Second Century Christianity in Conflict: Arguments over Authority

I. Was Jesus bodily resurrected? Why does it matter?

A. Orthodoxy

1. Bodily resurrection legitimizes the authority of certain apostles and no others, and their successors

2. After Jesus's death, Peter claimed designation as leader on the basis of Jesus's appearances to him

a. Of course, gospels say he appeared to Mary first

b. And other apostles like James also claimed authority on this basis

3. Only the apostles, and no others ever again, saw Jesus in the flesh after he died

a. The apostles can hand down tradition, but no successors can alter or challenge it

4. Apostolic tradition sets the boundaries of the faith

a. all later traditions and spiritual experiences must conform to it

B. Gnostics: the alternative view

1. Whoever "sees the Lord" spiritually can equal or surpass the apostles (and their successors)

2. There are no boundaries to the Christian faith: authority can never be fixed or defined

3. Continual increase and knowledge and spirituality is the expectation

4. Sometimes, secret authority attributed to those outside the circle of twelve

II. Why insist on one God? And what is His/Her nature?

A. Orthodoxy

1. The Jewish God has no consort, unlike every other deity in the Mediterranean

2. Women are attracted to gnostic heresies because they are easily deceived (Irenaeus)

a. "These heretical women -- how audacious they are! They are bold enough to teach, to engage in argument, to undertake cures, even to baptize!" --Tertullian

3. The pastoral epistles counter the gnostic writings which acknowledge female powers

a. God is imagined male because males are leaders of the church

B. Gnostics: God as both Father and Mother

1. God can be prayed to in female as well as male imagery

a. Example: Valentinus' suggested prayer for protection to the Mother of mystical, eternal Silence (the womb)

2. The Holy Spirit can be imagined as female: "I am the Father, I am the Mother, I am the Son" (Apocryphon of John)

a. "My Mother, the Spirit" (Gospel to the Hebrews)

3. Divine Wisdom (Sophia) who brings gnosis