Having a hard time believing in Jesus? I bet you believe in Alexander the Great. ‘Believe in’ as in ‘believe he existed’ and in his exploits. How many movies were made and how many books were written about this man?
Alexander the Great was king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon. Born in 356 BC, he succeeded his father (Philip II) to the throne at the age of twenty. Through most of his short life (died at 33) he with his military might created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, spreading from Greece to Egypt into India. Undefeated in battle, he is considered history’s most successful military strategist.
We know all this, right?
But do we really?
How do we know? We know through historical written documentation.
The problem which few consider is the accuracy of said documentation.
The surviving written accounts in possession of historians were written by men a few centuries after Alexander’s death. At least we believe that’s true considering the earliest of those accounts (originally written in the first century BC) are lost to history, leaving only hand written copies of copies whose earliest attestation is from the middle ages.
So, the earliest proof mankind has in its possession for the existence of Alexander the Great appears nearly 1000 years after he was born!
Put it another way, the oldest document mankind can physically produce which mentions Alexander the Great was hand written about 1000 years after his birth.
Can we trust a hand copied source that far removed from the history it documents? A source which purports to be a copy of an original document written in the first century BC whose author was born well after Alexander the Great’s death?
Well then what about Jesus and historical documents proving His existence?
The main source history has is the New Testament consisting of 27 books written by 8 (or 9!) authors (who all were contemporaries of Jesus) agreeing without contradiction on the person of Jesus (stay tuned for future commentary on the previous sentence).
What is the accuracy of the main historical documentation of Jesus? Especially in relation to Alexander the Great?
First, whereas the surviving ancient documentation we have concerning Alexander (though the surviving copies are not ‘ancient’ but are ‘medieval’) can possibly be stacked about 4 feet tall, the surviving ancient manuscripts of the New Testament can be stacked A MILE HIGH.
For the New Testament, historians have documented over 25,000 hand written manuscripts. 5,839 from the original Greek, 10,000 Latin and close to 10,000 in other ancient languages.
Secondly, the authors of the New Testament were eye witnesses of Jesus and the early Church, whereas the authors of the surviving Alexander accounts were not alive during Alexander’s reign.
Thirdly, whereas our earliest hand written documented proof of the existence of Alexander the Great comes nearly 1000 years after his life, we have hand written documentation to within a century of Jesus’ life. As of this writing (August 2015 AD) the earliest fragment dates to between 90 AD and 150 AD (Google “P52” for more data and photos).
So the next time you hear someone questioning the life and teachings of Jesus, ask them if they believe in Alexander the Great…
| Daniel Gabriel |
I almost forgot: In addition to the mile high stack of NT manuscripts, we have hand written ancient (and medieval) early church Bible commentaries, teachings and homilies which contain OVER A MILLION NEW TESTAMENT QUOTATIONS.
OVER ONE MILLION.
There are close to 8000 verses in the New Testament, so it appears we have in our possession a sufficient amount of material to verify the life of Jesus.
| D |