- Nazareth, the census & Herod
- Jesus' words and acts
- Denial of historicity
- Jesus: no eyewitnesses
- Further Reading
- Early Christianity
- Which books?
- Early Christian Bibles, Gospels
- Early "Christian" sects & beliefs
- Pre-Christian: Gnosticism & Mandeaism
- Canonical Gospels & Paul's Epistles
- The Apostles
- NT and OT scholarship
A colossal fraud lies at the very basis of Christianity. Its Gospels are palmed off as the work of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, four of Christ's disciples. Yet scholars are perfectly aware "there is no evidence that either the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, or the other writings, as we have them, existed within a hundred and twenty years after the Crucifixion." The canonical books of the New Testament came into existence at the same time as the host of "apocryphal" ones, an incomplete list of which comprises over seventy documents. Our four Gospels were selected by the Church, which pronounced them the true Word of God. The Church guarantees the books, but who will guarantee the Church?From: Chapter V: Pious Forgeries
To say nothing of the hundred and fifty thousand various readings of the Greek Testament, it is an undisputed fact that passages have been knowingly interpolated in the canonical Gospels. The famous Trinitarian text in the first Epistle of St. John (5:7) has been almost universally recognised as a forgery since the days of Porson; and the public is now informed in the margin of our Revised Bible that the second half of the last chapter of Mark, from the ninth to the twentieth verses, does not exist in the oldest manuscripts, while some manuscripts give a different ending altogether. The author of the second Epistle to the Thessalonians appears to indicate that shameless forgeries were already rife, and expresses apprehension lest his own name should be attached to such frauds (2:2; 3:17). Other instances might be given, but these will suffice to elucidate the complaint of Celsus, in the second century, that the Christians were perpetually correcting and altering their Gospels.
-- Crimes of Christianity, by G W Foote and J M Wheeler
Many Gospels, Epistles and Revelations, not now in use, were read in the churches in the early centuries. About the close of the second century or the beginning of the third, when the Catholic Church was forming, a source of authority for appeal in case of dispute over new doctrines was necessary, and the Fathers [of the Early Church] instituted the theory that certain books were inspired. But the books which they said were divine were not always the same books which we have now. They declared many books to be inspired which we do not think to be; and they ignored and rejected many books which have since been invested with divine honors.
The contentions of the sects made it impossible for the new church to unite on the Gospels which had been first in use, and they were, therefore, discarded, and our present Four Gospels were substituted. To give them greater authority, the names of apostles who had been with Jesus were forged to them, literary forgery in those days not being considered a crime.The Fathers in asserting that the books were inspired, were guided not by critical ability, but by ignorance and superstition. Instead of being great scholars, they were extremely credulous, and in general very inferior intellectually. After much controversy, it became apparent that they could not agree as to what books should form the Bible; and councils took the matter in hand, and for nearly twelve centuries they discussed it. And finally, the Roman Catholic Church in the council of Trent, and the Greek Church in the council of Constantinople, decided once for all what the list should be for their adherents; and the Westminster Assembly gave the English-speaking Protestants their catalogue.
The Bible, as we have it today, is hardly more than three centuries old.
-- A Short History of the Bible, by Bronson C. Keeler, 1881
The New TestamentFrom: Errors and Forgeries in the Bible, which also contains examples of the same in the old Testament.
None of the gospels were written to be part of a "holy Bible" inspired by God (Simply because the Bible as such didn't exist at that time.) We don't know anything about who wrote the gospels. The Church ascribed the names of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John to the texts much later. These four texts were not originally in the Bible, and they first became authoritative (approved by the church) late in the 2. century AD. The gospels are all written in Greek and there is no indication of any Hebrew originals, which rules out that the authors could be anyone among the followers of Jesus (who spoke Aramaic). According to the gospels both Jesus and his disciples had no education and were illiterates, as most of their contemporaries. The gospel texts are also heavily edited by editors, in particular the gospel of St. John.
The letters of John are not written by John the apostle. All the "Catholic letters" (I Peter, II Peter, I-III John, Jude) are also forgeries. And six of the thirteen letters of St. Paul are not by him. Even his "real" letters were later heavily edited by the Church.Among the later added parts, not in the original Gospel texts: The sermon on the Mount, The story of Jesus' birth (Luke 2:1-21) and the stories of Jesus' resurrection!
Around 400 AD the scholar Hieronimus made a major editing of the Latin Bible, the result is the Latin Vulgata version of the Bible. This became the mother of all later translations. Hieronimus changed no less than 3500 instances in the text.
1) The undeniable fact that the first Christians were the greatest liars and forgers that had ever been in the whole world, and that they actually stopt at nothing.
2) The undeniable fact that it was not the ignorant and vulgar among them, but their best scholars, the shrewdest, cleverest, and highest in rank and talent, who were the practitioners of these forgeries.
-- Diegesis, Robert Taylor (1829).
...the first problem believers have to face is the problem of which books belong in the Bible, which ones don't, and how to decide.Catholics have a somewhat ampler number of holy books (73) than Protestants who have 66. Jewish people have still fewer with 39 books. Samaritans 5 or 6 books: their Bibles only have Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and - some sects - Joshua.
In the case of the Samaritans, the small number of books in their Bible reflects ... the fact that [they], living in the northern part of Palestine, became split off from the main center of Jewish cultural evolution the southern kingdom of Judah before the prophets and other writings had come to be considered "scripture" by anyone.
To this day [the small remnant of] Samaritans claims all books outside the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible, the so-called Five Books of Moses) are uninspired and, therefore, uncanonical. A possible exception is ...the Book of Joshua, which seems to be given quasi-scriptural status. Not only are the later books of the Jewish canon "unscriptural," in the Samaritan view even the Hebrew version of the Pentateuch (...from which our King James (KJ) and later Bibles have been translated) is no good either. It differs from the Samaritan text in more than six thousand variant readings! [These differences] are due to ...merely accidents of political history and warfare.
Religious heads of Judaism had purged certain books during Jewish Councils, for example:
At the Council of Jamnia, the Jews threw out such books as Baruch, Ecclesiasticus, and both Books of Maccabees. By a slender vote, they narrowly avoided throwing out Ezekiel, Proverbs, Esther, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. In the case of the Book of Daniel, the Jews threw out the last two chapters, settling for an even dozen. (The Catholic Book of Daniel still contains fourteen chapters.)Link
Just as the list of holy books differed between Jewish communities, so the list of books considered holy among the early Christians differed between churches....Same Link
In addition to the Jewish scriptures, each Christian community developed its own "New Testament" scriptures, creating more than a dozen different gospels and an uncertain number of epistles and apocalypses. ...no "Church Father" is known, who drew the line of canonicity in the same way as does [a Fundamentalist Christian] of today.
- The illustrious Irenaeus (b. ca. A.D. 130), for example, considered the Shepherd of Hennas to be inspired, but rejected Hebrews, Jude, James, 2 Peter, and 3 John.
- Clement of Alexandria (ca. A.D. 150-213) included the Apocalypse of Peter, the Epistle of Barnabas, and the Shepherd of Hermas in his Bible.
- Tertullian (b. ca. A.D. 160) ...threw out all the New Testament books except the four gospels, Acts, thirteen "Pauline" epistles, Revelation, and 1 John.
The early Councils are of importance because they often voted upon which books went into the Canon and which into the fire.
As certain churches (such as those at Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantinople) gained in political power, each made strenuous efforts to stamp out "heresy," and church councils were convened ...to vote on which books were canonical and to anathematize those who could not buy enough votes to be on the winning side.Link
- The Council of Laodicea (A.D. 363) included Baruch in the Old Testament, but barred Revelation from the New.
- The Council of Carthage (ca. A.D. 397) included Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, Tobit, Judith, and 1 and 2 Maccabees.
- The most recent infallible enumeration of the Catholic canon took place at the Council of Trent (A.D. 1563), in the midst of the German Reformation.
- The Greek Orthodox Church closed its canon sometime in the tenth century, when it finally admitted the Book of Revelation (although it still does not use quotations from this book in its lectionaries).
- The Syrian Orthodox Church grudgingly adopted Revelation a century later still.
Some of the other important decisions taken at a few of the Church Councils:
First Ecumenical Council of Nicea (325): Voted in favour of Bishop Alexander of Alexandria and against Arius, that Jesus and his Father are one and the same. [See here]
The Church Council of Laodicea (c.364): made Sunday into the new Sabbath.Link - lists the major Councils in chronological order, including those left out here, with brief descriptions of the main events.
First Council of Constantinople (381 CE): convened ...to confirm the victory over Arianism. The council drew up a dogmatic statement on the Trinity and defined Holy Spirit as having the same divinity expressed for the Son by the Council of Nicaea 56 years earlier.
Council of Carthage (394): first council to uphold doctrines of purgatory.
Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (451): voted that Christ is simultaneously "truly man and truly God."
The Second Nicean Council (787): which voted to allow the veneration but not the worship of icons.And more recently:
First Vatican Council (1869-1870): 20th ecumenical, affirmed doctrine of papal infallibility (i.e. when a pope speaks ex cathedra on faith or morals he does so with the supreme apostolic authority, which no Catholic may question or reject).
See more on the early Church Councils
About verse 1 John 5:7, the Trinitarian proof-text:
It is now known that the verse was a fourth-century Spanish invention, finally appearing in MSS [manuscripts] of the Latin Vulgate (the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church) around the year 800.Link
Among the Protestant "reformers," opinions differing greatly from those held by Protestants today were common. Luther didn't think Esther belonged in the Bible, but he thought highly of 1 Maccabees and Sirach. He had a low opinion of Hebrews, and Revelation he thought to be of little value, being neither apostolic nor prophetic. The Epistle of James he termed "an epistle of straw."Link
The Swiss reformer Zwingli pronounced Revelation unbiblical. John Calvin denounced that book ...as unintelligible, and he forbade the pastors of Geneva to attempt to interpret it.
Erasmus, one of the leaders of the Reformation, declared that Paul did not write the Epistle to the Hebrews, and he denied the inspiration of Second and Third John, and of Revelation. Luther was of the same opinion. He declared James to be an epistle of straw, and denied the inspiration of Revelation. Zwinglius rejected the book of Revelation, and even Calvin denied that Paul was the author of Hebrews. The truth is that the Protestants did not agree as to what books are inspired until 1647, by the Assembly of Westminster.Link
- The Real Bible: Who's got it?
- Different Bibles
- Which Bible?
- A timeline of Christian Councils
- From Nestorianism to Monothelitism. About how the Church councils determined which of the various early streams of Church teaching were to be orthodox or heretical. Discusses Apollinarianism and Nestorianism, Euthychianism (Monophysitism) and Monothelitism.
With the condemnation of the monophysitism and monotheletism we have reached the stage of development of Christology that is today shared by the Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Churches.
...as Christianity developed, the concept of Jesus became more and more absurd and meaningless. The Nicene Creed (325) asserted that Jesus was truly God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. The first council of Constantinople (381) made the contradictory assertion that Jesus was also truly man. Hence Jesus took on two natures in Constantinople. The council in Ephesus (431) asserted that Jesus' two natures were nevertheless indivisibly one. In Chalcedon (451) it was further elaborated that although the two natures were indivisible they were also distinct.  Then, in Constantinople (681) the bishops decided that Jesus had two wills, but that they always coincided and acted harmoniously with each other. These formulations are absurd and devoid of any sense.
Here seems to be the proper place to state the important fact -- that there were current towards the middle and end of the second century a considerable number of other gospels than our four. There was a gospel of the Hebrews, of the Egyptians, of Peter, of Thomas, of Bartholomew, of Matthew, and of the Twelve Apostles; and these gospels were used not only by heretical parties, but they were appealed to sometimes by orthodox writers.
-- The Twelve Apostles, published by Thomas Scott, 1870
Of the books used in Christian Churches, and mentioned by name in the writings of the Christian Fathers of the Church during the first four centuries, at least seventy have entirely disappeared. Suppressed by bishops and emperors, destroyed by fanatics, and lost in various ways, they have left no traces, except an occasional quotation, behind them. The Gospels according to the Egyptians, according to the Hebrews, according to the Ebionites, of Jude, of Judas Iscariot, of Peter, of Andrew, of Barnabas, of Bartholomew, and according to the Twelve Apostles, and many other Gospels which were once in common use, but which were subsequently considered to be unorthodox, have disappeared. The same fate has befallen the Acts of Peter, of Thomas, of Andrew, of John, of Paul, the Travels of Peter, and other books purporting to relate the lives of apostles. Two epistles and a hymn attributed to Jesus himself have disappeared. The Book of James, the Revelation of St. Paul, the Revelation of St. Peter, and many other books which once ranked as equal to the books of our New Testament, have also ceased to exist.
The canon-makers were never concerned with questions about the authenticity of the books. "The Church has distinguished between ancient books which she decided were apocryphal and other early books which she pronounced to be inspired; but in making the decision she was always influenced, not by a critical examination of the authenticity or origin of the writings, but solely by the question of what support they gave to the orthodoxy of the moment. If the book accorded with her dogmas, it was said to be inspired; if it did not support them, it was destroyed or labelled apocryphal." The Church accepted these books because they told a story which she wished men to believe, and for no other reason. She rejected other books which earlier Christians had used because they gave versions of the story which she did not wish men to believe, and for no other reason. The newer books contained the newer doctrine-that current at the moment; the older books contained the old doctrine, in which men of the triumphant sect had ceased to believe.
Doubtless many of the "apocryphal" Gospels were eventually so classed on grounds which were not doctrinal only. The events recorded in some of them must have been a little too fanciful and miraculous even for the miracle-loving Fathers of the third century. Tertullian, who boasted that he believed because it was impossible ("Certum est, quia impossibile"), must have realized that some stories related in the "apocryphal" Gospels were risible as well as impossible. Some of the stories, such as those of the descent of Jesus into hell, were retained, and eventually enshrined in the Creeds, though the only books which recorded them had been rejected as apocryphal; but the tendency among the better-educated Fathers must have been to reject the more fanciful accounts in favour of the more sober. Doctrinal considerations were undoubtedly the chief concern of the canon-makers-that is admitted by themselves; but it is highly probable that the derisive comments of the pagans influenced the Fathers in their choice of books which did not contain quite such a curious assortment of childish miracles as those recorded in "The First Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ."
-- Shaken Creeds - The Virgin Birth Doctrine, by Jocelyn Rhys
Deifying Jesus had been essential to Christianity, but somewhere along the line, the evolutionary process that had made him bigger than life had to be halted lest he become a transparent collection of superhuman cliches. So the evolutionary process had gone too far. Eusebius and other church fathers realized that a bit of "devolution" was called for. Thus, books that contained creative history so overly exuberant as to be immediately transparent were expunged from the canon. As it turned out, that included practically everything written after c. 150 B. C.
...examining some of the expunged books ...will impress even a "true Christian" with how far early Christians were willing to go to inflate the image of their Messiah. Here are just a few examples:
- As a boy, Jesus was playing on a river bank on the Sabbath. Another boy came along and saw young Jesus making fish pools and became righteously indignant over Jesus' breaking of the Sabbath laws. The boy set about destroying the pools, whereupon Jesus struck him dead. In the same chapter, Jesus struck another boy dead for bumping into him while running in the street (I Infancy 19).
- After dying on the cross, Jesus descended into hell. There he defeated Death, Satan, and the Prince of Hell. He then took the saints with him to Paradise (Nicodemas 16-19). [One can only wonder how anyone was expected to believe that this was an eye-witness account.]
- When Herod ordered the murder of the infants, Elizabeth, Mary's cousin, fled with her baby, John the Baptist. Finding no place to hide, she said a prayer to God. Immediately a whole mountain split open, and Elizabeth and her baby hid inside under the protection of an angel (Protoevangelion 16).
When the Old Testament was forming, divine origin was not the test of admission. Other considerations were applied. The questions were, "What are the doctrines of the book? What is its character? Who was its author? Is it orthodox?" The Bible did not form the beliefs. The beliefs formed the Bible. After the book had been formed, the process of apotheosis commenced. A long time having elapsed, and its origin having been forgotten, men began to think that because it was written of God, it had been written by God, and they said it was divine.A few of the missing Gospels, that the Early Church had destroyed for 'heresy', have now turned up again. These include fragments of the Gospel of Philip, as well as the recently rediscovered one of Judas.
The following is a partial list of the books fabricated and in circulation in that age, in addition to the ones now in the New Testament. Those in italics are preserved in The Apocryphal New Testament,2 and those in Roman letters are no longer extant:-- A Short History of the Bible, by Bronson C. Keeler, 1881
The Gospel of Paul, the Gospel of Peter, the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, Ignatius' Epistle to the Romans, his Epistle to the Ephesians, his Epistle to Polycarp, the Gospel according to the Egyptians, the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, the Sibylline Oracles, the Gospel according to the Hebrews, the Gospel of Perfection, the Gospel of Philip, another Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of Judas Iscariot, the Gospel of Basilides, the Gospel of Thaddeus, the First Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ, the Gospel of the Birth of Mary....
See also: Is the New Testament Inspired?
The Gospel of Philip: states "Those who say that the Lord died first and then rose up are in error, for he rose up first and then died."
The Gospel of Peter: records that Jesus was condemned and crucified not by Pilate, but by Herod. The Gospel of Thomas: doesn't mention Jesus' death or resurrection, and never says Jesus was the Christ. The Apocryphon of James: attributed to Jesus' brother James, recounts a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples James and Peter - "five hundred and fifty days since he had risen from the dead."
We think the New Testament is the four Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles. The first Christians didn't think so.Link
And so on. There were dozens of Gospels, dozens of Epistles, dozens of Acts
- The Gnostics had the Gospels of Peter, Matthias, Thomas and the Gospel of the Twelve [apostles], the Prophecy of Barcabbas, and others.
- The Manicheans had "The Gospel," written in Persian, and the Book of Mysteries, the Book of Life-giving, among others.
- The Messalians had The Asceticus, ["that filthy book of heresy," according to the orthodox Third General Council of (431 AD).]
Manichaeanism was considered a Christian heresy for its significant eastern influences (especially from Zoroastrianism). Its followers were persecuted until it was wiped out.
The 'Q' comes from Quelle, German for "source".
Paul's letters weren't the only early pre-gospel Jesus-related writing. Other early Jesus-related writing included the collection of Jesus' sayings [which] Matthew and Luke used to write their gospels it's called the Synoptic Sayings Source, or Q.
The Synoptic Sayings Source was written, and presumably passed around, during the generation or two after Jesus died and before the gospels were written. And, here's the thing, the Synoptics Sayings Source never mentions Jesus death and resurrection, or Jesus bringing salvation.
In the Synoptic Sayings Source [Q source], "Christological titles for Jesus are strikingly absent, [scholar-speak for 'Jesus is never called Christ'] nor is Jesus proclaimed as the one who rose from the dead and who will return in the future."
Synoptic Sayings Source is evidence "for the development of a Jesus tradition that had no relationship to the proclamation of the cross and resurrection of Jesus."
-- Helmut Koester, Introduction to the New Testament, vol 2, History and Literature of Early Christianity
The Synoptic Sayings Source isn't the only remnant [of pre-Gospel Jesus-related writings] ...In the orthodox tradition, there are also the Synoptic Apocalypse and the Collection of Parables.Link
The Community of "Q"Link
In Galilean circles distinct from those of the evangelists (who were probably all located in Syria), a Jewish movement of the mid-first century preaching the coming of the Kingdom of God put together over time a collection of sayings, ethical and prophetic, now known as Q. The Q community eventually invented for itself a human founder figure who was regarded as the originator of the sayings. In ways not yet fully understood, this figure fed into the creation of the Gospel Jesus, and the sayings document was used by Matthew and Luke to flesh out their reworking of Marks Gospel. Some modern scholars believe they have located the "genuine" Jesus at the roots of Q, but Qs details and pattern of evolution suggest that no Jesus was present in its earlier phases, and those roots point to a Greek style of teaching known as Cynicism, one unlikely to belong to any individual, let alone a Jewish preacher of the Kingdom.
The documentary record reveals an early Christian landscape dotted with a bewildering variety of communities and sects, rituals and beliefs about a Christ/Jesus entity, most of which show little common ground and no central authority. Also missing is any idea of apostolic tradition tracing back to a human man and his circle of disciples.Link
Jesus' earliest followers ...did not know stories about His death and resurrection.
Jesus' Jewish followers in Jerusalem, the Jewish Christians who became the Ebionites, did not believe in His virgin birth, or in His divinity.
The Gnostic Christians, who developed in the first century, who were the first Christians in Egypt and elsewhere, did think Jesus brought salvation but not by dying on the cross. [Christian] Gnosticism's Jesus saved by bringing sacred wisdom.
Only the sect of Christianity founded by Paul developed the Christ myth of the dying resurrected savior. Paul was a diaspora Jew, raised in Pagan Tarsus, who never met Jesus.
These very early followers of Jesus believed that conversion to Judaism was necessary for one to be a Christian. They also had other beliefs that would now be considered un-Christian. According to the writings left by Churchfather Eusebius, who described their beliefs and disbeliefs:
They [the Ebionites] considered him [Jesus] a plain and common man and justified only by his advances in virtue and that he was born of the Virgin Mary by natural generation. With them the observance of the law was altogether necessary, as if they could not be saved only by faith in Christ and a corresponding life.(Though the Ebionites didn't believe in the Virgin Birth, Eusebius did, which is why he still referred to Mary as the Virgin in his statement.)
-- Eusebius, 4th century
The early Nazarenes, who adhered to the Jewish law, were called Ebionites, or [the meaning of Ebionite:] contemptible people. The Ebionites denounced the Paulinists, and declared that Paul was an impostor...Link
-- Crimes of Christianity, by G W Foote and J M Wheeler
Ebionites denied the divinity of Jesus and his virgin birth [Link]
Ebionites ...did not believe in Jesus' saving resurrection [Link].They believed adherence to Jewish law was required for salvation.
They denounced both Paul and his followers.
The authentic Ebionites of today still hold the same beliefs as the early Ebionites did.
Ebionites refer to Christianity as Dat Kazav, meaning the "Lying Religion" (derived from Paul, whom they called the "Lying Man"). They reject the New Testament completely, correctly recognising this late addition as an erroneous work, which had besides relegated scripture to the back seat as being the "old" Testament.
The original Nazarene sects were followers of Jesus who traced their origins to the first Church, the Jerusalem Church, founded by Jesus' brother James. They considered themselves Jews, but regarded Jesus as a Messiah (in the original, Jewish sense of the term: one who would overthrow the Romans occupying Jerusalem). The Nazarenes argued with Paul about the new religion he had created around Jesus, whom he'd never even met (Paul had only dreamt of Jesus in visions) and realised his fraud.
Since Christianity had adopted Paul's teachings, early Christian propaganda against the Ebionites declared them heretics for not "recognising" that Jesus was divine. Of course, the potentially historical man Jesus whom the Nazarenes followed, has nothing to do with the fictional saviour Jesus Christ of the New Testament, which is wholly a Christian invention of Paul and others.
One of the most powerful and widespread kinds of early Christianity was [Christian] gnosticism.
The gnostic Christians ...used the Gospel of Thomas [which was] another mid-first-century collection of Jesus sayings. And again, no mention of Jesus death or resurrection.The Gospel of Thomas was one of the main Gospels of the Christian Gnostics.
The gnostic Gospel of Thomas never mentions Jesus' saving death.
The gnostics believed Jesus saved not by his dying and resurrection. The gnostics believed Jesus saved by the sacred wisdom he taught.From: Link, Link
There is no Christian sect today that uses the Gospel of Thomas (unless it's a very recent cult). Contrary to what one might guess, the "St. Thomas Christians" of India neither had nor used that Gospel. These and other early Christian sects do matter, even though today's Christians follow a form of Paul's version of Christianity:
[About Dr. Bauer's book Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity:]Link
For hundreds of years everyone assumed that the earliest Christians were orthodox New Testament Roman Christians, and "heretical" Christianities like Gnosticism and Marcionism developed later, branches off the original orthodox trunk.
Then in the 1930s ...Walter Bauer decided to actually look at the evidence. ...What he discovered was that pretty much everywhere he looked Syria, Palestine, Egypt, etc. the "heresies" weren't branches off any trunk, they were the original local Christianities. And they weren't small marginal sects, they were the main local Christianities.The evidence shows that all around the Mediterranean, outside Rome, the orthodox New Testament Roman Christianity was a secondary sect, a sect that became dominant only after the conversion of Constantine gave it the advantage of Roman swords.
Eventually, over the decades and centuries, more Christianities emerged. Nearly all of them are now extinct, having been persecuted for heresy by the early orthodox form of Christianity (the Roman Church before the Schism). Each of them had their own ideas about Jesus, his divinity, his relation to God, the concept of salvation.
Apollinarianism - Marcionism (Caesarea, in Asia Minor) - Arianism (Alexandria) - Monarchianism - Docetism - Monophysitism - Donatism (Carthage) - Monothelitism - Ebionism (Judea) - Montanism (Asia Minor) - Encratite - Nestorianism - Eutychianism - Priscillianism (Spain) - Gnosticism (Syria) - Sabellianism (North Africa) - Manichaeism (Babylonia)Link
Before the so-called New Testament was completed, the leaders of the primitive Christian Church had to do battle with a "heresy" called gnosticism. It is now known that gnosticism is older than Christianity, and an argument can be made that Christianity is a Gnostic heresy, rather than the other way around as traditionally taught.
The Gnostic library discovered at Nag Hammadi in Egypt provides some examples of how non-Christian materials could have been appropriated for Christian purposes. The so-called "Apocalypse of Adam," a non-Christian phantasy composed of Jewish elements, follows the same general outline and contains many of the same components as does the birth narrative found in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Revelation in the New Testament. It is clear that both stories are derived from a common mythological source - a source that Gnostic principles allowed to be adapted for Christian use by "St. John the Revelator."
...how non-Christian materials could have been transmuted into the documents now found in the New Testament. James M. Robinson, the editor of the Nag Hammadi materials published in English, tells us thatThe Nag Hammadi library even presents one instance of the Christianizing process taking place almost before one's eyes. The non-Christian philosophic treatise Eugnostos the Blessed is cut up somewhat arbitrarily into separate speeches, which are then put on Jesus' tongue, in answer to questions (which sometimes do not quite fit the answers) that the disciples address to him during a resurrection appearance. The result is a separate tractate entitled The Sophia of Jesus Christ. Both forms of the text occur side by side in Codex III.
Some of the Jesus biography was derived from pre-Christian gnosticism, and some material was incorporated from Hellenic-Jewish wisdom literature.From: How Jesus got a life The Gnostics refused to use the Old Testament for several reasons:
The Gnostics so hated and despised matter that they did not believe that God had created it. The Old Testament, which said that he had, was abandoned.
-- The Story Of Religious Controversy, by Joseph McCabe
It [the nascent Christian society] was unable, unlike the full-fledged Gnostics, to disavow Judaism entirely and discount the Old Testament as the record of a fiend.Link, so another important reason for the Gnostics to abandon the OT was because they thought the God described therein was "a fiend".
Christianity originated in a region where there were many older, seemingly related religions. Besides Judaism and its various sects, there was also the pre-Christian religion of Mandaeism, at times overlooked as a heretical branch of Judaism. Mandeans lived in the region from Palestine to Syria and Mesopotamia (Iraq). The religion still exists today.
- Mandaeism is a monotheistic religion.
- Mandeans are followers of John the Baptist and their scriptures include one that's called the Book of John
- Mandean literature refers to Jesus, the son of Mary, as the false Messiah. Their literature does not have a high regard for either Yeshu or Miriam.
The early Christian movement was taking away followers of John the Baptist, so Jesus being mentioned in Mandean works does not prove his existence or that of Mary (not the ones described in the New Testament, anyway). The new religion of Christianity was obviously competing with the existing Mandaeism in order to gain adherents.
- In the 4th century, Epiphanius wrote about how the Nasaraeans/Nasoraeans (another name for the Mandeans) were a pre-Christian religious group who did not follow Christ and differentiated between them and a somewhat similarly named Christian sect.
- Mandean theology - which predates Christianity - contained beliefs, concepts and rites that would eventually be incorporated into the later religion, including:
- A day of Judgement
- The Primal Adam, who among Mandeans is conceived of as the "Perfect Man"
- Baptism, for which reason Mandeans were also known as Sabians: "those who baptise".
- Their traditions refer to Miriai, a female priest who over time evolved into a representation of the Mandean religion itself. Origen was referring to Mandeans when he wrote of a religious sect centred on "Mariamne". Miriai is the Mandean equivalent of the common Semitic name Miriam/Mariam/Mary. (However, the Mandean figurehead Miriai is different from the Miriam who is regarded as the mother of the false Messiah Yeshu.)
Like the Mandeans, scholars today think that the Q Community, which gave rise to the Q source, was not Christian either, but a pre-Christian Jewish or perhaps even Mandean sect from which Christianity eventually developed.