The Christianity Battles
What if Ebionite Christians, Marcion Christians, or Gnostic Christians had been more convincing?
Maybe more Buddhist?
That's how a lot of people look on Gnosticism--it seems more like an Eastern religion because its practitioners are interested in acquiring insight and enlightenment rather than salvation through the death of Jesus.
And then you have to wonder, if that's the case, whether Western Christianity would have come to dominate the world as it has.
Yes, exactly. Would Christianity have taken over the empire, for example, if that's the kind of Christianity it was? Or would it have remained a small group of people? I think the reason Christianity ended up taking over the empire was because the Roman Emperor himself converted---Constantine
. And it's hard to imagine him converting to one of these other kinds of Christianity.
Why do you think the religion that Constantine chose, the current form of Christianity-which you call the proto-orthodox-won out?
To some extent they won because they were better debaters. Each of these groups was fighting all the other groups on various fronts, but the proto-orthodox seemed to have been better organized than the other groups and seemed to have been more intent on establishing a worldwide network of similar people. And so they ended up taking over the churches in the major areas where there were lots of Christians, such as Rome, and eventually in Alexandria, Egypt, and Jerusalem.
Who belonged to the proto-orthodox groups?
Most of them were completely unknown to us by name, but they included most of the authors whose works have survived to today, outside of the New Testament. They're people like Ignatius of Antioch, and Tertullian. These are people whose works are well-known to historians of early Christianity.
Most proto-orthodox, like most other people in the Christian churches, tended to be lower class. The authors whose works survived would have been the elite among the proto-orthodox. They were people who had advanced education and had become authors. So just like today, most Christians are just regular folks. But some people write books and become famous for them. A lot of them were pretty good debaters-you know, they could argue a point pretty well.
What was the difference between the proto-orthodox from a geography and class standing, and the heretical groups?