William Mitchell Ramsay

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Sir William Mitchell Ramsay (15 March 1851 - 20 April 1939) was a British archaeologist and New Testament scholar. Educated at Oxford, he held several prestigious professorships, including "First Professor of Classical Archaeology" and "Lincoln and Merton Professorship of Classical Archaeology and Art" at Oxford, and "Regius Professor of Humanity" at the University of Aberdeen. He received gold medals from Pope Leo XII, the University of Pennsylvania, the Royal Geographical Society, and the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, and was knighted in 1906.

Atheism and conversion

Mitchell was raised as an atheist and as an archaeologist was convinced that the Bible was fraudulent. "He had spent years deliberately preparing himself for the announced task of heading an exploration expedition into Asia Minor and Palestine where he would [find] the evidence that the book was the product of ambitious monks, and not the book from heaven it claimed to be. He regarded the weakest spot in the whole New Testament to be the story of Paul's travels. These had never been thoroughly investigated by one on the spot. Equipped as no other man had been, he went to the home of the Bible. Here he spent fifteen years digging. Then in 1896 he published a large volume, Saint Paul, the Traveler and the Roman Citizen."[1]

Ramsay was struck by the accuracy of the book of Acts. In his quest to refute the Bible, he discovered many facts which confirmed its accuracy. He concluded that Luke’s account of the events and setting recorded in the narrative were exact even in the smallest detail.[2] Of Luke, he wrote: Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy...this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians.[3]

"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. And these books have stood the test of time, not one having been refuted, nor have I found even any attempt to refute them."[4]

Ramsay shook the contemporary intellectual world by declaring that he had converted to Christianity, having found himself accepting the Bible as God’s Word because of the evidence of his explorations and discoveries.


  1. McDowell, Josh Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Volume 1: Historical Evidences for the Christian Faith (Thomas Nelson; Rev. ed. 1992) ISBN 0-8407-4378-5
  2. The Bible and Archaeology "The Good News" November/December 1998 ISSN 1086-9514
  3. Ramsay, William M. "The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament" (1915) ISBN 0-8010-7677-3
  4. McDowell, Josh op cit