In my previous post I began to explain what I meant by the title of my 1993 book, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. One of the terms of the title is non-problematic: by “Scripture” I meant specifically the writings of the New Testament. Another term, “corruption,” is a bit trickier, and as I indicated I was using it both in a technical sense to refer to any kind of alteration of a text by a scribe who was copying it (that is what textual critics have traditionally called any change of the text, since for them the most important thing was the “original” text as written by the author) and in an ironic sense because I wanted to talk about changes of the text away from, rather than toward, a possible heretical meaning.
And that takes me to the other two terms of importance, “orthodoxy” and “heresy.”
These are two much debated terms, and part of the issue has to do with their literal or etymological meaning. In terms of etymology, the word “orthodoxy” comes from two Greek terms that mean something like “correct opinion” or “right belief.” The word “heresy” comes from a Greek word that means “choice.” And so someone subscribes to orthodoxy if they hold to the right belief, but they hold to a heresy if they have “chosen” to believe a wrong belief.
Throughout the history of Christian discourse, these terms were taken to be non-problematic. Orthodoxy was the correct view of things and heresies were false views of things. Heretics were the ones who held those false beliefs. And they did so either because they were evil, or inspired by demons, or stupid, or something else equally bad.
So, let me provide some reflections on these terms and their traditional meanings. The first thing to stress…
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