Lost Christianities The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 9/15/2005
  • Publisher: OXFORD UNIV PR

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The early Christian Church was a chaos of contending beliefs. Some groups of Christians claimed that there was not one God but two or twelve or thirty. Some believed that the world had not been created by God but by a lesser, ignorant deity. Certain sects maintained that Jesus was human but not divine, while others said he was divine but not human. InLost Christianities, Bart D. Ehrman offers a fascinating look at these early forms of Christianity and shows how they came to be suppressed, reformed, or forgotten. All of these groups insisted that they upheld the teachings of Jesus and his apostles, and they all possessed writings that bore out their claims, books reputedly produced by Jesus's own followers. Modern archaeological work has recovered a number of key texts, and as Ehrman shows, these spectacular discoveries reveal religious diversity that says much about the ways in which history gets written by the winners. Ehrman's discussion ranges from considerations of various "lost scriptures"--including forged gospels supposedly written by Simon Peter, Jesus's closest disciple, and Judas Thomas, Jesus's alleged twin brother--to the disparate beliefs of such groups as the Jewish-Christian Ebionites, the anti-Jewish Marcionites, and various "Gnostic" sects. Ehrman examines in depth the battles that raged between "proto-orthodox Christians"--those who eventually compiled the canonical books of the New Testament and standardized Christian belief--and the groups they denounced as heretics and ultimately overcame. Scrupulously researched and lucidly written,Lost Christianitiesis an eye-opening account of politics, power, and the clash of ideas among Christians in the decades before one group came to see its views prevail.

Author Biography

Bart D. Ehrman is Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the author of The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings and Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium.

Table of Contents

Preface ix
Major Christian Apocrypha Discussed, Dates and Contents xi
Introduction: Recouping our Losses 1(8)
PART ONE: Forgeries and Discoveries
The Ancient Discovery of a Forgery: Serapion and the Gospel of Peter
The Ancient Forgery of a Discovery: The Acts of Paul and Thecla
The Discovery of an Ancient Forgery: The Coptic Gospel of Thomas
The Forgery of an Ancient Discovery? Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark
PART TWO: Heresies and Orthodoxies
At Polar Ends of the Spectrum: Early Christian Ebionites and Marcionites
Christians ``In the Know'': The Worlds of Early Christian Gnosticism
On the Road to Nicaea: The Broad Swath of Proto-orthodox Christianity
PART THREE: Winners and Losers
The Quest for Orthodoxy
The Arsenal of the Conflicts: Polemical Treatises and Personal Slurs
Additional Weapons in the Polemical Arsenal: Forgeries and Falsifications
The Invention of Scripture: The Formation of the Proto-orthodox New Testament
Winners, Losers, and the Question of Tolerance
Notes 259(22)
Bibliography 281(8)
Index 289

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