Classic Scholar, Dr. Colin J. Hemer, conducted credible research in comparing and analyzing the written details found in the book of Acts, chapters 13 to 28 to archaeological records. Do the written words in the book of Acts match the details found in the archaeological record?
A statistical analysis supports a very good correlation as presented below.
If the archaeological record showed no matches whatsoever, then the book of Acts could be mathematically declared to be an absolute myth.
If you want to investigate this work yourself, I highly recommend Dr. Hemer's research published in "The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History". However, Dr. Hemer's book is written for scholars, which may be difficult for some people to understand.
If you would like to begin the investigation at a lower level, I would also recommend the following book:
- White, Jefferson, Evidence and Paul's Journeys
Statistical Analysis of the Book of Acts
How good is the correlation
between Acts and the Archaeological Records?
Calculating the probability that the book of Acts is an absolute myth would mean that we would expect to find no supporting archaeological evidence or details for even a single event in the book of Acts. Another way of looking at this would be to take the position that an author would simply make up fictional names of cities, people, the titles of local rulers, whether a synagogue were present in a specific city or not, whether there was a river next the city, the religion of the local people and on and on. If no match was found, then the calculation would verify that the book was complete fiction or simply based on myth.
Support for this calculation can be demonstrated by statistically analyzing the book of Mormon relative to its supporting archaeological records. Since there are no verified records (not a single inscription has been found to date or other obvious evidence), the book of Mormon appears to be based on Joseph Smith's imagination. Book of Mormon evidence will be discussed on a separate page.
To verify that the book of Acts matches the archaeological record is a matter of identifying and listing the written record, then determining if the item is supported by archaeological finds. Dr. Hemer recorded how the text of Acts is supported by archaeology. So the work is simply a matter of listing Dr. Hemer's work in a spreadsheet and performing calculations.
The statistical tool I used for this test is a 1-Proportion test. A total of 165 items in Dr. Hemer's analysis are listed from Acts with archaeological data (and other data) confirming 162 of these items. What about the three items that have not been specifically confirmed?
One of the items is related to a biblical personality named Sergius Paulus as noted in Acts 13:7. Archaeological records confirm the existence of a specific person by this name. However, the records cannot be confirmed to be that exact personality. Confirmation is inferred, but not confirmed.
The second item is a city called Phoenix. Luke and Paul never visited the city since they were being blown about on the sea (refer to Acts 27:12). The only explanation at this time is that the name came from sailors on board the ship. Perhaps someday the site will be uncovered by archaeologists.
The third item relates to verifying that Christians were in the city of Puteoli when Paul arrived in the Spring of AD 60 (Acts 28:13). The issue is strictly related to confirmation. However, the evidence of Christians in the area of Rome that early is inferred by New Testament texts. This seems to be more of a moot point rather than a point of substance.
Based on the current archaeological records, the analysis supports that the book of Acts is credible and records historic events that actually happened. This is concluded at the 99.9% confidence level. Paul had to actually travel the roads and be in various locations to record such unique details that have been confirmed by archaeology.
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Probability that the book of Acts is a myth?