The Cambridge History of Ancient Christianity– Part Five

The Cambridge History of Ancient Christianity– Part Five October 29, 2023

Q. In reading through and editing all these essays, did the idea emerge of something called ‘mainstream’ or ‘orthodox’ Christianity as opposed to the heterodoxy of the many diverse variants—Gnostic and otherwise?


A. David Wilhite addresses this question directly in his opening essay, and there are others that deal with particular aspects of the issue along the way — such as the essays on Marcionism and gnosticising forms of Christianity. In my view, the so-called “Christianities” of the pre-Constantinian era were not disparate entities with equal historical value. Like the early moments of the universe, forces within the full spread of ancient Christianity were beginning to coalesce in a variety of gravitational centers, some with more centripetal pull than others. I think the character of this volume exhibit something of a “middle way” between the uncritical-traditionalist approach of binary opposites (orthodox Christianity versus heretical Christianities) and the overly-revisionist approach in which all forms of diversity are given equal weight.

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