Unlike with many other religions, the words of Christianity’s founder were not written down during his lifetime. Jesus really didn’t seem to care much about literality in general, talking in metaphor, analogy, parable, and absurd. To make things worse, soon after he died, a series of calamities befell the new religion that brought it almost to extinction.

First there was the great fire of Rome in 64AD, to the day 1,949 years ago. One of its consequences was the tragic persecution of Christians blamed by Nero for the event. Roman Christianity was almost gone by the time the events had ended.

Less than ten years later (and maybe in direct relation to this persecution), the Jews revolted against Roman rule. The consequence was a brief war and the complete annihilation of the city of Jerusalem. The catastrophe was such that the minor centers of Antioch and Alexandria, both outside Israel, became the focal points of the new religion.

It is now, after these two calamities, that early Christians start feeling the need for a conclusive account of the life and words of Jesus. Scholarship believes that the first of the canonical Gospels in existence, the Gospel of Mark, was written soon after 70 AD, with the others following. The last canonical Gospel is supposed to be the Gospel of John, written around the year 100 AD.