Unity & Diversity

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    Best, Ernest

     (426K)

    On Defining the Central Message of the New Testament

    "The existence of the Gospels makes any central message a shadowy substitute for the real thing. If we think back a little to the reasons offered for the value of the diversity of the New Testament we will recollect that it was its very diversity which enabled it to be used in our culture and situations. If we reduce it to a set of statements, a simple drive or a core then we shall always have difficulty in applying it. (This may not be a problem if we are concerned only with discovering some centre for academic purposes). It is important then to retain both the diversity of ethical situation and response in the letters and to retain the variety of outlook in the four Gospels. If we attempt to formulate a central message may we not be robbing the New Testament of something which is essential to it and to our use of it?"
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    Blomberg, Craig L.

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    The New Testament Definition of Heresy (Or When do Jesus and the Apostles Get Really Mad?)

    "Numerous church historians and systematic theologians have chronicled the debates between 'orthodoxy' and 'heresy' for just about every major doctrine and era in the life of the church. Countless NT studies have analyzed what we can infer from the apostolic texts about the nature of the false teachers and false teaching combated in the first century. But I have been unable to locate any study which both surveys the major NT data, fully abreast of the most recent biblical scholarship, and compares them with contemporary discussions about the boundaries of evangelical faith, conversant with the recent literature in that arena as well."
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    Flory, Wayne S.

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    The Gnostic Gospels: A Review Article

    "Major themes of gnostic teaching, such as the discovery of the divine within, appealed to many, but the religious perspectives and methods of gnosticism did not lend themselves to mass religion. Thus it was in an unequel contest with the organized orthodox Church, which expressed a unified religious perspective based on the NT canon, offered a creed requiring only the simplest essentials of the faith, and celebrated rituals at one and the same time simple and profound--baptism and the eucharist."
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    Marshall, I. Howard

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    Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earlier Christianity

    "Granted that there is diversity and development in the theologies expressed in the New Testament, the question is whether this is the same thing as saying that no distinction between orthodoxy and heresy was being made, or that this concept did not exist prior to the development of a vocabulary to describe it. And at once it is obvious that the two things are not the same. It is possible, in other words, for there to be a variety in presentation of the Christian faith without the varied presentations being incompatible with one another."
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    Pate, C. Marvin

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    Current Challenges to the Christian Canon

    "This article...deals with a timely subject that has captured the imagination of popular audiences due to the DaVinci Code, and has stirred up old controversies in the academy, thanks to scholars like Elaine Pagels, Karen King, John Dominic Crossan, Bart Ehrman, along with the Fellows of the Jesus Seminar. The purpose of this article is to inform the reader about the current debate over the relationship between the Christian canon..., and orthodoxy. Should the two be equated or not? Perhaps the best way to proceed would be to summarize the subject by highlighting three stages of the debate: (1) the traditional understanding of the Christian canon, namely, the NT is rightly equated with orthodoxy; (2) the liberal challenge to the traditional view, which is that the NT canon should be expanded to include alternative expressions of early Christianities; (3) the traditional counter-responses to the liberal challenge."
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    Peterson, Jeffrey

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    The Extent of Christian Theological Diversity: Pauline Evidence

    "Paul maintains that the resurrection of the crucified Messiah was a constant in Christian experience from Jerusalem and Judea to Syria and Cilicia, from Asia and Macedonia and Achaia to Rome, and the circumstances of his correspondence lend credibility to his claim. This being the case, we must seek a different explanation of the diversity actually attested in the later sources than the hypothesis of an originally pluriform Christianity."
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    Scott, J. Julius

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    Parties in the Church of Jerusalem as Seen in the Book of Acts

    "Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792-1860) first impressed students of NT history with the importance of identifying and tracing the influence of groups or parties within the early Church. Baur and his 'Tubingen School' sought to interpret the NT against the background of cleavage between Jewish Christianity, led and represented by Peter, and the Gentile Christianity of Paul. Reconciliation between these groups, he believed was achieved only in the 'catholic' church of the second and following centuries. Subsequent scholarship has abandoned the particulars of Baur's reconstruction. But with varying degrees of emphases, it has followed his example in attempting to understand early Christianity and its literature within a structure characterized by internal division."
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    Skarsaune, Oskar

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    Heresy and the Pastoral Epistles

    "In antiquity, the term hairesis was not a negative concept - it meant quite simply a party or a school tradition, especially as applied to the different schools of philosophy. Used like this, hairesis is a neutral or even a positive word, and Josephus applies it in this way to the different parties among the Jews. It is also applied in this way in several instances by the author of Acts. There was, however, one aspect of Jewish and Christian self-understanding which implied negative connotations for the term. This aspect is the notion of the one, undivided people of God. Within the one people of God, a real people, there should be no parties or competing schools. This holds true for the early Christian self-understanding, and in Paul we observe how hairesis and schisma are put together as terms describing the serious sin of destroying the unity of the body of Christ."
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    Watt, Jonathan M.

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    Contextual Disconnection in Bart Ehrman's Lost Christianities

    "...[C]onsideration of the loose treatment of historical and literary contexts in Lost Christianities will bring into question its author’s assertion that there existed a ‘wide diversity of early Christianity and its sacred texts’...and will weaken his claim that these ‘ancient forms’ were ‘stamped out’ by an emerging orthodox ‘group’...The contextual disconnections that I will demonstrate are, for the most part, anticipated in the Introduction to the book and then worked out through subsequent pages. They have in common a lack of context, as I shall call that common thread running between them, which opens the door for the author’s contention that modern believers have lost a diverse and rich spiritual heritage because of the actions of a single, self-proclaiming orthodox group...By labeling certain documents in this fashion, Ehrman begs the question of authenticity and truthfulness and thereby compromises what is otherwise useful resource material for students or early Christian history."
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    Yamauchi, Edwin

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    The Gnostics and History

    "Gnosticism was a dualistic heresy which proclaimed salvation through gnosis or esoteric knowledge. It was a heresy which flourished in the 2nd century A.D. Whether it was already in existence in the 1st century or even in the pre-Christian era is a matter of great controversy. Until 1945 our major sources of information on the Gnostics were: the church fathers; and the late Mandaic texts. Then in that year a spectacular cache of 13 Coptic Gnostic Codices was found at Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt. These now give us a substantial corpus of early documents from the Gnostics themselves."