The Case for Christ - Week of April 20

Was Luke Accurate in Recording Historical Details?

Verse: Luke 3:1-2

The physician and historian Luke authored both the Gospel bearing his name and the book of Acts, which together constitute about one-quarter of the entire New Testament. Consequently, a critical issue is whether Luke was a historian who could be trusted to get things right.

The general consensus of both liberal and conservative scholars is that Luke is a very accurate historian. He’s erudite, he’s eloquent, his Greek approaches classical quality, he writes as an educated man, and archaeological discoveries are showing over and over again that Luke is accurate in what he has to say.

In fact there have been several instances in which scholars initially thought Luke was wrong in a particular reference, only to have later discoveries confirm that he was indeed correct.

For instance, in dating the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry in Luke 3:1, Luke refers to Lysanias as the “tetrarch of Abilene.” For years scholars cited this as evidence that Luke didn’t know what he was talking about, since everybody knew that Lysanias was not a tetrarch but rather the ruler of Chalcis half a century earlier. If Luke couldn’t get that basic fact right, they suggested, then perhaps nothing he has written can be trusted.

However, an inscription was later found from the time of Tiberius, from A.D. 14 to 37, which names Lysanias as tetrarch in Abila near Damascus—just as Luke had written. It turns out there had been two government officials named Lysanias! Once more Luke was shown to be exactly right.

— Adapted from interview with Dr. John McRay

This devotion is from the NIV Case for Christ Study Bible by Zondervan. Used with permission.

Originally published April 20, 2021.