Importance in Luke’s History of the Story of the Birth of Christ
The Question at Issue
Luke’s Account of the Enrolment
Enrolment by Households in Egypt
The Syrian Enrolment of the Year 8 B.C.
The Enrolment of Palestine by Herod the King
Chronology of the Life of Christ
Some Associated Questions
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….
Richard Belward Rackham’s commentary on Acts is written from a conservative viewpoint, focusing on the Greek text and historical background. My thanks to Book Aid for providing a copy for digitisation.
The form of this commentary upon The Acts of the Apostles requires some words of explanation. Instead of breaking up the comment into disjointed notes, an attempt has been made to give a continuous interpretation which the reader can read straight on without interruption, just as he would read the book of The Acts itself. The aim has been simply to ascertain the meaning of the original text and to add the necessary information. Thus the commentary is practically a paraphrase of The Acts, in which the words of the text commented upon are distinguished by being printed in italics, and such general information or discussion as is required from time to time is inserted in the paraphrase fu separate paragraphs: further illustration which the reader can leave on one side is relegated to footnotes. If, however, this method on the one hand aims at consulting the reader’s convenience, on the other it is liable to err on the side of length and repetition, from which faults this commentary can hardly claim to be free.