William Mitchell Ramsay was born in Glasgow, Scotland, the youngest son of Thomas Ramsay and Jane Mitchell, on March 15, 1851 and became a Classical scholar and archaeologist.
His father died when he was but six years old. He excelled in his studies, attended Aberdeen University and won a scholarship to St. John’s College, Oxford. In 1874 he travelled to Goettingen University, studying Sanskrit under a great scholar, Theodor Benfey. This opened his interest in the Near East and antiquity.
At the age of 25, “with only enough money to pay his debts”, his physician advised him to travel abroad for health reasons (New Archaeological Discoveries, by C. Cobern, page 413).
For several years he rambled around Europe, paying expenses by teaching and writing for the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
By 1880 – with a grant from the British Museum – we find him in Turkey (Asia Minor in apostolic times), seeking to trace the history of Roman institutions in that country.
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He tells us that at this time he had no interest in confirming the historicity of the “Acts of the Apostles” – on the contrary, “he considered the time lost which he had to spend in copying Christian inscriptions” (ibid, page 413).
A discovery confirming Luke’s accuracy in Acts 14:5-6 led to his “first change in judgement”. Contrary to what he had expected, the writer of Acts had been accurate in his description of these ancient towns. More discoveries followed. Again, Luke was proved to be an accurate historian. The accusations of the Bible critics were demolished one by one.
By the time he wrote his book, The Bearing of Recent Discoveries on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, (1915), Sir William Ramsay was able to say: “Luke’s history is unsurpassed in respect to its trustworthiness.”
Once again the sledge-hammer attacks of the critics had been smashed by the spade of the archaeologist.
Thus it was that, apart from his academic credits and privileged membership of leading associations, Ramsay had become the recognized authority on all matters relating to the districts associated with St Paul’s missionary journeys and on Christianity in the early Roman Empire.
Ramsay was knighted in 1906, and his wife, Lady Ramsay, granddaughter of Dr Andrew Marshall of Kirkintilloch, accompanied him in many of his journeys.
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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com