Lost Christianities

Lost Christianities
Bart Ehrman

Early Christianity was a chaos of different texts and doctrines that, if the faith was to survive, were going to have to be winnowed and consolidated. This stage effectively concluded in 381 when the Emperor Theodosius I declared the Nicene creed to be the orthodox position of the church, and made all other beliefs heretical. As the prolific popular historian of these developments, Bart Ehrman, tells the story, the other Christianities of the early churches were consigned to the dustbin of history (or archaeological digs). Things might have worked out differently, and Ehrman looks at some of the more interesting counterfactuals, but what was it about the “proto-orthodox” line that led to its success? Probably its very adaptability. What became orthodoxy was a big tent, a set of doctrine that tried to be all things to all people. The Nicene creed is logical and theological mush, but that’s what the age demanded. The lost Christianities weren’t lost or abandoned so much as papered over. In later centuries some cracks would show, but for a quick fix the Nicene paste of orthodoxy has proved to be remarkably resilient.