Christ in History; (Editor's Note: The First Christmas Was Openly Celebrated in Rome in about 323 When Emperor Constantine the Great Declared Himself a Christian, as Noted by the Author.)

Article excerpt

Byline: Romeo V. Pefianco

BONAPARTE was probably an agnostic in 1808 (now an emperor) when he met the German scholar Wieland. He did not discuss politics or war, but did Wieland believe in the historicity of Christ?

Attacks on the 4 Gospels

The most far-reaching activities of the modern mind have been the "Higher Criticism" of the Bible -- the mounting attack on its authenticity and veracity. This was countered by the heroic attempt to save the historical foundations of Christian faith. The results prove as revolutionary as Christianity itself.

What evidence is there for Christ's existence? Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews (A.D. 93?) provides the earliest non-Christian reference.

Pagan literature and Christ

The oldest known mention of Christ in pagan literature is in a letter of the younger Pliny (Roman senator and consul, ca. A.D. 113) asking the advice of Trajan on the treatment of Christians.

The Christian evidence for Christ begins with the letters ascribed to Saint Paul before A.D. 64. So far no one has questioned the existence of Paul, or his repeated meetings with Peter, James and John. He envied them that these men had known Christ in the flesh.

Surviving document

The four Gospels present no simple matter, since the four have come down as survivors from a much larger number that once circulated among the Christians of the first two centuries.

The oldest extant copies of the Gospels go back only to the third century, whose original compositions were apparently written between A.D. 60 and 120, 30 to 90 years after the Crucifixion in about 30 A.D. They were therefore exposed to two centuries of errors in transcription, and to possible alterations depending on the copyist's sect or time.

It is said that Christian writers before A.D. 100 quoted the Old, but never the New, Testament. About the year 135 references reported an unidentified "John the Elder" as saying that Mark had composed his version from memories conveyed to him by Peter.

'Genuine history'

Criticism generally agrees in giving the Gospel of Mark priority, and in dating it between 65 and 70. …