I am now getting back to the question of early Christian diversity – all in the context of setting up the answer to the question I got about what I had in mind when I decided to write my book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. 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 that truth 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 why Bauer did not start with the New Testament documents but only with second century materials. His decision actually makes very good sense, as I have shown. But it does open him up to the obvious objection that the fragmentation within the Christian tradition that we find starting in the second century may have *originated* from a completely unitary form of the faith from earlier times, the times of Jesus’ apostles.
Scholars since Bauer have rigorously pursued that question, as you might imagine. I am not going to give a complete history of scholarship here (for which you can all be grateful). But I do want to explain, in two posts, why I think the New Testament *itself* shows that as early as we have any evidence at all Christianity was fragmented and variegated.
The first thing to emphasize is that….
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