1 Corinthians 1:10, Division in the Church
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
//Many people seem to have the mistaken idea that there was only one form of Christianity in the first century. That the apostles themselves took the words of Jesus straight to the rest of the world, so that there would be no discrepancy.
The common opinion is that divergent opinions about Jesus, such as Gnostic Christianity, evolved later by heretics attempting to corrupt true Christian teaching. Not true. The earliest Christian writings in our possession…the letters of Paul…show how diverse Christian beliefs were from the very beginning. Paul wrote to the Galatians and the Romans urging them to ignore the teachings of the “Judaizers.” He wrote to the Corinthians trying to persuade them about his understanding of the resurrection (apparently, some believed in life after death but not in the resurrection of the dead.) He tried to clear up divisions and disagreements on the role of the Spirit.
The Ebionites, who probably stemmed from the earliest church in Jerusalem, eschewed Jesus’ divinity and virgin birth. I’ll write more about the Ebionites in future posts, but Jewish Christians worshipped differently than Gentile Christians, and Gentiles were badly splintered. Some followed the teachings of Apollos, some the teachings of Peter, some of Paul. Apollos taught only “the baptism of John the Baptist,” having heard of no other. Some Christians insisted on celibacy, others on strict dietary rules, and some even accepted incest on the basis of Christian freedom.
All these Christian doctrines are described in the Bible. There simply was no established universal system of authority, and no standard belief system. Paul himself went out as a missionary having not consulted with the apostles and disagreeing with much of what the church of Jerusalem taught, and his ideas are preserved in epistle form, so today we tend to think his ideas were the norm, but that is unfair. We cannot rightly speak of “early Christianity,” but of “early Christianities.”