What Are the Oldest Christian Writings We Have?


#1

I know the dating is likely up for debate, but generally speaking, what are the oldest Christian writings? Does the Bible include essentially all of the oldest writings? Are there any writings outside of the Bible considered to be just as old? I have heard the Didache may be one.

Thanks in advance for your time!

Justin


#2

[quote="jinc1019, post:1, topic:325872"]
I know the dating is likely up for debate, but generally speaking, what are the oldest Christian writings? Does the Bible include essentially all of the oldest writings? Are there any writings outside of the Bible considered to be just as old? I have heard the Didache may be one.

Thanks in advance for your time!

Justin

[/quote]

The Didache, indeed, is argued to be one of the earliest (40-60AD).

From there, among the oldest writings from the Church Fathers is that of Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch and Clement of Rome, written within the latter part of the 1st Century and later.

See this older thread that asks and discusses a similar question
.


#3

[quote="Spencerian, post:2, topic:325872"]
The Didache, indeed, is argued to be one of the earliest (40-60AD).

From there, among the oldest writings from the Church Fathers is that of Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch and Clement of Rome, written within the latter part of the 1st Century and later.

See this older thread that asks and discusses a similar question
.

[/quote]

Thanks for the suggestion!


#4

New Advent has a very good article on the Didache...the bottom line is...it is has been dated...mid-to-late 1st Century...all agree written before 100 AD...several say 80-90 AD...others before 70 AD.

Interestingly, the actual document was not physically discovered until 1873 by Greek Bishop of Nicomedia.

Pax Christi

The Didache
(DOCTRINE OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES)
A short treatise which was accounted by some of the Fathers as next to Holy Scripture. It was rediscovered in 1873 by Bryennios, Greek Orthodox metropolitan of Nicomedia, in the codex from which, in 1875, he had published the full text of the Epistles of St. Clement. The title in the manuscript is Didache kyriou dia ton dodeka apostolon ethesin, but before this it gives the heading Didache ton dodeka apostolon. The old Latin translation of cc. i-v, found by Dr. J. Schlecht in 1900, has the longer title, omitting "twelve", and has a rubric De doctrinâ Apostolorum. For convenience the contents may be divided into three parts: the first is the "Two Ways", the Way of Life and the Way of Death; the second part is a rituale dealing with baptism, fasting, and Holy Communion; the third speaks of the ministry. Doctrinal teaching is presupposed, and none is imparted.

The commoner view is that which puts the Didache before 100. Bartlet agrees with Ehrhard that 80-90 is the most probable decade. Sabatier, Minasi, Jacquier, and others have preferred a date even before 70.

newadvent.org/cathen/04779a.htm


#5

[quote="jinc1019, post:1, topic:325872"]
I know the dating is likely up for debate, but generally speaking, what are the oldest Christian writings? Does the Bible include essentially all of the oldest writings? Are there any writings outside of the Bible considered to be just as old? I have heard the Didache may be one.

Thanks in advance for your time!

Justin

[/quote]

The oldest Christian document we have is probably 1 Thessalonians, usually dated to AD 51-52.

The NT does contain many of the earliest Christian works, but not all (for example, the Didache, the Epistle of Barnabas, or the letters of Clement).


#6

I think the oldest wind up being fragments. The original and complete Gospel of John was preserved at the church in Ephesus until the 7th century. After the city’s sacking in ~654 it was likely destroyed.


#7

I thought Galatians was the oldest...composed around AD48.

freebeginning.com/new_testament_dates/


#8

May also want to look at Shepard of hermas, and some the writings of Papias, and polycarp,
Also there are probably some graffiti on tombstones etc and catacombs.
There are also a few non-christian writers who make comment about the Christians, though I can't think of their names at the moment( Marcus Aurelius, Pliny? )


#9

[quote="Deltadeliquent, post:7, topic:325872"]
I thought Galatians was the oldest...composed around AD48.

freebeginning.com/new_testament_dates/

[/quote]

Personally - I would stick with Catholic sources - rather then Protestant ones ...

But why would you [a Catholic] link to this site which is evangelizing a Christianity that is not in harmony with our Catholic understanding? :shrug:


#10

Galatians is also what I was taught at university when I minored in Religious Studies.


#11

[quote="Deltadeliquent, post:7, topic:325872"]
I thought Galatians was the oldest...composed around AD48.

freebeginning.com/new_testament_dates/

[/quote]

There are three main theories as to exactly when Galatians was composed. In any case, AFAIK we are on a bit of firmer ground when it comes to 1 Thessalonians.


#12

From my readings I believe the oldest Christian writing is Phil 2:5-11. I have seen some put this Christian hymn, quoted by Paul, as within 10 years of the resurrection (AD 43?)

From leadershiplearningforlife.com/acad/global/publications/sl_proceedings/2006/bekker.pdf:

Building on these structural insights mentioned above, scholars have argued that the hymn is very early in the formation of the Christian community (Stagg 1980, 337; Hamm 1997, 31; Harrington 2006, 1), **probably Pre-Pauline **(Fitzmeyer 1988, 471; Howard 1978, 368), Aramaic in origin (at minimum Semitic) and clearly a composition of Jewish-Christian origin (Martin 1997, 39-41, Fitzmeyer 1988, 483). Some writers have even gone as far as to propose that the hymn is the oldest Christological reflection in the Christian Scriptures and that it originated in the generation immediately following the death and resurrection of Jesus

I know Fitzmeyer is SJ, don’t know the other people cited.


#13

[quote="Evan, post:12, topic:325872"]
From my readings I believe the oldest Christian writing is Phil 2:5-11. I have seen some put this Christian hymn, quoted by Paul, as within 10 years of the resurrection (AD 43?)

From leadershiplearningforlife.com/acad/global/publications/sl_proceedings/2006/bekker.pdf:

I know Fitzmeyer is SJ, don't know the other people cited.

[/quote]

Some do think that Philippians is one of the earliest of Paul's letters, although like Galatians the exact date is a bit sketchy. Some think that it was written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome around AD 60-62, while others would hold an earlier date (somewhere during the 50s) and assume different places of composition like Ephesus or Caesarea or Corinth.

Also, Philippians 2 may be the oldest Christian hymn, but that doesn't make it the "oldest Christian writing." Hymns could be promulgated without them being put down in written form. In fact, I would think that this probable hymn is already known amongst Christians (but probably not yet written down) when Paul incorporated it into his letter.


#14

[quote="patrick457, post:13, topic:325872"]
Some do think that Philippians is one of the earliest of Paul's letters, although like Galatians the exact date is a bit sketchy. Some think that it was written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome around AD 60-62, while others would hold an earlier date (somewhere during the 50s) and assume different places of composition like Ephesus or Caesarea or Corinth.

Also, Philippians 2 may be the oldest Christian hymn, but that doesn't make it the "oldest Christian writing." Hymns could be promulgated without them being put down in written form. In fact, I would think that this probable hymn is already known amongst Christians (but probably not yet written down) when Paul incorporated it into his letter.

[/quote]

I was thinking, by oldest Christian writing, that the OP wanted the oldest text coming from Christians, not that they wrote it down, but that it got written down and it was of earliest origin. And that is why I cited Phil 2. But Phil 2 does not meet your interpretation. :(

We could also interpret it as a writing by a really old Christian, like the writing of some desert father, like St Anthony at 105 years old. :)


#15

Here’s another early (though probably not earliest) one: Paul’s reworking of the Shema (“Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one”).

Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

  • 1 Corinthians 8:4-7

We could also interpret it as a writing by a really old Christian, like the writing of some desert father, like St Anthony at 105 years old. :slight_smile:

If we’re talking about really old Christians, what about St. Servatius (who legend says was actually John the Baptist’s cousin who managed to live up to the 4th century! :D) or the Ethiopian Gabra Manfas Qeddus (who supposedly lived for 362 or 562 years! :eek:). Dunno if they left any writings though.


#16

[quote="patrick457, post:15, topic:325872"]
Here's another early (though probably not earliest) one: Paul's reworking of the Shema ("Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one").

Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

  • 1 Corinthians 8:4-7

[/quote]

Oh yeah! I like that one.

[quote="patrick457, post:15, topic:325872"]
If we're talking about really old Christians, what about St. Servatius (who legend says was actually John the Baptist's cousin who managed to live up to the 4th century! :D) or the Ethiopian Gabra Manfas Qeddus (who supposedly lived for 362 or 562 years! :eek:). Dunno if they left any writings though.

[/quote]

These guys should have kept a diary.


#17

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