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

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles by Richard Belward Rackham

Richard Belward Rackham [1863-1912], The Acts of the Apostles. An Exposition, 10th edn., 1925

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.

Richard Belward Rackham [1863-1912], The Acts of the Apostles. An Exposition, 10th edn., 1925. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1901. Hbk. pp.524. [Click to visit the Acts page for the download link for this title and other resources on this book]

Table of Contents

  1. The Book
  2. The Author
  3. The Composition of Acts
  4. The History of the Acts
  5. The Theology of the Acts
  6. The Church and Ministry in the Acts
  • The Analysis of the Acts
  • Chronological Table
  • Addenda
  • Commentary
  • Index
  • Map of the Eastern Mediterranean

Preface

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.

Page iii

Free Online Biblical Training Courses

Over the last few months I have been interacting with hundreds of Christians in Africa through Facebook. What has become clear is that there is a real thirst to get further training in theology in order to be more effective in ministry. While Theology on the Web can support such training by providing free access to thousands of theological articles, commentaries and other books – it is an online library – and therefore does not offer any courses that visitors can follow.

Free Online Biblical Training Courses 1

In response to these requests for biblical training courses I have been searching the Internet for suitable material. After looking at their material carefully I have decided to recommend BiblicalTraining.org to my visitors. This non-profit organisation is headed by Dr Bill Mounce and offers free access to a superb collection of courses taught by world-class theologians, which can be downloaded and shared with others. The courses are divided into three levels:

  1. Foundations: Classes that are appropriate for all followers of Jesus. When you begin, they do not assume you know anything about the Bible, and they will teach you basic Bible content and beliefs.
  2. Academy: The university-level classes will take you deeper than Foundations but not assume you want to be taking graduate-level classes
  3. Institute: These seminary-level classes can fully prepare you with the biblical and theological training you need to be an informed leader in your church

Institute Level Courses

Here is a list of BiblicalTraining.org’s current Institute and other related courses:

I am currently greatly enjoying working my way through Craig Keener’s course on Acts, distilled from his recent 4,000 page commentary on that book. The BiblicalTraining.org site requires you to register in order to download the courses, but is completely free. I will shortly be adding direct links to relevant courses on my websites.

Do you know of any good Bible training courses? Feel free to share them in the comments.