What’s the first proof of Christianity?
I can think of few books that have faced a more dedicated campaign to get rid of it. When other books face a dedicated campaign to find and eliminate, usually the hunt is successful – or only a few copies survive.
I draw attention to the Emperor Qin in China, who simply burned millions of historical texts… so that he could rewrite history and make himself look good.
The Japanese, in each invasion of China, usually carried on book burning campaigns.
The Egyptian libraries also come to mind – many irreplaceable books were lost, including ancient plays by many famous Greek authors.
The Mayan persecution by Catholics also come to mind. The Conquistadors simply burned everything they found with any kind of handwriting in it.
Hitler burned every book he disagreed with.
The Bible faced opposition and destruction at the hands of the Romans, other religions, Roman Catholics, and every Buddhist or Hindu government that took exception to what the bible said. The single biggest campaign was by Roman Catholics, under orders by Popes who hoped that with the real Bible destroyed, they could simply write their own and pass it off as authoritative. One Pope came up with his “translation” of the bible which turned out to be a horrible embarrassment for Rome. After his death, the Vatican simply attempted to collect all copies of it.
So, with pagan governments trying to destroy it, Rome trying to destroy it, the Vatican trying to destroy it, other religions trying to destroy it – you’d expect only perhaps 20 or so existing manuscripts. Not to mention loss by disaster, fires, earthquakes, floods, age, overuse, decay, etc.
There are over 5,200 existing ancient Syrian family manuscripts. That’s not even listing the fragments or partial copies. The number is HUGE.
And what’s amazing is that although minor copying errors can be found in them, all of the Syrian family manuscripts agree nearly letter for letter.
Bible Preservation, which is what this doctrine is called, is nearly statistically impossible. Yet – we have them. We have entire countries where Christian populations were exiled or martyred under the Roman Catholic oppression. A cursory reading of Foxe’s book of Martyrs is recommended for a brief example of them.
“well, only 5,200 copies are not enough to establish authenticity.”
um… there’s only a few copies of Julius Caesar’s “Gallic Wars”, 20 or so copies of Livey’s “Roman history”, Tacitus’s “Annals” only boasts two copies. All these manuscripts are considered authentic. Who’s got the most ancient copies of books considered authentic? Homer’s Iliad, with over 600 copies. The New Testament dwarfs that. And there was no dedicated campaign to eliminate those books. There was of the Bible.
“well, the New Testament was written centuries after the lifetime of the Apostles.”
No that’s not true. The Bible was written during their lifetimes, by the Apostles themselves.
“well, we only have copies from two centuries or so later. Obviously not authentic.”
Some of the oldest copies of the New Testament we have date to within a century of the Apostles. MOST of the New Testament Syrian texts are 200-300 years after. the oldest copies of Caesar’s “Gallic Wars” are 900 years after the time of Caesar. That’s a MUCH greater gap of time. If those manuscripts are considered authentic – the Bible is unquestionable.
Same with Tacitus, at 800 to 1,000 years after – and still considered authentic. Homer’s Iliad – 800 years after, and unquestioned. So, if experts accept those without doubts… they should accept the New Testament, in FAR GREATER numbers (almost a thousand times as many copies as the Iliad) and much closer to
um… many of the Greek New Testament manuscripts date to within a couple hundred years of the Apostles.
And remember, nobody was really hunting down and attempting to burn copies of the Iliad along with their owners.
First proof of Christianity? The Bible.