Early Church documents


In having a debate with a non-Catholic (and a skeptic), I brought up the issue that the Catholic Church is backed by historical documents for it claims by early Church fathers and even non-Christian writers about the historical Jesus. I then began talking to him about how the canon of scripture was developed by the Church being led by the Holy Spirit.

He then stated how do you know they were led by the Holy Spirit?
…I answered because Christ said he would give authority to the Church to make infallible decisions.

He then said, how do we know that any of the early documents are true? Could they have been false? Even the scripture claiming to give authority to the Church? How do we know the early Church father’s writing are historical? are they in a museum somewhere and can be tested scientifically?

…So how can I answer this guy? How do we KNOW that Church documents are accurate that support scripture? :shrug:

Need some Help!

Pax Christi


You don’t “know it”, you BELIEVE it.

That is what FAITH is all about.

A Catholic Christian BELIEVES in the earliest of documents, and they’ve believed in them since they were produced, whereas a non-believer (whether he be a Protestant or modern “pagan”) doesn’t believe in those same documents ever since they were produced, that is, two thousand years ago!


But how can we prove that those documents were written at the time that they claim to be written? Thats what I need to answer this guy. I understand it takes faith to believe if they are true or not, but can’t we prove they are historically written?

*For example:

I may not beleive that Babe Ruth drank heavy when he played baseball. But if somebody in his day wrote an article claiming he drank, it could be proven historically that the article was written, even though it may not be believed by all.*


Professional scholars spend a lot of time discussing the dates of documents. If you want to be radically sceptical then we can’t know anything about history whatsoever. Unlike natural sciences, historians cannot manipulate their subject material and repeat observations.

If you can date a physical manuscript then that gives the last possible date for composition. For a more accurate estimate you have to rely on internal evidence. For instance St Paul’s letter to the Galatians is full of embarrassing material about a dispute with Peter. Leaders of religious organisations don’t generally like to admit to internal disputes, so we can assume that the argument genuinely happened and that the letter was written by one of the parties, i.e. St Paul. Then we’ve got other evidence giving us approximate dates for St Paul. That gives us a rough date for Galatians. We can build a coherent story fitting the manuscript in to some time around AD50 to AD60-ish, whilst a radically sceptical position - that it was a late second century forgery for instance - leads to implausiblities.


How did you get on this subject? What does your skeptic believe about the bible? this is the place to start. I recommend you read in the CAF library about Sola Scriptura

This statement leads me to believe that your skeptic believes in the Holy Spirit. If this is true, and the skeptic also believes in the bible, the next step would be to look up the passages where Jesus promised the HS to his apostles, and what that spirit would do for them. there is good stuff in the library on this too.

You are on the right track, keep going!


Epistemology is always a sticky subject. In the end, if you don’t rely on a little common sense, you end up with your head turned around backwards.

There is no absolute proof that Christ existed. For that matter, there is no absolute proof that Julius Caesar ever existed. But the weight of the evidence points to the existence of both. The weight of the evidence points to the truth of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ miracles. The weight of the evidence points to the fact that the Church that he founded has continued to this day as the Roman Catholic Church.

The Gospels alone are solid evidence for the existence of Christ. The only reason people question them is because they report miracles. But this is not scientific at all. People dismiss the Gospels out-of-hand because of philosophical prejudice, not because of scientific objections.

Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Lucian, and Celcus (none of whom were Christian) attest to the existence of Christ.


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