Evaluating the “Baur/Ehrman” hypothesis on “Diverse Christianities” and its effects on “underdog” Gnosticism – Rudolph P. Boshoff.

Dr Bart D. Ehrman, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill dirges about early Christianity being “non-monolithic”. He writes; “Arguably the most significant breakthrough in the modern understanding of early Christianity is the realization that, contrary to what had earlier been thought, this religion was exceptionally diverse. The older, traditional view (which prevailed till the mid-twentieth century) was that Christianity was basically monolithic, that there was one dominant form of Christianity reflected in beliefs, practise, and ethics of most Christians everywhere throughout the first three centuries, a form of Christianity that was then ratified by the great Church councils of the fourth century, which were organized principally to work out some of the more complicated details. To be sure, it was recognized that there were other “nonorthodox” views represented by scattered groups of “heretics”, but these were seen as fringe groups with little historical significance”. [1]

Were the Gnostics “underdogs”?

Even though we all like the idea of an “underdog” story a clear historical evaluation of the fact will quickly show that due to Gnosticism’s obscure idea’s they would as History proven just disappear into oblivion. The very idea that the Early Fathers suppressed these selected cults seems to be uncounted for once we realize that the proximity, time and influence of thesHands Covering Man's Eye and Startled Woman's Mouthe writings seemed to be unanimously in dispute. Further, the early Fathers of the Church had no such wholesale influence to even curb these sects. When Theologians like Ehrman, Koester and Pagels demand that the mightiest succeeded and what we deem as Orthodox was merely the choice of the many we need to have a look at historical events such as Nazi Germany and ask ourselves if these events should have been deemed right if the National Socialist Party were victorious? Of course not! Scholar James Dunn finds it ludicrous that the early Church Fathers would have actively pursued to destroy these texts. He holds that the reason we have non early text is simply because there were none.[2]

 

Something else to consider is that Gnosticism disappeared not due to oppression but purely due to a lack of interest. F. F. Bruce notes that “Gnosticism was too much bound up with a popular but passing phase of thought to have the survival power of apostolic Christianity.”[3]

In retrospect then why did Early Christianity thrive? Robert Speer writes
“Christianity lived because it was true to the truth. Through all the centuries it has never been able to live otherwise. It cannot live otherwise today.”[4] Meera Lester gives quite a compelling definition of the New Myth when she writes “The Divergent ideas of early Christians suggest that birth and revolution of Christianity were fraught with dissension, disagreement and disharmony as the early church sought consensus on many issues.”[5] This is just absolute ignorance of History as well as basic Christianity. The early Church had an incredible consensus, the formation of the New Testament text was early and accepted and further there was little doubt as to the teachings of the earliest Apostles. It is important to note that the earliest Gnostics were the ones who forged “alternative” scriptures that had no apostolic origin or acceptance amongst majority of the New Testament Church. Early Christians never thought of Gnostics being merely “heterodox” or part of the Catholic tradition they wholly denied their teaching and sought to not call them associates. Early Christianity viewed Gnostics as anti-Christian not even Pseudo- Christian!

The Apostles, the Kerygma and the reality of Jesus Christ in light of the rule of faith.

The School of Athens by RaphaelThe idea that early Christianity was severely different and marred by different ideas is just ludicrous. Early Christianity was not chaotic and even Irenaeus took great pain to preserve what was already known to be orthodox. Here and there were small pockets of sectarian thinking but altogether the overall idea was predominantly orthodox very early on and Gnostic texts show it was Gnosticism that was quite diverse not Orthodox Christianity. Ben Witherington writes “to deny that the early church was united by a core belief system is a total misreading of the history of early Christianity”.[6] Dr Ehrman indicates clearly what is described as an Orthodox understanding and what is deemed as Heretical when he wrote: “In the traditional understanding of early Christianity, the term “orthodoxy” (from two Greek words meaning “correct belief” or “right doctrine”) referred to the views promoted by Jesus and His apostles and subscribed to by a solid and pervasive core of the Christian Church from the Earliest times; “heresies” (from a Greek word meaning “choice”) comprise marginal groups that had willfully chosen to corrupt and depart from the true faith.”[7]

It is important to understand exactly where the First Christian confession of faith appeared and how it was defined. Noted scholar James Dunn suggests that expressions like “Jesus is Lord” [kyrion Iesoun (Rom 10:9), kyrios Iesous (1 Cor 12:3), kyrios Iesous Christos (Phil 2:11); literally, simply “Lord Jesus (Christ).”] was the “hallmark” of earliest Christianity long before a general “orthodoxy” was defined[8].

Craig Evans even notes that “there is absolutely no evidence of a significant difference of opinion with regard to the core message of the Christian faith. Both Paul and Peter affirm the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the need for a response of faith if one is to be saved.” [9] Professor Gerald Bray emphatically remarks that “The Early Church was not a confederation of divergent theological positions united by a form of words to which all could assent in good conscience. On the contrary, all the evidence suggests that it was a close-knit community which shared a comprehensive set of beliefs, even these were not always set down in writing”. [10]

The earliest recorded Christian tradition (paradosis) handed down would be Paul’s passion kerygma. W.G. Kummel writes “the passion kerygma repeated by Paul (1 Cor 15:3 ff.)  was formulated at a very early date and that it attests the redemptive significance of the death of Jesus”.[11] Ernst Kässeman is spot on in that the “Sitz im Leben” (“setting in the life of the people”) of these saying reflect the foundational belief of the earliest Christian community.[12] The original rule of faith in the Early Christian Church as Irenaeus knew it included the following: “this faith: in one God, the Father Almighty, who made the heaven and the earth and the seas and all the things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was made flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who made known through the prophets the plan of salvation, and the coming, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily ascension into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and his future appearing from heaven in the glory of the Father to sum up all things and to raise anew all flesh of the whole human race”[13] By its very core definition Christianity was opposed to Gnosticism, to deem these as equally opportune and wholly valid is to be gravely bias as to the nature of these writings as well as their timing. It is unanimous that Gnosticism NEVER predated Christianity in any way or form! We therefore cannot but draw clear lines between 1st century Christianity and 2ndCentury Gnosticism.Gods-Presence-400x248

Ehrman’s description of Gnosticism

Dr Ehrman gives us a basic summation of what Gnostics believed that would assist our reading of their texts. He wrote: “More specifically, based on a careful reading of the Gnostics’ texts themselves and reports of their enemies (the Church Fathers who opposed them), it appears that the overarching views most Gnostics may be summarized under the following, rather simplified, rubrics (these will be of assistance to you as you try to read through the various Gnostic texts:)

1   The World. Most Gnostics differentiated between “matter”, which was evil, and “spirit” which was “good”. This world, as a material realm, was evil.

2   The Divine realm. The true God did not, therefore, create this world. He was completely Spirit. According to the myths that Gnostics told, in eternity past the true God generated other divine offspring (often called “aeons”) who themselves, often in pairs, reproduced offspring. A catastrophe occurred in the divine realm (called the “pleroma,” meaning the “fullness”), as one of
these divine beings (sometimes named “Sophia,” Greek for Wisdom”) became separated off from the rest and spontaneously generated another divine being. The latter, born outside the pleroma, was evil. With his minions that also then came into being, he created the material world as a place of imprisonment for the one who had from the pleroma. He is therefore known as the “Demiurge”.

    Humans. The aeon that had fallen was captured and imprisoned in this material world in the bodies of humans. Many humans have this spark of the divine within them. People with the spark have a longing to escape this world; those that do not are simply animals, destined to die and cease, then, to exist.

4   Salvation. The Divine spark within humans can escape only by learning where it came from, how it got here, and how it can return. Deliverance from this material world, in other words, can come only by liberating knowledge (gnosis).

5   The Divine Redeemer. This knowledge, though, cannot be brought from the outside. In Christian forms of Gnosticism, the one who brings this knowledge is Christ, who comes from above to convey the gnosis necessary for salvation. Since he cannot really belong to this world, he was not actually born here. Some Gnostics maintained that Jesus only seemed to be human, that is, that his body was a phantasm, physical in appearance only; others claimed that Christ was a divine aeon who temporarily inhabited a real body of the man Jesus, starting with his baptism, and who then left him at the end of his life, prior to his crucifixion, only to convey his secret teaching after his resurrection.

6   The Church. Many Gnostics maintained that Christians who have faith in Christ and do good works can have some modicum of salvation after they die, but the real glorious afterlife will come only to the Gnostics themselves, those who have the divine spark within and who have come to acquire the full knowledge of the secrets of salvation. These are the “elect”.

7   Ethics. As a rule, Gnostics appear to have believed that since the human body was evil, it was to be treated harshly to facilitate the spirit’s escape  from it. These Gnostics, then, urged a rigorously ascetic style of life”. [14]

It is important for the reader to realize that the proponents of the “new myth” never deny the emphatic differences of the Gnostic teachings versus Christian ideas. It is still baffling to the author of this article as to how someone reconciles the idea that these two could be adequately one if they are so different and far removed from each other?

heaven - CopyAn evaluation of Dr Ehrman’s description of Gnostic ideas.

The World. Matt Slick gives a Biblical understanding of the world when he writes: “God created the universe and all that is in it with order and design — the universe is not an accident (Gen. 1; Isaiah 44:24; 45:18; Jer. 27:5; Neh. 9:6). All life on earth was created by God with a design and a purpose — life did not evolve (Gen. 1:11,12,21,24,25; 1 Cor. 15:38,39). The unseen supernatural world is just as real as the physical world (Eph. 6:12; Job 1:6; Mark 5:2; Matt. 12:22) God made man in His own image distinct from the animals — man did not evolve (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7; 1 Cor. 11:7).[15]

The Divine realm .For us there is but one God and Saviour Jesus Christ who existed before the world and who made matter to express light and love (1 Cor.8:6, Joh 3:16, Joh1:1-18).

Humans. “Man, from conception, is human and possesses dignity due to being made in God’s image (Job 31:15; Ps. 22:10; 139:13; Hosea 12:3; Luke 1:41-44). The first humans were Adam and Eve (Gen. 2; Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:22,45; 1 Tim. 2:13). Adam and Eve were the first family (male and female) according to the purpose of God for procreation and glorifying Him — homosexuality, therefore, is unnatural (Gen. 1:28; 2:21-25). Man is morally responsible and answerable to God (Ex. 15:26; 1 Kings 11:38; Rom. 2:16; Ps. 50:6; 82:8; James 1:21). God gave
dominion of the earth to Adam and Eve and, thus, to their descendants (Gen. 1:28; Titus 1:7). Man is steward of God’s creation and is to subdue the world in a manner consistent with biblical revelation (Gen. 1-2; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Sin entered the world through Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:1-6; Rom. 5:12-14) All people have sinned and are in need of salvation (Rom. 3:23).”[16]

Salvation. Only God can save. Man cannot save himself (Matt. 19:25-26). Jesus is the only way to escape the judgment of God (Acts. 4:12; John 14:6). The Christian Gospel is the key to the conversion of all people (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Mark 8:35; 13:10; Rom. 1:16)”.[17]

The Divine Redeemer. “Many people will acknowledge Jesus Christ as a good man, a great teacher, or even a prophet of God. These things are definitely true of Jesus, but they do not fully define who He truly is. The Bible tells us that Jesus is God in the flesh, God in human form (see John 1:1, 14). God came to earth to teach us, heal us, correct us, forgive us—and die for us! Jesus Christ is God, the Creator, the sovereign Lord. Have you accepted this Jesus?”[18]

 The Church. “1) The universal church consists of all those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13). This verse says that anyone who believes is part of the body of Christ and has received the Spirit of Christ as evidence. The universal church of God is all those who have received salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. 2) The local church is described in Galatians 1:1-2: “Paul, an apostle … and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia.” Here we see that in the province of Galatia there were many churches—what we call local churches. A Baptist church, Lutheran church, Catholic church, etc., is not the church, as in the universal church—but rather is a local church, a local body of believers. The universal church is comprised of those who belong to Christ and who have trusted Him for salvation. These members of the universal church should seek fellowship and edification in a local church”.[19]

Ethics. Perhaps the most important reason our bodies matter is stated best by Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” This is not merely figurative, an effective allegory
or word picture; it is literally true. The more we begin to grasp the reality of this truth and actually experience it, the more we come to understand the profound implications it has for our bodies. Yes, Paul refers to our physical bodies as “jars of clay,” (2 Corinthians 4:7) but consider the Treasure that inhabits these fragile jars! No longer does the Presence of God dwell in a man-made tabernacle or Temple, as was the case under the Old Covenant. He now resides in His people. This is the mystery that was kept hidden throughout the ages and has now been revealed: “Christ IN YOU, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27).[20]

The question that keeps of suffusing is were Gnostics Christian? Dr Ehrman, Walter Baur and Helmut Koester would like for us to believe that Gnosticism was equally determining in the Early Christian centuries. Unfortunately we see this is not true.

Gnosticism could not be Christian for a few reasons:faith2

First, Gnosticism could not be Christian

because it was not Jewish. Second, it’s unreasonable to call something Christian when it leaves out Christ, the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. Third, the Gnostic Jesus is quite a different person. Fourth, some scholars claim Jesus taught a form of Gnosticism, but early Christian records show He didn’t. Fifth, even if other communities could make some claim to the title Christian at some time in the past, surely the statutes of limitations has run out by now. Sixth, The Gnostic God has no desire. He is unknowable, indescribable, and untouchable. Sometimes the spiritual person seems to become god. Lastly, Gnosticism can be seen as a pagan response to the Jewish and Christian challenge.[21]

The approximate date and nature of the New Testament writings.

“Can it be supposed that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the Acts of the Apostles, and the apostolic Epistles, were not the genuine productions of the authors to whom they were ascribed, and that the very remarkable and numerous facts and events therein recorded and said to have taken place publicly, in the presence often of thousands of classes,  of both sexes, and of both friends and adherents, and foes and opponents of the parties reporting them – can it be supposed that these were not real historic records, but fictitious stories, cunningly-devised fables, wickedly-invented falsehoods, or base forgeries, and yet, how passing strange that these learned philosophers living in the very age and countries in which these things must have publically transpired, or these fictitious stories have been surreptitiously foisted upon the people- can it be that all these things could have occurred, and these learned and bitter enemies of Christianity not been able to detect the cheat? Or can we suppose that they knew it all, and yet –while labouring with all their might to crush the hated superstition- they never urged, but forgot the name, the very facts which would have accomplished so effectually their cherished object of overturning Christianity? He, who can
believe this, is a fit companion for lunatics or madmen!”[22]

Here is an approximate dating of the four Gospels, what should also be duly noted is that the Pauline letters were earlier than some of the Gospel traditions and also wholeheartedly affirmed quite early:

• Matthew, Greek manuscript first issued in A.D. 37, with some editing done in 43 A.D, in Damascus, Syria, but revised and expanded somewhat in Aun (On, or An, ancient Heliopolis) Egypt in A.D. 67

• Mark, First Edition during circa 68 A.D. in Antioch of Syria, but edited and expanded to current condition in A.D. 73, and perhaps with some re-penning of pages in A.D. 95

•  Luke penned in 74 A.D. in Antioch of Syria.

•  John, First Edition Dated in A.D. 65, 67, but with some editing or re-penning of some pages in A.D. 97, In Ephesus.  [23]

F. F. Bruce observes that “the sayings of Jesus are best to be understood in the light of the historical circumstances in which they were spoken. Only when we have understood them thus can we safely endeavor to recognize the permanent truth which they convey. When they are detached from their original historical setting and arranged in an anthology, their interpretation is more precarious.”[24] It is importBibleant to see that there is an extreme division found within Gnosticism (NOT CHRISTIAN) thinking and history shows the schisms between Gnostic (NOT CHRISTIAN) circles!

The approximate date and nature of the Gnostic texts.

Douglas Wilson writes that the actual dating of the discovered texts at Nag Hammadi “Scholars date the extant manuscripts from A.D. 350-400. The original writing of the various documents, of course, took place sometime before A.D. 350-400, but not, according to most scholars, before the second century. The actual condition of the Nag Hammadi manuscripts varies considerably.”[25] There is quite a few “Gnostic Gospels” that have been discovered nl: the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Philip, Gospel of Mary, Gospel of the Egyptians, and the Gospel of Truth. The reason these texts are deemed as “Gospels” is simply because it relates in some way or form to the Historical person of Jesus Christ. The Gnostic texts are written later and no scholar would attempt to claim they are depicting a similar genre or pericope as the Synoptics and Johannine Gospels. We see for instance the introduction to the Gospel of Truth in The Nag Hammadi Library reads, “Despite its title, this work is not the sort found in the New Testament, since it does not offer a continuous narration of the deeds, teachings, passion, and resurrection of Jesus.[26] In the introduction to the Gospel of Philip in the same volume says that although it has some similarities to a New Testament Gospel, it “is not a gospel like one of the New Testament gospels. . . . [The] few sayings and stories about Jesus…are not set in any kind of narrative framework like one of the New Testament gospels.”[27] We identify for instance the heightened language used in the Letter of Peter to Philip, the apostles ask the resurrected Jesus, “Lord, we would like to know the deficiency of the aeons and of their pleroma.”  Douglas Wilson writes “Such philosophical abstractions were never on the lips of the disciples — the fishermen, tax collectors, and zealots — of the biblical accounts. Jesus then discourses on the precosmic fall of “the mother” who acted in opposition to “the Father” and so produced ailing aeons.[28] Whatever is made of the historical “feel” of these documents, their actual status as historical records should be brought into closer scrutiny to assess their factual reliability”.[29]170px-Family-bible

Dating of the Gnostic texts:[30]

  • The Gospel of Thomas is held by most to be the earliest of the “gnostic” gospels composed. Scholars generally date the text to the early-mid 2nd century.[31] The Gospel of Thomas, it is often claimed, has some gnostic elements but lacks the full gnostic cosmology. However, even the description of these elements as “gnostic” is based mainly upon the presupposition that the text as a whole is a “gnostic” gospel, and this idea itself is based upon little other than the fact that it was found along with gnostic texts at Nag Hammadi.[32]
  • The Gospel of the Lord, a gnostic but otherwise non-canonical text, can be dated approximately during the time of Marcion in the early 2nd century. The traditional view holds Marcion did not compose the gospel directly but, “expunged [from the Gospel of Luke] all the things that oppose his view… but retained those things that accord with his opinion” [33]
  • The Gospel of Truth[34]and the teachings of the Pistis Sophia can be approximately dated to the early 2nd century as they were part of the original Valentinian school, though the gospel itself is 3rd century.
  • Documents with a Sethian influence (like the Gospel of Judas, or outright Sethian like Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians can be dated substantially later than 40 and substantially earlier than 250; most scholars giving them a 2nd-century date.[35]
  • Some gnostic gospels (for example Trimorphic Protennoia) make use of fully developed Neoplatonism and thus need to be dated after Plotinus in the 3rd century.[36]

The Nature of the Gnostic texts.

On the actual nature of these texts Douglas Wilson writes masterfully: “Yet Valentinus dates into the second century (d. A.D. 175) and was thus not a contemporary of Jesus. Attridge and MacRae date the document between A.D. 140 and 180.[37] Layton recognizes that “the work is a sermon and has nothing to do with the Christian genre properly called ‘gospel.’”[38]The text differs from many in Nag Hammadi because of its recurring references to New Testament passages. Beatley Layton notes that “it paraphrases, and so interprets, some thirty to sixty scriptural passages almost all from the New Testament books.”[39] He goes on to note that Valentinus shaped these allusions to fit his own Gnostic theology.[40] In discussing the use of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) in the Gospel of Truth, C. M. Tuckett concludes that “there is no evidence for the use of sources other than the canonical gospels for synoptic material.”[41] This would mean that the Gospel of Truth gives no independent historical insight about Jesus, but rather reinterprets previous material. The Gospel of Philip is thick with Gnostic theology and contains several references to Jesus. However, it does not claim to be a revelation from Jesus: it is more of a Gnostic manual of theology.[42] According to Tuckett’s analysis, all the references to Gospel material  seem to stem from Matthew and not from any other canonical Gospel or other source independent of Matthew. Andrew Hembold has also pointed out that both the Gospel of Truth and the Gospel of Philip show signs of “mimicking” the New Testament; they both “know and recognize the greater part of the New Testament as authoritative.”[43] This would make them derivative, not original, documents. Tuckett has also argued that the Gospel of Mary and the Book of Thomas the Contender are dependent on synoptic materials, and that “there is virtually no evidence for the use of pre-synoptic sources by these writers. These texts are all ‘post-synoptic,’ not only with regard to their dates, but also with regard to the form of the synoptic tradition they presuppose.”[44]

books420-420x0In other words, these writings are simply drawing on pre-existent Gospel material and rearranging it to conform to their Gnostic world view. They do not contribute historically authentic, new material. The Apocryphon of James claims to be a secret revelation of the risen Jesus to James His brother. It is less obviously Gnostic than some Nag Hammadi texts and contains some more orthodox-sounding phrases such as, “Verily I say unto you none will be saved unless they believe in my cross.”[45] It also affirms the unorthodox, such as when Jesus says, “Become better than I; make yourselves like the son of the Holy Spirit.”[46] While one scholar dates this text sometime before A.D. 150,[47] Blomberg believes it gives indications of being “at least in part later than and dependent upon the canonical gospels.”[48] Its esotericism certainly puts it at odds with the canonical Gospels, which are better attested historically.”

The Effect of Gnosticism.

The prevailing question that is constantly lacking is how Gnostics saw Orthodox Christians in their time? It is obvious that their prevailing perspective was that Orthodoxy was diametrically opposed to freedom. Author David Marshall writes “Neo-Gnostics generally agree, then, on three facts. First, freedom is wonderful. Second, Christianity threatens it. And third, Gnosticism might open the bars of our prison”.[49] Marshall goes even further and asks some sober questions like: “Does Gnosticism liberate?” He gives five signs that show quite lucidly that Gnosticism is diametrically opposite to freedom. He writes “Gnosticism undercuts freedom both socially and technologically. First, the Gnostics despised this world…Secondly, Gnosticism discouraged freedom by ignoring morality… third, among ancient Greek, Roman, Indian, and Chinese intellectuals, work was a four-letter word… Physical labour, it seems, distracts us from spiritual pursuits… Fourth, Gnosticism would not have truly liberated people because it ignored underdogs. People were not created equal. Males were superior to females…A final danger sign in Nag Hammadi is how the boundary between guru and god is sometimes erased… Gnosis encourages “good men to do nothing” in an illusory world, put faith in the elect, and dream one’s way to the promised land. It is a short step from belief in spiritual, psychic, or material tribes to believing that slaves were made to serve us…”[50] We find in the short evaluation of the Gnostic texts that they do not even fit the meaning of the word Gospel. These imposturous writings written by pseudo-intellectuals trying to hijack the original four does not even portray the same message as the four. Further, we find nowhere that these Gospels reflect a close proximity to the actual events of the New Testament nor have an implicit understanding of the New Testament times, place or culture. The Jesus of the Gnostic Gospels are not the central figure and is sometimes completely dismissed in pursuit of the true object of the Gnostic ideal which is “knowledge”. These Gnostic texts are dubious as to the moral implications of Christ’s teachings. The Gnostic Gospels noted biblical scholar Raymond Brown affirmed that from the Nag Hammadi “works we learn not a single verifiable new fact about the historical Jesus’ ministry, and only a few new sayings that might possibly have been his.[51] David Marshall writes well when he insists “if Gospel is a writing that looks like the New Testament books, then almost every ancient book is more of a Gospel than the best lost “Gospel” from the sands of Egypt. Whether we go by root meaning or ordinary usage, no such thing as a Gnostic Gospel has been found”. [52]

Conclusionbart D Ehrman

Dr Ehrman’s postulations are simply incorrect in light of the evidence in the early Christian epoch. Firstly, we can say that Gnostics weren’t underdogs in first century Christianity but ideally only arrived later after orthodoxy was well established and the rule of faith settled. There were no victors that determined early ideas believed in Christ, earliest Christianity was Orthodox Christianity. Professor Larry Hurtado writes “Well before the influence of Constantine and councils of bishops in the fourth century and thereafter, it was clear that proto-orthodox Christianity was ascendant, and presented an emergent mainstream. Proto-orthodox devotion to Jesus of the second century constitutes the pattern of belief and practice that shaped Christian tradition thereafter”. [53] We can therefore say with certainty that the early church fathers’ rule of faith was a theological continuation of the New Testament orthodoxy as expressed in the earliest Christian creeds. As Gerald Bray affirms “The bedrock of the Church’s beliefs remained unaltered, and in the first article of the creed we can be confident that we are being transported back to the earliest days of the apostolic teaching”. [54] The “regula fidei” or rule of faith played out in the post-New Testament Church appeared early and was affirmed by majority of the Church Fathers as early. Dr Ehrman agrees that “the [rule] included the basic and fundamental beliefs that, according to the proto-orthodox, all Christians were to subscribe to, as these had been taught by the apostles themselves’.[55] When we evaluate the beliefs of Gnostics we see they do not even correlate with an orthodox understanding of Christianity? When we look at the historical implications the Church never accepted Gnostics and lastly Gnosticism was quite diverse…not Christianity. Therefore we can say the attempt from Dr Ehrman to reconcile Christianity and Gnosticism falls greatly short as a result of the historical, doctrinal and epistemological context of the early Church.

Rb picRudolph P. Boshoff

Sources:

[1] After the New Testament: A reader in early Christianity (Oxford University Press).  Bart D. Ehrman Pg. 131

[2] Dunn, The Evidence, 97-98.

[3] F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988),278.

[4] Robert E. Speer, The Finality of Jesus Christ (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1933), 108.

[5] The Everything Gnostic Gospel book. A complete guide to the secret gospels. Adams Media 2007.

[6] The Jesus Quest. The third search for the Jew of Nazareth. Pg. 120. Inner Varsity Press.

[7] After the New Testament: A reader in early Christianity (Oxford UniversityPress).  Bart D. Ehrman Pg. 131

[8] Unity and Diversity in the New Testament.

[9] Evans G. Fabricating Jesus. How modern Scholars distort the Gospels Inner Varsity press. Pg.189.

[10]Creeds, councils and Christ: Did the early Christians misrepresent Jesus. Gerald Bray. Pg.91. Christian Focus Publication.

[11] Introduction to the New Testament. W.G. Kummel. Pg.73. SCM PRESS.

[12] New Testament Questions for today: “On the subject of Primitive Christian Apocalyptic”. Pg.108. Ernst Kässeman.

[13] “Regula Fidei” The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. IX: Petri – Reuchlin.

[14] After the New Testament: A reader in early Christianity (Oxford University Press).  Bart D. Ehrman Pg. 144-145.

[15] http://carm.org/what-are-some-elements-christian-world-view

[16] http://carm.org/what-are-some-elements-christian-world-view

[17] http://carm.org/what-are-some-elements-christian-world-view

[18] http://www.gotquestions.org/personal-Savior.html

[19] http://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-the-church.html#ixzz2vqQteMjM

[20] http://www.yourbodyatemple.com/category/biblical-view-of-body/

[21] The Truth about Jesus and the lost Gospels. David Marshall .Pg. 62-69. Harvest House Publishers.

[22] Elements of Divinity. By Thomas N. Ralston. Pg. 592-593

[23] Dr. Lee W. Woodard

[24] F. F. Bruce, Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 154.

[25] http://www.equip.org/articles/the-gnostic-gospels-are-they-authentic/

[26] Harold W. Attridge and George W. MacRae, “Introduction: The Gospel of Truth,” in James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library (San Francisco: Harper and Row,

1988), 38.

[27] Wesley W. Isenberg, “Introduction: The Gospel of Philip,” Ibid., 139.

[28] Ibid., 435.

[29] http://www.equip.org/articles/the-gnostic-gospels-are-they-authentic/

[30] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnostic_Gospels#Dating

[31] Ehrman, Bart (2003). Lost Christianities. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. xi–xii.

[32] Davies, Stevan L., The Gospel of Thomas and Christian Wisdom, 1983, p.21-22.

[33] Koester, Helmut; Lambdin (translator), Thomas O. (1996). “The Gospel of Thomas”. In Robinson, James MacConkey. The Nag Hammadi Library in English

(Revised ed.). Leiden, New York, Cologne: E. J. Brill. p. 125. ISBN 90-04-08856-3.

[34] Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses (3.11.9)

[35] Gnosticism and Platonism: The Platonizing Sethian texts from Nag Hammadi in their Relation to Later Platonic Literature, John D Turner, ISBN 0-7914-1338-1.

[36] “Neoplatonism”. 1911 Britannica. Retrieved 12 April 2009. &  Karen L. King. “Excerpts from Gospel of Mary of Magdala”. maryofmagdala.com. Retrieved 2007-04-22.

[37] Valentinus: A Gnostic for All Seasons,” Gnosis, Fall/Winter 1985, 25. Ibid., 38.

[38] Bentley Layton, The Gnostic Scriptures (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1987), 251.

[39] Ibid. 19

[40] Ibid.20

[41] C. M. Tuckett, “Synoptic Tradition in the Gospel of Truth and the Testimony of Truth,” Journal of Theological Studies 35 (1984):145.

[42] The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 1987),Blomberg, 213-14

[43] Andrew K. Hembold, The Nag Hammadi Texts and the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1967), 88-89.

[44] Christopher Tuckett, “Synoptic Tradition in Some Nag Hammadi and Related Texts,” Vigiliae Christiane 36 (July 1982):184

[45] Robinson, 32.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Francis E. Williams, “Introduction: The Apocryphon of James,” in Robinson, 30.

[48] Blomberg, 213.

[49] The Truth about Jesus and the lost Gospels. David Marshall .Pg. 134. Harvest House Publishers.

[50] The Truth about Jesus and the lost Gospels. David Marshall .Pg. 132-140. Harvest House Publishers.

[51] Raymond E. Brown, “The Gnostic Gospels,” The New York Times Book Review, 20 Jan. 1980, 3.

[52] The Truth about Jesus and the lost Gospels. David Marshall .Pg. 55. Harvest House Publishers.

[53] Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand rapids:Eerdman’s,2003) Pg. 561.

[54] Gerald L. Bray, Thomas C. Oden. Ancient Christian Doctrine Vol.1.(Inner varsity Press) Pg. xxxvi.

[55] Bart D. Ehrman. Lost Christianities. Pg.194.

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