Did the early christian church grow very fast?

Graph

Let’s say at the start that this isn’t the most important question in the world! But I think it is interesting.

The background is this. The New Testament (Acts 1:15) records there were 120 disciples in Jerusalem a few weeks after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Three centuries later, historians estimate that there were somewhere between 3 and 8 million christians in the Roman Empire.

Keen to show God’s hand in their beliefs, christians have been known to point to this massive growth, while some sceptics are keen to downplay it. I believe both sides have overstated their case. If you’re interested in history, or if you are a maths nerd, read on! If not, I won’t mind if you leave quietly now. :)

Read more

Do religious believers have better health and wellbeing, like, really?

Wellbeing

In my previous post I made the following comment: “Religious believers, overall and with many exceptions, have better health and wellbeing, are more prosocial and less antisocial than non-believers.”

A reader questioned this statement, in two ways:

  1. “I see that despite my previous prompting about the silly “religion is good for your health” surveys. You are still coming up with that rubbish.”
  2. “Perhaps you would like to explain why then the tables showing life expectancy by state in the US …. have a more or less reverse correlation with the tables showing degree of church attendance.”

I thought these suggestions merited some investigation and thought.

Read more

Sam Harris: “science must destroy religion”

Darleks

It is commonly stated that science and religion are irreconcilably opposed. A recent article by atheist author Sam Harris cranks the argument up a notch by declaring Science Must Destroy Religion.

To be fair, I think he means “science will inevitably destroy religion”, not the rather more alarming “science has a moral duty to destroy religion”, as might first appear, but either way, his argument is worth examining.

Read more

Horus and Jesus – a case study in inventing and ignoring evidence?

Horus

I have spent many hours this past week reading up on the Egyptian god Horus and the claim that more than a hundred aspects of the life of Jesus recorded in the gospels were copied from the mythology of Horus – and hence that the Jesus stories must also be myth.

What I have found reveals as much about people as it does about mythology.

Read more

Bart Ehrman on Nazareth

Bart Ehrman

I don’t think he read my recent post :) but Bart Ehrman has also posted on the evidence for Nazareth existing at the time of Jesus.

Bart has several advantages over me. Not only is he a professional working full time in this field, but he is able, because of his position, to have personal communication with some of the key players, as he reports on in this blog post.

Ehrman points out that Rene Salm’s arguments, even if they were well based in the archaeology, don’t prove that Nazareth didn’t exist in Jesus’ day. They would just show that there is limited evidence for this – not surprising since it was a small village and the area is now overlain by a city.

But he also points out that the archaeological evidence does indeed point to habitation in Nazareth at the time of Jesus – probably a small and rather poor village.

Worth reading.

Nazareth – the evidence mounts

Excavated tomb in Nazareth

I have written before about archaeological excavations in Nazareth and sceptics who claim Nazareth didn’t exist as a village at the time of Jesus (and hence the gospels must be wrong) – see Did Bethlehem and Nazareth exist in Jesus’ day? and Nazareth re-visited.

I have just come across some new information that was first published more than two years ago in an academic journal, but has now been written up in a more widely-read magazine.

Read more