Sir William Ramsay

Addendum: I would officially like to thank commenter mintz on alerting me to my scholarly mistake: I confused Sir William Ramsay (born October of 1852) with ANOTHER Sir William Ramsay from Glasgow Scotland (born the previous year)! I do apologize and have revised this post. We all make mistakes 😉

William Mitchell Ramsay was born on March 15, 1851 in Glasgow, Scotland. His father was a lawyer, but died when William was just six. Through the hard work of other family members, William attended the University of Aberdeen, achieving honors. Through means of a scholarship, he was then able to go to Oxford University and attend the college there named for St. John. His family resource also allowed him to study abroad, notably in Germany. It was under one of his professors that his love of history began. After receiving a new scholarship from another college at Oxford, he traveled to Asia Minor.

William, however, is most noted for beliefs pertaining to the Bible, not his early life. Originally, he labeled it as a ‘Book of Fables,’ having only third-hand knowledge. He neither read nor studied it, skeptically believing it to be of fiction and not historical fact. His interest in history would lead him on a search that would radically redefine his thoughts on that Ancient Book…

Some argue that Ramsay was originally just a product of his time. For example, the general consensus on the Acts of the Apostles (and its alleged writer Luke) was almost humouress:

“… [A]bout 1880 to 1890 the book of the Acts was regarded as the weakest part of the New Testament. No one that had any regard for his reputation as a scholar cared to say a word in its defence. The most conservative of theological scholars, as a rule, thought the wisest plan of defence for the New Testament as a whole was to say as little as possible about the Acts.”[1]

It was his dislike for Acts that launched him into a Mid-East adventure. With Bible-in-hand, he made a trip to the Holy Land. What William found, however, was not what he expected…

As it turns out, ‘ole Willy’ changed his mind. After his extensive study he concluded that Luke was one of the world’s greatest historians:

The more I have studied the narrative of the Acts, and the more I have learned year after year about Graeco-Roman society and thoughts and fashions, and organization in those provinces, the more I admire and the better I understand. I set out to look for truth on the borderland where Greece and Asia meet, and found it here [in the Book of Acts—KB]. You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian’s, and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment, provided always that the critic knows the subject and does not go beyond the limits of science and of justice.[2]

Skeptics were strikingly shocked. In ‘Evidence that Demands a Verdict’ Josh Mcdowell writes,

“The book caused a furor of dismay among the skeptics of the world. Its attitude was utterly unexpected because it was contrary to the announced intention of the author years before…. for twenty years more, book after book from the same author came from the press, each filled with additional evidence of the exact, minute truthfulness of the whole New Testament as tested by the spade on the spot. The evidence was so overwhelming that many infidels announced their repudiation of their former unbelief and accepted Christianity. And these books have stood the test of time, not one having been refuted, nor have I found even any attempt to refute them.”[3]

The Bible has always stood the test of time. Renowned archaeologist Nelson Glueck put it like this:

“It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which conform in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible.”[4]

1) The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (1915)
2) Ibid
3) See page 366
4) See page 31 of: Rivers in the Desert: A History of the Negev (1959)

~ by johnfoxe on May 11, 2008.

6 Responses to “Sir William Ramsay”

  1. A lot of people have tried to refute the Bible, but their arguments are weak. They try to attack it based on what our modern-day culture deems as acceptable, and not based on the events and society of that day, which were perfectly acceptable back then (and many principles of which are still “fine” today).

  2. Exactly.

    Here’s the heart of the issue: people judge the Bible on different standards than other ancient works. Why? Because it’s controversial. It says something about people’s lives today. 1900yr old writings that are clearly applicable today make quite a stir.

  3. And it’s not just that the writings are 1900 years old. It’s that they are true writings that tell us this world is going down the toilet, and people don’t like it. I think THAT is causing some stir!

  4. […] Just over 2 months ago I wrote about the scientist/professor/historian Sir William Ramsay (link). Ramsay was a skeptic-turned-believer in the historical accuracy of the Bible. As Sir […]

  5. You appear to have got two different people mixed up here.

    Sir Willaim Ramsay (b 1852) was the nobel prize winning chemist.

    Sir William M. Ramsay (b 1851) was the archaeologist and Christian apologist.

  6. I’m somewhat amazed at the blunder I made! I will reconstruct the post at once! Thanks 🙂

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