There’s been a lot of chatter about “fake news” in recent months. Some stories, even though they have no basis in fact, are told so often, and with such conviction, that large numbers of people end up believing them anyway.
And some of these fake news stories even dupe legitimate political figures who repeat the story without realizing it is false. And, of course, once a mainstream political figure repeats a story then it becomes even more entrenched in the national psyche.
While some of these fake news stories are rather harmless, others have become quite dangerous. Most famous perhaps is the “Pizza Gate” incident in 2016 where a man shot up a pizza place thinking it was host to a child sex trafficking ring (thankfully, no one was hurt).
Given this rash of “fake news,” I thought it might be interesting to observe that an analogous phenomenon can be seen in the study of early Christianity. There is quite a bit of “fake news” out there regarding the person of Jesus, the origins of the church, or the development of the Bible . Even though such “news” has no factual basis, it is believed by an uncomfortably large number of people.
So, here is a sampling of some of the leading stories:
1. Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.
Perhaps there is no conspiracy theory about early Christianity more sensational and more captivating than the claim that Jesus was married and had children. It is not only fodder for books like The Da Vinci Code, but seems to pop up again and again in the mainstream media (see recent example here).
The problem, of course, is that this belief is patently false. There is no evidence Jesus was married. For a fuller critique of this piece of fake news, see my article here.
2. The divinity of Jesus was not decided until the council of Nicea in the fourth century.
Another long-standing and widespread conviction is that Jesus was merely an ordinary human who was exalted to divine status much later in the history of early Christianity. In particular, it is claimed, the council of Nicea decided that Christianity needed a divine Jesus and suppressed (and oppressed) all who insisted Jesus was merely human.
Again, however, the evidence for an early belief in the divinity of Jesus is overwhelming. As early as the 50’s of the first century, Paul applies the monotheistic creed of Israel to the person of Jesus, declaring, “For us there is one God, the Father from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Cor 8:6). And there is good evidence that Paul is drawing upon earlier tradition in this passage, indicating that such a belief was present at the very beginning of the Christian movement.
For more on the early divinity of Jesus, see Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel.
3. Christians did not have a “Bible” until the time of Constantine.
Also making our top-five list is the oft-repeated claim that early Christians, at least for the first four centuries, didn’t have a Bible. They were adrift on the theological sea, we are told, without guidance from Scripture and reliant merely on oral tradition which was itself problematic and ever-changing. This problem wasn’t resolved until Constantine commissioned the production of a Bible in the fourth century (containing, of course, just the books he preferred).
While this is yet another intriguing conspiracy theory, it lacks any historical foundation. We must remember, first of all, that the earliest Christians had a “Bible” from day one, namely what we now call the Old Testament. For them, the OT was the undisputed word of God and they were deeply immersed in it and committed to its authority. Moreover, from a very early point, Christians regarded their own books as scriptural and a core New Testament canon is evident by the early to middle second century.
For a brief discussion of this point see my article here. For more detail, see my full-length volume The Question of Canon.
4. The “Gnostic” Gospels like the Gospel of Thomas were just as popular as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Ever since the discovery of the so-called Gnostic Gospels at Nag Hammadi in 1945, it has been popular to insist that these “lost” gospels were really more popular than even our canonical ones. During the first few centuries, we are told, Christians read the Gospel of Thomas with equal (if not more) regularity than the books that made it into our Bibles.
And, of course, this whole narrative has a clear purpose behind it, namely to convince people that all gospels are pretty much the same and that no gospel is more valid than another.
But, this narrative quickly evaporates when one looks at the historical data. When it comes to nearly every line of evidence–frequency of citation, use as Scripture, number of manuscripts–it is clear that these apocryphal gospels were not very popular after all. Indeed, all the historical indicators show that that our four gospels were, far and away, the most popular gospels in the early church.
For more on this point, see my article here, or check out Chuck Hill’s book, Who Chose the Gospels?.
5. The words of the New Testament have been radically changed and corrupted in the earliest centuries.
Rounding out our top-five fake news stories is the claim that the text of the New Testament has been so radically corrupted, edited, and changed that we cannot really know what the original authors said. Made famous by Bart Ehrman’s best-seller Misquoting Jesus, this story has been repeated ad infinitum.
The problem, however, is that there is no evidence for this level of radical corruption. Can we see scribal changes/mistakes in our New Testament manuscripts? Of course. But, that is true for every document of antiquity. The New Testament is no different.
If there is a difference, it is that the New Testament seems even more well-preserved than comparable documents in the ancient world. After generations of careful scholarship, and a wealth of manuscripts at our disposal, we can have great confidence in the words of the New Testament.
For more on this issue, see the last chapter in my book, The Heresy of Orthodoxy, or my review of Misquoting Jesus.
In the end, these are five examples of “fake news” about early Christianity that get repeated so often that people believe they must be true. But, just like in the political world, we need to be careful to examine the facts before we repeat the claim.
Bruce Cooper says
Excellent post Michael! I don’t believe I’ve seen a post addressing this misinformation previously so it is indeed timely. Thank you.
Richard F says
Can I add, much more controversially, a 6th misunderstanding, which is that the early church primarily upheld the doctrine of substitution specifically of a penal (retributive justice) kind, whereas Christus Victor was in fact the dominant substitutionary thought, accompanied later with some Ransom atonement theory, which only was developed first into Satisfaction theory by Anselm, and then into Penal theory by Calvin.
Richard F, not sure what your sources are for the claim re: Christus Victor, but the writer of the epistles to the Romans, Galatians, Corinthians etc., clearly held to the doctrine of substitutionary atonement.
Richard F says
I can give you sources but, first, it was interesting that you thought I was suggesting that substitutionary atonement came late.
I only said that ‘penal’ substitution came late!!
Jeremy Edgar says
Penal substitution is all over the New Testament…and even in some of the Old too. So tring to say it came late isn’t true.
Richard F says
Wrath, holiness, sacrifice, substitution and atonement are all over OT and NT, but where is punishment, in the Greek or Hebrew text? Where is it in Peter’s Pentecost sermon, other than man punishing Jesus for His popularity, or His purity, or His blasphemy?
Atonement does not mean punishment; it means reconciliation, with the Hebrew meaning covering of the mercy seat. Neither specify how this is achieved. Substitution is also all over the OT and NT but does not, in and of itself, specify its purpose.
Gustav Aulen’s classic work 100 years ago has been slowly bringing about a rethink of atonement models and, no, there is no easy compromise synthesis since some of them paint very different pictures of God
God wants to bring man back into fellowship with Him, so we can ask – why did this require the cross; what was God doing; what was his ‘problem’; was it His anger; did He need to demonstrate not just an attitude to sin, but the extent of His anger about it?
Christus Victor says no; the inevitable result or consequence of sin is death (‘wages’ does not imply punishment). After all, how can man expect to find life away from Life Himself?
CV maintains that Jesus descends from heaven to earth and from earth into hell, into the death zone in which we live. From there, He leads captives free. Satan had done all he could to prevent Jesus entering his domain, but men killed Jesus and Jesus entered hell.
What would be your key NT passages for punishment?
Richard F says
I have replied to you, Jeremy, but it might appear as a reply to Kepha – operator error this end!
Mike McCann says
It does not fit the biblical record to suggest the concept of wrath does not contain the idea of punishment. John told his hearers to flee the coming wrath through repentance. Why would there be a need to flee it if there were no punishment. Indeed, John indicated the reason they were to flee this wrath now is that “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
God’s wrath exhibited throughout the Old Testament frequently resulted in severe punishment for His own people. Punishment is continuously declared against sin. The New Testament makes it clear that unbelievers and the unrepentant face severe (eternal) punishment from God. A few examples to demonstrate:
6 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power. (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9, NASB)
26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-30)
Several other Scriptures to add in here: Mt. 5: 46; 2 Pt. 2:9; Jude 1:7.
Trying to separate God’s wrath from punishment is not very convincing. His wrath generally resulted/results in punishment. Warnings in both Old and New Testaments indicate that punishment is God’s means of dealing with sin and rebellion, and it is associated with His righteous wrath. Certainly the book of Revelation warns of severe punishment for those who are not counted among God’s saints, including a final destiny in the lake of fire. How is that not penal, punitive action from the Judge who will judge the living and the dead? It is unreasonable to maintain that God’s work of salvation on our behalf has nothing to do with His deliverance of us from sin and its punishment via the precious blood of the Lamb.
Richard F says
Thank you for your measured response.
I will try to set out, and indeed tidy up, the Christus Victor (CV) view (not just my view) in its wider context, and answer your very apposite bible verses, though taking the original Greek not necessarily the various English translations. This may take me more than one reply!
When Jesus comes again to judge, there will destruction of some/many. At this stage, the day o f the Lord’s favor is over. Restorative justice, which is specifically righting wrongs, rather than meeting a wrong with a wrong, will have had its day. The word punishment is used (in Greek); indeed there is also even, at this point, the suggestion of retribution, as if to close the books, to close the aeon. I suspect this judgement will be solemn and considered, not hot as is the flavor in various Greek words for wrath/anger in the OT. There is also judgment/punishment in the OT, though it is not clear whether the generation that died in the desert then went to hell.
But I want to focus in on Jesus’ work on the cross, not on God’s dealings in the OT, nor even His work at the eschaton. Jesus atoned for our sins on the cross, but atonement means reconciliation; it does not in and of itself mean paying a penalty
The penal substitution (PS) view is that, through the sins of one man, we are under eschatological condemnation and currently already dead in our trespasses and sins (correct). But God could not just forgive man; He needed to uphold His holiness, balance it with His mercy (no, God could forgive man, but man would remain dead. The problem was not God ‘needing’ to uphold His holiness – after all He does not justify Himself to Job or in Rom 9. The problem was that man was dead, so God decided to destroy death itself. The means by which God brings about atonement is not moral, but metaphysical. Luther saw this; it is not clear Calvin did).
It is not Jesus’ death on the cross that leads to our justification, but his resurrection (Rom 4:25). Of course, His death was the only way He might enter hell, and there destroy the works, and the home, of the enemy and lead captives free in His train.
The ESV talks of a propitiation (Rom 3:25) specifically to incorporate a sense of wrath. The NASB talks of a ‘sacrifice of atonement’ which is a lot better, though the Greek simply has ‘hilasterion’ a covering. Jesus is put forth as a covering of sin
Is 53 is the classic text used for PS, but it does not say He was afflicted by God, just that we considered Him so. We were the ones who punished Him, for showing up our sins, for blasphemy etc etc. The PS notion that Satan thought he had won with Jesus’ death only to find he had been tricked is sub-Christian. God does not trick. Satan did all he could, in the desert, and in the mouth of Peter, to keep Jesus from His death
All a bit rushed but all I can do for now. I might just add that PS has the problem of double jeopardy (Jesus pays for our sins and we are also judged and condemned for them). Thus we have the notion of Limited Atonement. But CV says Jesus dies for all men, but rises for the justification of those whom the Father has given Him
H.L. Jackson says
Why not simply start your own blog, build a following from scratch and post to your heart’s delight instead of lurking around for chances to “improve” or “supplement” others who have done just that for themselves.
Richard F says
I have no desire to ‘build a following’. Nor do I ‘lurk’ around.
This blog posted 5 fake truths, but there are others too, so I added one. Nobody need read it, let alone reply to it. Others have done so, so I think my contribution may have helped
I take it you disagree with my view but for some unclear reason choose not to present your view or even why mine is wrong.
I won’t accuse you of lurking around simply to shoot down posts of others
As a former pastor and a student of histrocal fact there is no evdacnce to back up your artical so your artical is false news
Felix Omo says
Mike, Also, there is no evidence to back up the fact that you are a former pastor and history student.
So you are fake news.
Jeremy Edgar says
David Z says
Hah – BAM. too funny.
You can’t spell “historical.” You can’t spell “evidence.” And you can’t spell “article.” And you want me to believe you know what you are talking about? I don’t think so.
Their is also no evidence to back up the statement that former pastor Mike ever learned to use the English language properly. However, I beg your pardon if you are foreign-born.
David Parker says
As a former pastor, perhaps you would do the audience the honor of proofreading what you write instead of carelessly leading people who were trying to take you seriously into utter confusion.
Marion BD says
I am intrigued Mike as to who you are and from where. Much of the early days and the life of jesus is aupposition. So i am intrigued as to where you come from…
Also, no one in the early Church believed in a flat Earth. Not even when Rome corrupted Christianity was belief in a flat Earth ever accepted.
The idea that early Christians believed in a flat Earth was invented & popularized by novelist Washington Irving.
Marion BD says
Really. So how come it was,believed,the,demons livwd,under the,sea where the cokumns were to support the earth?
Short answer: it wasn’t.
You need to cite sources, but you are likely uninformed that not every verse in the Bible is intended to be read literally. If it is in the Psalms, for instance, they were poetry set to music, full of imagery not meant to be taken literally.
On the other hand, the myth that Christopher Columbus fought against ignorant religious leaders who thought he would fall off the edge of the Earth did indeed originate with Washington Irving. And made its way into textbooks by unscrupulous scholars who had an axe to grind with religion in general and Christianity in particular. They wanted to portray religion as ignorant superstition holding us back, and science as our liberator. Washington Irving’s fiction fit their agenda so they taught it as fact.
But don’t take our word for it. Take the Washington Post’s word instead:
Bart Ehrman has admitted that we “pretty much know” what the New Testament writers said.
He was on Issues, Etc. in January 2006 when he said that. Audio here: http://www.issuesetcarchive.org/06jan.php
He also said so on a book tour in Philadelphia, here (around minute 45): https://libwww.freelibrary.org/podcast/episode/640
Jonathan Hunt says
May I have your permission to share this with our church, as before? (Duly credited of course!)
Rev. Dr Marilyn Bennett says
Thank you, Michael.
Unfortunately just like the “fake news” in the media, there are those who do not want to believe in the truth. Close followers of Jesus walked away from him then, and they walk away from him now. I am praying that the Spirit of God enlivens the words of truth they have learned so they will know and believe!
Thank you for being a beacon of light.
Jonathan Brentner says
Great Article; I especially like your defense of the New Testament. It is quite reliable.
Trent A says
This is all premised on the supposition that,
A) There was a Jesus
B) That there is a god, any god.
That the Bible is a collection of truths and that it was written as a historical rather than a spiritual document.
There is no evidence that any of this is true, there is also no evidence that anything about any religion is true.
You refer to other faiths origin myths as myths, yet we are supposed to believe that a man was stabbed in the heart, died then returned to life? That bread and wine transforms into blood and flesh?
This is all just so so silly.
Richard F says
If indeed you are sincerely prepared to consider the question, then
1. Non-Christian historians at the time wrote that Jesus lived and taught, and that his followers claimed that he rose from the dead.
2. The gospel accounts give very persuasive evidence for the historicity of their accounts. People who say they are biased must equally say that a newspaper reporting a 2-1 score is biased because they believe that
3. The disciples had no motive to believe and defend their faith in the face of such persecution
4. Jesus claimed that there was a god, and rising from the dead gives credence to his claim
a. There seems to be evidence but you do not like it
b. I’m sure you would want any all-powerful god to prove his existence through something special
c. But, when you hear of miracles, you dismiss them as impossible
d. The disciples recognized death and knew, better than we, when a man was truly dead or just unconscious. They were not stupid. To think so is called chronological snobbery
e. It was only because they saw something impossible that they were changed from confused and frightened men into bold and clear witnesses of what they had seen
f. So, yes, it was ‘silly’ to them too, but they knew they had to make sense of it
g. Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection. The origin of other religions is less publicly attested
h. You must hold yourself responsible if you do not approach these things with an open mind
(ps – not all branches of Christianity believe in the transubstantiation you mention)
Indeed, indeed. It is the details of the resurrection account that reinforce my continued belief – would 1st century Jewish men really have had a woman as the first witness to Jesus’ resurrection if they had just made it up? I think not. The details speak the truth.
The historical consensus, from historians of all beliefs and non, is that Jesus of Nazareth existed. I would not believe everything you read on the web.
As for the existence of God, I would suggest you read the Gospels, say Luke and John, to get a better understanding of Jesus. Before I actually started to read the Gospels properly, I was pretty ignorant of Jesus’ words and life. And I knew little of His death and resurrection. For me His resurrection from the dead is the lynch-pin of the truth of Christianity. If it didnt happen, then as the apostle Paul said, we are to be the most pitied of men. But if it did happen…. I would suggest you read a book such as Lee Strobel’s ‘The Case for Christ’ as a starter. Or Michael Green’s short book ‘The Day Death Died’.
If you come to the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth is who He says He is, then you have no need to look to other religions for an answer to God’s existence. IMO, other religions can have some truth in them, but when it comes to the fundamental questions such as who is God, what is reality etc, they fail.
Regarding the Bible, it is a collection of writings, mainly historical in nature, but also some poetic, parables, prayers etc. So you need to know the genre of the particular writing you are reading to properly understand it. But I have yet to see any real evidence that the historical details as recorded in the Bible have been shown to be false. Indeed the opposite has happened. Historians previously cast doubt on some of the historical details of the Gospels or Acts, for example, but then through archaeological discoveries, those details have been shown to be true all along.
Finally, as for Jesus’ death, you show a little ignorance in that you seem to think Jesus’ death was caused by a stab wound. That isnt the case. The spear to His side showed that He had already died on the cross. That is why the Roman soldiers had no need to break His legs, which was the normal method to ensure death – crucified men would try to keep raising themselves up by their legs to relieve the pressure on their lungs to prevent asphyxiation. So to ensure they died within a reasonable time, the soldiers would eventually break their legs thus preventing them to raise themselves, thus resulting in their deaths. In Jesus’ case, the blood and water flowing from His side showed to the experienced soldiers He had already died, so no need to break His legs – very soon after death, the blood coagulates and separates from the plasma (now known as serum). So when His body was pierced, in addition to pleural effusion, it is likely that what gushed out was a mix of “water” (there was no term for plasma/serum back then) and clots of red/white blood cells.
As for wine and bread turning into literal blood and flesh, many many Christians, including myself, do not believe that is the teaching of the New Testament. Jesus, after all, spoke those words ‘this is my body, this is my blood…’ when He was physically with the disciples before His death. So I doubt they understood the bread and wine they were eating and drinking to be literally His body and blood. They are symbolic, and when Christians celebrate the Last Supper, it is to remind them of the sacrifice of Jesus.
I hope you will take Jesus seriously, and ask Him (even if you doubt He even existed!) to open your eyes to His reality.
Thank you for this well thought out post. I can sense your love of Jesus, and your passion in sharing His truth, the Gospel.
H.L. Jackson says
Oh, my! After 6,000 years of recorded human history, aloing with its various spiritual beliefs and practices and in spite of millions of highly-trained scholars devoting their lives to the study of religion from every humanly imaginable angle, you have finally unraveled the mysteries of the falsity and meaninglesness of societal religious belief and practice right here and now!
You must be really smart.
You mistake the existence of many religions as being evidence of the falseness of ALL religions. But why is that?
Does that conclusion necessarily follow? No. For example, the fact that there are many people who believe incorrectly that humans only use 10% of their brains, while others know that to be an urban legend based on a misinterpretation of early fMRI studies, doesn’t prove BOTH wrong. The latter group are in fact right (even though they are in the minority).
The point is, just because people have chosen to invent any number of FALSE religions doesn’t mean there is no TRUE one.
And it also doesn’t mean that there is no way to tell which one is true.
Only one religion out of all of them explicitly makes a TESTABLE claim, and actually encourages people to NOT believe it if that claim were proven false: Christianity.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:13-19
“But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
That is a testable truth claim. If Jesus did in fact live, die by crucifixion, and was raised from the dead, then Christianity is true. And therefore all other religions that teach He did not must be false. If Jesus did not exist, die and rise from the dead, then Christianity is false. And some other religion may be true instead (although good luck finding as clear a truth claim to test).
And if you research the resurrection thoroughly and with an open mind, applying reason and critical thinking to other proposed explanations of the evidence accepted even by the staunchest critics, I am confident that you would find more than ample evidence of this truth claim.
David Z says
i want to say a big thank you on this article …
especially the part about the Old Testament used by the early church
this is so important, so fundamental to our Christian faith
i find it highly disturbing about people who identify themselves “Christian” and they reject the Old Testament!
i believe among the most important news from the early church
Acts 11:26 – in Antioch the disciples were first called Christian !
we wonder what kind of Christian education materials they used?
of course the Old Testament!
Chuck Hoskins says
Two cents of Just another brother. I believe the Early(Apostolic) church, both Jewish and Gentile and Jewish/Gentile used the Old Testament as their Scriptures, The Apostle Paul wrote his first letter in early 50-52 AD, Most of his letters were written towards the end of his life. Sometime within that frame brothers and sisters were recognizing that these writings were also Scripture,along with Peters,Johns,James The Gospels.(not an exhaustive list)
Martin Atencio says
Regarding #4: The thing they are trying to debunk is TRUE news. The early christians did not have a Bible since day 1. Although they had the OT, The first book of the NT was not written until 60ish AD. The last book, not until 70 AD. And For the next 300 years everyone was arguing as to which books were scripture and which were not. And they had a lot of books and letters to choose from, not just the books we have now. And so No, sorry to break it to you, christians did not have an NT Bible until 393 and 420 AD when it was decided.
Not really true. I highly recommend you read Mike’s book The Heresy of Orthodoxy, or Jonathan Morrow’s book Questioning the Bible, J. Warner Wallace’s Cold Case Christianity, or any number of other books that outline the authorship, dating, and recognition of all of the major books of the New Testament from the time of their writing up until the formalization of the canon.
You are repeating a view of early Christianity based on a throughly debunked theory by a German scholar named Bauer.
The truth is that the letters of Paul were written much earlier than you cite, and the synoptic Gospels as well all date earlier, no later than AD 66. But even you date is extremely early–too early for myth to set in, since there were still plenty of living eyewitnesses to counter any myths or falsehoods in them.
And the majority of the books were instantly recognized by scripture, widely copied and circulated, read in services alongside the already canonical Old Testament scriptures, quoted from extensively by the early second century Church fathers, etc. The Didache, from around 100 AD cites Jesus’ words in the gospels as Scripture. The Muratorian fragment (~180 AD) lists all four Gospels, all thirteen epistles of Paul, the book of Acts, Jude, two of the Johannine epistles, and the book of Revelation.
The historical evidence shows in fact that while there was some disagreement on a very few books (e.g., James, Jude, 2nd Peter, 2nd and 3rd John), the vast majority of the core New Testament canon was universally accepted from the start.
And so, yes, indeed, the earliest Christians did indeed have a Bible before the formal list of canonical books was issued in the 4th Century.
And you are also incorrect in asserting that there were a number of other books they might have equally chosen. There were other books, yes, but clear forgeries that started to appear a century after the canonical books, with no clear ties to the supposed authors, and which contradicted both the canonical and Old Testament Scriptures in core theology. So, there never was any chance those competing books would have been accepted, being such obvious forgeries.
Martin Atencio says
MusicMaker, Citing opinions of partial lists of the canon, no matter the authenticity of the author, does support your assertion that the earliest christians did have a bible before the formal list of canonical books. Anyone can give opinions and considering how widespread christianity was in the first 300 years, different areas of the world gave credence to different sets of lists. Often it was based on what was available to them in that part of world (recall that scripture was handwritten). The very fact that you acknowledge that they argued about James, Jude, et al, shows that they didn’t know. In addition, the reason WHY they had multiple councils to create a canon, is proof that they didn’t know. The canon had to be created for them to know. Don’t get me wrong here: those authentic opinions were certainly considered when deciding the canon in the 300s.
As for your claim about the forgeries, they weren’t “clear”. The reason gnosticism grew so huge, is because the early christians would give credence to these “other” documents. There may be been no chance they would have been accepted as scripture by the church, but that acceptance occurred 400 years after the fact. Until then, all the individual christians accepted either none, one, some, or all of those forgeries, mixed in with the valid documents. You are speaking from a perspective of 2017. Without the info, you have now, you would be in the same boat as them: in confusion and not exactly knowing which books were what.
Martin Atencio says
MusicMaker, Citing opinions of partial lists of the canon, no matter the authenticity of the author, does NOT support your assertion that the earliest christians did have a bible before the formal list of canonical books.
I guess there’s no way to edit past posts.
Right, but since we can’t be sure that Jesus even existed all of this sorta moot. Also, God is fiction 😀
Richard F says
If you are interested in the existence or otherwise of Jesus, then please read my post 6 hours earlier. And reply?
If you are not interested, then you might consider whether your existence is as likely to us out here, as Jesus’ existence. Or whether we exist; if not, you are wasting your time posting
Randy Johnson says
God and Jesus didn’t just give us a document (Bible). God also gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit when we obey Him and ask for it. It is the experience of receiving the Holy Spirit and having the Holy Spirit bear witness with our spirit that we are the children of God that accompanies and undergirds the authority of Scripture.
God reveals Himself to those who believe He exists and who diligently seek Him. If you don’t believe He exists, and you don’t diligently seek Him, He will remain hidden to you and you will receive no revelation of Him or from Him. However, regardless of your stubborn unbelief, you will be resurrected from your grave and you will stand before Jesus Christ for judgment, whether you chose to believe in Him or not.
Thanks for the reminders. I am anticipating reading your new book. However, I live in the western hemisphere, so is there someplace I can order your new book without having it shipped from Europe?
Scott Sherrell says
Re #2, this depends on what you mean by “divinity.”
It amazes me that you would cite I Corinthians 8 as evidence Paul believed Jesus was God. Paul explicitly said that there is one God, or one supreme being, and that supreme being is the Father, not the Trinity.
If the apostle Paul had believed in Trinitarianism, he would have written, “To us there is only one God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
In none of Paul’s undisputed letters does he ever refer to Jesus as “God.”
For Paul, “God” was a proper title for the Father alone.
Romans 9:5 should be translated like so: “May he who is over all God be blessed forever.”
Even in Titus 2:13, the text probably refers to Jesus as “our great God and Savior’s glory,” not the great God and Savior himself.
Among the apostolic fathers, the writings of Clement and Polycarp lead me to believe they thought the Father alone was God. The letters of Ignatius exist in three recensions, and each recension may be corrupt. Early theologians such as Justin Martyr, Origen, and Hippolytus definitely believed that Jesus was a lesser and secondary god.
Even Tertullian, the inventor of the word “Trinity,” wrote in his tract Against Hermogenes that there was once a time when there was no Son.
Prior to the Council of Nicea, it was not necessary to believe that the Son was consubstantial with the Father in order to be considered an orthodox Christian.
Will Barkus says
Looks like you forgot about Saul’s (Paul) encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus? Specifically, Acts 9:3-6??
V Wool says
John 17:11 Holy Father, I am no longer in the world. I am coming to you, but my followers are still in the world. So keep them safe by the power of the name that you have given me. Then they will be one with each other, just as you and I are one.
That reads to me that Jesus himself saw he and God the Father as one.
John Ronning says
More than that, a better reading of John 17:11 (mistranslated by NIV), it reads “keep them in your name which you gave to me” – the name of the Father = YHWH, so this name is also given to Jesus (compare “I have come in my Father’s name” with “blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD”)
You are also ignoring the claims Jesus made that are ONLY allowed to be made by God. ONLY God can forgive sins, ONLY God is Lord of the Sabbath.
The author of Hebrews says in Hebrews 1:3
“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high….”.
Now, before you say “ahah! Jesus sits down BESIDE God so can’t BE God,” just a few verses later that same author says in Hebrews 1:8
“But of the Son he says,
‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.'”
And Hebrews 1:10-12
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end.”
These verses are unquestionably about the Son, and yet talk about things exclusively reserved for the Father (creator of the heavens and the Earth), and directly calls Jesus God.
And John’s Gospel said Jesus was both with God and God in the beginning, implying co-eternality with the Father.
There is good reason why the Trinity has been upheld throughout Church history, and why views like yours deemed unBiblical.
Especially since it would undermine the entire Gospel, if Jesus were not God. The amazing thing about the Gospel is that God loved His created humanity so much that He chose to become a human being, live a sinless life Himself, since we couldn’t, allow Himself to be killed by us, all to prove His love for us in unconditional and boundless. If God Himself did none of those things, then why was it Just for God to condemn an innocent OTHER being for our sins?
It only would be Just if God did not such thing, but took our condemnation on Himself.
Matthew Fowler says
Great to see these, my questions are,
1) Where did Jesus get his Y Chromosome from?
2) Was it Aaronic?
To 1) my first response is “who cares?” And I really don’t mean that to be flippant, but why expect the normal rules of genetic inheritance to apply to a one-of miraculous immaculate conception? So the question is really meaningless. Jesus was created by God’s Spirit directly, with a fully human genome without obtaining the Y chromosome from His biological father.
And it is irrelevant even to Jesus’ genealogy, as I’ll explain below.
To question 2) it was not Aaronic. Jesus was from the line of David, who was of the tribe of Judah. Jesus’ human step-father was of that line, as was His mother, Mary. And so Jesus fulfilled multiple Old Testament messianic prophecies and promises made by God to Abraham, Isaac, and David, that from that line a king would come whose kingdom would never end.
Now, why did Jesus not come from the Aaronic line is explained in detail in Hebrews. Jesus’ High Priesthood was qualitatively different from all human, Aaronic priests. One key difference is that the Levitical priests were born to be priests. Not personally called or anointed by God.
Melchizedek was anointed by God as priest, as was Jesus.
And there are many more reasons God chose to bring the new Covenant, based on Grace and not the Law, God’s unilateral action vs. our works, a once-and-for-all sacrifice vs. endless annual sacrifices, etc., through a different Tribe than Levi.
Steve Simms says
Awesome post! Love how you speak the truth in love!
Dorothy Bourne says
Hi Michael. I love your fake news theme. I attended seminary so I know where you are coming from. I experienced some things in recent years that have, as you would say ‘led me astray’, but the problem is that I am sure my experiences are true/real, and I know I was lied to. I used to laugh at the Mary Magdalene rumor too, but some sort of magic told me, in my head, that 0-33 of Jesus’ life was a show, to deceive Satan, and we were brought along for the ride. I was told that He lived a life of sin, to become sin in a way that only people who know the depth of their sin appreciate, and died, in Italy, in 70 AD, the year the 2nd temple was destroyed. Someone used magic on me to experience the sensation of something in lodged in my esophagus, to tell me that someone shoved rocks down Jesus’ throat, probably because he deserved it. And that is how he died. I expect you to believe none of this, but if you are predestined to be in the ‘in crowd’ in this life, magicians will help you work through the difficulties of this belief. They don’t usually force people to believe, especially theologians, but they have the ability to. So I am a homeless woman in Jupiter, FL, pregnant and holding (5.5 months, not showing) with a clone of JC, and his soul will be put into the baby at first breath. IN the mean time, this is what I do – contact some opiners. Believe me, I have not met you, but I have an idea how you think (I attended RTS Jackson). I am told JC is coming back 12x, as an infant, perhaps never named JC. I am to name him Samson Alpha, I AM SON S AM SON (the i is an ‘s’ bc he became the snake). How in the world do you determine absolute truth? I have no idea. I am going to be Queen of a resurrected Habsburg Empire. I had not even heard of them but I am told I am a hidden heir. Just watch the news. I am going to invite pregnant women and their husbands to ‘donate’ their future child to help lead my empire (the 144,000). This is not my plan. I was never expecting a 1000 year ‘millenia’ reign of jc. XOXO
Matthew Fowler says
An impressive range of views and predictions. I was Christened after my father’s favourite Gospel. That has inspired, informed me over this last 1/2 century. Clearly, increasing people’s scientific and ITC literacy would really make more of a difference. Tragically, modern politics continues the leap backwards into the Dark Ages however as the “X-Files” stated, “The truth is out there” and I simply seek the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the whole truth …
Richard F says
Dorothy dear, Can I suggest you go see a medical doctor. Without even a scan, he can listen with his stethoscope to check on the baby. Tell him the whole story too. He can help you with that earlier magic too
You determine truth by investigating external evidence, not internal subjective feelings. Now, the things you experience may be real to you, but that doesn’t mean they are true. They are all so far from being Biblical that they are likely demonically inspired.
God tells us how to know truth. He gave us His Word, which is backed by solid historical evidence that is not subject to our feelings. And in that Word He tells us to Test the Spirits In 1 John 4:1-3:
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.”
What you have been told is not from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would never, ever accuse Jesus of sinning, because Jesus WAS GOD, and it is not possible for God to sin. It would violate God’s very character and nature.
You know who does sin? The devil. That’s all he does, and so who do you think would more likely argue that Jesus sinned?
I pray the Lord break you free of all demonic confusion and oppression, in Jesus’ holy name!
Martin Atencio says
Regarding #3: This article has their facts wrong. The the People who were against the divinity of Jesus (the Arians) did not think of Jesus as merely human. They thought he was “like” God, but not God. And so they thought he was divine.
Just finished your book, The Heresy of Orthodoxy, and loved it!
I know that you and Andres Kostenberger were constrained by space and so could only scratch the surface of the mounds of evidences backing your key points, but I think it was still extremely compelling and convincing.
And the overall point that these criticisms are rooted in fallacious post-modernist thinking (and I use that term loosely) was excellent.
I highly recommend the book!
all the supposedly conflicting theories of atonement are parts of the whole. Sure God visited wrath on Christ, Who also accepted the sacrifice as did the Father, per Blachernae Constantinople 1156 which clarified a confusion a couple of deacons brought in. Athanasius says that God had a divine dilemma, to take us back as if nothing had happened, violating His own integrity breaking His word that death would result from eating the forbidden fruit, or let His creation dither out to destruction both unthinkable or have His Son (wwho is also God) become man and suffer our punishment in our place so that justice being satisfied mercy and love could be exerted without violating God’s integrity.
I don’t see how christus Victor onflicts with any other version or vice versa. St. John Cassian in his Institutes preaches payment of debt atonement in explaining why prayers are offered at the sixth hour. Theosis is dependent on the atonement not a substitute for it.
kandy Kane says
Kant nobody spel nowadaze? Dont nobody prufreed there stuf?