December 18, 2007


Caption: It started here but took a lot of twists and turns. Photo courtesy of wikipedia.

One of the things that is most striking and interesting about early Christianity is its diversity. Often we tend to think of "the early church" as a unified body, but that was far from the case.

Many New Testament writings attest to controversies within Christian communities within the first century (keep in mind though that the canon of the New Testament was not finally set until almost 350 years after the crucifixion of Jesus).

The writings of Paul, the earliest surviving Christian documents, attest to tensions between Paul, Peter and James, as well as others farther removed from the historical person of Jesus.

That diversity grew in the second century and was only definitely closed when the orthodox or catholic tendency received imperial support in the 4th century and unorthodox versions were suppressed or driven underground.

The version that won out, and to which El Cabrero belongs, may not have been the earliest or most popular in many places.

Not surprisingly, many controversies centered around the person of Jesus. To start with, peasants in Galilee who responded to Jesus' ministry there may have continued that tradition with little knowledge of or contact with the later church.

For some communities, such as those that circulated the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, Jesus was primarily a wisdom teacher.

Christians known as Ebionites continued to observe Jewish law and regarded Jesus as a man who was "adopted" by God. At another extreme were the Docetists who believed that Jesus was a divine being who only seemed to suffer (the term Docetism is derived from the Greek word meaning "to seem").

Followers of the second century leader Marcion believed that the God of the Hebrew Bible was a lesser deity and not the loving father proclaimed by Jesus.

Some people classify Docetism and Marcionism as early forms of a much larger gnostic movement, which has Christian and non-Christian forms. Gnostics tended to regard the material world as evil and claimed to offer a path to liberation for a small spiritual elite.

The whole field of studying diverse Christian traditions exploded with the discovery of several gnostic texts at Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945.

It makes you wonder what else is still out there somewhere.

NATURAL LAWS? Does nature have laws or just habits? Here's an interesting item on this scientific controversy.

UNIONS AND CLIMATE CHANGE. A growing number of people in the labor movement are taking the climate change issue seriously. Here's a post from the AFLCIO blog about the recent climate conference in Bali.

HELL HOLES AND HOOEY. Here's a good reality check on the state of WV's legal system. The Chamber of Whatever and allies continually issue reports about the abominable state of our courts but the data isn't there to back them up. Perhaps they will only be happy when workers and citizens no longer have access to the legal system. Thanks to the WV uber blog Lincoln Walks at Midnight for posting this.

URGENT DINOSAUR UPDATE. They found another one. This time it's a huge meat eater from the Republic of Niger:

The new species is one of the largest carnivorous dinosaurs ever to have lived. Carcharodontosaurus iguidensis was probably 13-14 metres long, making it taller than a double-decker bus. It had a skull about 1.75 metres long and its teeth were the size of bananas.


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