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How Paul’s Own Writings Show the Earliest Church Was Split Over “Orthodoxy” and “Heresy”
November 24, 2023
Are Christian “heresy” (that is, “false belief”) and “orthodoxy” (“right belief”) products of developments within Christianity after the New Testament? Or can they be detected in the New Testament itself? I’m not asking if the New Testament literally has false teachings. As per my definitions, I’m asking whether it contains views that disagree with one another, only some of which later came to be seen as acceptable.
In getting to that answer I have been discussing the views of Walter Bauer, in his classic work, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, who maintained that from the earliest of times, so far as we can tell from our surviving records, Christianity was not a single unitary thing with one set of doctrines that everyone believed (orthodoxy), except for occasional groups that sprang up as followers of false teachers who corrupted the truth that they had inherited (heresies).
Instead, as far back as we can trace the history of theology, Christianity was always a widely disparate collection of various beliefs (and practices). In the struggle for converts, one form of the Christian faith ended up becoming dominant. When it did so, it declared itself orthodox and all other forms of the faith heretical; and then it rewrote the history of the engagement, claiming that it had always been the principal form of Christianity, starting with Jesus himself and the disciples.
I have also explained
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