It’s a question of faith for over 2 billion individuals worldwide. Around one-third of humanity doesn’t require proof that a man named Jesus existed. According to his followers, Christ is the Messiah who walked on earth almost two thousand years ago. Besides the personal domain of belief, there is a great area for inquiry that must uncover scientific and historical data to answer legitimate questions like what’s the evidence Christianity is real? Did Jesus exist? What do the scholars say about this?
Almost all experts today, from all theological backgrounds, educated in essential subjects like biblical studies and ancient history, agree on several fundamental facts about Christ. Here are a few examples:
- He was baptized by John the Baptist.
- He was called names like ‘exorcist’ and ‘magician’.
- Christ was crucified during the time of Tiberius Caesar.
- After Christ’s death, many people (his followers, including John, who was previously a foe) declared that he emerged alive.
These are indisputable historical facts. But what evidence do we have that these historical facts concerning Jesus and early Christianity are correct? Most of this information comes from New Testament writings penned in the 1st century.
What’s the oldest historical record for Christianity? You might be surprised by the answer.
Writings from the start of the 4th century AD, such as the Codex Sinaiticus (CS) and the Codex Vaticanus (CV), are two of the earliest pieces of evidence to support Christianity. CS was found in 1859 in Egypt by Constantin von Tischendorf. He later claimed that he had protected CS from being turned to ashes by monks who had already set fire to two mounds of related documents. Sinaiticus was referred to as one of the most valuable biblical manuscripts to exist by Constantin.
Then came the Papyri writings, which go back to before CS in many cases. A 3-inch papyri piece that contains five lines from John’s Gospel (P52) is one of the earliest. This little evidence dates back to 125–175 AD, while some believe it may have a wider range.
However, Christ’s followers must also know more significant findings in 1 Corinth 15:3–7 (bigger than CS and P52 combined). Some may even go as far as to say bigger than all the archaeological findings. It is often referred to as a pearl of immense price.
This creed from the Apostles is unlike any other in the New Testament. It is even unrivaled in all of the ancient writing. We’d always have the Gospel’s essence and the historical foundations on which Christianity sits even if nothing from the early Christian church had remained but the 5-verse credal saying that Christ has risen again and all the witnesses who attested to that (Acts 2:32).
Historical Bedrock of Christianity
Let us now look at some of the early evidence for Christianity:
- Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures
- He was laid to rest
- According to the Scriptures, he was raised from the dead on the 3rdday
- He came to Cephas
- He came in front of almost 500 brothers all at once
- Then he visited James, and subsequently the rest of the Apostles
Excluding Paul’s extra remarks and comments, the preceding list represents what academics believe to be the true credal traditions Paul heard. This is considered a brand new find. Gerd Lüdemann, a scholar of the New Testament, hailed this as one of the most significant advances in contemporary New Testament studies.
The biblical text itself contains two fundamental reasons for this. Firstly, Paul’s introduction includes wordings such as ‘accepted’ and ‘delivered’. When Paul established the Corinth church, he passed on to the Corinthians specific practices that further highlighted the Gospel he learned (1 Cor. 11:2). Certain lessons and anecdotes about Christ, the Lord’s Supper account and the credal traditions on Christ’s crucifixion, burial, and ascension are among them (1 Cor. 7:10, 2 Cor. 8:9, 1 Cor. 15:3–7).
Secondly, the linguistic factor is another major reason. Paul employs words and terms that he doesn’t use elsewhere. Phrases like ‘was raised’, ‘he appeared on the third’, ‘was buried’, and ‘died for our sins’ are unique to the context or inspired by traditions if employed anywhere else. Based on these arguments, almost all scholars agree that the best example of a credal tradition is 1 Corinthians 15:3–7.
On the Offense
The oldest material and evidence for Christianity is not only a solid basis for a Christ-follower to firmly believe in, but it’s also a compelling argument fighting present skeptics. In the AD 30s, the oldest Jesus’ disciples declared that Christ died for our sins and was nailed on the cross for that. He was resurrected from the grave as the savior of the word. Christ’s primary apostle (Peter), his brother (James), and his adversary Paul all exclaimed to have seen the risen Christ.
It is historically indisputable that these three men believed this (1 Cor. 15:11). Furthermore, even skeptics are persuaded by the available record that these three individuals were martyred for their beliefs. Whatever the three men witnessed was enough evidence for them to lay down their lives for their faith.
As per an ancient source, the 12 and above five hundred declared that they had seen Christ. Thousands of years later, billions of people from various parts of the world spanning over the entire world think they have seen Christ with the help of their faith.
Our Final Thoughts
Even if there weren’t any written evidence Christianity is real, we could easily tell the truth by looking all around us. The world goes through changes every day, but the sun and the moon rise simultaneously, the flowers bloom and wither and our daily lives keep going, and that isn’t short of a miracle. That’s why we should always remember to thank our Lord in our prayers.