(for the first of this historical series, see the post from a few days ago, here.)
In the bible, the books of Acts was written by Luke (see the first few verses of each book). The book includes a very large amount of historical details that can be independently verified with secular sources outside the Bible. Below is a partial list. For more, and the corresponding citations, see The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History by Colin J. Hemer. Another interesting and readable source for Acts is St. Paul: Traveler and Roman Citizen by William Ramsay. A third book, The Historical Jesus by Gary Habernas, lists hundreds of biblical facts which are verified in documents and artifacts outside the bible.
Today we present a rather boring list of confirmed historical details found in the book of Acts. All the following are reported in Colin Hemer’s book. (the parens include chapter and verse references in Acts). I’m sure someone will complain about such a list, but to complain is to deny how historical study works. We don’t prove historical truth as we do a math formula or a logical exercise. Rather, we make historical conclusions similar to how we solve a murder. We look at where the people and objects were, whether the witness’ testimony can be corroborated, etc., and we draw a conclusion. The more corroboration we have of details and reports, the higher our confidence in the conclusion. The facts below give us solid reasons to hold that the the Bible is true, the eyewitness accounts are trustworthy, and the books have been accurately preserved for us.
The book of Acts has the following historically accurate facts. Hemer lists many dozens of these, but I’ll list here but a few, which should be enough to demonstrate the current point.
1. A correct sailing route between correctly named ports (13:4-5).
2. The correct family name of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus (13:7).
3. The proper port, Perga, for a ship crossing from Cyprus (13:13).
4. The correct location of the cities of Lycaonia (14:6)
5. The correct language spoken in Lystra, and the correct form of the name. (14:8).
6. Correct identification of the two gods associated with Lystra, Zeus and Hermes (14:12).
7. The proper port, Attalia, for returning travelers (14:25).
8. The correct route from Antioch to Derbe and Lystra (15:35 – 16:1).
9. The proper form of the name “Troas” (16:8).
10. A correct sailor’s landmark at Samothrace (16:11).
11. The correct length of the voyage from Troas to Neapolis (16:11).
12. The proper identification and significance of the city of Philipi (16:13).
13. The correct location and distance (a sabbath day’s journey) of the river near Philiipi (16:13).
14. Correct association of Thyatira with cloth-dying (16:14).
15. Correct titles of the colony magistrates (16:20+).
16. Correct location of cities on the journey from Thyatira to Thesolonica (17:1).
17. The correct identification of a synagogue in the non-Jewish cities of Thessolonica (17:1) and Corinth (18:4).
18: Proper title of “politarch” for the city rulers (17:6).
19. The correct identification of a sea route as the best way to travel to Athens in the Summer (17:14).
20. The abundance of statues in Athens (17:16) and reference to the synagogue there (17:17).
21. Correct depiction of philosophical debate at the agora (17:17).
22. The correct Athenian slang epithet for Paul (spermologos) (17:18-19).
23. The correct name for the court area (areis pagos) (17:19).
24. An accurate depiction of the character of the Athenians (17:21).
25. Correct title for a member of the court (Aereopogite) (17:34).
26. Correct identification of Gallio as proconsul (18:12).
27. Correct identification of the judgment seat at the forum at Corinth (18:16).
28. Correct identification of the school of Tyranmus (19:9).
29. The correct identification of the cult of Artemis of the Ephesians (19:24, 27).
30. The correct identification of the theater at Ephesus as the meeting place (19:29).
At the very least, such a list of accurate historical details should eliminate the more wild claims that come from the camp of the critics. Such historically verified minutiae makes us increasingly confident that the Bible is true in the areas that we cannot verify historically.