The New Testament Definition Of Heresy (Or When Do Jesus And The Apostles Really Get Mad?) -- By: Craig L. Blomberg

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 45:1 (Mar 2002)
Article: The New Testament Definition Of Heresy (Or When Do Jesus And The Apostles Really Get Mad?)
Author: Craig L. Blomberg


The New Testament Definition Of Heresy
(Or When Do Jesus And The Apostles Really Get Mad?)

Craig L. Blomberg*

* Craig Blomberg is professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, P.O. Box 100,000, Denver, CO 80250–0100.

Despite our contemporary “information explosion,” the compartmentalization of modern scholarship leaves some intriguing gaps in the secondary literature. Numerous church historians and systematic theologians have chronicled the debates between “orthodoxy” and “heresy” for just about every major doctrine and era in the life of the church.1 Countless NT studies have analyzed what we can infer from the apostolic texts about the nature of the false teachers and false teaching combated in the first century.2 But I have been unable to locate any study which both surveys the major NT data, fully abreast of the most recent biblical scholarship, and compares them with contemporary discussions about the boundaries of evangelical faith, conversant with the recent literature in that arena as well. A short paper like this one can only scratch the surface in tackling such an integrated task, but even preliminary efforts would seem important.

I. The Synoptic Gospels

This study will presuppose the historical reliability of the Gospels and Acts3 and thus speak of events in the lives of Jesus and his contemporaries

as well as the theological emphases of the four evangelists. Thus, in chronological sequence, we begin with John the Baptist.

1.John the Baptist.From John’s perspective, certain Jewish leaders represented the major example of false teachers whom he encountered. In Matt 3:7, he addresses “many of the Pharisees and Sadducees” as a “brood of vipers” who are in danger of imminent judgment (vv. 9–10) if they do not begin producing “fruit in keeping with repentance” (v. 8).4 John’s warning appears to go largely unheeded, however, for in Luke 7:30 we read, “But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.”

In an age appropriately sensitive to the horrific anti-Semitism that characterized various eras of Church history, we do well to remind ourselves that nowhere do the Gospels condemn all Jews, all...

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