Varieties of Ancient Christianity

loaves and fishes picI wanted to share a little of information I learned from reading Lost Christianites by Bart D. Erhman. Most people do not realize how diverse the belief systems of the early Christians were. So, here is a list of some of them to help us understand what was believed. Christian theological beliefs vary just as widely today as they did then; thus, the reason for all the different denominations within each religious sect. There were many different theological beliefs that were embraced by the early Christians.  The second and third centuries show us that there were Christians that:

  • Believed in one God
  • Believed in two Gods
  • Believed in thirty gods
  • Believed in over 300 gods
  • Believed that God had created the world
  • Believed that this world had been created by a subordinate, ignorant divinity  (because of all the evil and misery it contained)
  • Believed that this world was a cosmic mistake created by a malevolent divinity as a place of imprisonment to trap humans and subject them to pain and suffering.
  • Believed that the Jewish Scripture (Old Testament) was inspired by the one true God.
  • Believed the Jewish Scripture (Old Testament) was inspired by the God of the Jews who was not the one true God.
  • Believed the Jewish Scripture (Old Testament) was inspired by an evil deity.
  • Believed the Jewish Scripture (Old Testament) was not inspired.
  • Believed that Jesus was both divine and human, God and man.
  • Believed that Jesus was completely divine and not human at all.
  • Believed that Jesus was a full flesh-and-blood human, adopted by God to be his son but not himself divine.
  • Believed that Jesus was two things: a full flesh-and-blood human, Jesus, and a fully divine being, Christ, who had temporarily inhabited Jesus’ body during his ministry and left him prior to his death, inspiring his teachings and miracles but avoiding the suffering in its aftermath.
  • Believed that Jesus’ death brought about the salvation of the world.
  • Believed that Jesus’ death had nothing to do with the salvation of the world.
  • Believed that Jesus never died.

How could some of these views be considered Christian? How could Christians hold such views? Didn’t they consult their New Testament to find out if what they believed was true or not?

Answer:  There was no New Testament. The manuscripts had not been gathered into widely recognized and authoritative canon of Scripture yet.

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