Image via WikipediaWe interrupt this jaded, cynical Canadian election campaign for exciting news out of Jordan brought to you by Fox News (fair and balanced) and the BBC (fairly unbalanced). Just kidding. No, I mean it.
They could be the earliest Christian writing in existence, surviving almost 2,000 years in a Jordanian cave. They could, just possibly, change our understanding of how Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and how Christianity was born. (*)"It is a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church."
Yes, it would be. I once visited the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington and asked to see the ancient New Testament manuscript they have there. The curator brought it out. It was exciting to see it -- wormholes and all, and to think that a brother from the 4th cc. (or whenever it was) had lovingly copied this manuscript of the holy writ which has come down to us today as the good news that God appeared, was seen of men, died, rose, and was taken up into heaven.
"Little is known of the movement after Jesus' crucifixion until the letters of Paul several decades later, and they illuminate the westward spread of Christianity outside the Jewish world."
Little is known? Wrong on two counts.
We have the book of Acts, written by Luke the historian, who diligently sought out sources -- it was written mere decades after the events in question, during the living memory of participants, and tells the story from Jesus' resurrection and ascension onwards to Paul's imprisonment in Rome -- including the growth of the Jewish church at Jerusalem. Want a "key" to reading the book of Acts -- notice the first time that Luke refers to the gathering of believing Jewish saints as "the church".
Plus, Paul's letters were not written "several decades later". His earliest writings date to about 50 AD. With the crucifixion occurring around 30 AD., this means two decades at the most. And, his writings tell the "back story" of his conversion, meeting with the leaders in Jerusalem, etc., meaning that they take us back to within two or three years of the resurrection -- one scholar, Gary Habermas, suggesting they take us back to within about a year of the resurrection.
The idea that we know little or nothing is a myth. Perhaps what the scholars mean is "we don't have any account that would provide us with a purely naturalistic account of the events, i.e., an account where Jesus dies and stays dead but Christianity somehow emerges anyway".
"Change our understanding of how Christianity began?" Not likely. Do Christians have anything to fear about ancient texts being uncovered? No. Not a thing. Our faith is based on eye-witness testimony of reliable witnesses whose associates faithfully recorded their teachings which have been preserved for us today. We also have the present-day witness of the holy Spirit.
Make sure you click on at least one news link to see an image of these amazing credit-card-sized metal books.