Five Myths About the Ancient Heresy of Gnosticism

In the world of biblical studies, at least among some critical scholars, Gnosticism has been the darling for sometime now.  Especially since the discovery of the so-called “Gnostic Gospels” at Nag Hammadi in 1945, scholars have sung the praises of this alternative version of Christianity.

Gnosticism  was a heretical version of Christianity that burst on the scene primarily in the second century and gave the orthodox Christians a run for their money.  And it seems that some scholars look back and wish that the Gnostics had prevailed.

After all, it is argued, traditional Christianity was narrow, dogmatic, intolerant, elitist, and mean-spirited, whereas Gnosticism was open-minded, all-welcoming, tolerant and loving.  Given …

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Destroyer of the Gods: New Book on Early Christianity by Larry Hurtado

This coming September, Larry Hurtado, Emeritus Professor of New Testament at the University of Edinburgh (and my Doktorvater), releases his latest volume, Destroyer of the Gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World (Baylor, 2016).

Larry allowed me to see a pre-published version of the book and I can tell you that it is (not surprisingly) an excellent piece of work and a fascinating look at the way early Christians fit (and didn’t fit) into their Greco-Roman context.

Although most modern Western individuals see Christianity as typical of all religions around the world (usually with the “all religions are the same” line added in for good measure), this volume …

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Was Early Christianity Hostile to Women?

Since we live in a culture that is obsessed with gender identity and gender issues, it is not surprising to find Christianity on the receiving end of serious criticisms regarding its view of women.

Christianity–particularly if it embraces a complementarian theology–is viewed by many in our culture as oppressive and harmful to women.  It does not provide, we are told, a friendly and welcoming environment where women can grow and thrive.

But, this is not just a problem for modern Christianity. The oppression of women, it is argued, was especially a problem in early Christianity.  After all, in the first few centuries of the church, critics insist that the Christian …

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Was the Divinity of Jesus a Late Invention of the Council of Nicea? Probing Into What the Earliest Christians Really Believed

council of Nicea

One of the most common objections to Christianity is that the divinity of Jesus was “created” by later Christians long after the first century.  No one in primitive Christianity believed Jesus was divine, we are told.  He was just a man and it was later believers, at the council of Nicea, that declared him to be a God.

A classic example of this in popular literature can be found in the book The Da Vinci Code:

“My dear,” Teabing declared, “until that moment in history [council of Nicea], Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet… a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal.”

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One of the Main Ways that the Earliest Christians Distinguished Themselves from the Surrounding Culture

In the first century, while Christianity was still in its infancy, the Greco-Roman world paid little attention.  For the most part, the early Christian movement was seen as something still underneath the Jewish umbrella.

But in the second century, as Christianity emerged with a distinctive religious identity, the surrounding pagan culture began to take notice.  And it didn’t like what it saw.  Christians were seen as strange and superstitious–a peculiar religious movement that undermined the norms of a decent society.  Christians were, well, different.

So, what was so different about Christians compared to the surrounding Greco-Roman culture?  One distinctive trait was that Christians would not pay homage to the …

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