As a student of Scripture begins to go deeper into the realm of Bible study he will begin to ask or be asked the most frustrating questions. Such as, who wrote this specific book, to whom was it written and when specifically was it written? If we are not careful we will look at these questions as pure trivia without truly understanding the value of their answers. Though it is true that the Scriptures are eternal (Psalm 119:89) and the truest author is the Holy Spirit (II Timothy 3:16), the date of the penning and the human penman are extremely important to a proper understanding of any book of the Bible. For our purposes we will use the book of Acts as an example:
The Date of a Book
It is believed that the Acts was completed and distributed among the churches at or around A.D. 63. The book of Acts ends abruptly with Paul in prison in the city of Rome. No conclusion is given to his life and ministry it is believed because at the time of circulation he was still awaiting sentencing in Rome. At this point in history Nero had not yet turned on the Christians as he would do in A.D. 64. There have been some modern theologians who question whether or not Luke could have written Luke 21:20 that speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem prior to the actual event which would take place in A.D. 70 but for those who believe in prophesy this matter is quickly answered.
When a student of Scripture is able to “date” a specific writing he is able to more appreciate the prophesies found in that book. He is also more likely to develop more than just a Systematic Theology but also a Biblical Theology that allows him to understand what those Christians actually had within their churches at any specific moment in history.
The Author of a Book
Though never clearly stated, Luke has been long believed to be the human author of both the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. The internal evidence is taken from the so called “we passages” where Luke transitions from third-person narrative (they did this, they did that), to a first-person narration (we did this, we did that). When closely looking at chapters 16, 20, 21, and 27 you will see these passages corresponding with the arrival or absence of Paul’s physician, Luke. So why does this matter?
A student of Scripture is now able to trust the authority of the writing because we see that this was often an eye-witness account and where it is not it has been written by someone who has first-person experience with those who were actually there. This makes the books of Luke and Acts that much more authoritative.
The Historical Reliability of a Book
When any given book of the Bible is scrutinized for historical accuracy it comes away shining as the sun. If Acts is a historical narrative then is should line up with the historical record. Any believing Christian will not be surprised to know that it does this flawlessly. For example, scholars examined the nautical terminology found in chapter 27 and found them to extremely accurate for the Mediterranean Sea at that time. Roman officials, the mention of Theudas, the speeches of Acts and local history all point to the reliability of this book.
Isaiah 1:18 says, Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
It is true that we need to come to Christ by faith and no amount of reason, logical conclusions and rational argument will convince someone who doesn’t want to believe. However, for the believer it is extremely comforting to know that we have a faith that is built upon such solid historical accuracies.
Lita BonsignoriJanuary 18, 2013 at 2:46 am
Your blog reminded me of how much I rely on you and other scholars! I confess history has never, ever been a strong suit for me personally 🙁 I enjoy learning historical facts, just not the retention of matching specific facts up with specific dates and details. I am not sure I will ever be the type of student you’ve described above, but with that said, I am extremely comforted that my faith IS based on historical accuracy! I am thankful for my faith allowing me to trust the written Word and it’s authority without question because I do like reason, logical conclusions and rational argument about history & our eternal future. Thank you Pastor for challenging me to be more mindful who wrote what when 🙂
Joshua TeisJanuary 18, 2013 at 12:08 pm
It really is a blessing to have that kind of assurance. The study of Historical Christianity is fascinating to all who attempt it.
Viny BurnsJanuary 18, 2013 at 10:30 am
Love the blog! Just this week I had an email questioning “Who was this book written to?” in light of the small groups, wanting more indepth. I love the digging deeper and the challenges set before us. Thank You! Your challenges are the encouragement for my continual Christian growth!
Joshua TeisJanuary 18, 2013 at 12:09 pm
Glad it was a blessing Viny! I love the small groups and I am glad to know yours is going so well!
JameeJanuary 18, 2013 at 3:10 pm
I have New and Old Test. survey this semester and I am looking forward to learning more about the books, trimeframs and authors. These classes may be a struggle for me since I stink at history but hey stretching is always good for you right? Thanks for making our history interesting and important!
Joshua TeisJanuary 19, 2013 at 9:46 am
You are going to love those classes Jamee! Enjoy every moment.
Carmen rogersJanuary 18, 2013 at 6:58 pm
I am with Lita. It us tough for me to retain the facts but I do find it interesting
Will be reading Luke and acts soon to make the comparisons
You spoke of . Thanks.
Joshua TeisJanuary 19, 2013 at 9:46 am
Enjoy your read through Carmen! I’m sure it will be a blessing.
Alan LaddJanuary 18, 2013 at 9:01 pm
I was just reading were all of the new testament books have new evidence that puts most all books between 50 to 70 years of Christ.
Joshua TeisJanuary 19, 2013 at 9:45 am
Interesting Alan. Where did you read this article?
Rick OwenJanuary 21, 2013 at 9:35 am
I have been to many churches, and many love preaching a lot of New Testament and I have even been to a church that only preached New Testament, needless to say I left there. I am really facinated by the Old Testament. The more I read and study it, the more I actually and beginning to grasp the link between the two. I just finished reading Acts, but havent really studied it. But it is just remarkable how the two books are so intertwined. I see now more and more how the old sets up the new. I believe this willl help me in wittnessing to the Jews, whome I have many aquaintenses and friends. By the way, your preaching on Thessalonians was awesome. Dr. Owen
Joshua TeisJanuary 21, 2013 at 12:06 pm
Thanks my friend! The study of Scripture has got to be one of the greatest ways to spend time. And the more we study the more we glean. Loved your comment