|Tuesday, October 2, 2007
What is Christian?
Let’s go back in time to the twenty or so years following the crucifixion of Jesus, into the murky period between 30-50 C.E., near the beginning of Paul’s career. The traditional, and popular, view of this period is that Jesus taught his disciples, and those twelve disciples taught their disciples. Thus the reliability of the apostolic tradition about Jesus was assured by the (supposed) passing on of a tradition that goes directly back to Jesus himself with no possibility of error, and no deviation from what Jesus taught. When one closely examines early Christian texts, however, the difficulties of such a view become apparent. To be sure, there is evidence of unity in these early texts, but there is a great deal more evidence of diversity, even on what Christians today might regard as very basic issues. Should such differences be regarded as evidence of competition? Can one even call them different “versions” of what it meant to be a Christian? However the question is answered, the differences do exist. Clearly, early Christianity took a variety of forms in the period of beginnings and each one promoted fundamentally different concepts of Christian faith. In the early period, no one right way to “be Christian” existed. In short, different communities preached different gospels and conceived of Jesus in different ways. In the middle of the first century no clear standard helped followers of Jesus to identify one “authentic” way of doing Christianity, nor one correct view of Jesus to the exclusion of all others.
Taken from Charles W. Hedrick, “What is Christian? Competing Visions in the First Century.” Read the entire article in The Fourth R 19.4 (July-August 2006): 3-8, 22.
Posted by Charles Hedrick at 4:00pm
Nice thought and great photo. Hi from Jackson Hole.
Dr. Hedrick, thank you for your well-delivered and amazingly informative views on this riveting period in Christian history! I've watched 3 1/2 of your lectures on the Lost Christianities dvd set (haven't quite finished with Judas yet), and I just wanted to let you know that your open-minded acknowledgment of other perspectives (whether you agree with them or not) is very refreshing and appreciated, especially when compared to the styles of some other "giants" in the field.