Looking through old posts on the blog, I came across this very interesting and important question from seven years ago. It’s a question I continue to get on occasion, so I thought we all might profit by thinking about it again. (And now, older and wiser, I would answer almost exactly the same way!)
I have looked up the content of all the papyri I’m aware of (off of links on wikipedia, so who knows if they’re accurate).
It is my understanding that although p52, p90, and p104 are dated around 125-150 AD, they contain fragments of John 18 and Matt 21 only, and that it’s not until 200 AD that manuscripts emerge which actually contain accounts of supernatural actions by Jesus.
So, it’s possible that accounts of miracles existed in copies that got destroyed, but is it fair to say that the earliest available copies of accounts of Jesus’s supernatural actions date from around 200 AD?
In other words, assuming people on average had kids by age 20 back then, and thus 20 years counts as a generation, is it fair to say that the earliest available accounts of miracles by Jesus were written by the great, great, great, great, great, great, grandson of somebody who would have been alive at the same time as Jesus?
This is an interesting question! It is true that we do not start getting relatively complete manuscripts of the Gospels until around the year 200. But I don’t think it would be fair to say that this means that we do not have reports of Jesus’ miracles until then – unless we want to be overly-literalistic in our thinking.
This is why: as I have indicated in other posts …
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