Was Christ Born in Bethlehem? by Sir William Ramsay

Sir William Mitchell Ramsay
Sir William Mitchell Ramsay (Photo Source: Wikipedia)

Sir William M. Ramsay’s classic defence of the historicity of Luke-Acts. My thanks to Book Aid for making a copy of this public domain title available for digitisation.

William M. Ramsay [1851-1939], Was Christ Born at Bethlehem? A Study on the Credibility of St Luke. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1898. Hbk. pp.280. [Click here to visit the download page for this title]

Table of Contents

  1. Luke’s History: What it Professes to Be
  2. Plan and Unity of Luke’s History
  3. The Attitude of Luke to the Roman Empire
  4. Importance in Luke’s History of the Story of the Birth of Christ
  5. The Question at Issue
  6. Luke’s Account of the Enrolment
  7. Enrolment by Households in Egypt
  8. The Syrian Enrolment of the Year 8 B.C.
  9. The Enrolment of Palestine by Herod the King
  10. Chronology of the Life of Christ
  11. Some Associated Questions
  • Appendix

Preface

Understanding that a certain criticism implied a sort of challenge to apply my theory of Luke’s character as a historian to the Gospel, I took what is generally acknowledged to be the most doubtful passage, from the historian’s view, in the New Testament, Luke ii. 1-4. Many would not even call it doubtful. Strauss (in his New Life of Jesus) and Renan dismiss it in a short footnote as unworthy even of mention in the text.

This passage, interpreted according to the view which I have maintained – that Luke was a great historian, and that he appreciated the force of the Greek superlative (in spite of the contradiction of Professor Blass and others) – gave the result that Luke was acquainted with a system of Periodic Enrolments in Syria, and probably in the East generally. I looked for evidence of such a system; and it was offered by recent discoveries in Egypt. The confirmation afforded to Luke was explained in the Expositor, April and June, 1897.

Realising better in subsequent thought the bearings of the Egyptian discovery, I have enlarged these two articles into an argument against the view that Luke sinks, in the accessories of his narrative, below the standard exacted from ordinary historians. At the risk of repeating views already stated in previous works, the second chapter attempts to put clearly the present state of the question as regards the two books of Luke, without expecting others to be familiar with my views already published.

The names of those scholars whose views I contend against are hardly ever mentioned. The scholars of the “destructive” school seem to prefer not to be mentioned, when one differs from them. I have learned much from them; I was once guided by them; I believe that the right understanding of the New Testament has been very greatly advanced by their laudable determination to probe and to understand everything, as is stated on p. 33; but I think their conclusions are to a great extent erroneous. It might, however, be considered disingenuous if I concealed that the weighty authority of Gardthausen, the historian of Augustus, is dead against me, p. 102….

Pages vii-ix

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