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On Faith and History

A Comparison of Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, Livy, and Luke

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Luke's report shows that Paul grounded his faith on publicly revealed truth--claims--in particular, the claim of Christ's resurrection from the dead.

One of the most treasured classics of the ancient world is the saga of the Trojan War known as The lliad. Homer, the book's author, lived about 800 years before Christ, while the Trojan War he reports on took place some 400 years prior. Therefore, The lliad is not an eyewitness account of the war, but is more of a record of the tradition that Homer had received in his day. This epic tale is more than a mere chronicle of the events that transpired during the assault against Troy; it also contains many detailed accounts of the gods interfering with the likes of mortal men. Here the natural intermingles with the supernatural, and it is for this reason that many historians consider The lliad to be more poetry than history. In other words, it is not to be relied upon as a factual account of what really happened during the war. Though some of the people and events of the book are indeed historical, the basic facts of the story have faded into legend across the span of time.

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1 [ Back ] Homer, The lliad of Homer, trans. Richard Lattimore (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951), 59 (1.1-2).
2 [ Back ] Herodotus, The Histories of Herodotus, trans. Aubrey de Selincourt (New York: Penguin Books, 1954, revised edition, 1996), 3 (preface to Bk. 1).
3 [ Back ] Livy, The Early History of Rome, trans. Aubrey de Selincourt (New York: Penguin Books, 1960, revised edition, 2002), 33 (1.3).
4 [ Back ] Livy, 29 (preface to Bk. 1).
5 [ Back ] Livy, 29-30 (preface to Bk. 1).
6 [ Back ] Livy, 30 (preface to Bk. 1).
7 [ Back ] Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War, trans. Richard Crawley (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 2006), 5 (1.1). Crawley's translation first appeared in 1876. Italics mine.
8 [ Back ] Thucydides, 17 (1.20).
9 [ Back ] Thucydides, 17 (1.20).
10 [ Back ] Thucydides, 17-18 (1.21).
11 [ Back ] Thucydides, 18 (1.21).
12 [ Back ] Thucydides, 18 (1.22).

Shane Rosenthal is executive producer of The White Horse Inn national radio broadcast which can be heard online at

Issue: "Canon Formation" May/June 2010 Vol. 19 No. 3 Page number(s): 23-27

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