In comparison with other Roman-era religious groups

Religious Networks in the Roman Empire by Anna Collar
Description: The first three centuries AD saw the spread of new religious ideas through the Roman Empire, crossing a vast and diverse geographical, social and cultural space. In this innovative study, Anna Collar explores both how this happened and why. Drawing on research in the sociology and anthropology of religion, physics and computer science, Collar explores the relationship between social networks and religious transmission to explore why some religious movements succeed, while others, seemingly equally successful at a certain time, ultimately fail. Using extensive epigraphic data, Collar provides new interpretations of the diffusion of ideas across the social networks of the Jewish Diaspora and the cults of Jupiter Dolichenus and Theos Hypsistos, and in turn offers important reappraisals of the spread of religious innovations in the Roman Empire. This study will be a valuable resource for students and scholars of ancient history, archaeology, ancient religion and network theory.
This is not a book review, but rather a hearty laugh at the failure of Christianity to enter the above list. Science begins with observation and as there is nothing of Christianity to observe, so it cannot be studied. Unless the scholar is a dupe, confidence trickster, or "of faith" (which cannot be dented by mere science).

This makes particularly interesting, enjoyable even, to watch the estimable Hurtado wriggle and squirm attempting to explain this singular omission.
Although some modern scholars have difficulty finding "Christians" or "Christianity" before perhaps the late second or third century (or even later), it's interesting that ancient observers seem confident that there were contemporary Christians/Christianity to criticize, and Roman officials seem well able to lay their hands on Christians when they wished to do so (e.g., reports of Nero's pogrom in 64 CE; Pliny's letter to Trajan ca. 112 CE; Celsus' critique of Christianity; etc.).  And when you look at their descriptions and critiques, they seem to know Christianity fairly closely to what we see in familiar early Christian texts.
(Early Christian Diversity, Larry Hurtado's Blog) 
All these purported evidences I long ago treated and dismissed. In fact, I would not have made any of my study public if I could not - my beginning was the list offered by the Vatican. Here's one such dismissal from 2012: Pliny correspondence with Trajan: Christians or Chrestians

The academic study of Christian origins relies on texts:
I noted the striking differences between the kind of evidence we have for early Christianity in comparison with other Roman-era religious groups. In the example from Collar's book (and we could multiply it), we have a body of inscriptions, but scant textual data. In the case of early Christianity, we have no inscriptions till the 3rd century (and then only a limited number and from few geographical locations), whereas we have a torrent of literary texts composed in the first three centuries. (Consider, for example, the ten volumes of the classic set, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, for a readily available sample... and it's only that.)  So, why this difference, and what does it reflect?
(Early Christianity was Different (in the Roman-era context) Larry Hurtado's Blog)
These manuscripts are not historical - i.e. contemporaneous - but by anonymous monks writing at an unknown but much later date, in unknown monastic scriptoria. This is the textual tradition and I attribute its start to Alquin of York with the authority of Charles I, founder of the Holy Roman Empire
If this identification is wrong, then the fraud began with the Greek manuscripts.

The fraud is of two parts:
  1. Inventing authors and manuscripts of Classical Antiquity. One notable example: Eusebius of Caesarea as myth
  2. Altering, usually by interpolation, genuinely-historical manuscripts, such as those of Josephus.
Nobody either can, or is willing to, tell what happened to the manuscripts that were copied (and altered); we are left to speculate. If the copies survived, so must at least some of those the monks copied, and yet, nothing. Scholarship does not even attempt to offer an answer to this profound question, poor dears.

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