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Why Did "orthodox" Christianity Win Out?


oddbird1963
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I was reading Ehrman's "Lost Christianities." When I read (pp. 111-112) his explanation of why "orthodox" Christianity won out over Marcionite and other brands of Christianity, I was struck by the sheer genius and simplicity of his explanation. It rated right up there with the explanatory genius of Jared Diamond in "Guns, Germs and Steel!"

 

While the doctrines of Christianity that taught grace, mercy and God's love for all believers were strong selling points for the fledgling Christian movements, the key concept behind the brand of Christianity that would win out is "old."

 

In the fields of philosophy and religion, as opposed to the field of military technology, it was the old that was

appreciated and respected, not the new. One of the most serious obstacles for Christians in the Roman mission field was the

widespread perception - and it was entirely valid - that the religion was "recent." Nothing new could be true. If it were

true, why was it not known long ago? - "Lost Christianities," pg. 112

 

Proto-orthodox Christians overcame this obstacle by quote mining from the Old Testament and attempting to force Old Testament "prophecies"

to apply to Jesus. Or, they created life of Jesus stories to fit with Old Testament prophecies.

 

By adapting their message to proclaim that Christianity was the true "Judaism," the cloak of antiquity was tossed over the new

religion. Thus, throughout the controversies and squabbling that went on in the early life of the church, they eventually

overshadowed and suppressed the other sects of the new religion that failed to establish an ancient "feel" while touting the

new themes of grace, mercy and forgiveness that made the religion attractive.

 

Although many of our Christian friends claim that Providence, sound doctrine and it's connection to Jesus and the apostles is

why "Orthodox" Christianity won out, Ehrman's explanation is more realistic than the idealized account most often provided

by Christians.

 

Whether they were directly aware of their methodology or not, what became known as "Orthodox" Christianity succeeded because of

good marketing more than "sound" doctrine.

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Whether they were directly aware of their methodology or not, what became known as "Orthodox" Christianity succeeded because of good marketing more than "sound" doctrine.

 

 

Ok what do you define as "orthodox" christianity? Because so many people, as I have come to realize and observe, have different definitions of it. Are you referring to the Roman Catholic Church, Reformed theology, or Modern Day Christianity?

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Since "Lost Christianities" deals with early variants of the Christian religion, "Orthodox" would be those churches which eventually became Roman Catholic.

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Proto-orthodox Christians overcame this obstacle by quote mining from the Old Testament and attempting to force Old Testament "prophecies"

to apply to Jesus. Or, they created life of Jesus stories to fit with Old Testament prophecies.

 

By adapting their message to proclaim that Christianity was the true "Judaism," the cloak of antiquity was tossed over the new

religion.

 

And there it is. Right there.

 

As I read through the NT, I kept flipping back to the OT refferences to check the context.

Paul can be seen creating whole new theologies from snippets of verse spoken by a prophet nearly 1,000 years before.

"Quote mining" is probably the most polite way I could describe what the NT authors did.

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Quote mining" is probably the most polite way I could describe what the NT authors did.

 

Indeed. The minute you look at it outside of the church mentality that says "this must be the word of God" you see how the New Testament writers manipulated the Old Testament solely for legitimacy. When this first dawned on me, it was the absolute death of the idea that this is the inspired word of God. Jesus was made to fulfill "prophecy" that would not have made any sense to the Jews writing these texts in the Babylonian captivity. Like a row of dominoes, it all came tumbling down.

 

What a shame I was raised Protestant where all this scriptural stuff was supposed to make sense intellectually.

 

I am totally convinced that stories were concocted to make it appear that Jesus was the Messiah in the sense of ruling over a heavenly kingdom whereas the Jews were looking for an earthly ruler.

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I'm reading "Lost Christianities" now myself, and it is indeed a good book. I would highly recommend it. I think I should get a few more of Ehrman's books (the only other one I currently have is "Lost Scriptures").

 

Ok what do you define as "orthodox" christianity? Because so many people, as I have come to realize and observe, have different definitions of it. Are you referring to the Roman Catholic Church, Reformed theology, or Modern Day Christianity?

"Orthodox" is referring to the views set forth in the creeds (such as the trinity), as opposed to other early versions of christianity that were branded heretical, such as the Ebionites, Marcionites and Gnostics. Modern denominational differences pale in comparison with the differences between early versions of christianity.

 

Indeed. The minute you look at it outside of the church mentality that says "this must be the word of God" you see how the New Testament writers manipulated the Old Testament solely for legitimacy. When this first dawned on me, it was the absolute death of the idea that this is the inspired word of God. Jesus was made to fulfill "prophecy" that would not have made any sense to the Jews writing these texts in the Babylonian captivity. Like a row of dominoes, it all came tumbling down.

 

Pretty much the same thing happened with me. After beginning to question things due to some general contradictions between to gospels, I took a closer look at the claims of prophetic fulfillment, only to be blown away by how the early christian authors would twist OT texts into something completely different from what they meant in their original context. Everything completely fell apart for me from there.

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I would claim they were all orthodox, heterodox and heretics.

 

mwc

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Indeed. The minute you look at it outside of the church mentality that says "this must be the word of God" you see how the New Testament writers manipulated the Old Testament solely for legitimacy. When this first dawned on me, it was the absolute death of the idea that this is the inspired word of God. Jesus was made to fulfill "prophecy" that would not have made any sense to the Jews writing these texts in the Babylonian captivity. Like a row of dominoes, it all came tumbling down.

 

Pretty much the same thing happened with me. After beginning to question things due to some general contradictions between to gospels, I took a closer look at the claims of prophetic fulfillment, only to be blown away by how the early christian authors would twist OT texts into something completely different from what they meant in their original context. Everything completely fell apart for me from there.

Add me to this list as well, in the same manner both of you described.

It was like an avalanche, because it started out slowly and then it all came crashing down.

The more I looked at it, the worse it got.

The apologists didn't help, they actually made things worse because they twisted things even more in order to make it all hold together.

The anger over being lied to for years by "Godly men" has never gone away completely.

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The twisting of Old Testament prophesies to fit with the New Testament writers' various theologies was troublesome to me too.

 

Rather than doubt the divine status of the Bible and the doctrines derived from it, I just figured that there was a more "divine" interpretive approach in play that I wasn't getting.

 

I lived for YEARS believing the issue was not with the status of the Bible but with my ability to comprehend.

 

That's why I really admire those of you who began to think for yourselves and conclude that the Bible is human in origin and not "divine."

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Rather than doubt the divine status of the Bible and the doctrines derived from it, I just figured that there was a more "divine" interpretive approach in play that I wasn't getting.

 

I lived for YEARS believing the issue was not with the status of the Bible but with my ability to comprehend.

 

I also used to think that "seemingly problematic" things were from my lack of understanding. That's what we're trained by the church to believe. I tried reconciling bible contradictions, checking out (and swallowing some of) what apologists said, and even was aware of (and *assumed* to be true) the idea of "dual prophecies."

 

But once I started to realize that something was amiss for me, an otherwise not-so-stupid individual and one who had been seeking god for years and years, to not be able to understand simple narratives that had glaring discrepancies. That's when I started taking a closer look at the prophetic fulfillments and really looking at what the original text said in context. I hadn't ever really thought it through critically before, I had just swallowed the "God said it" nonsense.

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Rather than doubt the divine status of the Bible and the doctrines derived from it, I just figured that there was a more "divine" interpretive approach in play that I wasn't getting.

 

I lived for YEARS believing the issue was not with the status of the Bible but with my ability to comprehend.

 

I also used to think that "seemingly problematic" things were from my lack of understanding. That's what we're trained by the church to believe. I tried reconciling bible contradictions, checking out (and swallowing some of) what apologists said, and even was aware of (and *assumed* to be true) the idea of "dual prophecies."

 

But once I started to realize that something was amiss for me, an otherwise not-so-stupid individual and one who had been seeking god for years and years, to not be able to understand simple narratives that had glaring discrepancies. That's when I started taking a closer look at the prophetic fulfillments and really looking at what the original text said in context. I hadn't ever really thought it through critically before, I had just swallowed the "God said it" nonsense.

 

It's strange how the "Reason to Believe" used by evangelical apologists actually end up being reasons NOT to believe. How many apologists used fulfilled prophesies to support a belief in Jesus as the Christ?

 

When you actually look at the prophesies in their context the contrived nature of the so-called prophecies reveal the religion for what it really is.

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How many apologists used fulfilled prophesies to support a belief in Jesus as the Christ?

 

It is often touted as THE most convincing proof that Jesus is the Messiah.

 

Coincidentally, I used to think it was strange that the vast majority of Jews reject Jesus. How could this be? How could they not see that he fulfilled the prophecies? LOL, now it's quite clear why Jews don't believe it.

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How many apologists used fulfilled prophesies to support a belief in Jesus as the Christ?

 

It is often touted as THE most convincing proof that Jesus is the Messiah.

 

Coincidentally, I used to think it was strange that the vast majority of Jews reject Jesus. How could this be? How could they not see that he fulfilled the prophecies? LOL, now it's quite clear why Jews don't believe it.

 

So who decided to invent a Messiah? It's a total PR/media job from way back.

 

Jesus fulfilled the prophecies because the writers who invented Jesus wrote the prophecies then invented Jesus!

 

Jesus was originally an old sun god(complete with virgin birth).

 

For a true "revelation" , visit Jesus Never Existed

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This is a great thread. I have read Jesus' interrupted and Misquoting Jesus but have yet to read Lost Christianities.

 

Does Lost Christianities cover more of the "prophecies" Jesus supposedly fulfilled? The one in Matthew where he has Jesus riding a donkey and a colt at the same time to fulfill prophecy really effect my husbands belief.

 

Does Lost Christianities point out more of those?

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How are we expected to even believe that Jesus fulfilled these prophesies anyway? And why would it take so long (the Torah was written roughly from 1000 BC to 600 BC) for them to be fulfilled? Furthermore, two thousand years have passed since Jesus was said to have lived. There is no reliable or empirical way to falsify or even test the fulfillment of these prophesies.

 

Considering that the people of their day did not have a rational explanation for many phenomena that they observed (i.e. lightning, fire, etc) and how they attributed it to gods of various sorts, it would make sense to conclude that their prophecies would likely be in error and not match up with the workings of the physical world.

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This is a great thread. I have read Jesus' interrupted and Misquoting Jesus but have yet to read Lost Christianities.

 

Does Lost Christianities cover more of the "prophecies" Jesus supposedly fulfilled? The one in Matthew where he has Jesus riding a donkey and a colt at the same time to fulfill prophecy really effect my husbands belief.

 

Does Lost Christianities point out more of those?

 

 

So far, I have made it halfway through chapter 7. The book covers the different sects of Christianity that competed for believers. The only connection to prophecy brought out in the book to my recollection so far is that "orthodox" Christianity won out in part because they were able to make an appeal that Christianity is an ancient religions that makes ancient, time honored truth claims.

 

So, I think other sources are going to have to satisfy your desire to learn about prophesies and their supposed fulfillment.

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Considering that the people of their day did not have a rational explanation for many phenomena that they observed (i.e. lightning, fire, etc) and how they attributed it to gods of various sorts, it would make sense to conclude that their prophecies would likely be in error and not match up with the workings of the physical world.

 

See my sig. (in blue) below. ;)

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Jesus fulfilled the prophecies because the writers who invented Jesus wrote the prophecies then invented Jesus!

 

Uh, no, that is completely incorrect. The so-called prophecies came from Jewish texts that were completed centuries prior to the alleged time of Jesus (whether a historical Jesus existed or not). The NT authors did not invent the prophecies, they simply took them out of context and forced them to mean completely different things, sometimes even rewording them to suit their agenda. (There may be a few that the NT authors invented, but most of the "prophecies" were indeed based on OT texts that could not have originated with anyone who may have "invented" Jesus.)

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I was going to comment on that statement ;) (what you said above) , but got busy for a few days.

 

(There may be a few that the NT authors invented, ....)

 

Such as,

Eph. 5:14

14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

 

The closest thing I can find is Jonah 1:6,

Jo.1:6

6 So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.

which has nothing at all to do with what Paul is trying to say.

 

If anybody knows of a different passage, I'd be grateful.

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Wouldn't it be interesting if all of these people that are waiting on the rapture suddenly found out that it had already occurred? In fact, the rapture was written about in an obscure book that someone claims is unquestionable and irrefutable. For arguments sake, let’s imagine that this book claimed that there were witnesses and the pages of this book were written by or at least inspired by God himself.

 

Can you even imagine how modern day Christians would react? This would force some of them to question everything they had been taught. Some would not believe it. Some would find a way to make it work within what they already knew. Some would take liberties with the ancient texts by snipping and cutting until they got an explanation that they liked.

 

Now, take everything that I just said and put it into the perspective of a Jew living during the time of Jesus or shortly thereafter. He is waiting on the 'Messiah'. Patiently waiting to be liberated. When the promised Messiah comes, he will bring a kingdom of peace and justice on the earth (Is. 2:4). Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of God had come with His arrival (Matt. 12:28; Lu. 4:21). Our patient Jew looks around AFTER the Messiah has supposedly arrived and said, "Eh....This doesn't look like the 'kingdom' I had in mind." So, he passes on the whole story and goes back to waiting on the 'TRUE' Messiah. Keep in mind, there were plenty of 'false prophets' running around Jerusalem at the time. You just never know when one of them will pan out.

 

My point...if you move the goal posts on Christians, Jews or any other cult they will simply change the interpretation of what a 'goal' is. That's how cults work. As for those of us on the outside standing in disbelief and awe, we are in the unenviable position of being spoilers, buzz-kills and heretics. Our enlightenment is the biggest threat to their existence. They can not stand the fact that we exist. Worse yet, that our numbers are growing due to better scholarship in Science, Cosmology and Mathematics. A great deal of this scholarship is being proliferated via the internet and is easily available to the average 'Joe'. If you are ignorant of a subject you have the ability to stumble on to any number of sites that might enlighten you. Much like the one we are on now.

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(There may be a few that the NT authors invented, ....)

 

Such as,

Eph. 5:14

14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

 

I was thinking more along the lines of:

 

Matthew 2:23

And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

 

I'm not aware of a specific OT text that that comes from. Perhaps it could be from some other Jewish text or something. Some think it's connected to the Nazarite vow, in which case it would be an example of the NT author rewording it for his purposes.

 

My main point, though, was simply that at least the vast majority of alleged prophetic fulfillments in the NT are indeed taken from the OT, which was completed long before the NT was started. Time after time, though, those so-called prophecies are taken out of context or even altered in wording.

 

But, yeah, there are a few that *may* have completely originated with the NT author supposedly quoting it; we just can't know that for certain.

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I'm not aware of a specific OT text that that comes from. Perhaps it could be from some other Jewish text or something. Some think it's connected to the Nazarite vow, in which case it would be an example of the NT author rewording it for his purposes.

 

Judges 13:5?

For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.

Though it could have come from any number of places.

Agreed, the NT authors pulled a lot of stuff out of their asses thin air to make it all work.

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