In the years after Paul, factionalism increased. Since the churches in Rome were isolated, there was little control on doctrine. Individual teachers were free to interpret whatever scripture they had in whatever way they saw fit. The factionalism we discussed in a previous post could result in creative theology, for good or bad.
Justin tried to present Christianity as a philosophy, “Christians worship God with their intellects” (Di. 1.6.2, 12.8, etc.) That Christianity was a philosophy was accepted by no less that Galen, although Celsus refused to use the word for Christianity (it was sofiva to Celsus, and Christians were sophists, usually a pejorative use of the word.) For the most part Justin was treated as a philosopher by Romans, but few (if any) philosophers investigated the claims of Christianity.
Justin’s influence was to encourage a philosophical strain in the theology of the second century, Tatian and Euelpistus both were (neo) platonic in perspective. While present day theologians debate whether this is a good thing, in the second century it had the positive effect of making Christianity more acceptable to the educated and higher social classes.
A negative example are the Valentinians. Valentinus (c100-c160) was in Rome for 15 years, (as early as 136, as late as 166) and was considered for the position of bishop about 143 (according to Tertullian, Ad. Val iv). He was born in Egypt and educated in Alexandria; he died on Cyprus after having left Rome. He was a highly educated man with a brilliant mind; we wrote in a beautiful poetic language. Lampe (295) finds his style parallel to Plato. His philosophy is generally platonic. He seems to know Timaeus well, and interprets this work in the style of the neo-paltonists.
Two inscriptions found in Via Latina indicate that there was at least one Valentinain congregation in this affluent suburb. This indicates (for Lampe) that there was a house church in Via Lampe which was Valentinian in orientation; no other traces of Valentinian house churches appear elsewhere in the city. The marble inscription uses imagery which must be Christian (praising the father and son) and likely Valentinian (entry into the bridal chamber, a sacred meal, baptism, etc.) A gravestone inscription was also found in Via Latina which also uses Valentinain imagery (again, the bridal chamber, washings, the “angel the great counsel”)
Valentinian theology was quite esoteric and obviously gnostic. Highly dualistic, they saw the world as evil, the believer was by nature alienated from the world. This sort of early gnosticism is an attempt to support Christianity with a philosophical foundation, but in doing so, Valentinus moved away from scripture. Marcion, on the other hand, represents a sort of “back to the Bible” movement — in an extremely negative sense! More on Marcion next time.