Diversity in early Christian theology

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Constantine burning Arian books, illustration from a compendium of canon law, c. 825 Constantine burning Arian books.jpg
Constantine burning Arian books, illustration from a compendium of canon law, c.825

Traditionally in Christianity, orthodoxy and heresy have been viewed in relation to the "orthodoxy" as an authentic lineage of tradition. Other forms of Christianity were viewed as deviant streams of thought and therefore "heterodox", or heretical. This view was challenged by the publication of Walter Bauer's Rechtgläubigkeit und Ketzerei im ältesten Christentum ("Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity") in 1934. Bauer endeavored to rethink Early Christianity historically, independent from the views of the current church. He stated that the 2nd-century church was very diverse and included many "heretical" groups that had an equal claim to apostolic tradition. Bauer interpreted the struggle between the orthodox and heterodox to be the "mainstream" Church of Rome struggling to attain dominance. He presented Edessa and Egypt as places where the "orthodoxy" of Rome had little influence during the 2nd century. As he saw it, the theological thought of the "Orient" (in this case the Eastern Roman Empire) at the time would later be labeled "heresy". The response by modern scholars has been mixed. Some scholars clearly support Bauer's conclusions and others express concerns about his "attacking [of] orthodox sources with inquisitional zeal and exploiting to a nearly absurd extent the argument from silence." [1] However, modern scholars have critiqued and updated Bauer's model. [2]

Christianity is an Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, as described in the New Testament. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the merciful Son of God and savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament. It is the worlds largest religion with over 2.4 billion followers or 31.5% of the world's population.

Orthodoxy adherence to accepted norms, more specifically to creeds, especially in religion

Orthodoxy is adherence to correct or accepted creeds, especially in religion. In the Christian sense the term means "conforming to the Christian faith as represented in the creeds of the early Church." The first seven ecumenical councils were held between the years of 325 and 787 with the aim of formalizing accepted doctrines.

Heresy belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs

Heresy is any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs, in particular the accepted beliefs of a church or religious organization. A heretic is a proponent of such claims or beliefs. Heresy is distinct from both apostasy, which is the explicit renunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is an impious utterance or action concerning God or sacred things.



One of the discussions among scholars of early Christianity in the past century is to what extent it is appropriate to speak of "orthodoxy" and "heresy". Higher criticism drastically altered the previous perception that heresy was a very rare exception to the orthodoxy. Bauer was particularly influential in the reconsideration of the historical model. During the 1970s, increasing focus on the effect of social, political and economic circumstances on the formation of early Christianity occurred as Bauer's work found a wider audience. A movement away from presuming the correctness or dominance of the orthodoxy is seen as understandable, in light of modern approaches. However, some feel that instead of an even and neutral approach to historical analysis that the heterodox sects are given an assumption of superiority over the orthodox (or proto-orthodox) movement. The current debate is vigorous and broad. While it is difficult to summarize all current views, general statements may be made, remembering that such broad strokes will have exceptions in specific cases. [3]

Heterodoxy in a religious sense means "any opinions or doctrines at variance with an official or orthodox position". Under this definition, heterodoxy is similar to unorthodoxy, while the adjective "heterodox" could be applied to a dissident.

Proto-orthodox Christianity

The term proto-orthodox Christianity or proto-orthodoxy was coined by New Testament scholar Bart D. Ehrman and describes the Early Christian movement which was the precursor of Christian orthodoxy. Ehrman argues that this group from the moment it became prominent by the end of the third century, "stifled its opposition, it claimed that its views had always been the majority position and that its rivals were, and always had been, 'heretics', who willfully 'chose' to reject the 'true belief'." In contrast, Larry W. Hurtado argues that proto-orthodox Christianity is rooted in first century Christianity.


An early form of Adoptionism, the doctrine that Jesus became the son of God by adoption, [4] held that Jesus was born human only, and that he became divine, by adoption at his baptism, [5] being chosen because of his sinless devotion to the will of God. [6] The first representatives of this view were the Ebionites. [7] They understood Jesus as Messiah and Son of God in terms of the anointing at his baptism. [8] While the 27 books that became the New Testament canon present Jesus as fully human, [9] [10] Adoptionists (who may have used non-canonical gospels) in addition excluded any miraculous origin for him, seeing him as simply the child of Joseph and Mary, born of them in the normal way. [11]

Jesus Central figure of Christianity

Jesus, also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish preacher and religious leader. He is the central figure of Christianity, and is widely described as the most influential person in history. Most Christians believe he is the incarnation of God the Son and the awaited Messiah (Christ) prophesied in the Old Testament.

Son of God religious title, designating a monarch, messiah, demigod, or deity

Historically, many rulers have assumed titles such as son of God, son of a god or son of heaven.

Adoption process whereby a person assumes the parenting for a child born by other parents

Adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting of another, usually a child, from that person's biological or legal parent or parents. Legal adoptions permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities, along with filiation, from the biological parent or parents.

Some scholars regard a non-canonical gospel used by the Ebionites, now lost except for fragments quoted in the Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, [12] as the first to be written, [13] [14] [15] and believe Adoptionist theology may predate the New Testament. [16] [17] Others, on the contrary, consider that this work "clearly presupposes the canonical Gospels." [18] This gospel's account of the baptism of Jesus, as quoted by Epiphanius, says that the voice from heaven declared: "This day have I begotten thee", [19] a phrase echoing Psalm 2:7, and some see this phrase as supporting the doctrine that it was at his baptism ("this day") that Jesus became God's (adopted) son. These words from Psalm 2 are also used twice in the canonical Epistle to the Hebrews , [20] which on the contrary presents Jesus as the Son "through whom (God) made the universe." [21]

<i>Gospel of the Ebionites</i> book

The Gospel of the Ebionites is the conventional name given by scholars to an apocryphal gospel extant only as seven brief quotations in a heresiology known as the Panarion, by Epiphanius of Salamis; he misidentified it as the "Hebrew" gospel, believing it to be a truncated and modified version of the Gospel of Matthew. The quotations were embedded in a polemic to point out inconsistencies in the beliefs and practices of a Jewish Christian sect known as the Ebionites relative to Nicene orthodoxy.

In early Christian heresiology, the Panarion, to which 16th-century Latin translations gave the name Adversus Haereses, is the most important of the works of Epiphanius of Salamis. It was written in Koine Greek beginning in 374 or 375, and issued about three years later, as a treatise on heresies, with its title referring to the text as a "stock of remedies to offset the poisons of heresy." It treats 80 religious sects, either organized groups or philosophies, from the time of Adam to the latter part of the fourth century, detailing their histories, and rebutting their beliefs. The Panarion is an important source of information on the Jewish–Christian gospels, the Gospel of the Ebionites, and the Gospel of the Hebrews.

Epiphanius of Salamis Christian bishop and saint

Epiphanius of Salamis was the bishop of Salamis, Cyprus at the end of the 4th century. He is considered a saint and a Church Father by both the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. He gained a reputation as a strong defender of orthodoxy. He is best known for composing the Panarion, a very large compendium of the heresies up to his own time, full of quotations that are often the only surviving fragments of suppressed texts. According to Ernst Kitzinger, he "seems to have been the first cleric to have taken up the matter of Christian religious images as a major issue", and there has been much controversy over how many of the quotations attributed to him by the Byzantine Iconoclasts were actually by him. Regardless of this he was clearly strongly against some contemporary uses of images in the church.

The Adoptionist view was later developed by adherents of the form of Monarchianism that is represented by Theodotus of Byzantium and Paul of Samosata. [7]

Monarchianism is a Christian theology that emphasizes God as one, in direct contrast to Trinitarianism which defines God as three persons coexisting consubstantially as one in being.

Theodotus of Byzantium was an early Christian writer from Byzantium, one of several named Theodotus whose writings were condemned as heresy in the early church.

Paul of Samosata was Bishop of Antioch from 260 to 268. He was a believer in monarchianism, a nontrinitarian doctrine; his teachings reflect adoptionism.

Adoptionism clearly conflicted with the claim, as in the Gospel of John (see Alogi for those who rejected the Gospel of John), that Jesus is the eternal Word, and it was declared a heresy by Pope Victor I at the end of the 2nd century. [22] It was formally rejected by the First Council of Nicaea (325), which wrote the orthodox doctrine of the consubstantiality of the Father and the Son (the co-eminence of the Holy Spirit, and thus the Trinity, did not come about until the Fourth Ecumenical [Council of Chalcedon] in AD 451) and identified Jesus as eternally begotten.


The Alogi were a group of heterodox Christians in Asia Minor that flourished c. 200 CE, and taught that the Gospel of John and the Apocalypse were not the work of the Apostle, but his adversary Cerinthus. What we know of them is derived from their doctrinal opponents, whose literature is extant, particularly St. Epiphanius of Salamis. It was Epiphanius who coined the name "Alogi" as a word play suggesting that they were both illogical (anti-logikos) and they were against the Christian doctrine of the Logos. While Epiphanius does not specifically indicate the name of its founder, Dionysius Bar-Salibi, citing a lost work of Hippolytus, writes in his commentary on the Apocalypse,

Hippolytus the Roman says: A man appeared, named Caius, saying that the Gospel is not by John, nor the Apocalypse but that it is by Cerinthus the heretic.

Logos (Christianity) name or title of Jesus Christ

In Christology, the Logos is a name or title of Jesus Christ, derived from the prologue to the Gospel of John "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God", as well as in the Book of Revelation, "And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God." These passages have been important for establishing the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus since the earliest days of Christianity.

Pope Victor I pope

Pope Victor I was Bishop of Rome and hence a pope, in the late second century. He was of Berber origin. The dates of his tenure are uncertain, but one source states he became pope in 189 and gives the year of his death as 199. He was the first bishop of Rome born in the Roman Province of Africa—probably in Leptis Magna. He was later considered a saint. His feast day was celebrated on 28 July as "St Victor I, Pope and Martyr".


Arianism, declared by the Council of Nicaea to be heresy, denied the full divinity of Jesus Christ, and is so called after its leader Arius. [23] It has been called the most challenging heresy in the history of the Church. [24]

Arius, born probably in Libya between c. 260 and 280, was ordained a priest in Alexandria in 312-313. Under Bishop Alexander (313-326), probably in about 319, he came forward as a champion of subordinationist teaching about the person of Christ. [25]

Arius appears to have held that the "Son of God" was not eternal but created by the Father as an instrument for creating the world and therefore not God by nature, different from other creatures in being the one direct creation of God. [23] The controversy quickly spread, with Arius seeking support from other disciples of his teacher Lucian of Antioch, notably Eusebius of Nicomedia, while a local synod under Alexander excommunicated Arius. [25] Because of the agitation aroused by the dispute, [23] Emperor Constantine I sent Hosius of Córdoba to Alexandria to attempt a settlement; but the mission failed. [25] Accordingly, in 325, Constantine convened the First Council of Nicaea, which, largely through the influence of Athanasius of Alexandria, then a deacon but destined to be Alexander's successor, defined the co-eternity and coequality of the Father and the Son, using the now famous term "homoousios" to express the oneness of their being, while Arius and some bishops who supported him, including Eusebius, were banished. [23]

This council marks the end of the Early Christian period and the beginning of the period of the First seven Ecumenical Councils.


Docetism (from the Greek δοκέωdokeō, "to seem") is the belief that Jesus' physical body was an illusion, as was his crucifixion; that is, Jesus only seemed to have a physical body and to physically die, but in reality he was incorporeal, a pure spirit, and hence could not physically die. This belief treats the sentence "the Word was made Flesh" ( John 1:14) as merely figurative. Docetic theology was a prominent feature of dualistic gnostics. [26]


The Ebionites ("poor ones") were a sect of Jewish Christians who flourished in the early centuries of Christianity, especially east of the Jordan. They emphasized the binding character of the Mosaic Law and believed Jesus was the human son of Mary. They seem to have been ascetics, and are said to have rejected Paul's epistles and to have used only one Gospel. [27]


Several distinct religious sects, some of them Christian, adhered to an array of beliefs that would later be termed Gnostic. One such sect, that of the Simonians, was said to have been founded by Simon Magus, the Samaritan who is mentioned in the 1st-century Acts 8:9-24 and who figures prominently in several apocryphal and heresiological accounts by Early Christian writers, who regarded him as the source of all heresies.

The most successful Christian Gnostic was the priest Valentinus (c. 100 - c. 160), who founded a Gnostic church in Rome and developed an elaborate cosmology. Gnostics considered the material world to be a prison created by a fallen or evil spirit, the god of the material world (called the demiurge). Gnostics identified the God of the Hebrew Bible as this demiurge. Secret knowledge (gnosis) was said to liberate one's soul to return to the true God in the realm of light. Valentinus and other Christian gnostics identified Jesus as the Savior, a spirit sent from the true God into the material world to liberate the souls trapped there.

While there appear to be Gnostic elements in some early Christian writing, Irenaeus and others condemned Gnosticism as a heresy, rejecting its dualistic cosmology and vilification of the material world and the creator of that world. Gnostics thought the God of the Old Testament was not the true God. It was considered to be the demiurge and either fallen, as taught by Valentinus (c. 100 - c. 160), or evil, as taught by the Sethians and Ophites.

The Gospel of John, according to Stephen L Harris, both includes Gnostic elements and refutes Gnostic beliefs, presenting a dualistic universe of light and dark, spirit and matter, good and evil, much like the Gnostic accounts, but instead of escaping the material world, Jesus bridges the spiritual and physical worlds. [28] Raymond E. Brown wrote that even though gnostics interpreted John to support their doctrines, the author didn't intend that. The Johannine epistles were written (whether by the author of the Gospel or someone in his circle) to argue against gnostic doctrines. [29]

The Gospel of Thomas, it is often claimed, has some Gnostic elements but lacks the full Gnostic cosmology. However, even the description of these elements as "gnostic" is based mainly upon the presupposition that the text as a whole is a "gnostic" gospel, and this idea itself is based upon little other than the fact that it was found along with gnostic texts at Nag Hammadi. [30] The scene in John in which "doubting Thomas" ascertains that the resurrected Jesus is physical refutes the Gnostic idea that Jesus returned to spirit form after death. The written gospel draws on an earlier oral tradition associated with Thomas. Some scholars argue that the Gospel of John was meant to oppose the beliefs of that community. [31]

Some believe that Gnostic Christianity was a later development, some time around the middle or late 2nd century, around the time of Valentinus. [32] Gnosticism was in turn made up of many smaller groups, some of which did not claim any connection to Jesus Christ. In Mandaeist Gnosticism, Mandaeans maintain that Jesus was a mšiha kdaba or "false messiah" who perverted the teachings entrusted to him by John the Baptist. The word k(a)daba, however, derives from two roots in Mandaic: the first root, meaning "to lie", is the one traditionally ascribed to Jesus; the second, meaning "to write", might provide a second meaning, that of "book"; hence some Mandaeans, motivated perhaps by an ecumenical spirit, maintain that Jesus was not a "lying Messiah" but a "Book Messiah", the "book" in question presumably being the Christian Gospels. This however seems to be a folk etymology without support in the Mandaean texts. [33] A modern view has argued that Marcionism is mistakenly reckoned among the Gnostics, and really represents a fourth interpretation of the significance of Jesus. [34] Gnostics freely exchanged concepts and texts. It is considered likely that Valentinius was influenced by previous concepts such as Sophia, or by Simon Magus, as much as he influenced others.


In 144, the Church in Rome expelled Marcion of Sinope. He thereupon set up his own separate ecclesiastical organization, later called Marcionism. Like the Gnostics, he promoted dualism. Unlike the Gnostics, however, he founded his beliefs not on secret knowledge (gnosis) but on the vast difference between what he saw as the "evil" deity of the Old Testament and the God of love of the New Testament, on which he expounded in his Antithesis. Consequently, Marcionists were vehemently anti-Judaism in their beliefs. They rejected the Jewish-Christian Gospel according to the Hebrews (see also Jewish-Christian Gospels) and all the other Gospels with the single exception of the Gospel of Marcion, which appears to be a redacted version of the Gospel of Luke.

From the perspectives of Tertullian and Epiphanius it appeared that Marcion rejected the non-Lukan gospels; however, in Marcion's time, it may be that the only gospel he was familiar with from Pontus was the gospel of Luke.[ citation needed ] Although it has been suggested by some that Marcion's gospel pre-dated canonical Luke, [35] the dominant scholarly view is that the Marcionite Gospel was a redaction of canonical Luke in order to conform to Marcion's anti-Jewish stance. [36] [37] [38]

Marcion argued that Christianity should be solely based on Christian Love. He went so far as to say that Jesus' mission was to overthrow Demiurge—the fickle, cruel, despotic God of the Old Testament—and replace Him with the Supreme God of Love whom Jesus came to reveal. Marcion was labeled a gnostic by Irenaeus. Irenaeus labeled Marcion this because of Marcion expressing this core gnostic belief, that the creator God of the Jews and the Old Testament was the demiurge. This position, he said, was supported by the ten Epistles of Paul that Marcion also accepted. His writing had a profound effect upon the development of Christianity and the canon. [39]


About 156, Montanus launched a ministry of prophecy, criticizing Christians as increasingly worldly and bishops as increasingly autocratic. Traveling in his native Anatolia, he and two women preached a return to primitive Christian simplicity, prophecy, celibacy, and asceticism. [24] Tertullian, "having grown puritanical with age", embraced Montanism as a more outright application of Christ's teaching. [24] Montanus's followers revered him as the Paraclete that Christ had promised, and he led his sect out into a field to meet the New Jerusalem. [24] His sect spread across the Roman Empire, survived persecution, and relished martyrdom. [24] The Church banned them as a heresy[ when? ], and in the 6th century Justinian ordered the sect's extinction. [24]

The sect's ecstasy, speaking in tongues, and other details are similar to those found in modern Pentecostalism.

See also

Related Research Articles

Adoptionism theological teaching

Adoptionism, also called dynamic monarchianism, is a Christian nontrinitarian theological doctrine which holds that Jesus was adopted as the Son of God at his baptism, his resurrection, or his ascension.

Gnosticism is a modern name for a variety of ancient religious ideas and systems, originating in Jewish-Christian milieux in the first and second century AD. These systems believed that the material world is created by an emanation or 'works' of a lower god (demiurge), trapping the divine spark within the human body. This divine spark could be liberated by gnosis, spiritual knowledge acquired through direct experience. Some of the core teachings include the following:

  1. All matter is evil, and the non-material, spirit-realm is good.
  2. There is an unknowable God, who gave rise to many lesser spirit beings called Aeons.
  3. The creator of the (material) universe is not the supreme god, but an inferior spirit.
  4. Gnosticism does not deal with "sin," only ignorance.
  5. To achieve salvation, one needs gnosis (knowledge).
Irenaeus Bishop and saint

Irenaeus was a Greek bishop noted for his role in guiding and expanding Christian communities in what is now the south of France and, more widely, for the development of Christian theology by combatting heresy and defining orthodoxy. Originating from Smyrna, now Izmir in Turkey, he had heard the preaching of Polycarp, who in turn was said to have heard John the Evangelist.

Matthew the Apostle Christian evangelist and apostle

Matthew the Apostle was, according to the Christian Bible, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and, according to Christian tradition, one of the four Evangelists.

Ebionites Jewish Christian movement that existed during the early centuries of the Christian Era

Ebionites is a patristic term referring to a Jewish Christian movement that existed during the early centuries of the Christian Era. They regarded Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah while rejecting his divinity and his virgin birth and insisted on the necessity of following Jewish law and rites. They used only one of the Jewish–Christian gospels, the Hebrew Book of Matthew starting at chapter three; revered James, the brother of Jesus ; and rejected Paul the Apostle as an apostate from the Law. Their name suggests that they placed a special value on voluntary poverty. Ebionim was one of the terms used by the sect at Qumran who sought to separate themselves from the corruption of the Temple. Many believe that the Qumran sectarians were Essenes.

Marcion of Sinope Early Christian theologian excommunicated from the proto-orthodox Church

Marcion of Sinope was an important figure in early Christianity. His theology rejected the deity described in the Hebrew Scriptures and in distinction affirmed the Father of Christ as the true God. The Church Fathers denounced Marcion, and he was excommunicated from the proto-orthodox Church. He published his own list of New Testament books, making him a catalyst in the process of the development of the New Testament canon by forcing the early Church to respond to his claims.

Marcionism was an Early Christian dualist belief system that originated in the teachings of Marcion of Sinope at Rome around the year 144.

Cerinthus was an early gnostic Christian, who was prominent as a heresiarch in the view of the early Church Fathers. Contrary to the Church Fathers, he used the Gospel of Cerinthus, and denied that the Supreme God made the physical world. In Cerinthus' interpretation, the Christ descended upon Jesus at baptism and guided him in ministry and the performing of miracles, but left him at the crucifixion. Similarly to the Ebionites, he maintained that Jesus was not born of a virgin, but was a mere man, the biological son of Mary and Joseph.

Apostolic Age Period of early Christian history dated from 33 AD to 100 AD

In Christianity, the Apostolic Age is the period from the death of Jesus until the death of the last of the Twelve Apostles. It holds special significance in Christian tradition as the age of the direct apostles of Jesus.

Jewish Christian members of the Jewish movement that later became Christianity

Early Christianity had its roots in Hellenistic Judaism and the Jewish messianism of the first century and Jewish Christians were the first Christians. Christianity started with Jewish eschatological expectations, and it developed into the veneration of a deified Jesus after his earthly ministry, his crucifixion, and the post–crucifixion experiences of his followers.

Early Christianity period of Christianity preceding the First Council of Nicaea in 325

Early Christianity covers the period from its origins until the First Council of Nicaea (325). This period is typically divided into the Apostolic Age and the Ante-Nicene Period.

Heresy in Christianity

Heresy in Christianity denotes the formal denial or doubt of a core doctrine of the Christian faith as defined by one or more of the Christian churches.

History of early Christianity aspect of history

The history of early Christianity covers the Apostolic Age and the Ante-Nicene Period (c.100-325), to the First Council of Nicaea in 325.

Jewish–Christian gospels

The Jewish–Christian Gospels were gospels of a Jewish Christian character quoted by Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius, Epiphanius, Jerome and probably Didymus the Blind. Most modern scholars have concluded that there was one gospel in Aramaic/Hebrew and at least two in Greek, although a minority argue that there were only two, Aramaic/Hebrew and Greek.

Christianity in the 2nd century Christianity-related events during the 2nd century

Christianity in the 2nd century was largely the time of the development of variant Christian teachings, and the Apostolic Fathers who are regarded as defenders of the developing proto-orthodoxy. Major figures who were later declared by the developing proto-orthodoxy to be heretics were Marcion, Valentinius, and Montanus.

Historiography of early Christianity is the study of historical writings about early Christianity. Historians have used a variety of sources and methods in exploring and describing the history of early Christianity, commonly known as Christianity before the First Council of Nicaea in 326.


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  6. "Adoptionist+position+is+that+Jesus+was+born+as+a+man"++"son++of+God"+"sinless+life"+devotion&cd=1#v=onepage&q="Adoptionist_position_is_that_Jesus_was_born_as_a_man"__"son__of_God"_"sinless_life"_devotion&f=false Ed Hindson & Ergun Caner, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics: Surveying the Evidence for the Truth of Christianity, Harvest House Publishers, 2008 p. 17
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  15. Irenaeus gives us further insight into the date of this gospel by explaining, "Matthew also issued a written Gospel of the Hebrews in their own language while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome and laying the foundations of the Church." Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3:1
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  19. Epiphanius, Panarion 30.13.7-8; English translation, p. 130; quoted also in Excerpts from the Gospel of the Ebionites.
  20. Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5
  21. Hebrews 1:2
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  37. Metzger, Bruce. The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origins, Developments and Significance. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  38. "Marcion and Marcionite Gnosticism Archived 2007-10-16 at the Wayback Machine ", Cky J. Carrigan, Ph.D., On Truth, November 1996.
  39. Metzger, Bruce. Canon of the NT ISBN   978-0-19-826180-3; The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913 characterized Marcion as "perhaps the most dangerous foe Christianity has ever known."; Harnack's Origin of the New Testament: "Marcion, on the contrary, treats the Catholic Church as one that "follows the Testament of the Creator-God," and directs the full force of his attack against this Testament and against the falsification of the Gospel and of the Pauline Epistles by the original Apostles and the writers of the Gospels. He would necessarily have dealt with the two Testaments of the Catholic Church if the Church had already possessed a New Testament. His polemic would necessarily have been much less simple if he had been opposed to a Church which, by possessing a New Testament side by side with the Old Testament, had ipso facto placed the latter under the shelter of the former. In fact Marcion's position towards the Catholic Church is intelligible, in the full force of its simplicity, only under the supposition that the Church had not yet in her hand any "litera scripta Novi Testamenti.""