Differing Interpretations of Jesus' Teachings
Raymond Brown, a respected Biblical scholar, has suggested that early on in the Christian church a schism split the church into two main groups that he designates Apostolic Christians (the orthodox believers) and Secessionists (non-orthodox like the Gnostics). The schism occurred over a disagreement in beliefs held by the orthodox or literalist Christians that Jesus had been sent from God, the Father, as the savior of humankind. The Gnostics refused to change their beliefs to agree with the orthodox Apostolic Christians. The Gnostics held to the dualistic belief in a deity who is the source of light and wisdom and in another entity who created the world full of darkness and suffering. The Gnostics believed that humans must be enlightened to escape their ensnarement in matter. To them, Jesus was a being of Light, the revealer of gnosis, not the Christ to be sacrificed for the sins of humankind.
Others who might not have shared the literalistic or orthodox interpretations of Jesus' teachings were the many Jews who lived outside of Judea and elsewhere within the Roman Empire during the first few centuries after the birth of Christianity. The lingua franca of the Hellenistic world was Greek. The Jewish people of ancient Palestine would have had some contact with the Hellenistic culture of the Greeks and Romans. Scholars note that Greek literary works influenced the writing of Jews in ancient Palestine because texts (and fragments of writing) show Jews adopting some of the literary forms of the Greeks and Romans. So, too, did the writing of certain early church fathers reveal the Hellenistic influence on their contemplation and interpretation about Christian theology. While nearly all the early fathers wrote in Greek, the writing of some (Valentinus, for example) posited theological interpretations at odds with the thinking of the more literalistic or orthodox Christian leaders.
Septuagint was the name of the Greek translation of thirty-nine books of the Hebrew scriptures (or the Old Testament) and certain Apocrypha texts used by early Christians during the first few centuries after the death of Jesus. Septuagint is the Latin word for “seventy” and honors the seventy Jewish scholars who supposedly did the translating.
After the last apostle died, the period of their lives in early Christianity became known as the Apostolic Age. With the apostles gone, it fell to early church fathers such as Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Tertullian, Origen, Epiphanius, and other leaders of the Christian faith to protect and preserve the literalistic interpretations of the teachings of Jesus. These particular church leaders opposed the various groups of Gnostics and others with ideas that did not mesh with their understanding of the teachings. Much of the modern scholarship about heretics and heresies that threatened traditional orthodox Christianity in the first few centuries is based on their writings.