Anti-Biblical Bias:  A Man Who Overcame It

Found deep within sinful, unredeemed hearts is rebellion against legitimate authority.  Satan, from the beginning, rebelled against God’s authority and deceived Eve and through Eve persuaded Adam into rejecting God’s word:  “Did God really say?” (Gen. 3:1). A CCH student recently told me of her Mizzou course in instruction, teaching, and curriculum. Emphasized in the class, among other things, is the idea that gender is not something we are born with but, instead, something that we choose.  This idea follows closely on the heels of our culture’s acceptance of “gay marriage”, the supposed union of two men or two women in “marriage.” The acceptance of pre-marital sex and divorce for any and every reason could be added to the mix. Regardless of the sin, it all goes back to a rejection of any authority except one’s self.    The authority of God and His word has been thrown in the trash.  

One of the reasons some disregard of the authority of the Bible is the assumption that it isn’t historically or factually accurate.   It’s supposedly full of myths and legends and stories invented by the Jews and by the early church. We also need to understand that this assumption of historical inaccuracy is a false one.  Further, this belief that the Bible is historically and factually inaccurate has a long history.

One extremely influential player in the movement to undercut confidence in biblical history was Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792-1860), a professor at Tubingen University in Germany.  Baur headed up what has been called the Tubingen School, a highly influential school of critical thought named after the university where he taught.(1.)

So what did F. C. Baur and the Tubingen school teach?  For one thing, Baur and his colleagues assumed that only four of Paul’s epistles were genuine:  Galatians, Romans, and 1 and 2 Corinthians. “Their conclusions demanded a very late date for most of the New Testament writings, especially Acts.”(2.)

At around the same time that the Tubingen school was in its heyday, a young man named William M. Ramsay was doing his graduate work in history and archaeology.  He had accepted Baur’s conclusions about the unreliability of Acts and so thought it was written in the second half of the second century. Furthermore, he thought the author of Acts had made up his stories in such a way as to influence the people of his own time (i.e., the late second century).  Ramsay thought that the author of Acts “wrote for his contemporaries, not for truth.”(3.)

So Ramsay, as a grad student, was in a dilemma.  Even though he had written off the book of Acts as a reliable historical document he was desperate for any ancient writings that dealt with the region of Asia Minor, his main field of research.  So, despite his skepticism, he began to study the book of Acts . As he studied Acts 14:5-12 he realized that this account, assumed for years to have been inaccurate, was indeed precise and accurate.  Ramsay continued to study the travels of Paul and the places described in the book of Acts and this is what he wrote a few years later: “Further study of Acts 13-21 showed that the book could bear the most minute scrutiny of an authority for the facts of the Aegean world, and that it was written with such judgement, skill, art, and perception of the truth as to be a model of historical statement.”(4.)   In other words, Ramsay had changed 180 degrees in his assessment of the historicity of Acts.  The evidence for the accuracy of Acts had overcome his bias.

The apostle Paul writes in Colossians 2:6-8:  “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.  See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.  For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” 

The next time you’re challenged in a university class to accept a philosophy of biblical history that discredits that history, or to accept the wholesale abandonment of biblical ethics, don’t be too quick to jump on the bandwagon.  It’s very likely that in time, that philosophy as well as those ethics will end up on the junk heap of history, along with the now discredited results of the Tubingen School. Still standing, however, will be the Word of God. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 25:35).

David Sowers – International Minister
1. Horton Harris, The Tubingen School (London:  Oxford University Press, 1975) 1.
2. Ward Gasque, Sir William M. Ramsay: Archaeologist and New Testament Scholar. A Survey of His Contribution to the Study of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1966), 24-25.  
3. Gasque, 25, citing Ramsay in his The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1915. Repr. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1953) 37-38.
4. Gasque, 28, citing Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery, 85.