Like so many other students of the Bible, I have been impressed with the works of F. F. Bruce. He produced works that are insightful and readable. I have recommended his commentaries and other works to many seminary students and church friends.
The New Testament Documents went through six editions since it first appeared in 1943. It is a worthy example of a well-reasoned treatment of various topics related to the historical reliability of the New Testament. Some of the topics covered include the history of the New Testament canon, the authorship and date of the Gospels, John’s relationship to the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), and the reliability of Luke and Acts.
This last point is an important one, since many scholars question the reliability of Acts. They tend to see Acts and Paul’s writings as being in tension with one another with respect to various historical issues. Bruce provides an interesting line of evidence for the reliability of Acts. He focuses upon the titles of government officials in Acts and shows that Luke gets these titles right time after time. Here are some examples:
- Acts 13:7. Sergius Paulus is proconsul of Cyprus.
- Acts 18:12. Gallio is proconsul of Achaia. Bruce points out that “proconsul of Achaia” is his official title, whereas the more popular name for Achaia is Greece.
- Acts 19:31. Asiarchs is the proper title for officials who “presided over the provincial cult of ‘Rome and the Emperor’” (p. 84)./li>
- Acts 19:35. The city of Ephesus is properly assigned the title of Neōkoros (“Warden of the Temple”) of Artemis.
- Acts 16:35. Praetors (Greek: stratēgoi) is probably the right title for the magistrates of Philippi.
- Acts 17:6. Politarchs (Greek: politarchai) is a title found in inscriptions for magistrates “in Macedonia towns, including Thessalonica” (p. 85).
- Acts 28:7 “The first man of the island” is the title for the “Roman governor of Malta” (p. 86).
After reviewing the evidence for a number of details in Luke and Acts (including the ones above), Bruce concludes, “Now all these evidences of accuracy are not accidental. A man whose accuracy can be demonstrated in matters where we are able to test it is likely to be accurate even where the means for testing him are not available. Accuracy is a habit of mind, and we know from happy (or unhappy) experience that some people are habitually accurate just as others can be depended upon to be inaccurate. Luke’s record entitles him to be regarded as a writer of habitual accuracy” (pp. 90-91).
I agree wholeheartedly with Bruce’s assessment of Luke. I also commend to you the entirety of the New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?