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.

Authorship and Dating of the New Testament Books by Inspiring Philosophy

Gives the evidence for dating most of the New Testament books before 70 A.D.

Length: 16:59

William Lane Craig on the Date of Jesus’ Crucifixion

On this episode of his Reasonable Faith podcast, Bill Craig said that Jesus was crucified on either April 3rd, 30 AD or April 7th, 33 AD.  This is because these are the two dates in the relevant time period when Passover fell on a Friday.

(As I recall, he made this comment near the end of the episode.)

 

Michael Kruger Reports on Craig Evans and the Expected Life of the New Testament Autographs

This post explains that the extant copies of the New Testament might be more closely related to the originals than previously thought.

(2 min read; 581 words)

Source: Is the Original Text of the New Testament Lost? Rethinking Our Access to the Autographs | Canon Fodder

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 Jesus

Whether or not a scholar of ancient times believes that Jesus was raised from the dead may be considered a spiritual, theological, or religious question.  But whether or not said scholar believes that Jesus was in fact a Jewish preacher who was crucified in Jerusalem by the Romans under Pontius Pilate 25-35 AD is simply a historical question.  Practically speaking, modern scholars unanimously attest to these facts, as evidenced by the quotes that follow.

“Today nearly all historians, whether Christians or not, accept that Jesus existed.”  –  Graham Stanton, The Gospels and Jesus (Oxford University Press, 1989) 145.

“That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be, since both Josephus and Tacitus … agree with the Christian accounts on at least that basic fact.”  –  John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (HarperOne, 1995). p 145.

“Biblical scholars and classical historians now regard it [theories of the nonexistence of Jesus] as effectively refuted.”  – Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence (Eerdmans Publishing, 2000) p. 16

[The theories of non-existence of Jesus are] “a thoroughly dead thesis.”  –  James D. G. Dunn, “Paul’s Understanding of the Death of Jesus” in Sacrifice and Redemption, ed. S. W. Sykes (Cambridge University Press: 2007) 35-36.

“Combining the evidence of Thallus, Pliny, Tacitus, and Suetonius one can accumulate enough data to refute the fanciful notion that Jesus never existed without even appealing to the testimony of Jewish or Christian sources.”  Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (Downers Grove: IVP, 1987)  p 197.

“Despite [an] enormous range of opinion [on Jesus], there are several points on which virtually all scholars of antiquity agree.  Jesus was a Jewish man, known to be a preacher and teacher, who was crucified (a Roman form of execution) in Jerusalem during the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was the governor of Judea.  […T]his is the view of nearly every trained scholar on the planet…”  –  Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (p. 12). HarperOne, 2012) 

“I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”  —H.G. Wells (Source: Apologetics315.com)

The source for the first five quotes above is How to Answer a Jesus Critic (p. 7-9) by Scott M. Sullivan, PhD.  In these same pages, Sullivan himself says:

“When we use the same historical standards as we do in other areas of ancient history, the historical evidence that Jesus existed is overwhelming.”

“[T]he evidence for Jesus is far greater than nearly all other figures from ancient history.”

“Virtually every professional historian regards the existence of Jesus as historically certain.”

“The Christian has every good reason to comfortably rest within the academic mainstream that Jesus really existed.  Those who deny this intellectually marginalize themselves to the crackpot realm.”

See also the Wikipedia article “Historicity of Jesus,” from which the following two quotes are taken:

“There is near unanimity among scholars that Jesus existed historically…”

“Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed, and most biblical scholars and classical historians see the theories of his non-existence as effectively refuted.”

“There is no evidence today that the existence of Jesus was ever denied in antiquity by those who opposed Christianity.”

Abundant substantiation for these statements, and other like them, can be found in the article.  While some scholars can vary wildly from the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, there is near-universal agreement among all scholars to 1) Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist, and 2) his crucifixion under Pontius Pilate.  (Perhaps needless to add, John the Baptist, Paul, James are likewise acknowledged as actual historical persons.)

To say that Jesus did not exist puts you in a category with the sort of people who say that the 1969 moon landing was faked or that the U.S. was behind the 9/11 attack.

All that said, merely believing that Jesus lived and died is not what He’s looking for from us.  Rather, it’s believing that He was raised from the dead and that He lives and reigns forevermore that He wants to see.  But if you let someone talk you into the absurd notion that Jesus never existed, you’ll spend your life as a conspiracy theorist and never even give yourself a chance to believe in His resurrection.

Even Bart Ehrman Believes That Jesus Lived and Died

Like John Dominic Crossan, Bart Ehrman is a biblical scholar who denies that Jesus was raised from the dead.  But also like Crossan, Ehrman, along with practically all other modern scholars, is convinced of certain historical facts about Jesus.  When he says “virtually all scholars of antiquity” in the quote below, Ehrman indeed means “all” – he is not just talking about Christian scholars.

“Despite [an] enormous range of opinion [on Jesus], there are several points on which virtually all scholars of antiquity agree.  Jesus was a Jewish man, known to be a preacher and teacher, who was crucified (a Roman form of execution) in Jerusalem during the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was the governor of Judea.  […T]his is the view of nearly every trained scholar on the planet…”

Source:  Ehrman, Bart D. Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (p. 12). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.  (373 pages total)

Conclusions About Historical Accuracy of the Bible by Glenn Smith

This post is mainly about the historical reliability of Luke-Acts.

Excerpts:

– The best evidence shows that Luke and Acts were composed by 60 A.D.

– Luke and Acts are so well attested historically and archaeologically that they have more support than any other book in ancient history.

– There is no reasonable way that Luke/Acts could have been written by anyone other than someone living in the region in the first century.

(4 min read; 1,021 words)

Conclusions About Historical Accuracy of the Bible | Thomistic Bent
(
HT: Greg West at The Poached Egg from Ratio Christi)

What and When Were the Earliest Claims About Jesus? – J. Warner Wallace

Jim Wallace builds a timeline of events backwards from 70 A.D. to 33 A.D., relying on Acts, then Luke, then Mark, then 1 Corinthians 15 (per Gary Habermas).

What and When Were the Earliest Claims About Jesus? – YouTube.