As time goes on, more ancient documents are discovered and more archological evidence is found. In addition, there are more than 10,000 people in the world pouring over information from ancient times, piecing together the vast information and coming to conclusions different from those in the past.
One on-going question about Christianity remains, what was it about at the very beginning? Scholars come up with new conclusions.
Today, I would paraphrase Christian orthodoxy as God made the universe, Jesus is God’s son, was human and remains a god and so on.
Back in 1934, the German scholar, Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, asserted that what we now call orthodoxy was in ancient times heresy. For example in Syria and Asia Minor, original Christianity was Marcionite (there were two gods, Jesus was not human), Eygpt was Gnostic and other areas had other versions. Some details he reported were incorrect, but his overall conclusion has stood the test of time.
We know the majority of Jews did not believe Paul’s version of the faith, nor did Jesus’ brother James, nor Paul’s opponents in Galatia, nor later groups like the Ebionites. Documents show all manner of Christian groups were going about trying to stop the spread of other factions including the one which dominates today. Each of these groups had reason to believe all others were in error.
Of all these groups, the version that made it to Rome stressed clerical hierarchy, that religion is decided by officials in religion, not by peons. In fortuitous circumstances, religous heirarchy married a powerful govenment hierarchy.
This marriage brought us “orthodox” Christianity.