Tom Gilson

Earliest Christian Documents Discovered?

This just in by email from a friend: from BBC News – Jordan battles to regain ‘priceless’ Christian relics:

A group of 70 or so “books”, each with between five and 15 lead leaves bound by lead rings, was apparently discovered in a remote arid valley in northern Jordan somewhere between 2005 and 2007….

They could be the earliest Christian writing in existence, surviving almost 2,000 years in a Jordanian cave. They could, just possibly, change our understanding of how Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and how Christianity was born.

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6 thoughts on “Earliest Christian Documents Discovered?

  1. What kills me is the immediate assumption that early documents will somehow rewrite Christian history. Why not presuppose that the texts may confirm the reliability of the New Testament manuscripts or provide further evidence verifying the Christian claims? Of course, we all know the answer to that question….

  2. The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), however, has dismissed the idea that the books are of any value. Experts who examined some of them, it said, “absolutely doubted their authenticity”. According to the IAA, the books are a “mixture of incompatible periods and styles…without any connection or logic. Such forged motifs can be found in their thousands in the antiquities markets of Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East.”
    Professor Andre Lemaire, an expert in ancient inscriptions from the Sorbonne, was also dubious, saying the writing on some of the codices he had seen made no sense and it was “a question apparently of sophisticated fakes”.

  3. The documents will show that the beliefs and practices of the earliest christians are in line with the current beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church, which is the one true church the Jesus Christ founded.

  4. VR:

    If by “in line with” you have in mind something that is very loosely defined, you are probably right, within limits, and if the documents prove genuine. Bear in mind, though, the Catholic Church’s current practices have been conditioned by centuries of tradition. Various crucial doctrines took decades or even centuries to be formulated in the way Christians understand them now (the nature of Christ and of the Trinity, for example). That doesn’t mean they were invented later; it means it took that long to sort out and define the full implications of the biblical data.

    So even though I have great respect for the Roman Catholic church, especially its historic role through the first fourteen or fifteen centuries, of the faith, I would hope that you were being appropriately cautious with your language of “in line with.”

    Beyond that, the Catholic Church’s doctrines concerning the saints, of Mary, and of papal authority developed much later than the first century, and I would respectfully argue that in this the Roman Catholics have stepped outside biblical teaching.

    Note however: Catholicism vs. Protestantism vs. Orthodoxy wasn’t the topic of the blog post, and I will exercise the rights I have reserved for myself concerning off-topic comments (see the discussion policy). Your provocative statement deserved a brief response, but that’s as far as it should go. Thank you for your comment, though, and I do hope you will stay involved in discussion here.

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