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Itschristopher's Blog

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 100 Reasons Why God Doesn’t Not Exist #1

Here’s the post I’m responding to.  Read it first IF YOU DARE.

Why is there a 300 year old gap between the events of Jesus and the oldest existing Biblical manuscript???

Well, the simple answer is…there isn’t.  That’s the thing about the internet, you can pretty much say whatever you want and no one will know.  The oldest extant (which means “still in existence”) manuscript that we have is the Rylands Papyrus, or P52 for short., and it dates to 117-138CE.  It’s a portion of the Gospel of John.  It’s also the image above.  Anyhoozies, this professor McCormick makes a few mistakes in his post that lead him to believe in a 300 year gap.  Since scholars believe that Mark is the oldest gospel, and the oldest gospel of Mark we have is 300 years old, then there must be a 300 year gap AT LEAST.  This is problematic.  He must not know much about textual criticism, because if he did he would know that Mark is usually believed to be the first Gospel written based on textual criticism, and that even secular scholars, like Bart Ehrman, agree that Mark was probably written and circulating around 70-100CE (some even say earlier, although I’m not well-aware of all the arguments for why).  Matthew is argued at 70-100CE, Luke 80-100CE, and John 90-110CE (although some argue, with good merit I think, that it was composed before 70CE, before the fall of Jerusalem).  I should also note that most texts of antiquity don’t even come close to the small gap that Biblical texts have.  The oldest copy we have of Sophocles is 1,400 years after his death, and we don’t have many copies, yet it’s taken as credible.  Most manuscript evidence we have for other historical pieces number by the handful, while the Bible has over 5,00 Greek manuscripts, 8,000 Latin manuscripts, and over 25,000 manuscripts when you include all of multiple languages put together.


“OKAY HOL’ UP, HOL’ UP, HOL’ UP,” you’re probably saying right now.   “Jesus died around 30(ish)CE, so that’s still like a 40 year gap.”

Well, you’re quite astute, my little Holmes.  Very good.  But to fabricate a story of a man rising from the dead, healing people, and raising other people from the dead, is a pretty wild story, especially while there are still people alive who knew or knew of Jesus of Nazareth.  In fact, the Biblical authors, like Paul, even challenge people to go and double check their information and truthfulness.  They name all the cities Jesus was in and name people he healed.  Those are pretty brazen claims for people to make.  As far as witness reliability, let’s not forget that Jesus was crucified.  The Jewish leaders and Roman officials saw him as dangerous to the political system.  Jesus’s own disciples all fled when he was killed.  So witness fabrication is a possibility, I will grant you that, BUT does it really make sense to risk your life for something you know wasn’t true?  In the climate in which the Gospels were written there was a lot of Christian persecution, up until the 4th century CE.  Christians were brutally killed, publicly, and if they didn’t risk their life they risked social ostracizing.  The only thing we risk in America in proclaiming the Gospel is funny looks and a little ridicule, at best.  Also, this was a largely illiterate society, so people didn’t prefer written accounts, they wanted people to TELL THEM.  The Gospels are stories.  People liked stories.  It would have been more reliable to hear it from someone than to hear it read.  So things were only written down when the first hand accounts (the disciples) were dying.  The disciples’ disciples were the ones who would have distributed the accounts, after having been written by the disciples.

 “Well yeah, but why don’t we have the originals though?  If they cared about it that much.”

That’s another good point, and I’m really glad you asked.  Let’s talk about that.    Remember, people were not literate.  This means that only a few people could actually read, which means there were only need of a few written accounts.  The smaller number of documents, the less likely they would be preserved.  Also, officials would have destroyed the Gospels when found. If you were a first, second, or third century Christian, and you risked being killed, imprisoned, or ostracized from your family, do you think you’d flaunt your Gospel, if you even had the privilege of having one?

We are a highly document-oriented society.  We don’t believe something unless it’s in print, stamped with some scientist’s or official’s name, but that just wasn’t the case in the first century.  We have to remove our own cultural lens in order to understand the past.  Whether you believe the miraculous of Jesus or not, we have to believe that the Gospel accounts of Jesus accurately reflect the beliefs of people in the first century, people who were willing to risk their lives for him, otherwise we have to discount practically all the established facts of ancient history.


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