File Name: Ramsay, W. M. - The Church in the Roman Empire Before 170 AD
File Submitter: James Rice
File Submitted: 25 Jan 2012
File Updated: 31 Jul 2012
File Category: Reference Books (topx)
Author: Wiliam M. Ramsay
e-Sword Version: 9.x - 10.x
Sir William Mitchell Ramsay (1851-1939) was a Scottish archaeologist and New Testament scholar, as well as Professor of Classical Archaeology at Oxford University. He is now probably most remembered for his studies (in what is now Turkey and Asia Minor) of St. Paul's missionary journeys and of Christianity in the early Roman Empire, and for his endorsement of the historical accuracy of Luke and the Book of Acts.
This 1892 book (The "Mansfield College Lectures") was intended "to exemplify to younger students the method of applying archaeological, topographical, and numismatic evidence to the investigation of early Christian history." He states in the preface to the fourth edition that he "had no theory as to the composition or the date of (the Book of) Acts. He sought only for external and objective grounds on which to rest a rational criticism of the trustworthiness of the historical statements in the book ... he found that, out of the facts which led him to set a low value on the evidence of the book, several were founded on erroneous views.... In the attempt to attain and to justify an answer to the fundamental questions determining the historical authenticity of Acts as a picture of Roman society in the eastern provinces, the proposed single chapter grew into eight." He admits that "For a long time I failed to appreciate the accuracy of the narrative in Acts. It has cost me much time, thought, and labour to understand it."
The first part of the book somewhat resembles a "travelogue," as Ramsay retraces Paul's steps on his missionary journeys, and the settings of the writing of his epistles. The later chapters deal with early Christian writings, writings about the Christians (e.g., Pliny), and the actions of Rome toward the Christians.
Interestingly for the modern reader, Ramsay is no "fundamentalist" in the modern sense. He writes, for example, "I do not clearly comprehend the received text in this place. If I were required to advance a theory about the passage, it would be that the author of Acts, reproducing the account given by Paul, had not clearly caught the sense and sequence of his narrative; and that we have here a trace of the imperfect medium through which a report substantially emanating from Paul himself has reached us." He also is receptive to textual corrections to the Textus Receptus.
This book, like all of Ramsay's works, remains in print today as a testimony to its continuing value to students of the New Testament.
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