult question of how a book (if it is proper to refer to the Bible as a book, it is more like a library of many books bound into one volume) written over 1,500 years by 40 different authors in various places can be so unified in its message.
More on this subject next week.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway Web site at www.gatewaycommunity.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.