Historicity of Acts

This entry is part 298 of 323 in the series Inquiring Minds
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Is the book of Acts historically accurate?

When Luke wrote the two-volume set of Luke-Acts, he opened by explaining to someone named Theophilus, to whom the books were written, that the endeavored to, write an orderly account” after interviewing eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus and the acts of the apostles (Luke 1:2-3; Acts 1:1).

The idea of an orderly account does not only mean that he wanted to present the gospel with the proper historical order of the events, but also to present everything according to history itself. The fact that he used eyewitnesses shows us that Luke was being very careful.

His goal was to make everything in these two volumes as truthful and accurate to history and reality as possible. Using eyewitnesses ensured that each account would be accurate to what happened. This has to include any people, places, and dates.

Aside from this, the Gospel of Luke is part of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Whatever Luke wrote, a person with access to all three Gospels could verify the accounts. He took the same initiative and care for the book of Acts.

Aside from this, for at least part of the book, Luke was actually with Paul on his journeys and was himself an eyewitness of the events that occurred. When you’re reading Acts, anytime the first person pronoun switches to “we” or “us,” Luke is traveling with Paul as an eyewitness.

To my knowledge, the requirements for historical accuracy have not changed all that much from the first century until now. Historians still place a high premium on original sources and eyewitness accounts. These are exactly the kinds of sources that Luke used to record the gospel and the history of the church in the book of Acts.

Especially in his day, this was the approach to write accurate historical accounts. All of the cities that Luke mentions in the book of Acts existed at the time of his writing in the first century. The Roman Empire took accurate notes and accounts of all of its provinces.

The people mentioned, especially the rulers, are accurate as well. These people existed in the Roman Empire at the time of the writing. Acts had to have been finished at the latest by 64 AD, for that is where Luke ends the story. Paul is in Rome still awaiting trial.

Some may argue that because of the miracles that were done in the book and some of the extraordinary events that Luke recounts, Acts could not of been accurate to history. These people are not arguing with the historicity of the book. They are arguing with the miraculous nature because they are naturalists who do not believe in miracles. That is a whole different matter.

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