The Rehabilitation Of Heresy: “Misquoting” Earliest Christianity: Part 1 -- By: Rodney J. Decker

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 13:1 (Spring 2009)
Article: The Rehabilitation Of Heresy: “Misquoting” Earliest Christianity: Part 1
Author: Rodney J. Decker

The Rehabilitation Of Heresy:
“Misquoting” Earliest Christianity: Part 1

Rodney J. Decker

Professor of Greek and New Testament

Baptist Bible Seminary

Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania

The following essay1 is part one of a two-part series. Due to the nature of the argument, much of part one consists of a summary of a non-orthodox position. This is necessary prior to the critique which will be found primarily, though not exclusively, in part two.

And he spoke a parable unto them, saying, there once was a certain man named Joe. He taught many things which were quite different from things taught by his contemporaries. Those who heard him were impressed with his wisdom. Some even thought he was more than a mere man. After he died his ideas were developed by other people, not all of whom were as insightful as Joe. As a result, many divergent groups developed in different places, each claiming to represent Joe’s “true” teaching, despite the fact that they taught very different things and had very different views as to who Joe was. This continued for several centuries, but eventually one of the groups, the Joeists, was able to dominate the others through political savvy, lots of cash, administrative skill, and outright force. Once they had achieved power, the Joeists ruthlessly persecuted the other groups, destroyed their writings, and sought to obliterate

their very memory. The winners in this very nasty ideological war then proceeded to rewrite history to make it appear as if the Joeists had been the only group in existence from the very beginning. They revised the early documents that told about Joe to make them sound like Joe taught exactly what the Joeists believed. They compiled these modified documents into an official literary corpus and allowed people to read only from this sanctioned anthology. In addition they wrote very strict definitions as to what people were allowed to believe and say about Joe. And so Joeism became a new world religion, spreading across the planet, but always tightly controlled by the original leaders in Joeville.

Fast forward several millennia. Joeism is still a dominant religion, though it has developed some untidy edges and some people, especially the intelligentsia, have begun challenging the official Joeist history. Discontent has grown to such proportions that the Joeist leaders in Joeville can no longer control what people think about Joe. An intellectual battle ensues in which the advocates of freedom challenge the very historicity and accuracy of the official documents describing Joe. A search for the “real, historical Joe” is u...

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