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“You got to know when to hold ’em”: Trumping the Bauer Thesis

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Introduction: “On a train bound for nowhere”

Amidst the smells of musty cigar smoke and stale beer, five players huddle around a table, peering over the tops of their cards. The dealer in this round, an older man with thinning hair and a German accent, keeps the game moving with brief, abrupt commands. A thin man with an annoying Scottish accent carries on a conversation with his cards while an American with a well-trimmed beard stares at the table.

The game proceeds in near silence. Soon an older, distinguished woman wins the meager pot with a full house and the younger blonde sitting across from her rolls her eyes. Money slides across the table, stools creek, and new drinks fill old glasses.

A young man with a cup of coffee—who had been watching intently from a distance—slips into an empty chair. Grunting something inaudible, the German violently shuffles the cards and orders the players to “ante up” as he shoves the deck at the next dealer.

The game goes on.

The coffee-drinker keeps all five cards and substantially raises the initial low bet. The other five players shift with irritation. They reluctantly meet his raise and try to play on, putting forth their best efforts to ignore his delight. The Scottish man frowns, folds, then lights a cigar, leaning back in his chair to observe the others through frameless lenses.

Soon the hand is called. The bearded American shows a pair of jacks. The middle-aged blonde reveals three tens. The German slams down a pair of nines and a pair of twos and gulps his beer. The young man with the now lukewarm coffee carefully lays down four aces and a joker. Somebody mumbles. The Scot starts coughing. But the older woman simply laughs and reveals another full house—three kings and two queens. The room enjoys a few moments of shifting and rustling as the woman greedily snatches the pot again.

The bewildered coffee-drinker clears his throat as the other five players glance away uncomfortably. The old matron gathers the man’s cards in silence and begins shuffling. Finally he speaks up: “Ummm. . . . pardon me, but . . . didn’t I just win?”

The older woman shakes her head and blends the cards gracefully. She smiles and responds stiffly, “Not in this game you didn’t.”

The rest of the players chuckle and the game goes on.

Bauer’s Thesis: “Ya gotta learn to play it right”

In 1934, Walter Bauer played a hand at the historians’ table with Rechtgläubigkeit und Ketzerei im ältesten Christentum.2 Bauer presented the thesis that certain forms of Christianity that the church later regarded as “heresies” were originally not distinguished as such but were in some cities or regions the earliest and strongest forms of Christianity while the form that became orthodox Christianity was later and sometimes in the minority. Thus, according to Bauer, earliest Christianity was characterized by initial diversity and conflict. He argued that in the second and third centuries the Roman church increasingly promoted and enforced its version of orthodoxy. This eventually became the majority view while other forms shrunk to a minority or were extinguished through polemics. Bauer suggested that in the third and fourth centuries, especially with Eusebius’s version of ecclesiastical history, the reality of early diversity was replaced with what became the “traditional view”—that Jesus Christ handed down an orthodox teaching to the apostles, who were then sent with authority to establish churches throughout the world.3

The general validity of the Bauer Thesis was mostly accepted by peer reviewers in Germany immediately after the 1934 publication.4 Though he was criticized on several details of his evidence, his attack on the traditional, Eusebian view of early church history was regarded as valid.5 In other words, many scholars have disagreed with Bauer’s evidences, arguments, and answers concerning the development of orthodoxy and heresy, but they have generally agreed that the traditional view was untenable and that early Christianity was characterized by “radical diversity.”6

In this paper I suggest that when the historians’ hands are called, the debate over unity and diversity in the early church can not resolve into less that two opposing positions: an emphasis on unity and orthodoxy on one hand, and an emphasis on diversity and conflict on the other. In the final analysis, two groups of scholars with two very different presuppositions are playing with one deck of cards and two sets of rules.

Two Models of Christian Origins: “Ev’ry hand’s a winner”

Let me begin by stating my thesis. I am asserting that the debate about the origins of early Christianity results primarily from different presuppositions (or “creeds”) regarding the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Simply put, if Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead, then the “diversity and conflict” model must be correct. However, if Jesus did rise bodily from the dead, then the “unity and orthodoxy” model must be correct.

Of course, those who reject the bodily resurrection could posit a model of early Christian origins in which the true disciples of Jesus preserved his teachings and to some degree tried to enforce a “standard” pattern of truth. However, there would be nothing ontological about that claim that would invalidate the interpretations and experiences of other groups. That is, without the real, bodily resurrection of Jesus, the internal conflict even among Jesus’ original disciples would not only be possible, but probable. Diversity and conflict would be virtually inevitable since the original basis of unity is simply untrue.7 If any traditional interpretation is wrong, it is just as right as any other wrong interpretation. So, if Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead, then the diversity and conflict model—or something quite like it—must be correct.

On the other hand, some who hold to the bodily resurrection of Jesus could assert early diversity and even conflict between Jesus’ original and second generation disciples. In fact, the New Testament documents themselves indicate diversity among the earliest Christians. However, the question is not the presence of diversity, but the degree and nature of unity. If Jesus of Nazareth rose bodily from the dead, the original Christians would be unified around this particular doctrine and would be the recipients of any benefits thereof. Thus, only the encounters with the real living Lord would be valid. Only the community founded by the living Lord would be authoritative. Only the Spirit sent by the living Lord would lead into truth. So, if Jesus did rise bodily from the dead, then the unity and orthodoxy model must be correct.

In examining the writings of scholars on both sides of the issue of unity and diversity, it becomes evident that two very different “creeds” determine two very different hermeneutical and historiographical rules. In short, if one begins with “I believe the resurrection did not happen,” one will consider “orthodoxy” to have risen out of diversity and conflict. However, if one begins with “I believe in the bodily resurrection,” one will interpret the evidence in a way that requires an initial orthodoxy and subsequent diversity through defection.8

The Example of Koester: “Knowin’ what to throw away”

Helmut Koester has been a major player in the tradition of the Bauer Thesis in later twentieth century scholarship. He represents a clear example of the type of scholarship that depends on the presupposition that Jesus of Nazareth did not rise bodily from the dead.9

Koester’s model of Christian origins is clearly that of diversity and conflict,10 which presupposes that Jesus was “a human being who was fully subject to the contingencies and conditions of history,” and “the historical life, words, and works of a purely human man” are also subject to ambiguity and historical conditioning.11 Having approached the history (including the literature) from this perspective, his following assertion is inevitable: “Historical inquiry leads to the recognition of quite complex and different types of creeds and kerygmas, which provide only limited insights into the nature of Jesus’ life and work.”12 However, one can see that the “historical inquiry” itself must follow the lead of the original presupposition of the “purely human” nature of Christ. We must not assume that an objective “historical inquiry” has necessarily led Koester to the conclusion that Jesus was merely a human person subject of the demands of life and death as any other human. Rather, Koester’s hermeneutic and historiography function according to the rules demanded by a mortal Jesus. Given his presuppositions, Koester is right that nobody can claim (or could have claimed) to be “in the possession of any original formulation of revealed truth which is somehow less ambiguous and less subject to historical conditioning than the historical life, words, and works of a purely human man.”13

He again reiterates his belief in the bare historical facts that do not include the resurrection. For him, the “actual events of Jesus’ life” are “his words and works, his suffering and death—in all their historical particularity and contingency.”14 These actual events, according to Koester’s model, became the seed for a number of diverse and even competing “christologies” that characterized early Christianity.15 One of these competing christologies was “Jesus Raised from the Dead.”16

Koester’s basic creed of a historical Jesus who did not actually rise from the dead leads logically to the diversity and conflict model and away from the unity and orthodoxy view: “Jesus did not found a church or start a social or political movement—much less a revolution.”17 But if Jesus really rose bodily from the dead, then the possibility that he actually did something like commission the apostles and grant them divine power becomes a viable historical option.

Koester’s creed also plays a role in his estimation of historical sources. If there was no established church indwelled by the Spirit, there were no established apostles empowered by the Spirit. If there were no authoritative teachers, there could be no orthodox teachings and writings. Thus, all writings of the first and second centuries from which the history of early Christianity is constructed must be treated equally. No theological preference could be given to any, even those written by actual disciples of Jesus.18

Those writings that contain elements that have significantly developed beyond the creed of life, words, works, and death by adding elements of resurrection, preexistence, deity, and incarnation, Koester must regarded as later compositions or redactions to allow time for such developments away from the true historical facts. Once these have been initially assessed in a way that fits with the non-belief in the bodily resurrection, they are then evaluated within that creedal framework. But if Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, not only are Koester’s conclusions and presuppositions trumped, but the weight of the documentary evidence would be shifted decisively in favor of the unity and orthodoxy view.19

The Christ of Historiography: “Ev’ry hand’s a loser”

I selected Koester as an example of scholars whose model of diversity and conflict in early Christianity grows out of a creed that rejects the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. However, Koester is certainly not alone in this presupposition with its application to hermeneutics and historiography. A number of players are assembled around the table playing their cards according to the same rules.20

In John Dominic Crossan’s reconstruction of the earliest Christian communities in the 30s and 40s, he discusses both a “Life Tradition” and a “Death Tradition” of Jesus that competed with each other in early Christianity.21 The former originated in Galilee, as evidenced by literature such as “Q,” the Gospel of Thomas, and The Didache. The “Death Tradition” sprang up perhaps around Jerusalem and is seen in various passion narratives that found their way into the Synoptic Gospels and Pauline literature to form the heart of the death and resurrection kerygma.22 If we were to grant Crossan’s resurrection-free hermeneutic and historiography, he presents a realistic and convincing hypothesis. It must be recognized that the two traditions posited by Crossan are both grounded in an accepted historical reality: whatever the nature of Jesus’ life and death, Jesus really did live and teach (the Life Tradition) and Jesus really did die (the Death Tradition). But if in the course of historical reality, Jesus of Nazareth lived, died, then lived again, Crossan’s two traditions automatically become subsets of a meta-tradition: the Life–Death–Life Tradition expounded by orthodoxy. This is not to say that Crossan does not play his cards skillfully. He does. However, if Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead on the third day, Crossan’s best hand is instantly trumped. His entire argument and evidence would need to be revised.

Also seated at the table and playing by the same rules, Bart Ehrman suggests four factors that contributed to the victory of “orthodoxy” over “heresy” in the early church: 1) Retention of the Hebrew Scriptures; 2) rejection of exclusivist practices of Judaism; 3) a stable hierarchy that preserved identity; and 4) a worldwide networking with other like-minded churches.23 The implication is that had the Ebionites, Valentinians, or Marcionites been better equipped for survival, Christianity today would be Ebionite, Valentinian, or Marcionite. In short, in Ehrman’s model the “proto-orthodox” knew how to play their cards. But perhaps there is another possibility for the ultimate triumph of orthodoxy over heresy that Ehrman—because of his foundational creed—can not consider. Perhaps Jesus really did rise from the grave in a resurrected, glorified body. This is a possibility, however, that Ehrman dismisses as outside the realm of acceptable historical inquiry.24

When we arrive at the writings of Elaine Pagels, we see a similar historiography conforming to an anti-resurrection creed. After pointing out that “Gnostic Christians” dissented from the literal view of the bodily resurrection of Christ in favor of a spiritual understanding, Pagels asks, “If the New Testament accounts could support a range of interpretations, why did orthodox Christians in the second century insist on a literal view of resurrection and reject all others as heretical?”25 Her answer is that the doctrine of the bodily resurrection was adopted because of the political ramifications in ecclesiastical conflicts. The bodily resurrection, she explains, “legitimizes the authority of certain men who claim to exercise exclusive leadership over the churches as the successors of the apostle Peter.”26 The idea is that if the resurrection were “spiritual,” then anybody could have a spiritual experience with the risen Christ, thus removing the necessity of a mediating apostle who could claim the special privilege of having seen the risen Lord. However, Pagels’s entire argument assumes that the bodily resurrection of Christ did not occur. If Jesus of Nazareth was raised bodily from the dead, then the answer to Pagels’s question—“Why did the orthodox tradition adopt the literal view of resurrection?”—is, “Because that’s what happened!” Only if Pagels can legitimately presume that the bodily resurrection did not occur does her attempt at finding political motivations behind the development of the bodily resurrection doctrine even become necessary.

I will end with a brief interaction with Karen King. King suggests that the aim of the polemical treatises against heretics and Judaism as well as apologetic works against paganism were “at least as much to provide internal self-definition as to persuade heretics, Jews, or pagans that the polemicists alone held the keys to divine truth.”27 She obviously assumes that the Christians producing these works needed self-definition (rather than self-defense). This assumption requires a presupposition that the Christian faith is not based on the event of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, which, with its effects on the earliest Christian community and its leaders as well as its theological implications, would provide a core of self-definition against which any new developments or outside influences would be judged. I do not say that King needs to accept the resurrection of Jesus, but I merely point out that her explanations require the resurrection to have not taken place. The type of theological diversity presupposed by King requires that the experiential playing field was even, that the interpretation of the person and story of Jesus was up for debate and still in formulation. This would very well be the case only if Jesus did not rise from the dead. If the resurrection actually occurred, then only the christology that included the bodily resurrection and only the community that was commissioned by the risen Christ could claim authenticity. If Jesus did not rise, however, but was simply crucified, died, and buried, then christology is a subjective function of faith and personal experience, a construct dependent on various factors and interpretations. Again, I do not fault King for disbelieving the resurrection, but for a methodology that requires disbelief in the resurrection.

The Secret House Rules: “Know when to walk away”

How, then, should believers in the bodily resurrection interact with the arguments and evidence of the proponents of diversity and conflict? Eventually Christians who believe in the bodily resurrection will discover that although they may be invited to the scholars’ game and their antes greedily pulled into the pot, there are unwritten and unspoken house rules that prohibit them from actually winning. A few subtle, but sufficient, examples follow.

The first major challenge to Bauer’s thesis was the great work of H. E. W. Turner, The Pattern of Christian Truth.28 By the majority of accounts, Turner played his hand exceptionally well.29 In fact, in the second appendix to the English translation of Bauer’s work, Robert Kraft spends six pages discussing Turner’s arguments. However, he concludes the bare summary with a quote in which Turner suggested orthodoxy retained its stability by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.30 Later Kraft criticizes Turner thus: “Turner’s lectures present a strange juxtaposition of descriptive historical judgments on details and a general framework of confessional apologetics.”31 In short, Kraft casts Turner’s entire project in a negative light because Turner operates from a creed of faith rather than Kraft’s own creed of unbelief.

A more recent challenge to Bauer’s thesis is Thomas A. Robinson’s The Bauer Thesis Examined.32 Reviews of Robinson’s work were often positive. One reviewer called it a “careful, almost painstaking, work” and suggested that it “represents the most substantial response since H. E. W. Turner’s The Pattern of Christian Truth.”33 However, Thomas M. Finn noted that the author was working in part “from theological grounds,” and went out of his way to point out that Robinson’s roots are in the Pentecostal tradition.34 We can read between the lines easily enough. Because Robinson actually believes in the resurrection and therefore ascribes to such a thing as “orthodoxy” as a theological reality, he cannot be taken too seriously.

Most unbelieving historians do not really think believers can do honest scholarship on the historical Jesus or the issue of unity and diversity in the early church. Majella Franzmann’s summary comments are revealing:

For some scholars, the question may be in the end not so much one about sources but rather a personal question. Can one work on the basis of the relative historical equality of canonical and apocryphal gospels in reconstructing Christian origins and at the same time confess the uniqueness of the canonical gospels? It is not intended here to discredit scholars who confess the uniqueness of the kerygma of the Christ-event, but such a confessional standpoint cannot be the starting point for historical enquiry, nor can it be used as a foil against questions which are felt to come too close to the heart of the kerygma. It is an entirely different matter to undertake the historical research in an honest and critical manner, allowing all the historical sources, and then to make a confessional choice for the kerygma of the canonical gospels.35

Contra Franzmann and others, it is my view that such an “honest and critical” investigation into the origins of Christianity is virtually impossible to conduct apart from some confessional starting point. One’s confessional choice regarding the possibility or reality of a bodily resurrection greatly affects the hermeneutic and historiography of the scholar. His or her version of the “honest and critical” method only works if Jesus did not rise from the dead. If Jesus rose from the dead, that creedal position must be the starting point, otherwise the conclusions will be wrong. The principle is true, mutatis mutandis, if Jesus did not rise from the dead. Either way, every scholar necessarily begins the historical inquiry with some creed informing his or her historiography and hermeneutics.

Conclusion: “You got to know when to hold ’em”

If Jesus of Nazareth rose again, then the God and Father of Jesus Christ was shown to be truly God. And not only did God validate Jesus’ person and work, but he also placed the disciples and eyewitnesses in a unique and authoritative place in history. The resurrection would inevitably affect our hermeneutic and historiography, because the resurrection of Jesus would be an event of such profound significance that all things must now be interpreted in light of this truth. Conversely, any interpretation of history that would ignore or reject the resurrection would be guilty of misinterpreting history and reality at its most fundamental level.

Since the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central event upon which the Christian faith stands or falls, there can be no such thing as “orthodoxy” without it. However, believing scholars should not fault unbelieving scholars for criticizing believers’ creedal presuppositions. Nor should believers be surprised at unbelievers’ reconstruction of Christian origins and rejection of the categories of orthodoxy and heresy. Given their own creedal presupposition that the bodily resurrection of Jesus did not (or could not) occur, their methods and conclusions are inescapable. If Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead, any attempts at reconstruction, deconstruction, refining, redefining, discovering, or recovering the early history of Christianity are acceptable antes placed on the table in the scholarly contest over Christian origins.

But if on the third day Jesus rose from the dead, then all bets are off.

A Visual Comparison of the Two Models

1 After receiving my B.S. in Bible from Philadelphia Biblical University (1996), I completed my ThM in New Testament from Dallas Theological Seminary (2001). At the time of writing this paper, I am a PhD candidate in Historical Theology at Dallas Seminary, studying second century Christianity with an emphasis on Ignatius of Antioch as well as early christology. I also work full time as a writer for Insight for Living.

2 A second edition was subsequently published in 1964 (Walter Bauer, Rechtgläubigkeit und Ketzerei im ältesten Christentum, 2d ed., ed. Georg Strecker, Beiträge zur historischen Theologie 10, ed. Gerhard Ebeling [Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1964]). An English translation followed in 1971 (Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, trans. Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins, ed. Robert A. Kraft and Gerhard Krodel, The New Testament Library, ed. Alan Richardson, C. F. D. Moule, C. F. Evans, and Floyd V. Filson [London: SCM, 1971]).

3 To demonstrate the veracity of his thesis, Bauer examined the development of orthodoxy and heresy in various cities and regions. He suggested orthodox Christianity in Edessa did not come until the third century—much later than the Marcionites—and it did not prevail over heresy until after Constantine. He suggested that in Alexandria orthodoxy and heresy were not clearly distinguished until the end of the second century, pointing to Barnabas, Clement, and Origen as examples of the syncretistic nature of Christianity until Demetrius’s orthodox take-over in the early third century. With regard to Asia Minor, Bauer interpreted Ignatius’s and Polycarp’s letters as indicating that orthodoxy was a minority view struggling for survival. However, Bauer argued that by the second century Rome had a stable orthodox majority. He then suggested that Rome increased its influence and authority over churches, spreading its form of orthodox Christianity through anti-heretical literature and ecclesiastical/financial influence over Corinth, some parts of western Asia Minor, and as far as Antioch.

4 See the helpful—though hardly impartial—discussion in George Strecker and Robert A. Kraft, “Appendix 2: The Reception of the Book,” in Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy, 286–316.

5 Today, there are few scholars who would actually defend “The Bauer Thesis” as it originally stood in 1934. Most reasonable scholars would critique Bauer for his reliance on arguments from silence, anachronisms, or even misinterpretations of texts. However, the basic thesis that the early church was characterized by diversity and conflict, and that “orthodoxy” was merely one of many developing and competing forms of Christianity, is widely accepted. This emphasis on diversity and conflict in earliest Christianity as opposed to early unity among the “catholic” Christians from which diverse schisms broke away, can still generally be termed “The Bauer Thesis.” That is, Bauer’s fundamental presuppositions are generally acknowledged as true while the evidences for this view of early Christian history may change.

6 See Karen King, What Is Gnosticism? (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), 114. Ehrman writes regarding Bauer’s intuitions: “If anything, early Christianity was even less tidy and more diversified than he realized” (Bart D. Ehrman, Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003], 176).

7 One proponent of this view, Helmut Koester, defined his own position as follows: “Christianity did not begin with a particular belief, dogma or creed; nor can one understand the heretical diversifications of early Christianity as aberrations from one original true and orthodox formulation of faith. Rather, Christianity started with a particular historical person, his works and words, his life and death: Jesus of Nazareth. Creed and faith, symbol and dogma are merely the expressions of response to this Jesus of history. . . . The diversifications of this response were caused, and still today are caused, by two factors: first, by the several different religious and cultural conditions and traditions of the people who became Christians; and, second, by the bewildering though challenging impact of Jesus’ own life, works, words, and death.” (Helmut Koester, “The Structure and Criteria of Early Christian Beliefs,” in James M. Robinson and Helmut Koester, Trajectories through Early Christianity [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1971], 205).

8 See graphic on page 10 of this paper, “A Visual Comparison of the Two Models.”

9 Koester is correct that if the resurrection had occurred, it would mark the beginning of “a new period in the story of humankind” and “the turning point of the ages” (Helmut Koester, History and Literature of Early Christianity, 2d ed. [New York, De Gruyter, 2000], 91). Though Koester believes this is what inspired the early Christians, he does not, however, acknowledge that Jesus actually rose from the dead. In his words, the proclamation that Jesus of Nazareth was alive “is not a statement of a fact about Jesus’ fate after his death” (ibid., 91).

10 See Koester, History and Literature, 102, 166; and Helmut Koester, “Conclusion: The Intention and Scope of Trajectories,” in Robinson and Koester, Trajectories through Early Christianity, 270–272.

11 Koester, “Conclusion,” 277.

12 Ibid., 277–278.

13 Ibid., 277.

14 Koester, “The Structure and Criteria of Early Christian Beliefs,” 208.

15 Early on Jesus was associated with the coming messianic figure and his spirit was understood as the prophetic force that spoke within the community (ibid., 211–216). Another christological development was “Jesus as the Divine Man,” in which the life of Jesus was characterized by proofs of divine presence and power in his miracles and exorcisms (ibid., 216–219). Koester suggested a third christology: “Jesus as Wisdom’s Envoy and as Wisdom,” developed from Jewish wisdom theology and Hellenistic concepts of wisdom. As the earthly Jesus was a teacher of wisdom, he was soon associated with the embodiment of preexistent wisdom, as in Philippians 2:6–8 and the Prologue of John’s Gospel (ibid., 219–223).

16 Ibid., 223–229. Koester briefly describes his view on the origin of this christology: “The Christian belief that Jesus was raised from the dead is closely related to the expectation in certain quarters of Judaism that God would finally conquer the powers of unrighteousness, suffering, and death by his eschatological act of raising the dead. Resurrection is thus a mythological metaphor for God’s victory over the powers of unrighteousness” (ibid., 223). As the source of this belief, Koester points to the teachings of Isaiah 53, Daniel 7 and 10, and perhaps 4 Maccabees. Also see Koester, History and Literature, 89–93.

17 Helmut Koester, “The Structure and Criteria of Early Christian Beliefs,”209.

18 Also see Majella Franzmann, Jesus in the Nag Hammadi Writings (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996), 7.

19 Incidentally, only in a creedal context limited to the life, words, works, and death of a mortal Jesus do the eager pursuits of sociological, ecclesiastical, and political motivations and influences on doctrinal development make sense. One can argue against the bodily resurrection based on its alleged support of ecclesiastical authority and male domination only if Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead. If his resurrection actually occurred, then the sociological, ecclesiastical, theological, philosophical, scientific, historical, and political implications follow and are influenced by that event, not vice versa. It is, of course, acknowledged, that these various factors would influence the development of Christian theology as ecclesiastical history progressed. However, one must be cautious about reading political and ecclesiastical power struggles of medieval Catholicism into the theological and philosophical concerns of the first two centuries. If Jesus rose bodily from the dead, the efforts of the catholic church to rally around a central orthodox creed, to evangelize pagans, to reject Judaism, to defeat heresy, and to preserve authentic apostolic writings is not only understandable but demanded by the facts of history and theology. On the other hand, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, all of these conflicts and struggles must be reduced to the relativistic forces of pluralistic societies contending for power or money or both. In the end, the ultimate question of hermeneutics and historiography is a theological question.

20 I have been necessarily selective both with regard to the scholars I have chosen, their works I survey, and even the particular arguments in these works. These examples are illustrative only, and many more could have been used.

21 John Dominic Crossan, The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately after the Execution of Jesus (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1998).

22 Of course, Crossan’s view is not unique. See similar thoughts, or example, in Koester, History and Literature, 90–91.

23 Ehrman, Lost Christianities, 179–180.

24 See his candid discussion in Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 227–238.

25 Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (New York: Random House, 1979), 6.

26 Pagels, Gnostic Gospels, 6.

27 Karen King, What Is Gnosticism?, 21.

28 H. E. W. Turner, The Pattern of Christian Truth: A Study in the Relations between Orthodoxy and Heresy in the Early Church (London: Mowbray, 1954). While acknowledging that the Eusebian model of orthodoxy and heresy portrays an overly simplistic and anachronistic picture of Christianity in the second century, Turner rejected Bauer’s thesis of early diversity and the primacy of “heresy” in many regions in exchange for a concept of early Christianity marked by a “center” of unity around the person and work of Christ. This allowed for a “soft” diversity and development in the Christian church.

29 In several reviews of Turner’s work we find comments like the following: “The first two lectures alone are enough to convince the reader that there is rather less than meets the eye to the widely accepted theory of Bauer” (Robert M. Grant, “Review of The Pattern of Christian Truth by H. E. W. Turner,Anglican Theological Review 38, no. 1 [1956]: 101). Another writes, “Only the most determined defenders of the hypothesis of a primitive formless, traditionless Christianity will dare to sustain that thesis without radical modification, once they have weighed Turner’s evidence and argumentation.” (Eugene R. Fairweather, “Review of The Pattern of Christian Truth by H. E. W. Turner,” Canadian Journal of Theology 1, no. 2 [1955]: 126.)

30 Strecker and Kraft, “The Reception of the Book,” 302.

31 Ibid., 311–312, n. 27.

32 Thomas A. Robinson, The Bauer Thesis Examined: The Geography of Heresy in the Early Christian Church (Lewiston/Queenston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1988).

33 D. F. Wright, “Review of The Bauer Thesis Examined by Thomas A. Robinson,” The Evangelical Quarterly 62, no. 3 (1990): 280.

34 Thomas M. Finn, “Review of The Bauer Thesis Examined by Thomas A. Robinson,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 1, no. 2 (1993): 218.

35 Franzmann, Jesus in the Nag Hammadi Writings, 14–15.

Related Topics: Christology

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