Tag Archives: Colin Hemer

Is Luke’s Account of the Journey to Malta in Acts 27 Historically Accurate?

One way we can have confidence that the documents of the New Testament are historically accurate is to check any factual claims against the historical and archaeological evidence we have from the same period of time. This is exactly what classical scholar and historian Colin Hemer did in his The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History. Hemer was able to confirm 84 facts in the last sixteen chapters of the Book of Acts.

Below I will only document the sixteen facts he confirmed from Acts 27. Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, in , remind us that “Luke did not have access to modern-day maps or nautical charts,” which makes his accuracy all the more impressive. The sixteen facts below are taken from Geisler and Turek’s book, where they cite Colin Hemer. Luke knew about and accurately recorded:

Fact 1: the best shipping lanes at the time (27:5).

Fact 2: the common bonding of Cilicia and Pamphylia (27:5).

Fact 3: the principal port to find a ship sailing to Italy (27:5-6).

Fact 4: the slow passage to Cnidus, in the face of the typical northwest wind (27:7).

Fact 5:  the right route to sail, in view of the winds (27:7)

Fact 6: the locations of Fair Havens and the neighboring site of Lasea (27:8).

Fact 7: Fair Havens as a poorly sheltered roadstead (27:12).

Fact 8: a noted tendency of a south wind in these climes to back suddenly to a violent northeaster, the well-known gregale (27:13-14).

Fact 9: the nature of a square-rigged ancient ship, having no option but to be driven before a gale (27:15).

Fact 10: the precise place and name of this island (27:16).

Fact 11: the appropriate maneuvers for the safety of the ship in its particular plight (27:16-18).

Fact 12: the fourteenth night—a remarkable calculation, based inevitably on a compounding of estimates and probabilities, confirmed in the judgment of experienced Mediterranean navigators (27:27).

Fact 13: the proper term of the time for the Adriatic (27:27).

Fact 14: the precise term (Bolisantes) for taking soundings, and the correct depth of the water near Malta (27:28).

Fact 15: a position that suits the probable line of approach of a ship released to run before an easterly wind (27:39).

Fact 16: the severe liability on guards who permitted a prisoner to escape (27:42).

These facts seem to strongly indicate that the author of Acts is an eyewitness to the events of chapter 27. If we have an eyewitness, we have much greater confidence in the reliability of the events recorded in chapter 27 and also the rest of the book.

Did the New Testament Writers Record Fact or Fiction? Part 7

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Continuing from part 6, we will examine more evidence for the trustworthiness of the NT writers.

A fourth question about the NT writers’  integrity: are any of the historical facts they mention corroborated by other sources?  Here the NT writers really shine.  During the first and second centuries, there were many historians who were writing books and letters.

We still have many manuscript copies of these writings.  Not only do we have copies of ancient documents, we also have archaeological finds from this time period.  Since some of the NT writers described people, cities, languages, landmarks, and topography, we could check these things out to see if the NT writers were accurate.

First, the book of Acts contains numerous historical facts that can be checked out.  One researcher, Colin Hemer, found that at least 84 historical facts found in Acts can be confirmed by independent evidence.  84 facts!

According to modern-day Roman historian A. N. Sherwin-White: “For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming. . . . Any attempt to reject its basic historicity must now appear absurd.  Roman historians have long taken it for granted.”  In other words, the book of Acts is used by professional historians to study Roman history.

In that same book of Acts that contains rock-solid history, Luke also records 35 miracles.  We need to give Luke the benefit of the doubt, don’t we?  Using other sources to check his facts, Luke has been proven a first-rate historian, so it is eminently reasonable to believe the miraculous accounts he recorded in the days of the early church.

Luke’s reputation as an historian carries over in the Gospel of Luke.  Just read Luke 3:1-2  and tell me Luke didn’t care about getting the facts right.  He practically begs his readers to check his facts.  World-famous historian William Ramsay studied Luke’s historical accuracy for 20 years and concluded: “Luke’s history is unsurpassed in respect of its trustworthiness.  Luke is an historian of first rank.  [He] should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”

Now pay close attention.  Luke’s account of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection contain all the same general facts as Mark, Matthew, and John.  Therefore, they should also be trusted.  In fact, the Gospel of John has also been dissected for historical accuracy and was found to have at least 60 independently corroborated historical facts correct.

There’s more.  We have copies of manuscripts from 17 ancient non-Christian writers who corroborate many of the basic historical facts mentioned in the NT.  These include people who were hostile to Christianity.

Additionally, archaeologists have discovered the ruins of virtually every major biblical city and we actually have the ossuary (bone box) that contained Joseph Caiaphas’ bones!  He was the high priest who sentenced Jesus to death.  Volumes have been written which chronicle the archaeological evidence matching the names of people and places recorded in the Bible, but we don’t have space to discuss it all.

The bottom line: wherever we can check the historical facts written into the books of the NT, they show themselves trustworthy.  Does this prove everything the NT authors’ claim?  Of course not.  But it is still strong evidence that they were reliable recorders of what they saw.

In this series of posts, we have shown that the NT writers claimed to be eyewitnesses or associates of eyewitnesses; we have shown that we have multiple witnesses, and we have shown that the eyewitnesses were trustworthy.  How?  They included embarrassing details about themselves  and difficult details about their subject of worship, Jesus; their accounts contain divergent details, just as we would expect from independent witnesses; and they wrote about historical facts that have been thoroughly corroborated by ancient non-Christian writers and modern archaeology.

There is one final line of evidence that will conclude this series of posts.  You won’t want to miss it.