Given a twenty-five year lifespan for a church codex, whether of Paul’s epistles or of the four Gospels, it could be guessed that there would be about two hundred copies by the beginning of the second century. There would be an additional 250–300 church copies by the end of second century. [Kindle location 1376]
J. Duplacy estimated that the total number of manuscripts of the Greek New Testament produced in the fourth century was between fifteen hundred and two thousand. This allows for about four or five copies produced by each church (or diocese) during this century. There were about four hundred dioceses towards AD 400. [Kindle location 1525]
By the end of the second century, there was a church in almost every major city [in the Greco-Roman world]. [Kindle location 1353]
There were, of course, other churches in villages and the countryside. But these city churches totaled forty-three in the first century and another fifty-four in the second. Roughly, one hundred local churches were in existence by the year 200. [Kindle location 1369]
From Destroyer of the Gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World by Larry W. Hurtado, Baylor University Press, 2016, page 3. In his footnote, Hurtado cites as his source Keith Hopkins in “Christian Number and Its Implications (Journal of Early Christian Studies, 1998) for this information. He also cites two additional sources for this kind of information.
One recent estimate of the number of sites where there were bodies or “communities” of Christians posits a hundred or so (many of these comprising several house-based groups) by 100 AD and two hundred to four hundred sites by 200 AD.
This video last 34:05 and is William Lane Craig’s standard presentation on the historicity of the resurrection. He gave the talk in April 2016 at Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois. Craig was originally from Peoria.
…a new analysis of the handwriting suggests that literacy may have been far more widespread than previously known in the Holy Land around 600 B.C., toward the end of the First Temple period. The findings, according to the researchers from Tel Aviv University, could have some bearing on a century-old debate about when the main body of biblical texts was composed.
Alexander, Archibald (1772-1851). The Canon of the Old and New Testaments Ascertained; or, The Bible, Complete, without the Apocrypha and Unwritten Traditions. Presbyterian Board of Education, 1851. Alexander was one of the founders, and the first principal, of Princeton Theological Seminary. Alexander, B. B. Warfield, Charles Hodge, and A. A. Hodge (named after Alexander) became known as the “Princeton theologians” and left a distinctive mark on the history of American Christianity. (This information copied and pasted from Annotated Bibliography on New Testament Text and Canon.)
It is necessary, therefore, to proceed to our destined point in a more circuitous way. We must be at the pains to examine into the history of the Canon, and, as was before said, to ascertain what books were esteemed canonical by all those who had the best opportunity of judging of this matter; and when the internal evidence is found corroborating the external, the two, combined, may produce a degree of conviction which leaves no room to desire any stronger evidence.
The question to be decided is a matter of fact. It is an inquiry respecting the real authors of the books of the New Testament, whether they were written by the persons whose names they bear, or by others under their names. The inspiration of these books, though closely allied to this subject, is not now the object of inquiry. The proper method of determining a matter of fact, evidently is to have recourse to those persons who were witnesses of it, or who received their information from others who were witnesses. It is only in this way that we know that Homer, Horace, Virgil, Livy, and Tully [i.e., Cicero], wrote the books which now go under their names. [Emphasis added]
The early Christians pursued this method of determining what books were canonical. They searched into the records of the church, before their time, and from these ascertained what books should be received, as belonging to the sacred volume. They appeal to that certain and universal tradition, which attested the genuineness of these books. Irenæus, Tertullian,
Eusebius, Cyril, and Augustine, have all made use of this argument, in establishing the Canon of the New Testament. (p. 117-118; p. 69 on the pdf I am using, downloaded from the Internet Archive)