Early Christianity’s many controversial and differing views pertaining to official doctrine
Many Christians today simply don't realize the extreme amount of controversy surrounding the original way the present day Bible was created and how it was altered throughout the ages. No original manuscripts exist. There is probably not one book which survives in anything like its original form. And I don't mean to offend anyone by this but it's true.
There are hundreds of differences between the oldest manuscripts of any one book. These differences indicate that numerous additions and alterations were made to the originals by various copyists and editors.
Many biblical authors are unknown. Where an author has been named, that name has sometimes been selected by pious believers rather than given by the author himself. The four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are examples of books which did not carry the names of their actual authors. The present names were assigned long after these four books were written.
In spite of what the Gospel authors say, biblical scholars are now almost unanimously agreed that none of the Gospel authors were either a disciple of Jesus or an eyewitness to his ministry....Now, I ask you to really think about that notion…Does that not strike anyone else besides me as strange?
If what Christian scholars and theologians say is true, than how are these people writing about Jesus’ life and his message when they never met him or even saw him once in real life? Who exactly are they? Are these not fair questions directed towards the authorship of the text that many consider holding the message and key to their salvation? Again, I'm not trying to offend anyone, but I think these are questions of great concern.
For example let’s examine the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament. Realistically speaking, we don't really know whether Mark was the sole author of this Gospel or not. Even Christian theologians admit this fact. And since The New Testament wasn't even documented on paper until 150-300 years (depending on what Christian you talk to) after Jesus, then how are we to know for sure that the current "Gospel of Mark" wasn't written by some pro of Mark?
"Although there is no direct internal evidence of authorship, it was the unanimous testimony of the early church that this Gospel was written by John Mark.” - From the NIV Bible Commentary (page 1488)
The First Council of Nicaea, held in Nicea in Bithynia (present-day Turkey), convoked by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in 325, was the first ecumenical conference of bishops of the Christian Church, and most significantly resulted in the first uniform Christian doctrine.
Basically this council was called together by the once pagan Roman Emperor Constantine, now Christian Convert, to once and for all settle all the discrepancies within the Christian doctrine and create a universal canonized version. All of the gospels that were not canonized were ordered destroyed.
For more on the First Council of Nicaea:
Before this Council was called together many versions of Christianity existed with conflicting views on what Jesus' true identity was and whether or not he was the son of God or not. For many Christians at the time, the idea of Jesus being one of three in God was considered blasphemous…sounds crazy to the accepted Christian beliefs of today right?
One example is that of the ancient theologian Arius. His brand of Christianity today is referred as Arianism; there views drastically differed from the doctrinal concept of today's Trinity. His congregation argued that Jesus was a "being" created by the "Father" so therefore Jesus logically could not be on the same plateau of existence as the Father since he was merely a "creation"...makes sense to me. This is a historically documented fact mind you.
But Let's get back to the discussion on the Council of Nicaea. Honestly ask yourself: who was this man named Constantine and his council that had such authority centuries after Jesus to all the sudden decide what gospels were real and which were fake. The four canonized gospel’s of today’s New Testament were hand selected…many other gospels were dispelled and labeled as heresy, thus are not included in today’s Bible.
Some of these controversial gospels include the ones found during the middle years of the twentieth century in which two important but very different collections of ancient religious texts were unearthed in Palestine and Egypt: the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Library.
Another Gospel in which was denied canonization at the council was that of the Gospel of Barnabas. Interestingly enough, the Gospel of Barnabas’ views generally agree with Islamic doctrine and specifically make mention of Jesus as a Prophet and not the son of God. Barnabas was a dedicated companion of Jesus, while on the other hand, ‘Paul of Tarsus’ whom is believed to have written much of the New Testament - wasn't even in the picture at all. However, many Christians view him as an important interpreter of the teachings of Jesus.
Paul is described in the New Testament as a Hellenized Jew and Roman citizen from Tarsus in present-day Turkey. He was a persistent persecutor of Early Christians, almost all of whom were Jewish or Jewish proselytes, until his experience on the Road to Damascus which brought about his conversion to faith in Jesus as the Christ and Son of God.
Paul himself admits that he at first persecuted Christians to the death (Phil 3:6). Interestingly enough, Paul never met Jesus during his life and was not one of Jesus’ original 12 disciples. And this is not to say that Paul was a bad man or that he wanted to intentionally deceive or misinform people, we can obviously see from his many letters that he was a sincere man.
Lastly, some Christians may assert that these types of arguments surrounding the early church are irrelevant due to the following statement reportedly given by Jesus to Peter in Mat 16:18.
Some claim that this verse acts as a security clause granting the future church exclusive "Diving Guidance." Thus, the Church (Papacy) can forever be an "infallible authority" on doctrine and issues pertaining to the changing times.
This view is mostly followed by Catholics although other Christians (Protestants) often believe that this view holds true at least concerning the Early Church when the Bible was first being canonized and transmitted.
“You are Peter, and
this rock I will build my church, and the gates of
Hades will not overcome it."
- New Testament
True, he may have called Peter the rock upon which he would build his church, however, a scant five verses later, he called Peter “Satan” and “an offense.” And let us not forget that this “rock” thrice denied Jesus after Jesus’ arrest; this seems to be poor testimony of Peter’s commitment to the new church.
“Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” - New Testament (Matthew 16:23)
Now do you really think that Jesus literally meant that Peter was Satan? Of course not, however this calls for the use of interpretation to clarify this position. So the interpretation of Peter being the justification of the "Church's infallibility" over Biblical interpretation is subject to the very nature of interpretation in itself.
However, as I mentioned Protestants do not usually cite this specific verse in defense of official scriptural interpretation, they usually assert guidance to be an individual phenomenon. However, this is not without logical conflict.
"Many Protestants claim to interpret the Scripture by the light of "God, the Holy Spirit", and yet they manage to come up with a multitude of different interpretations of the same passage. Now either the Spirit is playing games with these people or there is something wrong with their theological method. After all, Calvinists and Armenians cannot both be right; all the dialectic in the world cannot reconcile two completely irreconcilable doctrines." (THE WAY: What Every Protestant Should Know About the Orthodox Church, Clark Carlton, 1997, p 81)
Additionally, the argument of the "church's infallible authority" can only hold solid ground on the basis of written scripture as the complete truth. Otherwise if parts of the scripture turn out to be fallible than the scripture as a whole is fallible.
Thus, how can any man of reason use a fallible source of scripture as an authority to prove something to be infallible, such as the Church. There's clear conflict here no matter which way you look at it. Indeed, from the following section on "errors and contradictions in the Bible," one must clearly realize that the Bible proves itself to be fallible; thus invalidating the Church's claim to infallibility by default.
For more on the multitude of views and differing Gospel accounts within Early Christianity:
For more on General Controversies within the Early Church:
For more on the “other gospels” found but not selected in today’s Bible canon:
For more on Paul of Tarsus – A writer of the New Testament:
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