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The Foundation of Orthodoxy and the Canon - Research Paper Example

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The Foundation of Orthodoxy and the Canon

Bauer, one of the most remarkable scholars of early Christianity, refutes the view that Jewish tendency in the formation of Christian canon was limited to the activities of Ebionites. He turns attention to the Syrian Jewish communities and the writings like Kerigmata Petrou and Didascalia that interpret Jesus as a “true prophet” and rely on the Peter’s Gospel while dismissing Paul’s views2. Jewish writings in general tended to favor Matthew and disregard Paul, as Paul was one of the most active proponents on the independence of Christian doctrine from the Old Testament code of conduct (the diet, circumcision, and a holiday once a week prescribed by it)3. Matthew’s Gospel openly demands the acceptance of Jewish Law; that is why it was largely supported by different early Jewish Christian movements4. The most influential of the latter were Ebionites (one of the possible etymological explanations of this name is its connection with the ideal of humble, poor living), the supporters of the “adoptionist” doctrine: to them, Jesus was a human being “adopted” by God, an ideal sacrifice after which other sacrificial rituals were not needed any more5. From this followed that Ebionites excluded the first chapters of Gospels that told the story of Christ’s birth to Virgin and that they did not consume meat6. Their doctrine in oral form was based on Matthew’s Gospel in Aramaic; later, the Gospel of Ebionites in Greek appeared for the generation unfamiliar with Aramaic7. The first attempt of the canonization of writing about Christ was actually made by a heretic who opposed the Jewish doctrine, the one named Marcion. His rationale was to challenge the view of God in the Old Testament and to comment the New Testament as the rejection of the older doctrine, “a Gospel of Love to the exclusion of Law”8. Like many Orthodox theologians of the time, he accepted the Gospel according to Luke and the epistles by Paul with slight changes and modifications by Marcion himself; some of his changes remained in the later Pauline and Lukan texts9. The first time Marcion declared his ideas was 144 CE, on the Christian Congregation in Rome10. Marcion rejected the entire Old Testament and the epistles of all apostles but Paul; he saw Jesus Christ as the son of Supreme God of love and grace, not punishment and justice, and claimed that this son only looked like a human being, so that the first chapters of Luke were viewed as misleading about His coming to the human world (not embodiment)11. He also deleted some parts of the text of the Gospel and epistles (like Gal.iii. i6 – iv.6 and 2 Thess. i. 6-8) on the ground that they supported the older Jewish tradition of Law12. Marcion produced his own polemic text and, as some of the Christian historians have proved, the introductory paragraphs to some of the epistles in Vulgata13. Marcion’s vision was very attractive because of the emphasis on mercy; it was very popular among Gentiles who were not native Jews14. Ehrman speculates about the possible prospects of Christianity influenced by either Marcionism ...Show more
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THE FOUNDATION OF ORTHODOXY AND THE CANON Religion and Theology November 12, 2012 Introduction This paper deals with the early stage of development of the Christian canon, from the beginning of the 2nd century and to 325 CE. The diversity of early Christian writings is taken into account, and the relation between heretical movements and the earliest attempts of defining the prescribed readings about Christ and apostles is described…
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