In my discussions so far of orthodoxy and heresy in early Christianity I have been talking about Walter Bauer and his classic work, which argued that as far back as we can trace the Christian movement in numerous regions of Christendom, we find forms of the Christian faith that were later deemed heretical.   “Heresy” is not necessarily, therefore, a later corruption of the orthodox truth.  In some places it was the “original” form of the religion.

Some readers have objected that it doesn’t make sense to start with the second century evidence in order to say what Christianity was originally like, since Christianity originated long before all that, in the first century.

I think that’s absolutely right.   And so the question is what the first century evidence – that is, the writings of the New Testament – can tell us.

Let me stress a point I have already made, that …

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