More than 144,000 by end of 1st Century? Reference sought.

by Open mind 19 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Tuesday

    Barrett, D.B. (ed) (1982) World Christian Encyclopedia; a comparative study of

    churches and religions in the modern world, AD 1900-2000. Oxford

    University Press, Nairobi. An extremely useful source of statistics on the

    strengths, distributions and historical growth of the major world religions.

    Estimates here that in the 1st century the number of Christians was one million. Since we're lead to believe that all the first century Christians were anointed, this would mean that the 144,000 would've been filled LONG ago.

  • BurnTheShips
    Sociologist Rodney Stark estimates there were just 7,434 Christians in 100 CE.

    That is a an unbelievably exact number.


  • slimboyfat
    That is a an unbelievably exact number.

    Well maybe he counted them, did you never think of that?

    It's an exact number because he makes a few basic assumptions. Firstly he assumes the figures in Acts are exaggerated. Then he assumes Christians started from a low base of 1000 around 40 CE. Comparing the growth of early Christians to modern religious sects he assumes steady exponential growth of 3.4% year on year until the middle of the fourth century when Christians made up around half the popluation of the Roman Empire. (31 million of an estimated 60 million) So the year 100 CE is where Christians number 7,434 on that long trajectory. Stark is not saying his figures are exact but they give a good idea of the likely trend and of the ballpark figure for Christians at any given point.

    Stark's estimate of 7,434 in 100 CE seems much more realistic than estimates in the millions. If they numbered millions in the first century already then how come secular writers gave them only brief mentions well into the second century? That makes no sense.

    I think it's interesting to note that 60 years after the Watchtower was first published Jehovah's Witnesses still numbered well below 100,000. And of course world popluation during that period was many times what it was in the Roman Empire.

  • BluesBrother

    Thanks to Moggylover and to Slimboyfat for a differing perspective.

    We need to note also that the "Proclaimers" Book p 717 says that in 1935 a total of 52,465 partook of the emblems at the Memorial .After that there has been a steady decline but how many anointed have "come in" served and died since then?

    Also we need to think of the number of anointed that were serving in the Bible Students between the 1880's and died before 1935? - and there was supposed to be a continual line of a small number of faithful anointed ever since Christs death until his second coming

    This is a question that does not have the concrete evidence to definitely tell them that they are wrong - but common sense and logic suggests most strongly that the numbers of "anointed" would have passed 144k a long time ago...

  • Open mind
    Open mind

    Thanks for all the replies everyone.

    I think this topic goes on my personal list of unbelievable doctrines, but it doesn't cross into the "slam dunk" category that I would use with my wife for instance.


  • Satanus

    The wt discounts most of those christians, anyway. However, i doubt that ANY christian groups during the last 2000 yrs, were they to stand before an elder group today, would qualify for membership in the wt corp. They would not be able to correctly answer enough of the wt corp questions for baptismal candidates.


  • blondie

    I had an e-mail conversation with Rodney Stark and he said that there is very little concrete historical evidence of the numbers of Christians in the first century.

    Here is a review of his book "The Rise of Christianity."

    2008 April 4 by Tim Chester

    I’ve been reading Rodney Stark’s book, The Rise of Christianity. I came to it with high expectations. Many people have lauded it. But I found it both an intriguing, but also frustrating read.

    Stark is a sociologist and in the book he uses sociological research and mo dels to explore and explain the dramatic rise of Christianity in the first three centuries AD. In chapter one he discusses figures for the rise of Christianity. Already alarm bells start ringing.

    He assumes a start figure of 1,000 for Christian numbers – somewhat smaller than the biblical figure of 3,120 (120 plus 3,000) given in Acts 1 and 2, claiming that this was a literary exaggeration. I can accept that 3,000 converts on the day of Pentecost is an approximation, but no evidence is offered for downgrading it so dramatically. I have seen more than one person quote Stark’s conclusions that six million people were Christians by 300 AD. But in fact Stark offers no historical evidence for this; nor in fact does he claim it is a correct figure. Instead he extrapolates growth rates of 30, 40 and 50 percent per decade. Thirty percent produces a figure that all historians would regard as too small while 50 produces a figure that all would regard as too large. Stark’s point is simply that Christianity grew at roughly 40 percent – clearly a remarkable growth rate.

    Chapters two and three epitomise all that is suspect about Stark’s approach. Chapter two argues that Christianity was not a lower-class or marginalised movement and, if anything, drew most from elites. But no historical evidence is offered (and the evidence of 1 Corinthians 1 dismissed). Instead the argument is based on sociological research of religious conversions in eighteenth and nineteenth century America. A similar technique of applying modern analogues to the first century is used in chapter three. Here Stark argues that the Christian mission to the Jews was successful well into the fourth and fifth centuries AD. Again this is not based on historical evidence, but on parallels with the rise of Reform Judaism in the nineteenth century.

    Stark may be right that Christianity was socially variegated with an above average proportion of higher status people and he may be right that Christianity attracted many Hellenised Jews of the Diaspora. But he cannot demonstrate that this is anything more than speculation.

    Chapters four and five are more compelling. But what is striking about these chapters is they offer more historical evidence, both from Christian and pagan sources. Here Stark argues that Christianity grew because of its response to epidemics (more of this below) and because it gave women higher status and produced higher fertility rates. Men outnumbered women in the Roman empire, largely due to female infanticide and mortality during abortions. In the church, however, women outnumbered men because Christians rejected infanticide and abortion, and because more women converted. (Stark provides plenty of compelling historical evidence of these claims.) As a result, fertility rates among Christians were higher, contributing to an increase in the proportion of Christians in empire.

    To chart the urban expansion of Christianity (chapter six), Stark scores cities 2, 1 or 0 depending on whether they had a church in 100, 200 and 300 AD. You do not need to be an historian to realise this is a blunt instrument. Not only are the time periods long, but it cannot distinguish between a church of 10 and a church of 1,000, nor between a growing church and declining church. It may be the best we can do given the lack of census data or denominational records, but the conclusions that Stark draws on this foundation must be seen as at best speculative and at worst useless. But then his chapter on urban life, drawing mainly on other writers, is an excellent and illuminating account of the filth and of urban life in the first centuries AD.

    My methodological conclusion is that sociological s are helpful in explaining historical data, but we should be wary of allowing them to substitute for historical data – especially when this involves applying them across centuries of time and in different cultural contexts. In other words, where Stark applies sociological s to explain historical data, his book is full of insight, but watch out for those points where he substitutes sociological s for an absence of historical data.

    But let me end on a more positive note.

    Stark’s analysis of Christians’ responses to epidemics is instructive and inspiring. Stark claims that two widespread and ly epidemics, on the mid-second century and one in the mid-third century, played a significant role in the spread of Christianity for the following reasons:

    1. Christians cared for one another, leading to greater survival rates. This in turn led to an increased proportion of Christians in urban centres which meant more people’s lives intersected with networks of Christians at a time when traditional social bonds were disrupted by the epidemics.

    2. Christians cared for non-Christians, bringing these non-believers into the sphere of Christian influence.

    3. Christians stayed to care for others while pagan elites fled which, combined with paganism inability to protect its adherence from illness, exposed the bankruptcy of pagan religion. Stark cites a number of pagan sources complaining about the good reputation Christians were gaining.

    Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.’ (1 Peter 2:11-12)

    Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the nt Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries (Princeton University Press/Harper Collins, 1996/1997).

  • Nathan Natas
    Nathan Natas

    TheOldHippie observed,

    "...just because 40,000 were butchered in one year, that does not mean each and every one of them were "true Christians", as that dreaded APOSTACY had already started taking its toll..."

    And wouldn't that be typical WATCHTOWER chauvinism, to believe that they are closer to the "truth" today, 2,000 years after the folks who were (supposedly) there to see and hear it all first hand and oven-fresh.

    My personal view is that there probably never was a historical Jesus anything like the Clark Kent/Superman version that Paul dreamed up during his hallucinations, and that whatever the real jesus (with a little j) said and taught and did was no more significant or true than what was being said and taught by the other Jewish sects or the Zoroastrians (followers of Zorro) and followers of Mithra and Buddha at the same time.

    "Let me be found true, though every god be found a liar." Me 3:16

  • TheOldHippie

    W72, 7/1, p415

    Questions From Readers
    ? Large numbers of Christians are said to have been put to death during the Roman persecution in the first few centuries of the Common Era. How, then, is it possible for thousands in this century to have been called to become part of the body of Christ composed of only 144,000 persons?—U.S.A.
    There are historical indications that many Christians were bitterly persecuted, even killed, in the first few centuries. However, it should be remembered that, in itself, a martyr’s death did not give a person merit before Jehovah God nor did it guarantee membership in the heavenly kingdom. Many persons, even in recent times, have been willing to die for a cause, religious or otherwise. A person’s claiming to be a Christian and even dying for his belief does not in itself mean that he is an approved servant of Jehovah God. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “If I give all my belongings to feed others, and if I hand over my body, that I may boast, but do not have love, I am not profited at all.” (1 Cor. 13:3) It is not death, but faithfulness to the very death, that determines whether an individual will receive “the crown of life.”—Rev. 2:10.
    Thus the fact that today there is still a remnant of the 144,000 on earth would show that down to this twentieth century fewer than 144,000 finished their earthly course in faithfulness.
    While some persons may be inclined to think that more persons must surely have been involved even as far back as the early centuries of the Common Era, actual proof to this effect is completely lacking. Today it is impossible even to establish how many persons were killed, much less the number of those who proved faithful to death. “We have practically but few facts to go upon,” writes Frederick John Foakes-Jackson in the book History of Christianity in the Light of Modern Knowledge. He further states: “The testimony to the persecution by Nero is recorded by two Roman historians, Tacitus and Suetonius, both of whom were very young when it occurred, and wrote in mature life. There is no contemporary Christian document describing it, though it may be alluded to in the book of Revelation. . . . Tertullian at the end of the second century is our authority that Nero and Domitian, because they were the two worst emperors in the first centuries, persecuted the Christians.” Early in the third century C.E., Origen (a Christian writer and teacher) observed: “There have been but a few now and again, easily counted, who have died for the Christian religion.”
    Much that has been written about Christian martyrs is embellished by tradition and therefore unreliable. For example, the martyrdom of Polycarp of the second century C.E. is described in Fox’s Book of Martyrs as follows: “He was . . . bound to a stake, and the faggots with which he was surrounded set on fire, but when it became so hot that the soldiers were compelled to retire, he continued praying and singing praises to God for a long time. The flames raged with great violence, but still his body remained unconsumed, and shone like burnished gold. It is also said, that a grateful odour like that of myrrh, arose from the fire, which so much astonished the spectators, that many of them were by that means converted to Christianity. His executioners finding it impossible to put him to death by fire, thrust a spear into his side, from which the blood flowed in such a quantity, as to extinguish the flame. His body was then consumed to ashes, by order of the proconsul lest his followers should make it an object of adoration.”
    Whatever the source of Fox’s information, manifestly little of this account is truly historical. Nevertheless, if the allusion to the adoration of the remains of Polycarp is to be viewed as indicating the existence of relic worship among professed Christians of the second century C.E., this would be additional evidence that many at that time were not faithful worshipers of Jehovah God. Christians were under command to “worship God,” not relics. (Rev. 19:10) In fact, idolaters are among those specifically named in the Scriptures as unfit to inherit the Kingdom.—1 Cor. 6:9, 10.

  • wha happened?
    wha happened?

    This is a crack up. They are arguing their own literature

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