Podcast episode

Episode 81: Warfaring Strangers: Prolegomena to Second-Century Christianity

In this episode we back up a bit and consider a few broad-scale developments in Christianity in the second century. This diverse phenomenon is beginning to coalesce in our period into something distinctly ‘Christian’ – and recognisable to outsiders as such – but is also riven increasingly-vicious internal debates about what it should be. We discuss the rise of ‘orthodoxy’ as a concept, and the evolution of the term ‘heresy’, orthodoxy’s evil twin.

We look at the genre of heresiology, which is crucial for understanding not only the development of orthodoxy, but also the framing of its Other, including many esoteric currents within Christianity, some of which are rejected outright by the orthodox consensus, and others of which will continue to exist in an uneasy love-hate relationship with Christianity down to the present day. We also give a short heresiological timeline of the second and third centuries, and pick out a few key thinkers of esoteric second- and third-century Christianity whom we shall be discussing in more detail as the podcast progresses.

Works Cited in this Episode:


  • Diogenes Laërtius: Oxford has put out a wonderful coffee-table book edition of Diogenes, with loads of pictures and cool stuff: Diogenes Laertius. Lives of the Eminent Philosophers. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2018.
  • Eusebius on Justin’s lost Against all the Schools of Thought: HE IV.11.10. Justin himself refers to it at Apol. I.26.
  • Simon Magus: see Acts 8:9–24.

Recommended Reading:

  • Walter Bauer. Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity. Fortress, Philadelphia, 1971.
  • G. R. Boys-Stones. Post-Hellenistic Philosophy. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001 [useful background on the developments within philosophy discussed in the episode].
  • Bart D. Ehrman. Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew. Oxford University Press, New York, NY 2003a.
  • Idem. Lost Scriptures: Books That Did Not Make It into the New Testament. Oxford University Press, New York, NY 2003b.
  • Karl Martin Fischer. Das Urchristentum, volume I/1 of Kirchengeschichte in Einzeldarstellungen. Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig, 1991.
  • W. H. C. Frend. The Rise of Christianity. Fortress, Philadelphia, PA 1984.
  • Bernard Green. Christianity in Ancient Rome: The First Three Centuries. T & T Clark, London and New York, NY 2010.
  • Susan Ashbrook Harvey and David G. Hunter, editors. The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies. Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, NY 2008.
  • Robin Lane Fox. Pagans and Christians: In the Mediterranean World from the Second Century AD to the Conversion of Constantine. Viking, London, 1986.
  • Gerd Lüdemann. Heretics: The Other Side of Early Christianity. Westminster John Knox, Louisville, KT, 1996.
  • Margaret Mary Mitchell, Frances M. Young, and K. Scott Bowie. Cambridge History of Christianity I: Origins to Constantine. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge/New York, NY, 2006.
  • Karl-Wolfgang Tröger. Das Christentum im zweiten Jahrhundert, volume I/2 of
    Kirchengeschichte in Einzeldarstellungen. Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Berlin, 1988.


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