In the 1930's world famous and renowned lexicographer Walter Bauer argued that Christian belief emerged out of myriad theologies that existed within the church during the Patristic era. Out of this context, he argued, Rome emerged as the theology with the most political favor and thus became the "true" or "orthodox" theology of the church. However, Bauer provided little evidence to substantiate his claims other than the theory upon which they were built. In fact, Bauer was refuted by many scholars when his theory was first translated into English. The evidence simply does not fit the theory Bauer propounded.
Nevertheless in our current pluralist culture, which assumes that those who have power unjustly establish hegemonies in their favor whenever possible, this theory is still being propagated by scholars like Bart Ehrman. Again, this theory states that Christian orthodoxy arose from within the context of many theologies that later fell prey to the centralized and dominant Roman Church.
In this book The Heresy of Orthodoxy prolific and leading NT scholar Andreas J. Kostenberger along with Michael J. Kruger argue to the contrary showing that Christian orthodoxy was established and adhered to in-at least-the first half of the second century. To do this Kostenberger and Kruger open two fronts, one historical and the other canonical. First, the authors establish historical situation of early Christianity and show, via historical sources, an early orthodoxy that geographically diverse. They also demonstrate the consistency of the biblical witness to this context in relationship to other historical documents. Finally, they also show the logical and historical impossibility of developed heresies prior to the 3rd century-even the largest and most widespread heresy, Gnosticism.
Moving onto Canon, Kostenberger and Kruger explain what modern scholarship, that does not put theories before evidence has routinely shown, namely that the NT books that later constituted the Canon were understood as authoritative revelation by a majority of the church before many of the other books of "alternative Christianities" were even written.
But Kostenberger and Kruger, even after making their arguments from the evidence, not theory, remain uncomfortable with the scholarship that supports the Bauer-Ehrman thesis. They contend, in polemical fashion, that Bart Ehrman is ignoring evidence that is not only strongly against him, but obvious to any person who does not have a cultural agenda that demands all perspectives are equal no matter how unequal the historical record in fact may be.
The Heresy of Orthodoxy is a much needed correction to the scholarship and popular writings of Bart Ehrman and his unsubstantiated attacks on the integrity of the NT canon, his manipulation of history, and his patent disdain for orthodox belief. It should be read widely by Christians who want the best scholarship, that being scholarship that allows the evidence to dictate the results of the inquiry, and who want to learn where they can go to find the primary sources.
This polemic against the "Bauer-Ehrman Thesis" examines modern New Testament criticism against orthodoxy in early Christianity. Throughout, vigilance is shown toward the modern adherence to postmodern ideals of diversity.
Andreas J. Köstenberger (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is the senior research professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He is a prolific author, distinguished evangelical scholar, and editor of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. He is the founder of Biblical Foundations, a ministry devoted to restoring the biblical foundations of the home and the church. Köstenberger and his wife have four children.
Michael J. Kruger (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is the president and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. Kruger is ordained in the Presbyterian Church in America and also serves as the pastor of teaching at Uptown PCA in Charlotte. He blogs regularly at MichaelJKruger.com and tweets at @michaeljkruger.
"In the beginning was Diversity. And the Diversity was with God, and the Diversity was God. Without Diversity was nothing made that was made. And it came to pass that nasty old 'orthodox' people narrowed down diversity and finally squeezed it out, dismissing it as heresy. But in the fullness of time (which is of course our time), Diversity rose up and smote orthodoxy hip and thigh. Now, praise be, the only heresy is orthodoxy. As widely and as unthinkingly accepted as this reconstruction is, it is historical nonsense: the emperor has no clothes. I am grateful to Andreas Köstenberger and Michael Kruger for patiently, carefully, and politely exposing this shameful nakedness for what it is."
D. A. Carson
Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
"The Heresy of Orthodoxy will help many to make sense of what is happening in early Christian studies today. It explains, critiques, and provides an alternative to, the so-called 'Bauer Thesis,' an approach which undergirds a large segment of scholarship on early Christianity. The 'doctrine' that Christianity before the fourth century was but a seething mass of diverse and competing factions, with no theological center which could claim historical continuity with Jesus and his apostles, has become the new 'orthodoxy' for many. The authors of this book do more than expose the faults of this doctrine, they point the way to a better foundation for early Christian studies, focusing on the cornerstone issues of the canon and the text of the New Testament. Chapter 8, which demonstrates how one scholar's highly-publicized twist on New Testament textual criticism only tightens the tourniquet on his own views, is alone worth the price of the book. Köstenberger and Kruger have done the Christian reading public a real service."
Charles E. Hill
Professor of New Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary
"The Bauer thesis, taken up in many university circles and popularized by Bart Ehrman and through TV specials, has long needed a thorough examination. The Heresy of Orthodoxy is that work. Whether looking at Bauer's thesis of diversity, at contemporary use made of the theory to argue for the early origin of Gnosticism, at the process that led to the canon, or what our manuscript evidence is, this study shows that Bauer's theory, though long embraced, is full of problems that need to be faced. What emerges from this study is an appreciation that some times new theories are not better than what they seek to replace, despite the hype that often comes from being the new kid on the block. It is high time this kid be exposed as lacking the substance of a genuinely mature view. This book does that well, and also gives a fresh take on what the alternative is that has much better historical roots."
Darrell L. Bock
Research Professor of NT Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary
"This is an admirably lucid and highly convincing rebuttal of the thesis that the earliest form of Christianity in many places was what would later be judged as 'heresy' and that earliest Christianity was so diverse that it should not be considered as a single movementa thesis first presented by Walter Bauer but most recently advocated by Bart Ehrman. As Köstenberger and Kruger show with such clarity and compelling force, this still highly influential thesis simply does not stand up to scrutiny. By looking at a whole range of evidenceearly Christian communities in different regions in the Roman Empire, the New Testament documents themselves, the emergence and boundaries of the canon and its connection to covenant, and the evidence for Christian scribes and the reliable transmission of the text of the New Testamentthey show step by step that another view of early Christianity is much more in keeping with the evidence. That is, that there is a unified doctrinal core in the New Testament, as well as a degree of legitimate diversity, and that the sense of orthodoxy among New Testament writers is widespread and pervasive. They also unmask the way contemporary culture has been mesmerized by diversity and the impact this has had on some readers of the New Testament. In this astute and highly readable booka tour de forceKöstenberger and Kruger have done us all a great service. It is essential reading for all who want to understand the New Testament and recent controversies that have arisen in New Testament Studies."
Professor of New Testament Studies, Department of Theology and Religion, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
"Köstenberger and Kruger have written a book which not only introduces the reader to the problematic Bauer thesis and its contemporary resurgence, but which, layer by layer, demonstrates its failure to account reliably for the history of communities, texts, and ideas which flourished in the era of early Christianity. In their arguments, the authors demonstrate their competence in the world of New Testament studies. But, additionally, they weave throughout the book insights into how fallacies within contemporary culture provide fuel for a thesis which long ago should have been buried. Believers will find in these pages inspiration to 'contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.'"
D. Jeffrey Bingham
Department Chair and Professor of Theological Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary
"In recent times, certain media darlings have been telling us that earliest Christianity knew nothing of the 'narrowness' of orthodox belief. Now the authors of The Heresy of Orthodoxy have provided a scholarly yet highly accessible rebuttal, showing that what is actually 'narrow' here is the historical evidence on which this old thesis is based. In a culture which wants to recreate early Christianity after its own stultifying image, this book adds a much-needed breath of balance and sanity."
Franklin S. Dyrness Chair of Biblical Studies Associate Professor of New Testament, Wheaton College; author, Lost in Transmission? What We Can Know about the Words of Jesus
"Köstenberger and Kruger have produced a volume that is oozing with common sense and is backed up with solid research and documentation. This work is a comprehensive critique of the Bauer-Ehrman thesis that the earliest form of Christianity was pluralistic, that there were multiple Christianities, and that heresy was prior to orthodoxy. Respectful yet without pulling any punches, The Heresy of Orthodoxy at every turn makes a convincing case that the Bauer-Ehrman thesis is dead wrong. All those who have surrendered to the siren song of postmodern relativism and tolerance, any who are flirting with it, and everyone concerned about what this seismic sociological-epistemological shift is doing to the Christian faith should read this book."
Daniel B. Wallace
Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary