Were rival “Christianities” competing in the ancient world? Is Christian orthodoxy just arbitrary, the result of one faction politically outmaneuvering and oppressing the other?
It’s always been known that from about AD 125 to about AD 600, to quote New Testament scholar Gary Burge, “people with active imaginations wrote numerous gospels.” But, as he goes on to point out in a recent article, while most of these gospels claim to come from an apostle, virtually every scholar knows these claims are fictitious. So did the early church. They were well aware of these writings and understood that they offered a view of Christian faith entirely different than the four earliest gospels, which are in our Bibles today. Importantly, though, they never saw these gospels as rivals; they simply saw them as wrong. A great resource is the soon-to-be-released book “The Missing Gospels” by Darrell Bock. He shows the paucity of evidence for a uniform Gnostic movement. He also examines the theory often heard lately that “orthodoxy” was arbitrarily applied to the “winners of history”. In fact, from their very first writings, early Christians made theological judgements based on a c