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.
…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.
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.
In this post, Craig Keener looks at three different historical periods covered by the Bible – the times of Abraham, Israel’s Kings, and Jesus – and explains how our historical knowledge of each period differs. In providing this nuance, Keener helps us to see how unwarranted skepticism about the historical reliability of the Bible really is.