Robert Conner, Christianity’s Critics: The Romans Meet Jesus, Part 4

Robert Conner studied Greek, Hebrew, some Aramaic and even Coptic back in the mid-70's at Western Kentucky University. He's written nine books, including Jesus the Sorcerer, The Secret Gospel of Mark and Magic in Christianity, as well as a number of articles and essays. If you want a primer on what the earliest critics of Christianity had to say about this new cult then I'm publishing an essay he wrote in several parts, with approval. This is Part 4. To get up to speed follow this tag.

Christianity’s Critics:
The Romans Meet Jesus

Extended and Revised, 04/2016

Robert Conner


…there was never a single “Christianity.”

Early Roman critics were well aware of the internecine skirmishing between the Jewish majority and the Jewish followers of Christ and early Christian documents reflect that fact. When the Jews accused Paul of fomenting a form of worship “against the law,” the proconsul Gallio refused to involve himself in the controversy, “a dispute about semantics and names,” and dismissed the case with an abrupt, “See to it yourselves.”[1] “Gallio treated the problem as an internal affair of the Jews (which it was then)...”[2]

In a stinging characterization, Celsus dismissed the quarrels between Christians and Jews as a proverbial “fight about the shadow of an ass.”[3] Celsus correctly noted that as Christians increased in number “they are divided and form factions (scizontai) and each wants his own sect” and concluded, “they still have one thing in common, so to speak, if indeed they have that in common—the name [Christian].”[4] Celsus employs the verb scizw (schizō), from whence our schism as in the Great Schism of 1054, the separation of Eastern and Western orthodox churches over the ‘procession of the Holy Spirit.’ The schism of 1054 reached its culmination when the Pope of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople excommunicated each other—Pope and Patriarch eventually patched up their differences in 1965. A second ‘Great Schism,’ resulting from an argument about papal succession, resulted in two competing popes ruling in the West from 1378 to 1417, one from Rome and the other from Avignon.

By the 4th century, Epiphanius, the bishop of Salamis, “was able to list no less than eighty heresies extending back over history (he was assured his total was correct when he discovered exactly the same number of concubines in the Song of Songs!), and Augustine in his old age came up with eighty-three.”[5] In the centuries that followed, Jesus’ followers would split into warring factions over every issue from slavery to gay rights—the largest Protestant denomination in America, the Southern Baptist Convention, split from their northern brethren in 1845 when the northern Baptists refused to appoint slave owners as missionaries.

      The many-headed hydra of Gnosticism.

By the time Celsus wrote The True Doctrine (approximately 175 C.E.) Chris-tianity still retained a fading Jewish contingent, the Ebionites, but the Jew versus Gentile controversy had taken on a new and ominous twist. Some Christian sects, “broadly and problematically characterized”[6] by recent scholars as Gnostics, had utterly rejected Judaism and Jewish scripture. That ‘gnosticism’ was a grab bag of diversity, currently labeled hybridity—“mixing, combining, and grafting of disparate cultural elements”[7] was recognized by Hans Jonas over half a century ago: “...the salient feature [of Gnosticism] seems to be the absence of a unifying character.”[8] The fundamental incoherence of the gnostic movement epitomized the interpretive chaos of primitive Christianity. Following the false lead of ancient Christian apologists, his-torians of religion once considered Gnosticism as a heretical offshoot of orthodoxy, but as Brakke points out in a recent work, Gnosticism “as traditionally conceived, does not serve a useful purpose and does not accurately identify an actual ancient religion...‘Gnosticism’ is an outstanding example of a scholarly category that, thanks to the confusion about what it is supposed to do, has lost its utility and must be either abandoned or reformed.”[9]

Celsus, “a remarkably well-informed opponent”[10] of Christianity, learned many details of the beliefs of various Christian factions: their members formed “secret companies with each other”[11] that violated legal norms, some sects rejected the Jewish God and the Jewish scriptures,[12] and offered widely differing interpretations of the gospels—Origen conceded the existence of Marcion, Valentinus, Lucian, the Ophites, Cainites, Simonians, Marcellians, Harpocratians, Sibyllists, Ebionites and Encratites[13]—some even rejecting “the doctrine of the resurrection according to scripture” (to peri anastasewj kata taj grafaj dogma)[14] and worshipping “a god above heaven who transcends the heaven of the Jews,” (ton uperouranion qeon uperanabainontaj tou Ioudaiwn ouranon)[15]—the facts adduced by Celsus forced Origen to admit “there are some among us who do not say that God is the same as the God of the Jews.”[16] The “god above heaven” had magical significance; Kotansky has published a spell that begins, “I invoke you, the One above heaven...” (ton epanw tou ouranou).[17] Accusations of sorcery and Satanism would become standard charges directed by Christians against their opponents, Jews as well as fellow Christians, a practice that goes back to the New Testament—“for some have already turned aside to follow Satan.”[18]

“Celsus obviously knew Christianity at first hand, and as a skilled polemicist his portrait of the Christian movement is detailed and complete.”[19] “Because in the eyes of pagans Christianity had become not one thing but a many-headed monster with rival claims, Origen must constantly bear in mind that the heretics also have their interpretations of scripture...Origen needed to keep adjusting his position while standing on shifting sands.”[20]

Although some gnosticizing sects rejected the Hebrew bible, Pearson is almost certainly correct when he states, “it becomes abundantly clear that the essential building blocks of Gnostic mythology are reinterpretations of Jewish scriptures, Jewish scriptural interpretation and Jewish traditions.”[21] Another expert has suggested that “[Gnosticism] begins roughly in a movement in the fringes of Judaism mainly among a disenfranchised priestly component.”[22] During a period when Judeo-Christian sects were multiplying like rabbits, in a rather bizarre twist some factions co-opted the quintessentially Jewish Jesus who criticized the Pharisees for not observing the Mosaic Law closely enough[23] while writing both the Jewish law and the Jewish God out of their version of Christianity. However, as we have seen, these gnostic sects would not be the last to try to isolate Jesus from his Jewish past, a project repeatedly carried to extremes by various Christians and Christian groups.

In point of fact, “gnostic” traits are already apparent in the New Testament documents. The Marcionite movement, begun around C.E. 144, which prohibited sexual intercourse and marriage, doubtless took some comfort from the words of Paul, “Now to the unmarried and widows I say it is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.”[24] The rejection of the material world, in embryo in the writings of Paul—“the world is dead to me and I am dead to the world”[25]—reaches its logical extreme in some gnostic sects as well as the writings of Tertullian where marriage is disparaged as “obscenity” (spurcitiae).[26] Whereas Paul discouraged marriage due to apocalyptic fervor—“This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none”[27]—the gnostic movement sought to cease populating the world of the lesser god, the Demiurge, due to “an unequivocally negative evaluation of the visible world together with its creator; it ranks as a kingdom of evil and darkness...The world is the product of a divine tragedy...a baleful destiny in which man is entangled and from which he must be set free.”[28] “No doubt, however, Gentiles found attractive the considerable similarity of Paul’s Christianity to the pagan mystery religions...His system is a syncretism formed by fitting Jesus (what little he knew of him) into the mystery-religion format. Same old story with a new real, historical hero. It sold like hot cakes.”[29]

We are again indebted to Bauer for the insight that “heresy” was the predominant form of Christianity during the first several centuries of its existence.

To Origen there also flocked “countless heretics” (EH 6.18.2)[30] as well as orthodox...Thus even into the third century, no separation between orthodoxy and heresy was accomplished in Egypt and the two types of Christianity were not yet at all clearly differentiated from each other...It is also highly significant that precisely [Ignatius’] gnostic contemporaries and countrymen can without hindrance call themselves “Christians,” as Eusebius twice complains in utter disgust...Polycarp fights against a docetic Gnosticism: “Everyone who does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is an antichrist...and whoever perverts the words of the Lord...and says that there is neither a resurrection nor a judgment, that man is the firstborn of Satan.” Immediately after this [Polycarp] adds: “Therefore let us abandon the foolishness of the great majority (mataiotēs tōn pollōn) and the false teachings...Each individual and each special group is fighting for its Christ and against the Christ of the others, and is endeavoring to enlist tradition and theological inference in his service...for a long time after the close of the post-apostolic age the sum total of the consciously orthodox and anti-heretical Christians was numerically inferior to that of the “heretics.”[31]

“Thanks to its esotericism and consequent lack of formal restraints, all Gnosticism tended to be anarchically speculative; and Christian Gnosticism was worst of all, a many-headed hydra, as the heresiologists put it, likely to devour and regurgitate, often in virtually unrecognizable form, any idea that came into view.”[32] The Christian factions generally considered gnostic “had an underlying structure of themes, but these were just a bedrock to build cities of theosophical inquiry without much legalistic zoning.”[33] Consistent with the rejection of the Old Testament by some gnosticizing groups, Celsus noted, “Christians say the Creator (dhmiougon, dēmiourgon) is an accursed god” because he cursed the serpent (ofij, ophis) that revealed the knowledge (gnwsij, gnōsis) of good and evil.”[34] Gnostic sects that demoted Yahweh—the Demiurge (dhmiourgoj, dēmiourgos), craftsman or creator—to the position of a lesser god were called Ophites, “snake worshippers,” by early apologists.[35]

Celsus also knew of a Christian diagram illustrating ten heavens represented as circles guarded by theriocephalic angels[36]—a form of the diagram still existed in Origen’s day. Celsus compared the multiple squabbling Judeo-Christian sects to a “flight of bats” or a “swarm of ants.”[37] However, Celsus’ comparison is hardly fair to ants and bats that, despite the appearance of con-fusion, know where they’re going and very rarely collide with each other.

      Multiplying gospels.

Irenaeus complained, “[The heretics] adduce an untold multitude of apocryphal and spurious writings which they have composed to bewilder foolish men…the more modern endeavor to excogitate something new every day and to produce something no one has ever thought of…”[38]during the series of violent clashes between Catholics and Calvinists or Huguenots (1562-1598), during which an estimated 4 million Europeans were murdered, Irenaeus’ remains were disinterred by the Calvinist faction and thrown into the river Loire during an orgy of vandalism that included the destruction of monasteries and manuscripts.

By the end of the 2nd century Christianity had acquired a permanent siege mentality. Assailed from without by a hostile Greco-Roman society, threatened from within by a waning Jewish faction and a burgeoning gnostic movement, the borders of Christian orthodoxy required constant surveillance, an incessant policing of difference. As the emerging church struggled to gain control over its founding narrative—“orthodoxy marching to an inevitable triumph over heresy”[39]—upholding this story required the suppression of competing gospel stories and the crushing of dissent.

Early Christian apologists and ‘historians’ such as Irenaeus and Eusebius concocted a falsified narrative, an ‘apostolic fiction,’ in which Jesus transmits a coherent, if secretive, body of teaching to his apostles who in turn transmit the doctrines to a succession of bishops—in fact, it was not until 367 that Athanasius, in his 39th Easter letter, declared the 27 books currently in the New Testament to be authoritative within his jurisdiction. By the 4th century the invention of a unified Church with an official canon universally accepted had been set in place and generations of scholars would repeat this fiction in outline even as they questioned the veracity of its details.

That the Christians were cooking their books did not escape the notice of their Roman critics: “After this [Celsus] says that some believers, as though from a drinking bout, go so far as to oppose themselves and alter the original text of the gospel three or four or several times over, and they change its character to enable them to deny difficulties in the face of criticism. I do not know of people who have altered the gospel apart from the Marcionites and Valentinians, and I think also the followers of Lucan.” As is his wont, Origen deftly ignores the point of Celsus’ accusation: “But this statement is not a criticism of Christianity, but only of those who have dared lightly to falsify the gospels.”[40]

In point of fact, Julian opens Against the Galileans with some choice words about the Christian gospel: “the fabrication (h skeuwria) of the Galileans is a forgery (plasma) of men constructed by fraud (upo kakourgiaj).”[41] It is worth the effort to briefly unpack Julian’s terms: skeuwria (skeuōria), fabrication, carries the added connotation of plagiarism. Julian was well aware that the Christians had ransacked the Jewish scriptures, cherry picking passages they could misconstrue as applying to Jesus. The preaching of the Christians was therefore a plasma (plasma), a fiction, a counterfeit, or forgery, a contrivance fudged together from disparate elements upo kakourgiaj (hupo kakourgias), by malice, in order to defraud. Julian promised a detailed examination “of the miracle mongering and fabrications of the gospels” (thj twn euaggeliwn teratourgiaj kai skeuwriaj), but it appears that Cyril excised that part of his polemic. Neither the vast majority of Jews nor educated Romans had been deceived by this imposture, but it would take religious scholars working within the Christian intellectual regime fifteen centuries to slowly work their way back to where Julian’s criticism began.

The Epistle of Barnabas (late 1st century or early 2nd) illustrates the extremity to which Christians would go in raiding the Jewish scriptures, which they read in Greek, not Hebrew, for proof texts: “For it says, ‘From his household Abraham circumcised eighteen men and three hundred (andraj dekaoktw kai triakosiouj)’[42]...The eighteen first, and pausing, he says three hundred. The eighteen is I and Hyou have Jesus! (eceij Ihsoun).”[43] The Greeks used the letter iota (I) to stand for ten, the letter eta (H) stood for eightthus iota plus eta, and voilà, the first two letters of IHSOUS (Jesus)! According to the author of Barnabas, the Hebrew prophets were Jesus’ disciples, and when Jesus finally came he raised them from the dead, likely an claim derived from Matthew—“The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.”[44] The writer, basing his fatuous numerology on a Greek translation of a Hebrew text, conveniently overlooked the fact that the Old Testament prophets had not written in Greek. Little wonder Romans found Christian preachments so simple to refute.

Textual criticism since Westcott and Hort (1881) has clearly shown that Christian scribes were not merely passive (or even accurate) transmitters of text“it has even been shown that a copyist could presumably reproduce a text even when he could not read or understand it. Sometimes, however, scribes took on the unsupervised role of creative consultant...the scribe’s pen was mightier than the evangelist’s intentional variant, it may be argued, is no longer the act of a scribe but an author.”[45] Given this reading of the abundant evidence of textual manipulation, one could affirm that the New Testament had, in fact, a multiplicity of authors, nearly all of them unacknowledged.[46] In the majority of cases the copyists, as users of the text, had a vested interest in its meaning: “Their ability to write meant they could correct, clarify, buttress, or interpret a text, and, in so doing, impose with enduring effect their own ideas into their exemplars and, in turn, those controversies that sought out authority or information...Christian scribes engaged in the act of transmitting the text of the New Testament occasionally changed their exemplar in order to produce a text that resonated with the tuning fork of the copyist’s own ideology.”[47] Noted textual scholar Eldon Epp has proposed no less than four classifications of texts: (1) an “autographic text-form,” i.e., the text as originally composed, (2) a “predecessor text-form,” the form(s) of the text discernible behind the form we now possess, a “canonical text-form,” the text at the time it was declared authoritative by the Church, and (4) an “interpretive text-form,” the form the text acquired during “any and each interpretive it was used in the life, worship, and teaching of the church.”[48]

Irenaeus also admitted that Christian factions were altering the gospel texts to suit their theological ends: “[Marcion] mutilated the Gospel according to Luke, discarding all that is written about the birth of the Lord…” Irenaeus also informs us about a “fiction [the Cainites] adduce, and call it the Gospel of Judas.”[49] As a matter of fact the “Pastoral Epistles” may contain an allusion to something like Marcion’s revision of Christian scripture: “Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish debates with those who oppose you with their falsely-called knowledge (yeudonumou gnwsewj)”[50]

It seems quite clear that by the end of the 1st century a bitter debate raged over ‘true’ and ‘false’ gnosis and gospels were being composed or revised to provide ammunition for the opposing sides. The Christians of the first centuries were not writing scripture as currently defined. “Different writers felt free to rearrange and alter the information they inherited—a simple comparison of the first three canonical gospels reveals this—because they did not see themselves as writing scripture...The four gospels collectively stand as the survivors of a process whose principles of selection had more to do with competition between different Christian groups than with a disinterested concern for history.”[51] It has been suggested that the earliest gospel, Mark, “is the synthesis of several stages of composition and written, plausibly, in different locations.”[52] “In Alexandria a Carpocratian élite among the Christians may have used a ‘secret Gospel,’ perhaps the original form of Mark.”[53]

The first century was likely marked by a profusion of gospels—“many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us.”[54] “In the course of time, the traditional material had not only swollen greatly, but it provided quite diverse pictures. Alongside the synoptic type of picture, there came John; alongside the canonical gospels were many apocryphal gospels which were often pronouncedly heretical.”[55] Nearly every Roman critic familiar with the gospels seems to have noted their inconsistencies and contradictions. Julian again: “For Matthew and Luke are refuted by the fact that they disagree concerning [Jesus’] genealogy.”[56]

In addition to the problem of forged apostolic letters and heretical gospels, the house churches swarmed with “prophets” who at any moment might blurt out some extraordinary nonsense. The faithful are “not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from uswhether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letterasserting that the day of the Lord has already come.”[57] Late in the 1st century the Christian message was still subject to the whims of soothsayers who could claim divine inspiration: “You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols...And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.”[58] “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’”[59] It takes no great imagination to picture a loosely organized ecstatic sect in which any attention seeker or any person who was mentally unbalanced could claim a personal revelation, thus sowing further chaos in the ranks.

The documents of the New Testament attest to exactly such doctrinal bedlam: “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us...”[60] The churches are beset by “deceivers and antichrists,”[61] “false prophets,”[62] who in the “Last Times” will spread the “teachings of demons”[63] and “empty deceit.”[64] Therefore “not many” Christians should become teachers since they will be judged harshly.[65] The early Christian practice of “speaking by the spirit”[66] authenticated private revelation and unleashed a firestorm within the house churches, an idiosyncratic tempest that resulted in corruption of gospel texts, the emergence of ecstatic sects such as the Montanists of the late 2nd century, and the eventual suppression of gospels and sects that conflicted with proto-orthodox teaching.

Eusebius provides an additional witness to the adjustments made to Christian scripture as well as to the inadequacy of transmission:

   For this reason [confidence in “the techniques of unbelievers”] they fearlessly put their hands on the divine scriptures, purporting to have corrected them and that I make no false allegation against them anyone who wishes can learn, for if any man so desire, collect the copies to closely compare each with the other. He would find many discrepancies and variances between those of Asklepiades and Theodotus and it is possible to acquire an abundance of them since their disciples have copied them diligently, “set aright” as they call it, but in fact corrupted.
   Again, the copies of Hermophilus do not agree with these, nor do those of Apollonides even agree with one another, for the copies they produced first can be compared to those which later on they even further corrupted and they will be discovered to differ greatly.[67]

Even as Christians were busy tweaking the text of the gospels, the theology of their falsified biographies also changed. Exorcisms, which litter the text of Mark, lose the more lurid details in Matthew and Luke and disappear entirely from the gospel of John. As Fredriksen points out, “such key synoptic terms as righteousness, power, and good news all fail to appear in John; Kingdom (as in Kingdom of God), used more than 120 times in the first three gospels, occurs in John twice (3:3, 5; cf. 18:36). Conversely, the synoptics use truth 10 times to John’s 46; world (kosmos) 13 times to 78; and Jews 16 times to John’s 67.”[68]

Today some 5000 manuscripts of the New Testament books, produced before the advent of the printing press, are known. To the extent they have been compared one to another they are known to contain at least 300,000 variant readings—there are 138,000 words, more or less, in the New Testament. As textual scholar Bart Ehrman notes, “the earliest copyists appear to have been untrained and relatively unsuited to the tasks [of producing accurate copies].”[69] Besides the problem posed by untrained copyists, the gospels and occasional letters of Paul were being used in fierce doctrinal disputes, referenced obliquely in the New Testament books themselves—“[Paul] writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”[70] Since we have no preserved text of any length of any New Testament document before the early 3rd century, we can only guess how editing or other forms of meddling may have changed them,[71] but the words of textual scholar Helmut Koester are certainly worth bearing in mind: “Textual critics of classical texts know that the first century of their transmission is the period in which the most serious corruptions occur. Textual critics of the New Testament have been surprisingly naïve in this respect.”[72]

One might expect that after several centuries of the textual study of thousands of manuscripts the ‘authentic’ text of the New Testament would be firmly established. But in that case one would be gravely mistaken. Commenting on the critical edition of the United Bible Societies, Lane Fox observed, “Their committee considered that there were two thousand places [in 1966] where alternative readings of any significance survived in good 1975 their Greek text had had to be revised twice because no revision has yet proved free from error and improvement. The very aim, a standard version, is misleading and unrealistic...There are scriptures but no exact scripture within the range of our surviving knowledge...”[73]

Developments, or rather the lack of them, also left a mark on the gospel texts: “...the failure of the End to precede the death of the beloved disciple caused a further chapter to be added to his Gospel (John 21). Those who had predicted it in the plainest terms were wrong.”[74]

[1] Acts 18:15.
[2] Benko, Pagan Rome and the Early Christians, 8.
[3] Origen, Contra Celsum III, 1, 4.
[4] Ibid, III, 10, 12.
[5] Freeman, The Closing of the Western Mind, 308.
[6] Johnson, Among the Gentiles, 214.
[7] Brakke, The Gnostics, 12.
[8] Jonas, The Gnostic Religion, xvi.
[9] Brakke, The Gnostics, x, 19.
[10] Chadwick, Origen: Contra Celsum, ix.
[11] Origen, Contra Celsum I, 1.
[12] Ibid, II, 3; IV, 2.
[13] Ibid, II, 27; III, 10, 13; V, 61-62, 64-65; VI, 19.
[14] Ibid V, 12.
[15] Ibid VI, 19. (Compare VI, 61; VI, 21; VIII, 15).
[16] Origen, Contra Celsum V, 61.
[17] Kotansky, Greek Magical Amulets, I, 276, 280.
[18] 1 Timothy 5:15 (NASV).
[19] Wilken, The Christians as the Romans Saw Them, 95.
[20] Johnson, 209.
[21] Pearson, Voices of Gnosticism, 72.
[22] Turner, Voices of Gnosticism, 90.
[23] Matthew 5:20.
[24] 1 Corinthians 7:8. (Compare 1 Thessalonians 4:4).
[25] Galatians 6:14.
[26] Jonas, 144-145.
[27] 1 Corinthians 7:29, ESV.
[28] Rudolph, Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism, 60, 66.
[29] Lüdemann, Paul, 230.
[30] Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History.
[31] Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, 59, 67, 72, 202, 231.
[32] Fowden, The Egyptian Hermes, 113.
[33] Conner, Voices of Gnosticism, 3.
[34] Origen, Contra Celsum VI, 28.
[35] Ibid, III, 13.
[36] Origen, Contra Celsum, VI, 21, 24-32.
[37] Ibid, IV, 33.
[38] Irenaeus, Against the Heresies I, 20.1; 21.5.
[39] Brakke, 15.
[40] Chadwick, Origen: Contra Celsum, 90-91 (II, 27).
[41] Julian, Against the Galileans, 39A.
[42] Genesis 17:23.
[43] Barnabas 9:2, 8.
[44] Matthew 27:52-53.
[45] Kannaday,  Apologetic Discourse and the Scribal Tradition, 9, 14.
[46]     The interested reader is referred to Ehrman’s The Orthodox Corruption of Scrip-
ture (1993, Oxford University Press) for a compelling discussion of the effects of christological controversy on the text of the New Testament.
[47] Ibid, 22-23.
[48] Epp, Harvard Theological Review 92 (1999): 276-277.
[49] Irenaeus, Against the Heresies I, 27.2; I, 31.1.
[50] 1 Timothy 6:20.
[51] Fredriksen, From Jesus to Christ, ix, 6.
[52] Humphrey, From Q to “Secret Mark,” 25.
[53] Frend, The Rise of Christianity, 251.
  For a recent discussion of the “Secret” Gospel of Mark and the controversy at-tending it, see Conner, The Secret Gospel of Mark: Morton Smith, Clement of Alex-andria and Four Decades of Academic Burlesque (2015) Mandrake of Oxford.
[54] Luke 1:1.
[55] Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, 183.
[56] Wright, “Against the Galileans,” The Works of the Emperor Julian, III, 397.
[57] 2 Thessalonians 2:2, NIV.
[58] Revelation 2:20; 22:18-19, NIV.
[59] Matthew 7:22, NIV.
[60] 1 John 2:18-19.
[61] 2 John 1:7.
[62] 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 4:1.
[63] 1 Timothy 4:1-5.
[64] Colossians 2:8.
[65] James 3:1.
[66] Matthew 10:20; 1 Corinthians 12:3.
[67] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History V, 28, 17-18 (my translation).
[68] Fredriksen, From Jesus to Christ, 199.
[69] Ehrman, Lost Christianities, 49.
[70] 2 Peter 3:16.
[71] The interested reader is referred to Ehrman’s The Orthodox Corruption of Scrip-
ture for an accessible, intelligent discussion.
[72] Koester, Gospel Traditions in the Second Century, 19.
[73] Lane Fox, The Unauthorized Version, 156, 157.
[74] Ibid, 346.