Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Reformation. Revised and Updated ed. Vol. 1. New York: HarperCollins, 2010. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Ch. 8, “The Deposit of the Faith.” Loc. 1320-1582
Because of the wide varieties of backgrounds of early Christianity, the message of the Gospel was interpreted differently by different groups. Gonzalez asks, “Were all the existing views and interpretations equally valid or acceptable?” (Gonzalez 2010, Loc. 1325). “In response to such threats, what would become known as orthodox Christianity began to define itself by reaffirming [such] elements of its Jewish heritage. . . “ (Ibid., Loc. 1331). Many positive statements of doctrine were made in response to erroneous views. Gonzalez discusses several of the troublesome situations in turn.
Gnosticism arose in some forms as early as the 70s (Ibid., Loc. 1336). This involved belief in a special knowledge which was “the secret key to salvation (Ibid., Loc. 1349). Gonzalez proceeds to discuss some of the major elements of this hidden knowledge. While the orthodox Christians rejected gnosticism, they also had to deal with Marcion, who took an anti-Jewish, anti-material view of Christianity (Ibid., Loc. 1412). Having gathered some disciples Marcion established a rival church at Rome. Many of his beliefs were natural outcomes of Gnostic philosophy (Ibid., Loc. 1419). Orthodoxy responded to Marcion of certain writings by articulating a list of sacred writings based on consensus of Christian leaders (Ibid., Loc. 1449). Gonzalez observes that the Gnostics never made an attempt to get their books included in the Orthodox New Testament. Rather, they rejected the New Testament and established their own lists (Ibid., Loc. 1473). In addition to recognizing a canonical list of books, the church adopted various creeds (Ibid., Loc. 1490). The various creeds from different areas dating back to 150 or earlier formed the basic framework for the later, more universal, Nicene creed of 325-381 (Ibid., Loc. 1503). Finally, the idea of apostolic succession arose to combat the concept of secret knowledge as opposed to the public teaching of Jesus and His apostles (Ibid., Loc. 1542). The orthodox churches showed their connection to the apostolic age in ways the Gnostics could not (Ibid., Loc. 1554).