Between Da Vinci and Rome: The New Covenant as a Theological Norm in Early Christianity -- By: Mark R. Saucy

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 27:2 (Fall 2006)
Article: Between Da Vinci and Rome: The New Covenant as a Theological Norm in Early Christianity
Author: Mark R. Saucy

Between Da Vinci and Rome: The New Covenant as a Theological Norm in Early Christianity

Mark Saucy

Mark Saucy is a professor of theology at Kyiv Theological Seminary. He and his family are missionaries with SEND International, serving in Kyiv since 1994.

In its understanding of early Christianity, evangelical theology occupies something of a middle ground between the poles of radical skepticism and the confident claim to direct succession from the original church. The skeptical view, now taking popular shape in the media buzz of “lost christianities” and The Da Vinci Code, draws heavily from the theories of Walter Bauer and the new voice given to Gnosticism in the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library in the late 1950s. The claim from this side that traditional Christianity is in fact nothing more than the victor of ancient polemics between vastly different but equally early and equally viable interpretations of Jesus of Nazareth is scandalous to all Christians who find their identity in the canonical books of the NT.1 However, the polar opposite found in the particular traditional claims of Catholicism and the Eastern Orthodox Church to direct apostolic succession of its Tradition will not do for evangelicals either.2 In this essay I will contend that the reason why evangelicalism must part ways with both of these options is the OT, particularly the eschatological promise for a new covenant. In the new covenant we find the matrix for determining the essence of true Christianity and the platform by which the claims of all “Christianities” must be evaluated, including our own.

Such a thesis requires two moves. First it will be necessary to establish the fundamental Story the OT is telling and how the new

covenant in particular scripts the Story to continue beyond the OT.3 Second, the OT storyline must be put up against the options from the early Christian period to see how they fare. This step will include examining the major witnesses that were later canonized into the Bible (NT) as well as the “other christianities” of Gnosticism, Marcionism, and Ebionism. In a final section I will address the early orthodox church’s handling of its new covenant heritage. The new covenant hope clearly indicates that there were legitimate heirs of the OT Story in the early Christian period, but how completely they apprehended the genius of the new covenant is the question taken up here.

I. The Story Begins: Kingship And Covenant In The OT

Any account of the develo...

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