One of the questions which scholars of Christianity and religion need to wrestle with is what the early church looked like. Prior to Paul, we have no actual letters or books. Thus, from the writings we are forced to work from about A.D. 52 (the composition of 1 Thessalonians) and onward. Some scholars on the left suppose that it was St. Paul and the later church that really developed the idea of ‘resurrection’ and the divinity of Christ while the early Christians believed no such thing. Despite the fact that preserved in Paul’s letters are creeds, ideas, and references to early Christian dialogues concerning the resurrection between Paul and Jesus’ inner circle of disciples (not to mention several other major points which are beyond our immediate scope!), these scholars still tout the idea that Paul and the later Christians turned Christianity into something which it never started out being.
Hot off the press: We may have a relic which dates to the early church, perhaps even earlier than the letters written by St. Paul. But as a possible archeological discovery, the need to practice caution is an understatement.
The 70 credit-card sized books are bound together by metal rings and are currently in the process of being acquired. Though we want to be careful and express extreme caution about how far we are commenting on this without knowing all the details, the relic is reported to be around 2,000 years old and supposedly contains many Christian images and symbols including a what David Elkington thinks is a cross placed outside a wall and a tomb. Elkington notes, “It’s a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church.”
I want to reemphasize, it’s important to tread slowly here (in Larry Hurtado's advice to scholars, "Chill out")! Until the material can be obtained, studied, and dated it demands to be placed within a neutral zone. It is not uncommon that an archaeological discovery turns out to be a forgery (remember the 'James ossuary' controversy!). But, if this turns out to be something significant it could be the greatest archaeological find of the past 2,000 years. Archeology has done much for supporting the testimony of scripture. This could be a huge discovery for historians, scholars of religion, and Christians all over the world. It could also be nothing whatsoever. Either way, I look forward to the results of the find.