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The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity Paperback – June 9, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


"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; Cofounder, The Gospel Coalition

"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, Executive Director of Cultural Engagement, Howard G. Hendricks Center, and Senior Research Professor of New Testament 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 movement—a 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 evidence—early 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 Testament—they 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 book—a tour de force—Köstenberger 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."
Paul Trebilco, 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."
Nicholas Perrin, Dean, Wheaton College Graduate School

"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, Senior Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

About the Author

Andreas J. Köstenberger (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is 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. His books include The Heresy of Orthodoxy, God, Marriage, and Family, The Final Days of Jesus (with Justin Taylor), and God's Design for Man and Woman (with Margaret Köstenberger). Dr. Köstenberger and his wife have four children.

Michael J. Kruger (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is president and professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, and the author of a number of articles and books on early Christianity.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway; 5.10.2010 edition (June 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1433501430
  • ISBN-13: 978-1433501432
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #254,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By D. J. Blackmon II on July 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
In today's society, there appears to be only one unassailable absolute truth--there is no absolute truth. Further, the quickest way to be labeled hateful, intolerant, or mean spirited is to suggest that the gospel as revealed in scripture is true and is the exclusive way to God. It used to be that those who would label you hateful or mean spirited for saying that were those outside of the church. That is no longer the case, however, and in fact it is among those who profess Christ that you are likely to find the loudest, most shrill voices railing against the notion of absolute truth. Many of those who advocate accepting any and all beliefs as being equally Christian base their position on the works of German theologian Walter Bauer and a contemporary disciple of his, Bart Ehrman. In short, Bauer, and now Ehrman, propose that what we know today as Christianity is not the Christianity of the apostles and certainly not what Jesus taught. Rather, they propose, there was a diverse opinion about Jesus, what He taught, and what the apostles taught and that there was no one view that was more "right" than any of the others. The fact that we today believe that there is only one correct theological position on, for instance, the Virgin Birth is because the Roman church finally won enough theological and political power to squash any theological opposition to their positions. In fact, they assert, what we know today as orthodox Christianity represents the view of the winning side rather than the truth of the gospel.

The book The Heresy of Orthodoxy was not written to refute this Bauer-Ehrman thesis. Rather, as the authors' state, the purpose of the book is to determine "why the Bauer-Ehrman thesis commands paradigmatic stature when it has been soundly discredited in the past".
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In 1934, Walter Bauer published Rechtsgläubigkeit und Ketzerei im Ältesten Christentum, translated into English in 1971 as Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity. Andreas J. Köstenberger and Michael J. Krueger summarize the argument of that book, the "Bauer thesis," as follows: "close study of the major urban centers at the end of the first and early second centuries reveals that early Christianity was characterized by significant doctrinal diversity, so that there was no `orthodoxy' or `heresy' at the inception of Christianity but only diversity--heresy preceded orthodoxy." In light of that diversity, Bauer concluded that the distinction between orthodoxy and heresy reflected the triumph of a particular Roman form of Christianity over other forms in the fourth through sixth centuries, which was subsequently projected by the newly minted orthodox back onto their opponents in the theological debates of the second and third centuries, who now were described as heretics.

In The Heresy of Orthodoxy, Köstenberger and Kruger argue that the Bauer thesis is demonstrably false, on both historical and exegetical grounds (Part 1). Despite these manifest failures, however, the Bauer thesis continues to influence our understanding of the historical development of early Christianity.

Part 2 examines this influence in the debate over the extent of the New Testament canon. If earliest Christianity was irreducibly diverse, as Bauer claimed and as scholars such as Bart Ehrman continue to claim, then the 27 books of the New Testament reflect the literary choices of the winning side. Köstenberger and Kruger challenge this interpretation of history in Part 2.
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As postmodern ideas have taken root in our culture, exclusive truth claims have increasingly come under attack. Jesus is the only way. The Bible is the inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God. Orthodoxy and heresy exist.

These are not popular ideas. And in academic circles, the desire to debunk these beliefs has been making the rounds for some time--most notably with the publication of German academic Walter Bauer's work Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity (1934). In this volume, Bauer puts forth the idea that, rather than Christianity being characterized from its earliest days as unified in the preaching of Jesus' apostles, the earliest Christians were marked by radical diversity. Today, Bauer has found an impassioned advocate in scholar Bart Ehrman, whose books such as Misquoting Truth and Jesus Interrupted, have brought Bauer's thesis to the popular level--to the point that today, the only heresy is orthodoxy.

That's why Andreas Kostenberger and Michael Kruger wrote The Heresy of Orthodoxy. In this book, the authors carefully examine the Bauer-Ehrman thesis and seek to show readers why we can trust the Bible and rest in the knowledge that the faith we have is what was taught by Jesus and His Apostles.

Unity or Pluralism: Which Came First?
Divided into three parts, The Heresy of Orthodoxy first deals with pluralism and the origins of the New Testament. How did the Bauer-Ehrman thesis come about? How diverse was early Christianity? And when did heresy first arise?

While the Bauer thesis asserts that different "Christianities" developed in geographical regions and that "the Church Fathers overstated their case that Christianity emerged from a single, doctrinally unified movement" (p.
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