Holy Infidels: Orthodoxy, Gnosticism, and Scriptural Interpretation in Early Christianity

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Date of Award

Summer 2016


During the first two centuries of Christianity’s existence, the New Testament did not yet exist; in fact, several written works circulated throughout the Roman Empire, with no decided standard for authenticity. Christianity had not established a unanimously agreed-upon dogma, that was and what would later come to be known as “orthodox” Christianity until the advent of a variation that grew in popularity—a movement known as Gnosticism. The Gnostics catapulted the Church Fathers to formulate an official doctrine and creed for Christianity in order to eradicate other sectarian interpretations and to solidify their authority. The Gnostic teacher Valentinus was the first to present a heretical form of Christianity capable of being a serious threat to orthodoxy. The majority of Gnostic groups openly declared and practiced theological dualism, and thus were easily discernable from practitioners of orthodoxy; this was not the case with the Valentinians, who developed a system that was for many bishops, such as Irenaeus of Lyons, far too close to official church doctrine for comfort.


John H Smith

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | History