by Walter Bauer

Translated and supplemented under the direction of Robert A. Kraft
and Gerhard Kroedel (Philadelphia: Fortress 1971)
from the 2nd German edition edited and supplemented by Georg Strecker
(Tübingen: J.C.B.Mohr 1964 [original ed 1934]);
electronic edition periodically updated by Robert A. Kraft (since 1993)

A P P E N D I X   2 :

The Reception of the Book

by Georg Strecker

revised and augmented by Robert A. Kraft*

[Previous: Chapter Appendix 1]

[[286]] [App. 2]

\*/ The original essay by Georg Strecker, "Die Aufnahme des Buches" (Bauer\2, 288-306), has been completely revised and expanded by R. A. Kraft in consultation with Professor Strecker for inclusion in this English edition.


Reviews and Notices of the Original Edition

During the years immediately following the appearance of Bauer's original edition, more than two dozen reviews or notices appeared in six different languages. For convenience, those known to the editors are listed below:\1/

\1/ Brief annotations are provided for some of the reviews not treated at any length in the subsequent discussion as well as basic information about the reviewer when available. Bauer himself supplied a precis of the book in <tm>Forschungen und Fortschritte</tm> 10 (1934): 99-101; this has now been reprinted in the collection of Bauer's <tm>Aufsätze und Kleine Schrifien</tm>, edited by Georg Strecker (Tübingen: Mohr, 1967), pp. 229-233. See also the detailed appreciation by W. Schneemelcher, "Walter Bauer als Kirchenhistoriker," NTS 9 (1962/63): 11-22, and the "Report on the New Edition of Walter Bauer's Rechtglaubigkeit...," by Georg Strecker, <tp>Journal of Bible and Religion</tp> 33 (1965): 53-56.


  • "A." [ = N. von Arseniew (?)], <tp>Irénikon</tp> 12 (1935): 682-83 [French language, Belgian Roman Catholic publication; brief summary, favorable];
  • "p.b.," <tp>Religio</tp> 11 (1935): 83-84 (Italian Roman Catholic; relatively favorable summary];
  • "Brs." [= H. Bruders, S. J.]. <tp>Scholastik</tp> 10 (1935): 589 [German language, Dutch Roman Catholic; brief and favorable summary];
  • [[287]] J. Bergdolt, <tp>Luthertum</tp> 47 (1936): 316-17;
  • G. A. van den Bergh van Eysinga, <tp>Nieuw Theologisch Tijdschrift</tp> 24 (1935) : 374-76 [Dutch Protestant];
  • M. Dibelius (Heidelberg), <tp>Deutsche Literaturzeitung</tp> 6 (1935): 443-48;
  • M. Goguel (Protestant Faculty, Paris), <tp>Revue d'histoire et de philosophie religieuse</tp> 15 (1935): 163-67;
  • K. Heussi (Jena), <tp>Historische Vierteljshresschrift</tp> 30 (1935): 410-11 [complimentary brief summary];
  • H. Koch (Munich), <tp>Theologische Literaturzeitung</tp> 59 (1934): 343-46;
  • J. Lebreton (Catholic Faculty, Paris), <tp>Recherches de science religieuse</tp> 25 (1935): 605-10;
  • J. Leipoldt (Leipzig), <tp>Theologiches Literaturblatt</tp> 57 (1936): 228-30;
  • "H. L." [= Hans Lietzman, Berlin], ZNW 33 (1934): 94;
  • W. von Loewenich (Erlangen), <tp>Theologie der Gegenwart</tp> 29 (1935): 8;
  • E. Lohmeyer (Breslau), <tp>Historische Zeitschrift</tp> 151 (1935): 97-100;
  • C. Martin, S. J. (Louvain), <tp>Nouvelle revue théologique</tp> 62 (1935): 750-51;
  • C. H. Moehlman (Colgate-Rochester Divinity School), <tp>Church History</tp> 4 (1935): 236-37 [favorable summary];
  • J. Moffatt (Union Seminary, N.Y.), <tp>The Expository Times</tp> 45 (1933/ 34): 475-76;
  • M. Schmidt, <tp>Neues Sächsisches Kirchenblatt</tp> (20 Jan., 1935);
  • H. Schuster, <tp>Deutsche Evangelische Erziehung</tp> 48 (1937): 260;
  • H.-D. Simonin, O. P. (Rome), <tp>Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques</tp> 25 (1936): 342-45;
  • H. Strathmann (Erlangen), <tp>Theologie der Gegenwart</tp> 28 (1934): 192-93 [generally favorable, some reservation];
  • W. Völker (Halle), <tp>Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte</tp> 54 (1935): 628-631;
  • H. Windisch (Kiel/Halle), <tp>Christliche Welt</tp> 49 (1935): 138- 139;
  • "Z." [= J. de Zwann, Leyden], <tp>Nieuw Theologische Studien</tp> 20 (1937): 255 [Dutch, generally favorable with some reservations];
  • (anonymous), <tp>La vie spirituelle</tp> (1936), p. 177 f.;
  • (anonymous), <tp>Revue des sciences religeuses</tp> 17 (1937): 23- 24.

  • Continental Protestant Reviews.

    On the whole, continental protestant reviewers showed a positive appreciation for the book, although criticisms of this or that aspect were not infrequent.

    Hans Lietzmann, in his very brief published notice, praises it highly as:

    A splendid book. . . , a frontal attack on the usual approach to church history, vigorously carried out with solid erudition, penetrating criticism, and balanced organization. . . . It is the old thesis of Usener, [[288]] once so violently rejected by Harnack, that reappears here in a new form and with new foundations. Hopefully it will be appreciated better this time for its positive significance. Bauer's book belongs to those works the value of which rests not in the sum of particular matters treated, but which by their provocative total impression force the investigation to healthy self-examination.\2/

    \2/ Bauer's files contain a private communication from Lietzmann, dated 17 April 1934, as follows:

    Seldom has a book reached me at such an opportune time as your investigation has for the second volume of my <tm>History of the Church</tm>. How much I incline to your view, on the whole, you will realize from my [academic] genealogy. It was, after all, the thesis of my old teacher Hermann Usener that 'between the rock of the teaching of Christ and the clearly heathen lands lies a wide plain of common property' (<tm>Das Weinachsfest Kap. I-III</tm>\2, ed. H. Lietzmann (Bonn: Bouvier, 1911], p. XI), and I have always thought this thesis to be correct. It is now very gratifying to me to see it carried through by you with such energy, and to have the church history of all regions examined from this perspective. That is truly a fruitful adjustment which I will carefully investigate and will make fruitful in my own presentation.

    The extent to which Lietzmann actually put Bauer's work to use seems limited -- see his <tm>History</tm> 2: 58 n. 6; 259, nn. 1 and 5; 260 nn. 2-3; and 275 n. 1. As Strecker has pointed out privately in this connection, the identification of the thesis of Usener with Bauer's approach rests on a misunderstanding.


    Ernst Lohmeyer, near the end of a lengthy summary of the book, concedes that "it is inevitable that this book, 'more than it likes,' must make use of hypotheses that cannot be fully substantiated. But what is to be said has been said with so much caution and such careful support that the whole picture seems assured even though particular interpretations of sources and events must remain uncertain."\3/

    \3/ Lohmeyer's personal note to Bauer, dated 29 June 1934, reads: "I have worked through your book.., with much pleasure and agreement."


    In his extremely appreciative review, Maurice Goguel's only specific complaint is that "the title . . . perhaps is a bit unfortunate" since it is "too vague and would profit from having a sub-title to define the subject more closely." Otherwise, he emphasizes the value of the book as "an entirely new approach" that "throws light on a number of hitherto obscure points" and as a "point of departure" from which further studies may arise to sharpen, verify, or perhaps correct various aspects. By way of example, Goguel offers some observations of his own on Revelation 2-3 (above, 78 ff.). In short, Goguel feels that the book "has an importance out of proportion to the number of pages it contains" in that "it offers more new conclusions and fruitful suggestions than many large books three or four times [[289]] its size." Because of the positive results it provides, the method it inaugurates, and the perspective it offers for subsequent research, "this book is one of those, few in number, that marks a stage. No one who henceforth concerns himself with the history of primitive Christianity can neglect to read and study it." Hugo Koch is somewhat more critical, although also complimentary, on the whole. He regrets that Bauer did not examine more systematically the early Jewish-Christianity of Palestine (and Egypt), and that he is "completely silent" about earliest Christianity in Africa; on these matters, Koch appends some suggestions of his own (e.g. above, 241 n.1), as well as on early Roman christology and on the problem of marriage in early Christianity. Also he feels that a distinction might usefully be made between the earlier, more "gnostic," and the later, more ecclesiastical, positions of Origen. Nevertheless, although: one may think what he likes about [the book's] conclusions in particular matters, as a whole it is an extremely valuable scholarly investigation that for once reads the sources through other eyes than is usually the case, and hears many things from them that have not been heard for a long time. Bauer himself is well aware that the area in which he moves is often uncharted and requires careful procedure, and it cannot be said that he has neglected the necessary caution and has substituted mere conjectures for facts.

    Similarly, Johannes Leipoldt praises Bauer for an exciting book that opens "new paths" and deals critically with some legends of modern scholarship as well as those of antiquity. "Taken as a whole, the book of Bauer will determine the course of the investigation for a long time." Nevertheless, Leipoldt finds that the book moves along almost too rapidly -- there is little coherence -- and hopes that Bauer will "someday paint a complete picture of how the history of the church in the second century now looks." While agreeing "essentially" with Bauer's thesis, Leipoldt has reservations at some points and mentions specifically his conviction that "the boundaries between orthodoxy and heresy "often were even more fluid" than Bauer allows, and that Bauer's interpretation of the situation behind 3 John is unlikely (above, 92 f.) -- it has to do with a confict in "church polity" between an old missions-type of Christian and a young representative of the "local episcopate" (see also below, p. 308). [[290]]

    In what must have been one of the last pieces he wrote before his death in 1935, Hans Windisch comments that "much is immediately convincing, but many things still require substantiation" in this "learned and ingenious" book. "Perhaps what is worked out in the main points is correct, but it is not exhaustive for the entire situation of the church in the second century." Nevertheless, it is welcome for its many new observations, and will help to advance scholarship along many lines.

    In the same vein, H. Strathmann complains that Bauer's "ingenious criticism" often must employ the argument from silence and that Bauer seems excessively distrustful of ecclesiastical sources in constructing his picture. But on the whole, "the book is an extremely suggestive and forward-moving plea to rethink the history of earliest Christianity with new considerations."

    From the protestant Netherlands we find J. de Zwann mentioning exegetical and methodological problems accentuated by Bauer's use of the argument from silence and multiplication of hypotheses, in an otherwise favorable, brief notice. G. A. van den Bergh van Eysinga writes at much greater length, praising Bauer for countering the traditional Roman Catholic view that has also enjoyed wide influence among protestants, but objecting to such details as Bauer's dating for the Pauline and Ignatian letters and for <ts>1 Clement</ts>.

    Martin Dibelius provides a balanced and incisive review in which he praises the book as "a bold advance," concerned with "a constructive search," and maintains that from it "a historical view of earliest Christianity can only gain, on the whole, in a constructive way and I am the last who would or should call the author to task because of the boldness of the treatment. . . . It is a pleasure to find that there still can be an investigation that reflects the two talents that have made German scholarship the pillar of German respectability: meticulousness in investigation of the most minute aspects, and boldness of construction in larger matters." Nevertheless, Dibelius feels it his duty to ask basic questions especially about "the methodology by which the author supports his overall picture," and collects his observations under two main headings: (1) Bauer makes extensive use of the argument from silence -- e.g. concerning pre-Ignatian Christianity at Antioch, Asia Minor apart from Ignatius' addressees, the orthodoxy of the Christians mentioned by Pliny, Papias' failure to mention Luke's [[291]] gospel, and Polycarp's silence about a bishop at Philippi; (2) "Bauer tends to give to writings and events the purpose of which has not been clearly preserved for us an interpretation that relates to his problem" -- e.g. <ts>1 Clement</ts>, Ignatius' concern about the monepiscopate, references to the "great number" of heretics. Nevertheless, such questions by no means negate "the importance of the whole endeavor and the seriousness of the plea for a revision of opinion" in dealing with early church history.

    By far the most negative review to appear was the caustic piece by Walter Völker (see also below, n.5). Although Bauer claims to be fully aware of the fragmentary nature of the sources and the hypothetical nature of much of his study, this does not prevent him from making a claim such as is found in the second sentence of chapter 6 (p. 111), complains Völker. At a number of particular points, Völker attacks Bauer's interpretations: "no less than everything is unsure" about the early situation at Edessa, "the chapter on Egypt . . . is riddled with the argument from silence," at various points the interpretation of Ignatius' letters is unacceptable as is Bauer's use of <ts>1 Clement</ts>. All in all, Bauer's book is an attempt to view the history of the earliest church in an entirely new light, and to interpret all the particulars as consistent with this new approach. Thus the heretics are valued most highly, especially Marcion. . . . In contrast, the 'church' faded strongly into the background, and only Rome championed orthodoxy. . . . The author arrives at this astonishing conclusion by frequent use of the argument from silence, by bold combinations, by unsupportable conjectures which themselves are reused as a precarious foundation for further conjectures, by inferences drawn from later periods, and finally, by the arrangement of all the particulars into the schema orthodoxy/ heresy, whereby the variegated historical events are robbed of the complexity of their causes and motivations. I cannot believe that such a reconstruction of history has prospects of becoming accepted in the protestant approach to church history (to say nothing of the Catholic); it is only the most extreme swing of the pendulum of a view that ultimately goes back to G. Arnold's estimation of the heretics, and thus it must occasion just as extreme a reaction.\4/ [[292]]

    \4/ In the following year (24 May 1936), Völker wrote Bauer this note: "After a searching examination I cannot agree with the thesis ventured in part 1, but you yourself scarcely will have expected that the firm battle lines of the tradition would shatter at the first assault of the opposition."

    Bauer also received personal communication from several other distinguished German scholars:

    Adolf Jülicher (Marburg, emeritus), dated 1 Feb, 1934: "I have begun to read the first part of your new book, on the earliest church and/or Christianty in Edessa, and have already obtained from it so many unexpected and persuasive insights that it is with deep regret that I must lay the book aside for a few weeks, after which I intended to read it to the end with heightened interest. Where you yourself hesitate, neither can I arrive at any definite decision, but the main point, the priority of heretics in Edessa, seems to be demonstrated."

    Rudolf Otto (Marburg), dated 20 Feb, 1934: "I have now partaken with thanks and admiration of your <tm>Ketzer</tm>. Jülicher spoke very appreciatively of it." (The same card contains handwritten notes with complimentary remarks by Frederick C. Grant [Seabury-Western Seminary, Illinois], W. Macholz, and K. Müller.)

    Rudolf Bultmann (Marburg), dated 7 Feb. 1935: "The basic thesis and presentation are, it seems to me, a real advancement of research. I have learned much from it" (see also below, p. 306).


    English Language Reviews.

    Apart from a fairly lengthy favorable summary by C. H. Moehlman, the only real review in English came from the pen of James Moffatt, who found the book to be an "able, challenging monograph." Nevertheless, Moffatt thinks that Bauer's "proofs" for certain interpretations "are sometimes forced" -- "he tends to take the position of the barrister rather than of the judge." The fact that at times the earliest extant written materials from an area happen to voice the faith of "queer, uncatholic movements . . . instead of the catholic . . . does not imply that the latter was nonexistent." Perhaps the gnostics such as Valentinus were more Christian than their later critics allowed, or than even Dr. Bauer believes. . . . A historian must be sensitive to what we may call the sense of the Centre in early Christianity. I should prefer that term to "orthodoxy." And although it took the Church long to express that sense of the Centre, yet it was not absent from the early controversies. We need not read back a definite expression or consciousness of it. One merit of Dr. Bauer's treatise is that it enters a valid warning against such an unhistorical prejudice. Moffatt also questions Bauer's estimate of the role of Rome. There is still a case for the other side here. Was not the Apostolic Canon of Scripture first formed, in its informal stages, in Asia Minor? Was not Asia Minor ahead of Rome in the formation of the Apostolic, Episcopal ministry? And does the Symbol not seem as likely to have emerged in Asia Minor as at Rome? Dr. Bauer's views to the contrary are sharply stated, but I do not detect any cogent, decisive arguments in support of his thesis at this point, beyond what other scholars have brought forward. The real thinking upon vital Christianity for centuries was done outside the Roman Church. [[293]] In short, Bauer has provided a "serviceable . . . reminder that catholicism or orthodoxy took much longer to shape itself than is commonly supposed, and that centrifugal tendencies in the first three centuries were probably stronger than the later Church liked to admit. [What] . . . sounds less convincing here and there . . . [is] the estimate of the data from which [this position] is deduced."

    Roman Catholic Reviews.

    There is much variety of attitude among the Roman Catholic reviews that appeared. By far the most receptive are those from the Netherlands and Belgium. Heinrich Bruders' brief notice concludes that "the entire work is a constructive attempt to understand the development of Christianity without the papacy as an enclosure surrounding a unified doctrine." Indeed, N. von Arseniew(?) writes that "the interest of the book does not necessarily rest only with those ideas which it is well to place before the eyes of protestant readers but which represent nothing particularly new for the catholic scholar, but also in the way in which the author treats the birth of the concept 'orthodoxy' and the idea of 'heresy.' His thesis is clearly explicated . . . and gives useful material for meditating upon the seriousness of our faith."

    The treatment by H. D. Simonin, O.P., of Rome, on the other hand, is relatively hostile. He characterizes the volume as "a hard book, difficult to read, with a vehemence and a dialectic power that is rarely met to such a degree in a work dealing with history" -- a "typically Germanic" book. Simonin considers it ironical that Bauer appears as an "apologist" whose phenomenology of religion cannot seem to visualize orthodoxy "without having at every moment a church charged to guard and to teach doctrine." This has "a real apologetic value for the Roman Church" in contrast to the Anglican conception of "orthodoxy." Where Bauer errs most seriously is in the frequent use of the argument from silence and in failing to deal with the theological aspects of church history, particularly with the development of the <lt>regula fidei</lt> -- the credal rule of faith emphasizing belief in the creator God (see below, n.8).

    The French Jesuit, C. Martin, has mixed reactions. He agrees that the relationship between orthodoxy and heresy is more complex than usually has been recognized, but "neither the method nor, often, the argumentation of Bauer is satisfactory." Martin's fundamental objection is that Bauer neglects most of the evidence from the New [[294]] Testament where he thinks the issues are already rather clearly defined. Bauer also overplays language referring to "the whole world" being full of heretics. Even if Egypt and Syria did abound with heretics, "such a fact is not so astonishing, and theologically speaking is only of secondary significance. Already from the outset, as the New Testament writings show, the church was more concerned with orthodoxy than with numbers. The distinction between the sects and the 'apostolic party' stands out clearly there. . . . We regret that Bauer has not given enough attention to the analysis of these writings" which are fundamental for the problem (see below, n.6).

    Finally, the distinguished French church historian Jules Lebreton, S. J., incorporates numerous critical comments into his fairly lengthy summary of the book. He thinks that Bauer's evidence in support of this "new schema" has been offered "not without violence," and notes the use of the argument from silence. "One reads [the book] with lively interest but without being able to subscribe to the thesis he defends" -- e.g. Bousset's hypothesis that Pantaenus was gnostic "is generally abandoned today" in favor of Munck's judgment that Pantaenus was what Clement was after him. And however one evaluates the truth of such claims as Clement and Tertullian make for orthodoxy (<ts>Strom</ts> 7.[17.]106; <ts>Prescription against Heretics</ts> 29), they "prove to us that the catholics were conscious of being in possession of the church from apostolic times." In contrast, claims of apostolic succession by the heretics are rare (see below, n.7). Clearly, at the end of the second century orthodoxy saw itself as traditional and viewed gnosticism as something new. When heresy occasionally did gain the upper hand (as in the rise of Montanism), it was "a passing fever and local" in extent. If Bauer had interpreted the evidence from Rome as he does the letters of Ignatius for the Antioch situation, he could argue that heresy controlled Rome also. Although he assigns to Rome a role that is "very glorious . . . very charitable for the catholic church, . . . it is not necessary, in order to make this point, to suppose that ancient and quasi-universal defections had abandoned the churches to heresy until Rome took charge. . . . What (Rome) taught corresponded in the other churches to a traditional faith, inherited from the apostles" (with references to Irenaeus AH 1.10.2 [= 1.3]).

    Synthetic Summary.

    On the whole, the reviewers tend to agree that Bauer's general thesis is a desirable, if provocative, counter-balance [[295]] to the oversimplified traditional view,\5/ and some of them do not hesitate to express basic agreement with Bauer's overall view (e.g. Lietzmann, Lohmeyer, Leipoldt; cf. Koch, Windisch). The positive, constructive character of the investigation is emphasized by some (Lietzmann, Dibelius, Goguel, Bruders) as well as its negative thrust (esp. Eysinga). Its value not only as a new step, but as a stimulus to further research especially impresses Goguel (cf. also Windisch, Leipoldt, Heussi). Some of the reviewers even comment that they found it an exciting book to read -- "like a novel," says Leipoldt, complimentarily -- although Simonin complains that it is hard to read and "typically Germanic."

    \5/ With respect to Völker's extremely negative review, Strecker complains that it shows no appreciation for the fact that the traditional attitude toward the development of church history and the history of dogma can no longer be accepted as self-evident in the light of Bauer's investigation. Instead, Völker is critical of what the book intends to do and of how the material is presented, and his review places a one-sided stress on the hypothetical character of many of Bauer's particular conclusions, generalizes from the difficulties relating to individual details, and emphasizes out of all proportion the use of the argument from silence (p. 291 n. 1).


    One expects to find negative comments in critical reviews, and is far from disappointed in this case. At the general level, Bauer's method and argumentation is assailed to various degrees again and again: hypotheses and conjecture play a large role (Lohmeyer, de Zwann, Völker), the argument from silence is frequent (Dibelius, de Zwann, Völker, Strathmann, Simonin, Lebreton), interpretations often are forced to fit Bauer's thesis (Dibelius, Moffatt), Bauer writes as an apologete rather than an impartial judge (Moffatt, Völker, Simonin) and shows excessive distrust for ecclesiastical authors (Strathmann), some materials are used anachronistically and the whole picture is grossly oversimplified (Völker, see n.5 above). For Windisch, the treatment of the second century is hardly exhaustive, and Leipoldt would like to see a more synthetic overview of the situation as Bauer now pictures it.

    The problem of exactly how Bauer's investigation relates, or should relate, to theological questions appears in some reviews. Goguel thinks a subtitle would help clarify the fact that Bauer is not dealing primarily with the history of doctrinal conflicts. In different ways and for different reasons some of the reviewers are concerned that Bauer tends to neglect the question of theological standards in the [[296]] early church, whether it be the Christianity of Paul and John (Loewenich), "the sense of the Centre" (Moffatt), the presence of the "apostolic party" already in the New Testament (Martin),\6/ the consciousness of possessing the catholic faith (Lebreton),\7/ or the development of the <lt>regua fidei</lt> (Simonin).\8/

    \6/ On Martin's claim that already in the New Testament the church was more concerned with orthodoxy than with numbers, Strecker comments: "This can hardly be supported under close scrutiny since it overlooks the differences between the New Testament writings themselves, and since the New Testament solves the problem of 'orthodoxy and heresy' (when it hints at such a problem at all) in a different way and presupposes neither the concept nor the consciousness of later 'orthodoxy'" (p. 292).

    \7/ Strecker comments as follows on Lebreton's argument that from apostolic times, the "catholics" were conscious of being in possession of the "church": "No one has denied this. But it is questionable whether this consciousness corresponds to the facts in every instance. Lebreton's reference to the lack of a concept of an apostolic succession in heretical circles can neither be accepted in general nor does it refute Bauer's thesis in toto" (291). See also above, pp. 119 f., on "heretical" appeal to apostles.

    \8/ On this matter, Strecker offers the following comments: According to Simonin, orthodoxy considers belief in the creator God to be the boundary line separating from heresy, which maintains a dualistic cosmology (see Irenaeus AH book 3). The recognition of the <lt>regula fidei</lt>, with which Bauer does not deal, is of fundamental significance for this question. In this way it is possible for Simonin to simplify the difficulty; but the fact remains that not all "heretics" can be considered as gnostics, or as advocating a dualistic cosmology. The example of Jewish Christianity already shows that the problem of differentiating between orthodoxy and heresy is much more complicated (p. 292).


    Finally, numerous more or less detailed questions are raised about various aspects of Bauer's treatment: Can anything be said with confidence about early Edessene Christianity (Völker, cf. Martin)? Is not Tatian's role more important than Bauer allows (Windisch)? In Egyptian Christianity, was Pantaenus really "gnostic" (Lebreton)? Certainly Clement has his orthodox side (Windisch, Lebreton), and the later Origen must be distinguished from his earlier, more gnostic outlook (Koch). Especially open to question are Bauer's interpretations of the evidence from Ignatius (Dibelius, Völker, Simonin, Lebreton) and from <ts>1 Clement</ts> (Dibelius, Völker, Lebreton; cf. Eysinga), and his overly literal reading of passages referring to the large numbers of heretics (Dibelius, Martin). And did Rome really play such a uniquely formative role (Moffatt, Lebreton)? A few other particular queries are raised by individual reviewers (cf. Dibelius, Leipoldt, Eysinga), along with Koch's observation that Bauer has completely neglected the origins of Christianity in North Africa, and has not paid [[297]] sufficient attention to earliest Jewish-Christianity in Palestine and Egypt (see above, 241 n.1).

    Turner's Reply to Bauer

    For two decades, Bauer's work had little recognizable impact in the English-speaking world. Then, in the Bampton Lectures of 1954, it was examined -- and attacked -- in great detail by the Anglican Professor of Divinity at Durham, Canon H. E. W. Turner.\9/

    \9/ <tm>The Pattern of Christian Truth: A Study in the Relations Between Orthodoxy and Heresy in the Early Church</tm> (London: Mowbray, 1954). H. Koester calls this book the "only systematic treatment of the question of heresy in the early Church since W. Bauer; . . . a very learned and instructive study" (281 n. 4 of the article discussed below, n. 24), and A. A. T. Ehrhardt finds Turner's study to be "the only detailed appreciation of [Bauer's] book in English which I have found" (93/171 n. 1 of the article discussed below, n. 13): In this connection, mention should also be made of a paper read by S. E. Johnson at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis on 29 December 1942, entitled "Nascent Catholicism and Rome." The abstract of this paper appeared in JBL 62 (1943), ii-iii, and reads as follows: "Bauer's <tm>Rechtgläubigkeit und Ketzerei</tm> is a ground-breaking study which may prove a starting point for many investigations; the fact that it asks theological, not merely literary-historical questions, accounts partly for its success: On the basis of Bauer's results it is possible to push back into the end of the first century and better understand the situation of Hebrews, James and other late New Testament books." Also, the introduction to Robert M. Grant's 1946 collection of fragments from second century Christianity (London: SPCK; see below, n. 11) reflects a positive appreciation of Bauer's thesis: "well into the second century... there was within Christianity no sharp dividing line between what was orthodox and what was heretical" (p. 13, with a footnote reference to Bauer's book).


    Turner's intentions are outlined clearly in the opening lecture, where he contrasts the so-called classical theory (cf. above, xxiii f.) with three modern alternative views (of Harnack, Werner, and Bultmann) that emphasize diversity in early Christian thought and "the marked difference between the developed Christianity of the fourth century and the primitive life and thought of the Church" (25 f.). Turner sets out to "bridge the gap" between these extremes by suggesting that there was "an interaction of fixed and flexible elements" in early Christianity (26-35).

    On the one hand, argues Turner, three kinds of "fixed elements" appear: (1) "religious facts" such as a "realistic experience of the Eucharist," belief in God as father-creator, in Christ as historical redeemer, and in the divinity of Christ; (2) recognition of the centrality of "Biblical Revelation" (28 f.); and (3) "the Creed and the Rule of Faith" (29-31). In his discussion of the "religious facts," Turner [[298]] gives the title <lt>lex orandi</lt> to that "relatively full and fixed experimental grasp of what was involved religiously in being a Christian" which he finds to have existed in the early church. "The Church's grasp on the religious facts was prior to any attempt made to work them into a coherent whole. . . . Christians lived Trinitarily long before the evolution of Nicene odhodoxy" (27 f.). This <lt>lex orandi</lt> "formed the instinctive basis for that exercise of Christian common sense which enabled the Church to reject interpretations of her Faith and dilutions of her life even before she possessed formal standards of belief" (28).

    On the other hand, he admits, some "flexible elements" also were present in early Christian thought (31-35). There were "differences in Christian idiom," including various literary forms and "differing thought-worlds (e.g. Semitic-eschatological gave way to Greek-metaphysical). "The selection of a distinctive theological idiom, whether it be eschatology, ontology, or even . . . existentialism, illustrates one possible element of flexibility in Christian thinking. The primacy of Christ . . . will inevitably assume a different appearance in each case" (31). Many problems arose as the church sought for adequate philosophical terminology to express her theology. Finally, "the individual characteristics of theologians themselves" constituted another element of flexibility (34 f.).

    Turner's second lecture, "The Relation between Orthodoxy and Heresy -- An Historical Inquiry" (39-80), is devoted expressly to Bauer's monograph and to the issues it raises from the perspective of church history rather than the history of doctrine. Turner scrutinized Bauer's treatment piece by piece, often presenting objections and observations already known to us from the reviews. "We know nothing and can conjecture little more" (41) about the early history of Christianity at Edessa (40- 46). Burkitt's source analysis is preferred to Bauer's for the Abgar legend; Marcion's supposed role in founding the church there is questioned as is Bauer's interpretation of the "Palûtian" passage (above, 21 f.); the claim that Kûne (Quna) was the first real Edessene bishop (above, 33 ff.) rests on an argument from silence. Bauer is excessively sceptical on many details, and "the evidence is too scanty . . . to support any theory so trenchant and clear-cut as Bauer proposes." Nevertheless, Turner admits that "heretical or at least sub- orthodox influences counted far more at Edessa" than in the Mediterranean area churches (45). [[299]]

    With regard to Alexandria (46-59), the evidence as a whole "favours the full rigour of Bauer's hypothesis even less than that of Edessa," although in both places "the full pattern of orthodoxy" develops rather late and there is "a certain shading off into heresy on the outer fringes of Church-life" (59). The gospels of the Egyptians and of the Hebrews (above, 51 ff.) may simply "represent the views . . . of splinter movements" (51); the "orthodox" Fourth Gospel circulated in Egypt earlier than Bauer allows (e.g. above, 206 ff.), as new papyri discoveries show,\10/ and soon came to be used by Egyptian gnostics -- who thus must have been in close proximity to orthodoxy. Bauer's inference concerning the minority position of orthodoxy prior to Demetrius (above, 53) is a possible interpretation, but hardly the only alternative. "Personal pique" may have been an important factor in Origen's trouble with Demetrius.

    \10/ Turner refers particularly to P. Rylands 457 (a fragment of John 18 from a codex, = p\52) and to P. Egerton 2 (fragments from a non-canonical "gospel"-like codex with some materials resembling John), both of which have been dated on paleographical grounds to sometime around the middle of the second century or slightly earlier.


    "The early history of the Church in Asia Minor is even less promising for Bauer's views" (59). Both Ignatius and Polycarp are "determinidly orthodox," with a "genuine grasp of doctrinal essentials and a firm practical attitude towards heresy" (59 f.). In the letters of Ignatius, "the existence of heretics on the fringe or within the Church is clearly recognized," and the implication is that "orthodoxy has already reached self- consciousness" and has a "doctrinal policy." "Nothing here supports the more daring features of Bauer's reconstruction" (63).

    On the situation at Philippi (above, 73 f.), Bauer's interpretation is "much exaggerated" and does not exhaust the possibilities (64 f.). His appeal to Polycarp <ts>Phil</ts> 2.1 and 7.2 (above, 73 f.) is overly literal (66). He relies on a "twofold misuse of the argument from silence" in dealing with Thessalonica (67; see above, 74 f.). His "reconstruction of the events which led up to the letter of St. Clement [above, 95 ff.] is at best non-proven" -- the traditional interpretation of <ts>1 Clement</ts> seems more likely (69-71).

    With regard to Rome, "it is regrettable that Bauer did not attempt any minute analysis of the early traditions . . . comparable to his treatment of the history of the other great sees" (72). Since there were many reasons why a Christian might wish to visit Rome in the [[300]] second century, there is "nothing surprising" about "the convergence of orthodox church leaders upon Rome" (the names of many non-orthodox figures also are connected with that city), and it "certainly fails to establish the special significance which Bauer appears to assign it" (73). Polycarp and Polycrates seem to represent a native orthodox growth in Asia Minor, "collateral" with Rome "rather than derivative." Finally, the presence of the name of Peter (or Mark, in Alexandria) in the bishop lists of various communities (above, 111 ff. = chap. 6) probably simply reflects "the desire of the great sees to claim apostolic foundation" rather than signifying a token of gratitude to Rome (74-79).

    In sum, Turner suggests that Bauer's fatal weakness [is] . . . a persistent tendency to over-simplify problems, combined with the ruthless treatment of such evidence as fails to support his case. It is very doubtful whether all sources of trouble in the early Church can be reduced to a set of variations on a single theme. Nor is it likely that orthodoxy itself evolved in a uniform pattern, though at different speeds in the main centres of the Universal Church. The formula 'splinter movement, external inspiration or assistance, domination of the whole Church by its orthodox elements, tributes of gratitude to those who assisted its development' represents an historical generalization too neat to fit the facts. History seldom unfolds itself in so orderly a fashion (79).

    Clearly, Bauer has made "many valuable suggestions: . . . it is probable that orthodoxy may have been more hard-pressed in certain churches . . . than it has been customary to admit. Orthodoxy and heresy certainly lay side by side . . . The establishment of the monepiscopate and the achievement of fixed standards of orthodoxy evolved with varying degrees of rapidity in different parts of the Christian Church" (79 f.). Nevertheless, Bauer's presentation is open to question time and again. Turner finds the "root difficulty" to be that due to "the primarily historical character of his inquiry," Bauer fails to affirm an adequate view of the nature of orthodoxy. . . . He is . . . concerned not so much with the nature either of heresy or orthodoxy as such as with the historical relations between those who considered themselves to be orthodox and those whom they condemned as heretical. But the virtual absence of a satisfactory treatment of the previous question inevitably vitiates his treatment to some extent. [[301]] For the nature of orthodoxy is richer and more varied than Bauer himself allows. Its underlying basis lies in the religious facts of Christianity itself. . . . It may appear in different forms at different periods without loss of continuity of life and unity of theme. For orthodoxy resembles not much a stream as a sea, not a single melodic theme but a rich and varied harmony, not a single closed system but a rich manifold of thought and life (80).\11/

    \11/ Turner's objection to Bauer's position, and his thesis that a "penumbra" existed between orthodoxy and heresy, which he works out in detail in this book (79, 81-94, and <lt>passim</lt>), were already expressed in his review of R. M. Grant's <tm>Second- Century Christianity</tm> in <tp>Theology</tp> 50 (1947): 37: "While in his Introduction Prof. Grant rightly emphasizes the infinite variety of second-century Christianity, his conclusion (following W. Bauer) that there is no sharp dividing line between orthodox and heretics needs considerable qualification. There was a large Christian penumbra of the Gnostic type, but it remains a highly debatable point to what extent this can be regarded now, or even was regarded then, as within the ambit of second century Christianity. Further, many of the passages which he quotes indicate the growth of a Christian paradosis and the reaching back into the traditions of the past. The solution of the difficulty, which might have been more clearly emphasized, is that orthodoxy was an organic thing, rejecting heresy rather as the healthy body rejects a virus, than a closed system with a hard-and-fast dividing line separating it from its competitors."


    In the remaining lectures, Turner devotes his attention to the theological issues that he considers basic. In "The Relationships between Orthodoxy and Heresy -- A Theological Analysis" (lecture 3) he sets out to "test the claim of heresy to the name Christian" by examining some typical examples (101 ff.) -- e.g. "Gnosticism as the dilution of Christianity by alien elements, . . . Marcionism as the truncation of the Christian faith to a mere fragment, . . . heresies which conserve the past without reference to the demands of the present" as "archaism," and Arianism as "the virtual evacuation of the religious content of Christianity in the interests of a barren, if coherent, metaphysic." The errors of the heresies vary and the response of the church varies. Yet at every stage the response is made in the light of the religious realities received by the Church and revealed by the One God . . ." (148).

    "The Doctrinal Basis of Heresy" (lecture 4) is the same as that of orthodoxy -- "Scripture, Tradition, and Reason" -- but the application of these sources differs. For the heretics, canonical scripture is used selectively or interpreted by forced exegesis, church tradition is falsified or discarded in favor of non- orthodox materials, and in the use of reason, there is a tendency to convert "logic into logistics" (230). In short, the heretics have no feeling for the organic wholeness of [[302]] the church's faith. Lectures 5-7 deal with the use of scripture, tradition, and reason by "orthodoxy" -- e.g. the formation of the New Testament canon, the development of the theory of apostolic succession (or better, the "fact of the transmission of the apostolic authority," 348) and of the creed, and the gradual cultivation of philosophically oriented theology, although this still remained secondary to the <lt>lex orandi</lt> (462 f.).

    Turner's "Conclusions" (lecture 8) emphasize again his belief in "the essential autonomy of orthodoxy" (479; cf. 338 etc.) which "rests ultimately upon the authoritativeness of the Christian facts" as they are mediated through the <lt>lex orandi</lt> of the Church" (473 f.). The independence of orthodoxy also is maintained in contrast to heresy: "The utmost that can safely be admitted is that certain stages of development may have been accelerated by the battle against heresy" (479). "The most important element in the evolution of Christian orthodoxy" is not external influences, but "a kind of Christian common sense . . . which is merely another name for the guidance of the Holy Spirit" (498).

    General Influence of the Book

    As the reviews indicate, Bauer's monograph was read widely on the continent, and especially in Germany. Lietzmann claims (above, n.2) to be ready to take it into account in preparing the second and subsequent volumes of his <tm>History</tm>, but it does not seem to have appeared soon enough to leave any significant mark on the French Roman Catholic <tm>History</tm> produced around the same time by Jules Lebreton (who reviewed it; see above) and Jacques Zeiller.\12/ It would be futile to attempt to catalogue here all the references to Bauer's book in continental literature. One finds it as a fairly standard item in the bibliographies and footnotes of works dealing with related issues, as for example:

    \12/ J. Lebreton and J. Zeiller, <tm>The History of the Primitive Church</tm> (4 vol.: ET by E. C. Messenger from the 1934-35 French; New York: Macmillan, 1942-47; reprinted under the title <tm>A History of the Early Church</tm>, New York: Collier paperback, 1962).


  • Marcel Simon, <tm>Verus Israel</tm>, bibliography;
  • Hans-Joachim Schoeps, <tm>Theologie und Geschichte des Judenchristentums</tm>, bibliography and <lt>passim</lt> (cf. index); [[303]]
  • Jean Daniélou, <tm>The Theology of Jewish Christianity</tm>, bibliogaphy and 55, n.1;
  • Hennecke-Schneemelcher, <tm>New Testament Apocrypha</tm>, 1: 23, 33.

  • Ehrhardt's Positive Appraisal.

    Special notice may be given here to the recent appreciation for Bauer's thesis offered by the late A. A. T. Ehrhardt, who fled Germany in 1935, leaving his position as lecturer in Roman and Civil Law at Freiburg University (Frankfurt) and subsequently became an Anglican clergyman and lecturer in church history (Manchester). Ehrhardt's lengthy article on "Christianity before the Apostles' Creed"\13/ attempts to show that in the early period, "the unity of Christianity was not preserved by outward means. Baptism was not originally considered as an admission rite; . . . the Creed . . . was not considered as a constituent part of Baptism. . . , but only as declaratory, and almost accidental. . . . There is no evidence for it to have been used as a touch-stone of orthodoxy anywhere before the end of the second century" (119 = 198 f.).

    \13/ HarvTR 55 (1962): 73-119; reprinted with minor corrections in <tm>The Framework of the New Testament Stories</tm> (Manchester: University Press; Cambidge: Harvard University Press, 1964), pp. 151-199. Page numbers will be given below from both editions.


    Parts 1 and 2 are concerned respectively with "The Meaning of 'Creed' and the 'Gospel' of St. Paul and his Opponents," and "The Various Forms of the Gospel of Christ in the Later New Testament Writings." Ehrhardt finds that credal formulae existed in the early period, but they are not identical with the later apostles' creed. Nevertheless, by the time 3 John appeared, there seems to be a search for "such an authoritative statement of the right Christian doctrine" (92-170).

    In parts 3 and 4, entitled respectively "Orthodoxy and Heresy in the Early Church" and "The Formation of the Creed and the Church of Rome," Ehrhardt makes frequent reference to Bauer's investigation. On the whole, he is highly appreciative: For the possibility of making such a survey [of the boundaries between orthodoxy and heresy around the year 100] with comparative ease, and indeed for the first attempt at analyzing Christianity before the Apostles' Creed without any doctrinal or denominational bias, we are indebted to that great New Tenament scholar, the late Dr. Walter Bauer. . . . In 1934 he published a comparatively small book on orthodoxy and heresy in earliest Christianity, the result of many years of [[304]] study. However, those were the days when the small still voice of the self-denying theological scholar could hardly hope to penetrate the groans of suffering and the shouts of triumph in the German Protestant Church, where the battle for the preservation of contemporary Christianity was fought, and at best only partly won. No wonder that Dr. Bauer's book found far too little of the attention which it so richly deserved -- and still deserves (93 = 171).

    Ehrhardt is not uncritical of Bauer. He complains that the way Bauer speaks of "ecclesiastical" doctrine (above, xxiii f.), "as if the earthly existence of the Church had already had a theological significance for the earliest Christians" is "unmethodical because it presupposes that somewhere in early Christianity a <lt>regula fidei</lt> was invented as a touch-stone of orthodoxy at the very outset of the history of the Church, an assumption which seems to leave out of consideration the question whether or not the problem of heresy was at all visualized in the early days of Christianity."\14/ Ehrhardt thinks, rather, that "the formation of organized groups was suspect in earliest Christianity" and that "the true Church" was understood in the context of divine election, parallel to the contrast between Israel and the nations (93 and n.2 = 172 and n.1).\15/

    \14/ Strecker (p. 303) comments: "Ehrhardt is quite correct in calling attention to the fact that Bauer's definition of 'orthodoxy' begins with the assumption of an 'ecclesiastical doctrine' recognizable from the beginning; but he is erroneous in concluding that this represents Bauer's own position (93/172); actually, this only shows that the book is conditioned by the way in which the problem is posed. The results leave no doubt that the existence of an orthodox ecclesiastical doctrine for the period of origins is not undisputed" (see above, p. xxiv; also below, n. 28).

    \15/ Strecker (p. 303) doubts that Bauer would agree with Ehrhardt's statement about the formation of organized groups, and adds: "Here Ehrhardt seems to subscribe to a view in which the Christian self-awareness which derived from a consciousness of being the elect originally stood in fundamental opposition to ecclesiastical organization -- a view that has scarcely any support in the early Christian literature."


    On matters of detail, Ehrhardt voices some additional protests. Although he finds Bauer's discussion of eastern Syria and Egypt to be especially persuasive,\16/ the view that Marcion founded east-Syrian Christianity is "open to doubt" and Tatian's role there was probably more important than Bauer allows (94 f. = 173). Concerning western [[305]] Syria, Ehrhardt finds that "the evidence for a strongly Gnostic movement in Antioch at the time of Ignatius is hardly overwhelming" -- Ignatius probably is not representative of Antiochian Christianity, nor does he fight for "purges and excommunications," but for reconciliation. His creed is that of the martyr, like some of the creedal formulae ("gospel") of earlier times. Furthermore, Bauer has "neglected the evidence of the Didache," a writing that exercised considerable "constitutive force" in the church of west-Syria (100 ff. = 179 ff.). Nor is Bauer's "challenging" treatment of Asia-Minor prior to Ignatius "wholly convincing," especially because some of the sources to which he appeals may not be Asian (e.g. Jude, 2 Peter, Pastorals; 102 f. n.43 = 181 f. n.4). Although Bauer poses the question of what became of Christianity in Asia Minor in the latter part of the second century, he has not treated this matter in its entirety (103 = 182). Montanism as a regional movement that assimilated Phrygian ecstaticism and set in motion group conversion, had a great effect on "organized Christianity." The Catholic defense included appeals to the "Apostolic" ministry and to a closed canon of "Apostolic" scriptures, but "no recourse to any 'Apostolic' credal formula was made" (104-108 = 183-187).\17/ Bauer also has "greatly exaggerated" Polycarp's relative failure to expand the influence of the Smyrnean church over other communities in Asia Minor, although he rightly draws attention to the struggles of Polycarp (105 = 184).

    \16/ For example, p. 93/171 n. 1: Turner has not done "Bauer's book justice, as in the case of East-Syria, so particularly in the case of Egypt." Also, concerning Egypt, "Bauer has made one of the most signal discoveries in early Church History" (95/174); his thesis for this region is "wholly convincing" and Ehrhardt accepts it "to the full" (96/174).

    \17/ Strecker poses the following "critical questions" concerning Ehrhardt's assessment of Montanism (p. 303): "Was the confrontation with Montanism really of decisive significance in the establishment of the New Testament canon? Is it demonstrable that the danger of accepting Montanist scriptures into the canon ever existed for the nascent 'great church'?" In fairness to Ehrhardt, however, it should be noted that he only claims that "the closing of the 'Apostolic' canon of sacred books" helped to prevent Montanism "from making its mark in the Catholic Church," not necessaily that Montanism was the pimary catalyst for closing the "orthodox" canon. Indeed, Ehrhardt refers to the fact that the anti-Montanist Roman presbyter Gaius (see EH 2.25.6, 6.20.3) rejected the book of Revelation as a composition of the gnostic Cerinthus (see EH 3.28.3, and the note of Lawlor and Oulton to 6.20.3; also above, 207), possibly because it was so similar to the "new prophecy" of Montanism. That the canon was an issue in at least some of the Montanist disputes is clear from such passages as EH 5.18.5 and 6.20.3.


    Finally, Ehrhardt disagrees strongly with Bauer's assessment of the influence of Rome on Christian leaders elsewhere (109 ff. = 189 ff.), and traces the problem largely to Bauer's failure to give "an account of the character and the organization of the Church at Rome in the [[306]] second century" -- "the homogeneity of the Church at Rome" in the middle of that century is particularly open to question, "at least in matters of doctrine." Ehrhardt objects to Bauer's interpretation of the situation behind <ts>1 Clement</ts>, and to his assessment of the role of Victor I in the "third Easter conflict" (111-117/190-197).\18/ Ehrhardt concludes that "the influence of the Church at Rome . . . did not aim at doctrinal unification," although it sometimes worked out in that direction (e.g. with the rejection of Marcion and Montanism), and thus "it seems doubtful . . . that this Church should have been responsible for the spreading of the Apostles' Creed" -- "Bauer has understandably refrained from enquiring into the propagation of the Roman 'regula fidei,' [but] this is nevertheless to be regretted" (117 f. = 197f).\19/

    \18/ Strecker (p. 303) questions the claim of Ehrhardt that in Asia Minor, the observance of Easter went "right back to Apostolic times" (116 f./196). Ehrhardt suggests that Victor hesitated to appeal to apostolic succession in support of the Roman position on the date of Easter precisely because observance of Easter had begun only recently in Rome, in contrast to Asia Minor.

    \19/ On Ehrhardt's assessment of the significance of Rome, Strecker comments as follows (p. 303f.): "Is not the role of the Roman community too greatly underrated, in opposition to Bauer? For granted that Valentinus and other 'heretics' were found in Rome, does this suffice to demonstrate the heterogeneity of the Roman community? The expulsion of Marcion shows how they were accustomed to deal with the "arch-heretics." [Ehrhardt, 110/190 n. 8/2, suggests that Marcion's banishment "was caused by his resignation, if we may trust Epiphanius," <ts>Her.</ts> 42.2.] The character of the Roman community may thus have been more unified than Ehrhardt would allow. And even though an antiheretical thrust may not always stand behind the intervention into extra- Roman affairs, the importance of the Roman point of view can hardly be denied -- this follows simply from the position of Rome as capital city, as Bauer rightly would have argued. The special significance of Rome is acknowledged by Ehrhardt himself when he mentions that the bishop Victor came from Africa, where Roman primacy was recognized (117/197); in any event, that calls attention to the claim of Rome, and is confirmed with reference to Asia Minor by the 'resentment against Roman presumptuousness' attested by Firmilian of Cappadocian Caesarea, if Firmilian can be considered a reliable witness here. (This is, however, not so certain as Ehrhardt assumes -- Harnack, <tm>Marcion</tm>\2, p. 340*, rightly shows that Firmilian often wrote 'what Cyprian dictated to him.') Above all, critical questions may be raised concerning the attempt to claim that gnosticism and Montanism, along with catholicism, were the three formative factors in the history of doctrine (108/187 f.)."


    Contemporary German Scholarship.

    The most widespread and obvious influence of Bauer's position, however, is to be found among contemporary German scholars, especially those associated with Rudolph Bultmann, at first in Germany, but now overflowing to the United States. Bultmann himself appealed to Bauer's thesis in support of the contention that "faith" rather than "orthodoxy" was the distinguishing mark of earliest Christianity.\20/ More recently, Helmut [[307]] Koester of Harvard Divinity School has listed an impressive array of recent books and articles dealing with various aspects of the problem of "heresy" in the early church, most of which were written by students of Bultmann (including himself) and "influenced by Walter Bauer's pioneering monograph,"\21/ a sampling of which follows (since 1950, arranged chronologically):

    \20/ <tm>Theology of the New Testament</tm> 2 (ET by K. Grobel from the 1951 German; New York: Scribner's, 1955): 137 (55.4).

    \21/ "Häretiker im Urchristentum als Theologisches Problem," in <tm>Zeit und Geschichte: Dankesgabe an Rudolf Bultmann zum 80 Geburtstag</tm>, ed. E. Dinkler (Tübingen: Mohr, 1964), p. 61 n. 1. and also his HarvTR article discussed below (see n. 24), p. 283 n. 8. For a more extensive selection, see Koester's article on "Häretiker im Urchristentum" in RGG\3 3: 17-21. Numerous other titles might have been included in such a list -- e.g. Strecker's work on the ps.-Clementines (see 242 n. 3); a relevant discussion of some aspects of the Bauer-Bultmann approach also may be found in the article by J. M. Robinson, "Basic Shifts in German Theology," <tp>Interpretation</tp> 16 (1962): 76-97.


  • Hans Freiherr von Campenhausen, "Polykarp von Smyrna und die Pastoralbriefe," Sb Heidelberg for 1951, pp. 5-51; reprinted in <tm>Aus der Frühzeit des Christentums</tm> (Tübingen: Mohr, 1963), pp. 197-252;
  • Ernst Käsemann, "Ketzer und Zeuge: zum johanneischen Verfasser-problem," ZTK 48 (1951); 212-311; reprinted in <tm>Exegetische Versuche und Besinnungen</tm>, 1 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1960); 168-187 [see further below, p. 308];
  • Günther Bornkamm, "Herrenmahl und Kirche bei Paulus," ZTK 53 (1956), 312 ff.; reprinted in <tm>Studien zu Antike und Urchristentum</tm> (München: Kaiser, 1959, 1963\2), 138-176; ET in <tm>Early Christian Experience</tm> (New York: Harper, 1970);
  • Walther Schmithals, <tm>Die Gnosis in Korinth. Eine Untersuchung zu den Korintherbriefen</tm>, FRLANT 66 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1956, 1965\2);
  • ---- . "Die Häretiker in Galatien," ZNW 47 (1956) : 25-67 (see above, 243 n.6);
  • ---- . "Die Irrlehrer des Philipperbriefes," ZTK 54 (1957): 297-341 (see above, 243 n.6);
  • ---- . "Die Irrlehrer von Röm. 16.17-20," <tp>Studia Theologica</tp>, 13 (1959): 51-69 (see above, 243 n.6);
  • Ulrich Wilckens, <tm>Weisheit und Torheit: eine exegetisch religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchung zu 1 Kor. 1 und 2</tm>, Beiträge zur historischen Theologie 26 (Tübingen: Mohr, 1959); [[308]]
  • Schmithals, "Zur Abfassung und ältesten Sammlung der paulinischen Hauptbriefe," ZNW 51 (1960) : 225-245;
  • Helmut Koester, "The Purpose of the Polemic of a Pauline Fragment," NTS 8 (1961/62): 317-332 [on Phil. 3].
  • Dieter Georgi, <tm>Die Gegner des Paulus im 2 Korintherbrief: Studien zur religiösen Propaganda in der Spätantike</tm>, Wissenschaftliche Monographien zum Alten und Neuen Testament II (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1964).
  • A brief summary of but one of these investigations should suffice to illustrate how provocative the Bauer-oriented approach to the history of earliest Christianity has proved to be. In his inaugural lecture at Göttingen, where he was appointed to Bauer's former chair, Ernst Käsemann boldly reversed Bauer's interpretation of Diotrephes and the "presbyter" of 3 John (above, 93), and pictured Diotrephes as the authoritative leader of the community who refuses to receive the messengers of the "presbyter" and excommunicates those who support them. The "presbyter" is on the defensive; Diotrephes is accused of being power-hungry, but his "orthodoxy" is not questioned. Apparently Diotrephes is functioning "as a monarchial bishop who considers himself to be confronting a false teacher and acts accordingly" (173 f.). Since a local leader could hardly threaten with excommunication the apostle John, or even the famous presbyter named John known to Papias, the author of 2-3 John must actually be one of Diotrephes' presbyters -- "a Christian gnostic who has the inconceivable audacity to write a gospel of the Christ whom he has experienced and read back into the world of gnosticism" (177 f.). The Johannine approach posed a serious threat for the "nascent catholicism" represented by Diotrephes; thus it was both logical and necessary that Diotrephes intervene. The question that remains for us is whether the "presbyter" was really a heretic, or an authentic witness (186 f.).\22/

    \22/ Subsequently, Käsemann has modified his thesis somewhat in view of criticisms such as those offered by Ernst Haenchen in <tp>Theologiche Rundchau</tp> 26 (1960): 267 ff. See Käsemann, <tm>Exegetiche Versuche und Besinnungen</tm> 2 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1964): 133 n. 1.


    Soon after the appearance of the 1964\2 edition of Bauer, the Bauer-Bultmann approach received general treatment in a paper read by Hans Dieter Betz (Claremont School of Theology) at a New Testament colloquium dealing with the legacy of Rudolf BuItmann.\23/ [[309]] Clearly Betz thinks that Bultmann's use of Bauer's thesis is a step in the right direction: "Bultmann not only reformulates Bauer's thesis, he also sees its full impact lying within the New Testament itself: Bauer's problem is identical with the problem of the origin of early Christian theology" (300). Betz emphasizes that one must be aware of Bauer's own theological development and earlier writings to appreciate fully the synthesis presented in this volume. Bauer has put historical investigation on the right track, but "did not apply his thesis extensively enough to the New Testament" and "leaves certain facts out of consideration" such as "the fact that Paul claims to be 'orthodox' (Gal. 1-2) " (306-308).

    \23/ "Orthodoxy and Heresy in Primitive Christianity: Some Critical Remarks on Georg Strecker's Republication of Walter Bauer's <tm>Rechtgläubigkeit und Ketzerei im ältesten Christentum</tm>," <tp>Interpretation</tp> 19 (1965): 299-311.


    Betz argues that we must "rethink and reformulate Bauer's thesis" for each area with which it deals, as Strecker has done for Jewish Christianity (see above, appendix 1). The historical and theological approaches cannot be sharply distinguished -- indeed, it may be, as Koester argues (see below), that "the historical problem itself was regarded by the New Testament writers themselves as essentially a theological problem," that is, the question of what constitutes a legitimate interpretation of the historical Jesus. Clearly there was no "pure" form of Christianity that existed in the beginning and can be called "orthodox." Betz concludes: In the beginning there existed merely the 'heretical' Jew, Jesus of Nazareth. Which of the different interpretations of Jesus are to be called authentically Christian? And what are the criteria for making that decision? This seems to me the cardinal problem of New Testament studies today. The problem was raised clearly by Bauer in his book <tm>Rechtgläubigkeit und Ketzerei</tm>. Bultmann understood the problem rightly as the problem of the origin of Christian theology. If we are concerned today with the question of the legacy of Bultmann, we must accept as part of this legacy the concept of the historical-critical and the theological tasks as being basically one. (311)

    In the same month that Betz' article was published, there appeared a wide-ranging, "Hypothetical and fragmentary" sketch of just such a Bauer-Bultmann approach from the pen of Helmut Koester.\24/ Koester begins by discussing the problem of "historical and theological [[310]] criteria" applicable to the early Christian situation and decides that "the criterion for true Christian faith" is "that which has happened historically . . . in the earthly Jesus of Nazareth." The only way to evaluate the "orthodox and heretical tendencies of each new historical situation" is to determine "in which way the criterion for true Christian faith, consciously or unconsciously, structured the re-interpretation of the religious traditions and presuppositions upon which Christianity was dependent," whether Jewish, pagan, or Christian (282).\25/

    \24/ "GNOMAI DIAFOROI: The Origin and Nature of Diversification in the History of Early Christianity," HarvTR 58 (1965): 279- 318. Reprinted as Chapter 4 in <tm>Trajectories Through Early Christianity</tm> (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1971).

    \25/ Koester focuses further on such an approach in his "One Jesus and Four Primitive Gospels," HarvTR 61 (1968): 203-247.


    In the remainder of the essay (284 ff.), Koester keeps this criterion in view in his attempt "to draw the lines from the developments of the 'Apostolic Age' and the first century A.D. -- seldom considered in Walter Bauer's study -- into the subsequent history of the Ancient Church" by surveying the earliest evidence from "Palestine and Western Syria" (284-290), "Edessa and the Osrhoëne" (290-306), and "The Countries around the Aegean Sea" (306-318). This is intended as "a blueprint for further work in the history of early Christian theology" rather than an attempt "to present final solutions with complete documentation," and is heavily indebted to W. Bauer's work throughout" (284 nn.9\a and 9).

    Occasionally, Koester's reconstruction comes into direct conflict with that of Bauer: for example, "Bauer was . . . probably mistaken in his assumption that the Marcionites were the first Christians to come to Edessa, presumably soon after the middle of the second century" (291). Rather, argues Koester, the tradition embedded in the newly recovered <ts>Gospel of Thomas</ts> probably "was the oldest form of Christianity in Edessa, antedating the beginning of both Marcionite and orthodox Christianity in that area" (293; see also below, n.40). Even on such rare occasions, however, Koester's "sketch" fulfills its function as an extension of Bauer's investigation back into the earliest period of Christian beginnings. For the many stimulating details of Koester's provocative historico-theological treatment, the reader must be referred to the essay itself.

    Summary and Prospectus

    In the body of the preceding survey, an attempt has been made to allow the various authors to speak for themselves as much as [[311]] possible and the temptation to join in the debate has been resisted (except in a few notes). At times this has not been easy; the claims and counter-claims concerning Bauer's presentation often invite the observations of a moderator or the rebuttals of a defense counsel, and it is sometimes hard to avoid commendation of or impatience with the suggested improvements, applications, or alternatives to the thesis -- or to add one's own observations on points neglected by the reviewers.

    General Methodology and Approach.

    For example, no one is more conscious of the hypothetical aspects of the inquiry than Bauer himself. Sometimes he must argue from silence if he is to say anything at all. The monograph attempts to suggest a fresh approach; as new evidence becomes available and the results of fresh investigations are made known, it is expected that various aspects of the picture will require modification of one sort or another. Historical study is a matter of weighing degrees of probability. By its very nature it is to a large degree hypothetical. There is little to be gained for historical research by simply dismissing certain of Bauer's suggestions as "conjectural." Rather, what is needed is a methodologically sound presentation of a more probable interpretation, a more adequate reconstruction of the evidence. This is not to deny that Bauer has sometimes used language suggesting more confidence in his reconstruction than the evidence would seem to warrant, and that sometimes there is no direct evidence to support his interpretation, or he has overgeneralized on the basis of ambiguous data. But this admission in itself cannot be used to brush aside Bauer's thesis without further examination. The place to join battle is, ultimately, with the examination of the various pieces of evidence and their implications, not with <lt>ad hominem</lt> blasts\26/ and apologetic counter-charges.\27/ [[312]]

    \26/ Völker, for example, notes various passages in which Bauer admits his use of conjecture, contrasts them with some less- careful statements, and on that basis hints that the whole endeavor can be dismissed. Simonin's clever classification of Bauer as an "apologete" for catholic orthodoxy also is mostly beside the point, for all its cleverness.

    \27/ Turner's lectures present a strange juxtaposition of descriptive historical judgments on details and a general framework of confessional apologetics. This is most obvious in the final sentence of each lecture, where Turner refers doxologically to the trinitaian orientation of the church's interpretation of revelation (35, 148), expression of truth (80), faith (231, 306), experience (378), and service (463). The closing words of his book are an excellent illustration: "Despite the picture of flesh and blood contestants with mixed motives and dubious techniques which the Church historian will often bring to light, it is impossible for the historian of Chistian thought in its classical formative period to mistake the guidance of that Spirit of Truth to Whom with the Father and the Son be now ascribed all honour, glory, dominion, and power now and forever more" (498).


    That there were people who considered themselves to be "true" followers of Jesus Christ, in contrast to other positions which they considered "false," cannot be doubted, either in the second century or in the first. If "orthodoxy" means such a self- evaluation, then Lebreton is undoubtedly correct in pointing to the "orthodox" position of Clement of Alexandria, and Betz is justified in suggesting that Paul understands himself to be "orthodox." Clearly Tertullian\28/ exhibits such a self- consciousness, and it does not vanish in his "Montanist" period! And Marcion also saw himself in this light, as a "true" believer as over against the "false." Nor do we lack evidence that there were those for whom Paul's approach was to be condemned as contrary to their "orthodox" position.

    \28/ Bauer discusses specifically only the problem of majority/minority in this context (xii), an issue that is rather peipheral to the question of "orthodoxy/heresy," as some of the reviewers noted (cf. especially Martin). Nevertheless, it is clear from Bauer's introduction (xiv) that he does not intend to use "orthodoxy/heresy" as value judgments -- despite the fact that in their "traditional and usual use" they normally do involve value judgments. See also above, n. 14, and below.


    At this level, the problem is to a large extent semantic in nature. The word "orthodoxy" almost inevitably conjures up a picture of established, institutionalized Christianity as it was forged in the great doctrinal debates of the fourth and fifth centuries. Is it possible to trace lines of direct and significant continuity back from this traditional "orthodoxy" (which came to wield political as well as social and theological weapons) toward the earliest period of Christianity, and to apply the title "orthodoxy" to them without confusing the issue? Is such a procedure desirable, and if so, why? Is such a procedure helpful? What happens when we find a person who is clearly a predecessor of "orthodoxy" in one sense but not in another? How do we handle a Tertullian, with his Montanist sympathies, or an Origen, condemned by some representatives of later "orthodoxy"?

    It is not clear that, in 1934, Bauer saw this aspect of the problem in sharp focus.\29/ Indeed he helped clear the way for us to see it more sharply. Despite all the talk, especially by Bauer's Bultmannian heirs, of the unity of the historical and theological tasks, there is a strictly historical legacy left by Bauer -- the obligation to ask each [[313]] participant in the drama how he sees his role and how it relates to other participants. This is a descriptive task. Where it deals with evaluations, they are the evaluations of the participants in their own time and place, not of the investigator. The theological aspect is unavoidably present, but it concerns the "theology" of the participants, not of the investigator. If one then wishes to make theological judgments about the participants from his own modern perspective, or to derive from some of them theological principles to be applied today, or to trace back into an earlier period theological outlooks that are appealing today, or in some other way to join the theological to the historical approach, that is his business; but it is not an inevitable or necessary adjunct to the descriptive-historical task. And if it be objected that pure descriptive history, totally divorced from the presuppositions and prejudices of the interpreter is impossible, that is freely admitted; but does it follow necessarily that this ought to be used as justification for neglecting the ideal goal of objective inquiry?\30/

    \29/ Although Bauer's analogy between historian and judge in a court of law (xxii ff.) is not a completely happy one (the judge does pronounce judgment!), he is clear about the ideal objectivity of the historian: value judgments are not the business of the historian (xxiv), he should cast his preconceptions aside and place himself into the period and thought-world of those he examines (xxii). Whether Bauer himself has been succesful in exercising such ideal impartiality is quite another matter (see esp. Moffatt's critique).

    \30/ The sort of confusion that results from this aspect of the semantic problem is well illustrated by the attempts of some of Bauer's critics and heirs to define what they would like to understand by the word "orthodoxy": for Moffatt, it is a sense of the Centre": for Turner, a mostly unconscious feeling for unity, etc., centered in "the religious facts"; Ehrhardt speaks of "orthodoxy" in the context of a recognized <lt>regula fidei</lt>; others appeal to the "apostolic" criterion (e.g. Martin); for Koester, it has to do with a conscious or unconscious identification with the historical Jesus. Indeed, is there today any commonly accepted meaning of orthodoxy such as Bauer wished to presuppose?


    Even more seriously than Goguel may have realized, Bauer's title has an unfortunate and misleading aspect to it. Whether one translates Rechtgläubigkeit hyper-literally as "right- believing," or with its traditional and idiomatic connotation of "orthodoxy," he scarcely escapes the feeling of passing theological judgment on the figures of history when the word is used. Yet in the introduction, Bauer claims that this is not his intention at all -- he uses the terms "orthodoxy" and "heresy" to designate movements in history to which these terms usually are applied, but he does it for the sake of convenience, so as not to confuse the issue (xxii f.). But it has not proved to be a convenient procedure at all. Even as appreciative a commentator as Ehrhardt misinterprets Bauer's perspective at this point when he accuses Bauer of presupposing that "a touch-stone of orthodoxy" must have been available at the very outset. Indeed, Bauer does set the stage for his inquiry by using such traditional terminology -- that is [[314]] how he poses that question -- but a careful reading of the introduction leaves the clear impression that for Bauer, "the ecclesiastical doctrine" of later orthodoxy was neither present with Jesus nor does it necessarily represent something "primary" and "genuine" in the period of Christian origins (xxiv; cf. also xxii and n.14 above). How much less confusing the whole discussion would be in the future if, for the historical task, such traditional, theologically loaded slogans as "orthodoxy" and "heresy" could be eliminated from treatments of the early period except where they are used by the participants under discussion -- and thus are actual elements within the historical reconstruction.\31/

    \31/ The ever-growing interest in this aspect of early Christianity is evidenced by the literature cited above in Strecker's essay (esp. 242 f.), to which may now be added these more recent examples: <tm>Aspects du judéo-christianisme</tm>, essays from a Strasbourg colloquium (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1965); B. Bagatti, <tm>L'Eglise de la Circoncision</tm> (Jerusalem: Impremerie Franciscaine, 1965); S. Pines, "The Jewish Christians of the Early Centuries of Christianity according to a New Source," <tp>Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities</tp> 2.13 (1966); and the relevant material in M. Simon and A. Benoit, <tm>Le Judaïsme et le Christianisme Antique d'Antiochus Epiphane à Constantin</tm>, <tp>Nouvelle Clio</tp> 10 (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1968), which also includes a chapter by Benoit on "Orthodoxie et Hérésie dans le Christianisme des premiers siècles" (289-307), with a summary of Bauer's thesis (297-301).


    Specific Details.

    With reference to content, there is much in Bauer's treatment that invites supplementation or reassessment, especially in the light of more recent discoveries and continuing research. In the 1964\2 edition, a section on Jewish-Christianity has been added;\31/ Koester has made some preliminary attempts at drawing lines to the earlier phases of Christian origins by means of the New Testament (and related) writings and newly discovered materials such as the "Nag Hammadi" finds.\32/ Turner has referred to papyrological [[315]] discoveries that indicate the need for some revision of detail in Bauer's presentation on Egypt.\33/ Ehrhardt makes passing reference to a recently discovered letter attributed to Clement of Alexandria, which is of interest for the situation at Alexandria.\34/ Other significant materials to appear in the past quarter century include Manichaean\35/ and Mandaean\36/ texts, the long lost homily of Melito on the passover,\37/ and a previously unknown record of a discussion between Origen and Heraclides (ed. J. Scherer, 1949; compare above 166).

    \32/ Koester's probe does not extend to Alexandria-Egypt or to the western Mediterranean (North Africa, Rome, etc.). On the Nag Hammadi materials, see J. Doresse, <tm>The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostics</tm> [ET by P. Mairet from the 1958 French; New York: Viking, 1960), W. C. van Unnik, <tm>Newly Discovered Gnostic Writings</tm>, Studies in Biblical Theology 30 [ET by H. H. Hoskins from the 1958 Dutch; London: SCM, 1960), J. M. Robinson, "The Coptic Gnostic Library," (above 170 n. 39), and the growing literature conveniently listed in each issue of <tp>New Testament Abstracts</tp> under "NT World."

    \33/ Turner's argument, however, that the presence of the Fourth Gospel in Egypt at the beginning of the second century (p\52, etc.) indicates the existence of "orthodoxy" there before the gnostics came to "borrow" that gospel is open to question since it simply assumes the "orthodoxy" of the Fourth Gospel. But the affinities of that document are quite problematic, and it would not be difficult to adjust Bauer's picture to include an originally "gnostical" Fourth Gospel in circulation in Egypt at that early date. On the recent discovery of a papyrus text of "<ts>3 Corinthians</ts>" and its implications for Bauer's argument, see above, 42 n. 99.

    \34/ See above, 60 n. 60. In the letter, Clement refers to a longer, "secret" form of the gospel of Mark, allegedly used by Christian "gnostics" at Alexandria.

    \35/ For a recent survey of the subject, see G. Widengren, <tm>Mani and Manichaeism</tm> (ET by C. Kessler; New York; Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1965). See also above, 49 f. n. 25.

    \36/ See now K. Rudolph, <tm>Die Mandäer</tm> (above, 261 n. 59); also E. M. Yamauchi, "The Present Status of Mandaean Studies," <tp>Journal of Near Eastern Studies</tp> 25 (1966): 88-96. The Mandaean discoveries had already made a large impact by the 1930's, but much additional material has been published subsequently.

    \37/ Two relatively complete Greek manuscripts have come to light since 1935: the Chester Beatty papyrus, edited by C. Bonner (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1940), and the Bodmer papyrus, edited by M. Testuz (Cologny-Geneve: Bibliotheca Bodmericana, 1960). Abundant versional and other textual evidence also has now been identified. A new edition of the text is being prepared by Molly Whittaker of Nottingham University, and an ET by S. Hall, also of Nottingham.


    Still lacking isa fresh approach to the origins of Christianity in North Africa, Rome, and other western regions.\38/ The situation in Asia Minor and the Aegean area also is admittedly more complex than Bauer indicated\39/ and the whole question of east Syrian [[316]] Christianity currently is receiving much attention along with the question of "gnosticism" in general.\40/ Again, several reviewers regretted Bauer's failure to discuss the origin and development of the early Christian <lt>regula fidei</lt>, which certainly deserves treatment among themes such as those discussed in Bauer's chapter 9.\41/ But this should all be viewed as part of the legacy left by Bauer for those who were to follow. He did not claim to be attempting an exhaustive treatment (xxv), but to be opening a new route for historical investigation. In this he has certainly been successful, and it is in hopes of encouraging even more careful historical scrutiny of the period of Christian origins, unencumbered by later ecclesiastical value judgments, that Bauer's pioneering volume is here made available to the English reader.

    \38/ In his review, Koch made some preliminary observations on this subject. Of continued interest for the situation at Rome is the classic article by G. LaPiana, "The Roman Church at the end of the Second Century," HarvTR 18 (1925): 201-277; see also his "Foreign Groups in Rome during the First Centuries of the Empire," HarvTR 20 (1927): 183-394.

    \39/ Cf. the comments of Windisch, in general, and the specific suggestions by Moffatt, Turner, and Ehrhardt. Koester discusses the earlier situation here on the basis of such evidence as Paul, Revelation, Colossians-Ephesians, Luke-Acts, the Pastorals, and (briefly) some of the early fathers.

    \40/ Whereas some of Bauer's critics ascribed a much greater role to Tatian in founding Christianity in eastern Syria (e.g. Windisch, Ehrhardt), Koester argues that "the Thomas tradition was the oldest form of Christianity in Edessa" (293) and was developed along various lines including the approaches of Bardesanes, Tatian, and later, Mani (304 f.). On the Nag Hammadi material in general, see n. 32 above; on the Thomas tradition in particular, see also the literature cited by Koester. Of the many recent works on gnosis and gnosticism, the English reader is referred especially to Hans Jonas, <tm>The Gnostic Religion</tm> (Boston: Beacon, 1958, 1963\2) and to R. M. Grant, <tm>Gnosticism and Early Christianity</tm> (New York: Harper and Row, 1959, 1966\2), as well as his <tm>Gnosticism Anthology</tm>. See also the comments of M. Smith in JBL 89 (1970); 82-84, for some timely warnings about this subject matter.

    \41/ In addition to Ehrhardt's probe, see J. N. D. Kelly, <tm>Early Christian Creeds</tm> (New York: Longmans, 1950, 1960\2).


    //End of App. 2//

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