Deciding on Which Books Should Be in the New Testament

I am in the midst of a thread in which I explain why it is puzzling that the Apocalypse of Peter did not make it into the New Testament, when the book of 2 Peter did.   So far I have talked about both books, as well as the Gospel of Peter, another Petrine book that did not “make it.”  Now I need to explain how church fathers decided which books would be accepted as official scripture and which not.  I’ve ...

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How Christianity Grew and Grew

This will be the final post on the new boxes in my Introduction to the New Testament; both of these are on a related topic, tied to my book The Triumph of Christianity, so I will include them both there.  One has to do with how miracles allegedly led to conversions of pagans to the new faith; the other charts the rate of growth that it appears the Christian church experienced in the early years.

 

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Another Glimpse ...

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Miraculous Conversions in the Book of Acts

This new box in my New Testament Introduction deals with one of the fascinating and best documented phenomena from early Christianity — that the earliest followers of Jesus were believed to be able to do great miracles, leading to the conversion of outsiders to the new faith.  This notion is recorded already in our earliest sources.  Here is what I say about it from the book of Acts, our first account of the spread of Christianity.

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Another ...

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Who *Was* the First Bishop of Rome?

I continue from my post of yesterday, in which a reader asked about whether Peter was really the first bishop in Rome (that is, the first Pope).    In my next post I’ll deal with the question, also asked, about if we have any solid information about how Peter died (crucified upside-down??)

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But who was the first bishop of Rome?  According to the second-century Irenaeus, it was a man named Linus, who was appointed to the office by Peter ...

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Thomasine Christians and Others, From After the New Testament

In this thread of posts I have been reproducing my comments on Gnosticism from the 2nd edition of my anthology, After the New Testament. In addition to the Sethians and the Valentinians, scholars talk about the school of Thomas and about yet other Gnostic groups that are not easy to identify with any of the other three or to group together in any meaningful way. Gnosticism was a messy group of religions! Here is what I say in ...

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The Valentinian Gnostics from After The New Testament

In my previous post I reproduced my Introduction to the Sethian Gnostics from the second edition of my reader in early Christianity, After The New Testament. One other highly important group of Christian Gnostics are known as the Valentinians. Here is what I say about them in the book

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Valentinians

Unlike the Sethian Gnostics, the Valentinians were named after an actual person, Valentinus, the founder and original leader of the group. We know about the Valentinians from the ...

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The Sethian Gnostics, from After The New Testament

In my previous post I reproduced the new discussion of Gnosticism in the second edition of my book After the New Testament. In this post and the two to follow I will reproduce my new discussions of the various “types” of Gnostic texts that I include in the anthology. Many scholars would consider this first type the most important historically: it is a group of texts produced by and for Gnostics known by scholars as the “Sethians.” Here is what ...

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Our Knowledge of Gnosticism

Now that I have said something about the Nag Hammadi library in general (the traditional scholarly account of its discovery; the contents) I can move on to a discussion of “Gnosticism” as we have learned about it from these texts.   This is a topic I covered over four years ago on the blog; the occasion, at the time, was that I had been forced to rethink my views because of a new publication I had been working on.  Here is ...

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Did a “Pope” Write the First-Century Book of 1 Clement?

I return her to the book of 1 Clement, probably unknown to many people on the blog, but an important work written at about the time of some of some of the writings of the New Testament – or so I’ll b arguing in the post after this.  First I need to say something about the author.  Why is it attributed to someone named Clement?   Could this really have been written by a first-century pope (i.e., the Bishop of the ...

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Are Christians Intolerant?

It’s a big question whether Christianity on the whole should be seen as “tolerant”– that is, does it accept the validity of other faith traditions or not?   My sense is that some Christians do, many don’t, and most probably don’t think about it much.   It is a particularly interesting question to ask with respect to Christianity in the *ancient* world.

The reason is that when Christians were being persecuted in the second, third, and early fourth centuries, their leaders / writers ...

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