Notes on Early Christian Churches

Related posts:

From Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & New Testament by Philip W. Comfort (see Annotated Bibliography on New Testament Text and Canon).

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.

Why the Ancient Christian Record About Jesus Is the Most Reliable | by J. Warner Wallace

In this substantive post, Wallace includes a three-column chart showing the major historical claims about the life of Jesus from the point of view of the biblical writers, hostile Jewish witnesses, and hostile Gentile witnesses.

(13-minute read; 3,103 words)

Source: Why the Ancient Christian Record About Jesus Is the Most Reliable | Cold Case Christianity

(HT: Greg West at The Poached Egg of Ratio Christi)

The Reliability of the Oral Tradition That Preceded the New Testament

This 14:49 video discusses the oral tradition about Jesus which preceded, and was the basis for, the written texts we have in the New Testament.

Excerpt (14:14 through 14:35):

Scholars estimate the reliability of an oral tradition can last for over a century before we could expect corruption to seep in.  Gilbert Garraghan says it cannot go past 150 years (A Guide to Historial Method, p. 259-262).  Marelene Ciklamini sets the limit at 200 years (Old Norse Epic and Historical Tradition, p. 21).  This is well within the time frame of when the New Testament was written down even if we take the latest dates for when the books were written.

The Reliability of the New Testament (Oral Tradition) – YouTube. (Source:  Inspiring Philosophy)

Defining Apostolicity

This is a subsidiary post of Apostolicity and the New Testament.

Campenhausen, Hans von.  The Formation of the Christian Bible.  trans. J. A. Baker.  Augsburg Fortress, 1972; Sigler Press, 1997 edition.  See p. 330.

“So far as any ‘principle’ can be discerned behind the sources it appears to be one simply of chronological limitation: the normative testimonies must derive from the period closest to Christ, namely that of Christian origins, the age of the apostles and their disicples.”

Dunbar, David G.  “The Biblical Canon” in Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon, ed. D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge.  Academie Books, 1986.  See p. 358; the embedded quote is from Campenhausen, p. 330 (see above).

“Broadly stated, the church regarded apostolicity as the qualifying factor for canonical recognition; however, this apostolicity should be understood not strictly in terms of authorship but in terms of content and chronology.  That which was canon must embody the apostolic tradition, and this tradition was to be discerned in he most primitive documents: ‘ the normative testimonies must derive from the period closest to Christ, namely that of Christian origins, the age of the apostles and their disciples.’  The recognition of this apostolicity, moreover, was based primarily on the tradition of the church.  Those books that had functioned authoritatively for earlier Christians were received as authentic apostolic tradition.  In turn, those documents were used in a negative way to exclude works of later vintage or varying doctrinal content, as happened, for example, in [sic] case of The Gospel of Peter.”

Zahn, Theodor.  Geschichte des neutestamentlichen Kanons.  Deichert, 1888-1892.   Per Campenhausen (see above) in footnote 9 on p. 330 of The Formation of the Christian Bible:

“Zahn…pertinently comments: ‘The concept of what was “apostolic”, to the extent that it coincided with what we call “canonical” or “New Testament”, was not derived directly from the idea of a special official dignity attaching to the twelve apostles and to Paul, but from the conviction that complete sections of the traditional New Testament were written by apostles and companions of the apostles, and thus were reliable documents for the apostolic age, and in particular for the apostolic preaching and tradition’.”

Evidence for Jesus Outside the New Testament

Michael F. Bird links to “Did Jesus Exist? Searching for Evidence Beyond the Bible” – an article at Bible History Daily by Lawrence Mykytiuk.

Bird calls it “a depressing read if you’re a Jesus Mythicist.”

He also recommends Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000).

Jesus Mythicists Get Sucker Punched

For more information on this subject, go to Wintery Knight’s post on the same link.  As usual, he provides valuable commentary, organization of ideas, and additional resources (e.g. link to Gary Habermas online chapter about extrabiblical evidence for Jesus).


William Lane Craig Explains the Importance of History to Faith

I love the clear-cut way he answers the question.  He reflects and then draws a deep breath before he answers.  When he does answer, he hangs faith completely on fact, just as Paul did in 1 Corinthians 15:12-20.  This is the kind of moral clarity that should mark every Christian voice.

What Is the Connection Between the Facts of History and True Faith? – YouTube.

J. Warner Wallace – The Top Three Reasons the Bible Is Reliable – YouTube

J. Warner Wallace – The Top Three Reasons the Bible Is Reliable – YouTube.

The Historicity of the Resurrection of Christ

“I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.”  –  Thomas Arnold (1795-1842), Professor of History Oxford, Author of the three-volume History of Rome (Source: Christian Life, Its Hopes, Its Fears, and Its Close, 6th ed., London: T. Fellowes, 1859, pp. 15-16. per Apologetics 315)


Speaking of his doctoral studies under Wolfhart Pannenberg at the University of Munich, William Lane Craig writes, “I was astonished to discover as a result of my study that the main facts undergirding the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection are actually agreed upon by the majority of historical Jesus scholars today, not just conservative scholars but the broad mainstream of New Testament scholars, including a good number of Jewish scholars, who teach at secular universities and non-evangelical divinity schools. So I think faith in Jesus is historically quite well-founded.”  (Source: Response to a question on Reasonble Faith, Craig’s Blog; by this statement Craig, of course, is not saying that the majority of today’s scholars believe in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, but that they agree about the main historical facts upon which belief in that resurrection is based.)