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The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture’s Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity

, 2010
ISBN: 9781433501432


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Beginning with Walter Bauer in 1934, the denial of clear orthodoxy in early Christianity has shaped and largely defined modern New Testament criticism, recently given new life through the work of spokesmen like Bart Ehrman. Spreading from academia into mainstream media, the suggestion that diversity of doctrine in the early church led to many competing orthodoxies is indicative of today’s postmodern relativism. Scholars Köstenberger and Kruger engage Ehrman and others in this polemic against a dogged adherence to popular ideals of diversity.

Köstenberger and Kruger’s accessible and careful scholarship not only counters the “Bauer Thesis” using its own terms, but also engages overlooked evidence from the New Testament. Their conclusions are drawn from analysis of the evidence of unity in the New Testament, the formation and closing of the canon, and the methodology and integrity of the recording and distribution of religious texts within the early church.

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“Walter Bauer. In his work Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, Bauer stated what is now commonly known as the ‘Bauer thesis’: the view that 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.” (Page 17)

“We believe it is that diversity, the ‘gospel’ of our culture, has now assumed the mantle of compelling truth—and this ‘truth’ must not be bothered by the pesky, obstreperous details of patient, painstaking research, because in the end, the debate is not about the details but about the larger paradigm—diversity.” (Page 18)

“Divorcing faith from history in keeping with his anti-supernatural, historical-critical methodology, Bultmann believed historical events such as the resurrection were inferior in importance to one’s existential faith in Jesus.” (Pages 27–28)

“the early believers possessed a creed and a rule of faith.” (Page 34)

“If so, then it is clear that they would have viewed the community of faith to be, in some sense, the result of the canon, rather than the canon being the result of the community of faith.” (Pages 120–121)

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, Emeritus Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; Cofounder, The Gospel Coalition

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, The Hendricks Center, Dallas Theological Seminary

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, John R. Richardson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando

  • Title: The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture’s Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity
  • Authors: Andreas J. Köstenberger, Michael J. Kruger
  • Publisher: Crossway
  • Print Publication Date: 2010
  • Logos Release Date: 2017
  • Language: English
  • Resources: 1
  • Format: Digital › Logos Research Edition
  • Subjects: Theology, doctrinal › History--Early church, ca. 30-600; Christian heresies › History--Early church, ca. 30-600; Bible. N.T. › Criticism, interpretation, etc; Church history › Primitive and early church, ca. 30-600; Postmodern theology; Bauer, Walter, 1877-1960
  • ISBNs: 9781433501432, 9781433518133, 9781433518140, 9781433521799, 1433501430, 1433518139, 1433518147, 1433521792
  • Resource Type: Monograph
  • Metadata Last Updated: 2022-09-30T00:37:22Z

In the Logos edition, this digital volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Scripture citations link directly to English Bible translations, and important terms link to a wealth of other resources in your digital library, including tools for original languages, dictionaries, encyclopedias, commentaries, and theology texts. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Andreas J. Köstenberger (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is the director of the Center for Biblical Studies and research professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. 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.

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.


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  1. William Delgado Heidinger
  2. Patrick



    Having read Kostenberger and Kruger before, I've greatly enjoyed both their level of scholarship, their organization of information for a general and technical reader(s), and their commitment to actually declaring their active beliefs in Christian theology. So many scholars today want "a seat at the table" and so will put aside their Christian beliefs in order to take a naturalistic, populist viewpoint/assumptions in order to be accepted by the academic at large. This book unapologetically comes from a Christian viewpoint which is entirely what one should expect. If you believe in the God of the Bible and that He has communicated His Word to His people then there are outcomes you're going to expect. This position is the only ethical one available and the one anyone should expect. The main contention of the book is to dismiss the Bauer-Ehrman hypothesis that generally says that the strongest theological positions won out in the early church. Those positions became the standard (aka orthodox) belief and all others became heretical. Really, that position clearly comes from the post-modern viewpoint we seem to be swimming in currently. Where objective truth is not possible and truth is a temporal claim. Kostenberger and Kruger blow the theory out of the water - completely and fairly. While the authors have some co-authoring, previous writings show where the individual authors' strengths lie. However, here and in previous books, both authors treat the otherside accurately and fairly. Which can't be said too often when it comes to the otherside. When dealing with issues of uncertainty or weakness in knowledge of their own side they clearly state so while also giving suitable answers that bring confidence in their overall contention. I would recommend anything by these two authors. This book is no exception and is very helpful with the current claims of today. This was a joy to read and interesting as well. I learned a lot more about the early Christian church and the groups around that day. Final Grade - A+

  3. Vivek John

    Vivek John


  4. Stewart Ross

    Stewart Ross




Digital list price: $17.99
Save $4.00 (22%)