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The Development of Orthodox Christianity and the New Testament. By Ed Hensley. Outline of this Study. Early Versions of Christianity – This Study Development of Orthodox Christianity – This Study Development of Christian Canons Selecting Books for the Canons

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The development of orthodox christianity and the new testament

The Development of Orthodox Christianity and the New Testament

By Ed Hensley

Outline of this study
Outline of this Study

  • Early Versions of Christianity – This Study

  • Development of Orthodox Christianity – This Study

  • Development of Christian Canons

    • Selecting Books for the Canons

    • Editing the Books of the Canons

    • Books No Longer in the Canon(s)

  • Development of Anti-Judaism in Christianity

  • Non-Canonical Books and Myths referenced in the NT

  • Important Contradictions in the NT

My background
My Background

  • Southern Baptist

  • Texas

  • Fundamentalist Churches

  • Moderate Family

  • Not fluent in Hebrew, Greek, or Latin

  • Not a scholar

  • Send corrections to

The development of orthodox christianity and the new testament
From Christ to ConstantineFrom multiple early Christianities to an almost unified Christianity under Constantine

Historical background1
Historical Background

  • Ancient Hebrews evolved from the ancient Canaanite Religion. El Elyon was the most high god of manygods.

  • Ancient Hebrews became monolithic. They believed in many gods, but Hebrews should only worship their god named Yahweh.

  • Ancient Hebrews evolved into monotheism around the 6th century BCE while in Babylonian capticity, believing Yahweh was the only god.

Historical background2
Historical Background

  • In 587 BCE, the southern Kingdom of Judah with its capital Jerusalem had been conquered by the Babylonians who destroyed the First Temple and forced the Jewish population into exile, known as the Babylonian exile. Fifty years later, Cyrus of Persia permitted the Jews to return and build yet a new temple, the Second Temple, only to have it destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. Thus, the span of Jewish history from 515 BCE to 70 CE is often referred to as the Second Temple period. Within it are four subdivisions:


Historical background3
Historical Background

  • The Persian Period (ca. 537-332 BCE).

    • Jewish nation ruled by high priests

    • Minimal interference from the Persian kings

    • Synagogues became significant sites for teaching and worship

    • The Torah became the focal point of their religion

  • The Hellenistic Period (ca. 332-167 BCE)

    • The Holy Land came under Greek control during conquests by Alexander the Great

    • 198-167 BCE was a reign of terror during which Jews suffered horrible atrocities from Antiochus IV Epiphanes, King of Syria, who sought to exterminate Judaism by force

Historical background4
Historical Background

  • The Hasmonean Period (167-63 BCE)

    • Jewish rebels nicknamed "Maccabees" ("hammers") led revolt against Antiochus and won independence. Rededication of the Second Temple (defiled by Antiochus) is the origin of Hanukkah. Two important Jewish sects, Pharisees and Sadducees, emerged.

  • The Roman Period (63 BCE – 70CE)

    • Roman general Pompey conquered Jerusalem in 63 BCE

    • Herod the Great appointed King of the Jews by the Roman Senate (37 - 4 BCE)

    • Census of Quirinius(CE 6)

    • Judea was a Roman Province (6 – 135 CE)

Judean coin 68 ce
Judean Coin 68 CE

A coin issued by the rebels in 68, note Paleo-Hebrew alphabet. Obverse: "Shekel, Israel. Year 3." Reverse: "Jerusalem the Holy“ –

Roman coin celebrating judean captivity
Roman Coin Celebrating Judean Captivity

An ancient Roman coin. The inscription reads IVDEA CAPTA. The coins inscribed IvdaeaCapta (Judea Captured) were issued throughout the Empire to demonstrate the futility of possible future rebellions. Judea was represented by a crying woman. –

Roman coin celebrating jewish captivity
Roman Coin Celebrating Jewish Captivity

Roman denarius depicting Titus, circa 79. The reverse commemorates his triumph in the Judaean wars, representing a Jewish captive kneeling in front of a trophy of arms. –

Romans looting jewish treasure
Romans Looting Jewish Treasure

The treasures of Jerusalem taken by the Romans (detail from the Arch of Titus).

Who was jesus really
Who Was Jesus (really)

  • Jesus was not important historically, as he was not mentioned by any contemporary historians, Jewish, Roman, Greek, or otherwise.

  • The general scholarly consensus is that Jesus was a Gallilean Jew born between 7 and 2 BCE. who condemned other Jews in particular of not following the laws or the spirit of the laws.

  • Jesus is believed to have been crucified by the Romans for rebellion against their authority around 30-36 CE.

  • There is a small minority of scholars who claim Jesus never existed. Some also claim Nazareth did not exist in the 1st Century.

Paul establishes christian theology
Paul Establishes Christian Theology

  • Born as Hebrew Saul, he legally prosecuted Christians

  • Had a conversion on the road to Damascus while hunting Jewish Christians. Changes name to Roman name Paul

  • Pauline Epistles (letters of Paul) written first (authentic ones)

    • 7 Considered Authentic: Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon

    • 6 Considered Pseudepigraphic: Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians and the pastoral letters 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus

    • Romans is most important book for establishing Christian theology

      • Jesus was crucified, rose from the dead, and faith in the resurrection is necessary for salvation. Return of Jesus is imminent. Bodily resurrection.

    • Galatians – Confronts Peter - Christians do not follow Jewish laws/rules other than rules regarding sex.

    • Paul’s letters did not contain many facts referenced in Gospels.

Gospels written long after jesus death
Gospels Written Long After Jesus’ Death

Luke 1 -Manyhave undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled[a] among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

a. Luke 1:1 Or been surely believed

  • Many gospels

  • Not an eyewitness

  • Theophilus – “Friend of God” – Not necessarily a real name.

Gospel of mark
Gospel of Mark

  • Written first (of the 4 in NT) around 66 – 70 CE.

  • All gospels are anonymous.

  • Papias (around 100-140 CE) quoting “John the Elder” claimed Mark was Peter’s assistant. Not all believe Papias referred to the book we now call Mark.

  • [John] The Elder used to say: Mark, in his capacity as Peter’s interpreter, wrote down accurately as many things as he recalled from memory—though not in an ordered form—of the things either said or done by the Lord. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied him, but later, as I said, Peter, who used to give his teachings in the form of chreiai [short anecdotes], but had no intention of providing an ordered arrangement of the logia[oracles or sayings] of the Lord.

Jesus according to mark
Jesus According to Mark

  • No birth story or genealogy.

  • Appears to be adopted by god at baptism.

  • Mark 1 to 8:26 – Many Miracles

  • Mark 8:27 – 8:30 Peter confesses Jesus is Messiah

  • 8:31 – Jesus predicts his death. Rest of gospel is about his last days and death.

Jesus according to mark1
Jesus According to Mark

  • Jesus asks disciples to keep his identity a secret.

  • Never calls Jesus God or claim a divine being prior to birth (as in John).

  • Never mentions Jesus was born of a virgin (Matthew and Luke).

  • Does not trace ancestry to David (Matthew and Luke).

  • Jesus promises to return in disciples’ lifetime (9:1, 13:30).

  • 3 Endings to Mark 16: abrupt, short, and long. Long ending is used to support Christian snake handling.

Gospel of matthew
Gospel of Matthew

  • 70 – 10 CE (most believe 80-90 CE)

  • Papias claims Matthew was written in Hebrew. However, most scholars believe it was written in Greek.

  • Genealogy, birth, & post resurrection stories not in Mark.

  • Five Discourses of Matthew

    • Sermon on the Mount – Christian discipleship, love, humility

    • Mission – 12 apostles to spread gospel

    • Parables – Stories to describe the Kingdom of Heaven

    • Church – Governing the community of followers

    • End Times – Judgment is coming (both destruction of temple and his return?)

Gospel of matthew1
Gospel of Matthew

  • Shows more Jewish knowledge than Mark

    • Mark 1:2 attributes Malachi 3:1 to Isaiah. Corrected in Matt 3:3.

    • Mark 2:7 (men can not forgive another’s sins, only god can) corrected in Matthew 9:3

    • Jesus ridicules food laws in Mark 7:18-19, dropped in Matthew 15:18-20.

    • Jesus misquotes commandments in Mark 10:19, corrected Matt 19:18-19.

    • Mark refers to David as “our father” (11:10) but not all Jews are descended from David, corrected in Matthew 21:9.

    • Mark errs on Passover date (14:12) corrected in Matt 26:17.

    • Mark 2:26 “In the days of Abiathar the high priest” should be Ahimelech. Matthew 12:1-8 drops this mistake.

Gospel of matthew2
Gospel of Matthew

  • Jesus is more divine than in Matthew in Mark

    • “Young man” at tomb in Mark becomes a radiant angel

    • Miracles in Mark demonstrate he is emissary of god

    • Miracles in Matthew show he is divine

  • Peter calls Jesus “the Messiah, the son of the living God” in Matt 16:16. Mark 8:29 omits son of god.

  • “Fulfillment” of OT prophecy 5 times. None in Mark.

  • Matt 27:25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!” – Used to blame and kill Jews for centuries.

Gospel of luke
Gospel of Luke

  • Luke 1: Stories were “handed down to us”. Admits many gospels.

  • Written around 80 – 100 CE.

  • Luke was either a gentile Christian or Hellenized Jew.

  • Luke is known as the gospel for the gentiles.

  • Believed to have been a woman by some modern scholars.

  • Luke was highly educated and well traveled.

  • Author of Luke probably wrote Acts. Both address Theophilus.

  • Claimed to be a companion or assistant of Paulby conservatives.

  • Acts contradicts letters of Paul, causing many scholars to doubt Luke was a companion of Paul.

Gospel of luke1
Gospel of Luke

  • Birth story contradicts Matthew extremely.

  • Only gospel with Annunciation of birth to Mary.

  • Places blame of crucifixion on Jews, which would please Rome.

  • Evidence of editing to counter heretics (which is evidence heretics existed).

    • (3:22) God says to Jesus at baptism "This day I have begotten you” in early manuscripts. Changed to “with you I am well pleased” from Mark in later manuscripts, probably to counter adoptionists.

    • (22:43-44) An angel helps Jesus sweat drops of blood in Gethsemane. Not present in early manuscripts, possibly inserted to counter doceticism (the belief Jesus did not suffer).

Gospel of john
Gospel of John

  • Jesus is an incarnation of the divine Logos.

  • (1:1) In the beginning was the logos, and the logos was god, and the logos was with god.

  • Logos was inserted into Jewish philosophy by Philo of Alexandria (20 BCE – 50 CE), a Hellenistic Jew.

  • Logos meant divine intelligent design from which all things arise.

  • John 1:1 today translates logos as “word”, which means “bible” to many Christians.

  • Important example of how a modern word does not mean the same thing as it did in the 1st century.

Gospel of john1
Gospel of John

  • Author is “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

  • Some propose it was written in layers.

  • Most date the final form to 90 – 100 CE.

  • Many signs and miracles showing divinity.

  • Raising Lazarus from the dead is the reason Jesus is arrested, not for claiming he could destroy and rebuild the temple.

  • Most spiritual gospel.

  • Favorite gospel of the Gnostics.

  • Independent of the Synoptic Gospels.

The Rylands Papyrus is perhaps the earliest New Testament fragment; dated from its handwriting to about 125.

Gospel word usage
Gospel Word Usage

Some manuscripts do not have “Son of God” in Mark 1.

Early christian sects
Early Christian Sects

Some manuscripts do not have “Son of God” in Mark 1.

Early christian sects1
Early Christian Sects

  • There were multiple versions of early Christianity with a variety of beliefs about the nature of Jesus and the relationship with Judaism and the OT.

  • I will focus primarily on Ebionites, Marcionites, Gnostics and the Proto-Orthodox. I will briefly mention Montanism and Arianism.


  • Ebionites were very Jewish Christians.

  • They believed in 1 god.

  • They considered themselves Jews and obeyed the OT laws.

  • Only Christian sect recorded by Eusebius as keeping the Sabbath.

  • They believed Jesus was completely human and not divine.

  • They believed Paul was an arch heretic.

  • - Claim to be modern Ebionites.

  • Ebionites or similar groups such as Nazareans, were possibly the groups chastised by Paul for keeping the OT laws.


  • Matthew 5 was used by Ebionites to show that followers of Jesus should not abandon OT laws.

  • 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.


  • Marcionites were Gentiles who claimed Jewish practice was harmful for a relationship with god.

  • They were followers or Marcion, a real person in the 2nd century.

  • They believed in two gods, one Jewish and one Christian.

  • They believed Jesus was completely divine and not human.

  • They rejected the OT as a book inspired by the inferior god of the Jews.

  • They believed Paul was the one true apostle of Christ.

  • Jesus revealed himself to Paul because the other apostles failed to comprehend true Christianity because they were too Jewish.


  • Marcion (a heretic to Proto-Orthodox Christianity) created the 1st Christian NT Canon around 144 CE.

  • It contained a version of the gospel of Luke and 10 of the 13 letters of Paul, namely Romans, 1st & 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1st & 2nd Thessalonians, and Philemon.

  • It rejected the OT, Matthew, and John.

  • Proto-orthodox canons were a response to the canon created by Marcion.


  • Very spiritual and many widely varying subsets.

  • Believed Jesus was a spirit and did not suffer, but only appeared to suffer.

  • They believed in salvation through mysterious knowledge.

  • This world is full of ignorance and suffering; salvation comes not by making it better but by escaping it.

  • They had little church structure and taught equality of all members.


  • Coptic texts discovered in Nag Hamadi, Egypt, in 1945.

  • The Coptic Apocalypse of Peter:

  • "He whom you saw on the tree, glad and laughing, this is the living Jesus. But this one into whose hands and feet they drive the nails is his fleshly part, which is the substitute being put to shame, the one who came into being in his likeness. But look at him and me."

  • Warns against those who “will cleave to the name of a dead man, thinking that they will become pure”.

Iranaeus v gnostics in against heresies
Iranaeus v. Gnostics in Against Heresies

  • Around 180 CE, proto-orthodox Christian Bishop Iranaeuswrote Against Heresies to show the errors of gnostics.

  • The first time that 4 and only 4 gospels are listed as divinely inspired occurrs in an argument against Gnostics.

  • "It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the pillar and ground of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh. From which fact, it is evident that the Word, the Artificer of all, He that sits upon the cherubim, and contains all things, He who was manifested to men, has given us the Gospel under four aspects, but bound together by one Spirit." (Against Heresies, 3:11:8)


  • 2nd Century Christian sect founded by Montanus.

  • Known as New Prophecy by followers, Montanism by critics.

  • Led to Cataphrygian and Phrygian groups that lasted until the 6th Century.

  • Prophetic movement that called on reliance of the Holy Spirit and a conservative personal ethic.

  • Parallels have been drawn to Pentecostals today.

  • Montanus, Prisca and Maximilla spoke via ecstatic visions.

  • Opponents claimed they were possessed by evil spirits.


  • 3rd Century sect founded by Arius

  • Arius asserted that the Son of God was a subordinate entity to God the Father.

  • The Son of God did not always exist, but was created by—and is therefore distinct from—God the Father.

  • Based on John 14:28 - …If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

  • Deemed a heretic at Nicea in 325 CE

  • Much of the Nicene Creed was written as a response to Arianism.

Proto orthodox

  • All of the Above Christians.

  • Jesus was a) Human b)Divine c) All of the Above

  • Jesus is a) God the Father b) God the Son c) God the Holy Spirit d) All of the Above

  • Christians scripture includes a) the OT b) the NT c) All of the Above (but do not have to follow all OT laws)

  • Claimed ancient roots for their religion.

  • Rejected unappealing Jewish practices such as circumcision.

  • Had strong church leadership and hierarchy.

  • Communicated with one another.

Arsenal of the proto orthodox
Arsenal of the Proto-Orthodox

  • Stressed that they were unified and all the other sects were not unified (similar to Church of Christ , Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and other claims today).

  • Had their own versions of sense & nonsense, truth & error.

  • Claimed apostolic succession, as opposed to Marcion, Montanus, Arius.

  • Started developing creedsin response.

  • Wrote forgeries and falsifications of their opponents views.

  • Charged non-orthodox with reprobate activity.

Proto orthodox simon magus
Proto-Orthodox & Simon Magus

  • Simon Magus (a magician and new convert) in Acts 8 is chastised for seeking the power to give Holy Spirit to new converts.

  • Little more is said about Simon in the bible, but he is considered the source of heretical views in later writings.

  • Many claims of reprobate activity of non-orthodox Christians, including several involving Simon Magus.

Peter's conflict with Simon Magus by AvanzinoNucci, 1620. Simon is on the right, dressed in black.

Orthodox christianity
Orthodox Christianity

  • Orthodox Christianity was forged over 3 centuries, culminating in the Council of Nicea in 325 CE.

  • The Proto-Orthodox Christians increased in power and started discussing their own canons and doctrines (partly due to influence of Marcion and the Gnostics).

  • The Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 312 CE.

  • Edict of Milan in 313 made Christianity legal.

  • Constantine Ordered the Council of Nicea(present day Iznik, Turkey) in 325 to settle disagreements on Christian doctrine.

  • The Nicene Creed and Constantinople Creed in 381 formalized Christian doctrine.

The council of nicea
The Council of Nicea

Painting The Council Of Nicea by F. Pavlovskyi, I. Maksimovych,and A. Galik and others at the Gate Church of the Trinity, Kiev, 18th Century.

The council of nicea1
The Council of Nicea

Map from the University of California showing influence of non-orthodox Christian sects at the time of the Council of Nicea, 325 CE. The black line is the boundary of the Roman Empire.

The nicene creed is a response to heresy
The Nicene Creed Is A Response to Heresy

We believe in one God,the Father, the Almighty,maker of heaven and earth,of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,the only Son of God,eternally begotten of the Father,God from God, Light from Light,true God from true God,begotten, not made,of one Being with the Father.Through him all things were made.For us and for our salvationhe came down from heaven:by the power of the Holy Spirithe became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,and was made man.

The nicene creed a response to heresy
The Nicene Creed A Response To Heresy

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;he suffered death and was buried.On the third day he rose againin accordance with the Scriptures;he ascended into heavenand is seated at the right hand of the Father.He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,and his kingdom will have no end.

The nicene creed a response to heresy1
The Nicene Creed A Response To Heresy

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,who proceeds from the Father and the Son.With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.He has spoken through the Prophets.We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.We look for the resurrection of the dead,and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Books used in t his study
Books Used In This Study

  • Lost Christianities, Bart Ehrman

  • Misquoting Jesus, Bart Ehrman

  • Jesus Interrupted, Bart Ehrman


  •, Richard Carrier

  • Black and White pictures from Ehrman with permission

  • Other images from Wikipedia and other public websites

  • Best image of tree of Christian sects from Concordia University website.

  • Map of early Christian sects from University of California.