Why Did "Orthodox" Christianity Win?
A typical tale on some accounts of Christian origins goes like this: In the beginning, the church was gloriously diverse, there was no normative Christianity, Christianity was immediately and inherently diverse, and it led to a beautifully pluralistic array of Christianities. There were Jewish Christians, Pauline communities, Johannine networks, Valentinian churches, Marcionite churches, independent teachers like Justin, Montanist prophetesses, Gentile Christians, and so many more. Well, until the blessed diversity of the early churches was quashed by a bunch of arrogant and cantankerous bishops in the second and third centuries who sought to impose their own narrow vision of the faith on everyone and to silence all other voices and visionaries. And then, once ensconced in the lap of imperial power, these bishops wielded power to destroy their rivals.
Yes, the church was diverse to begin with, just look at the Hebrews and Hellenists in Acts, Paul’s bust-up with Peter in Antioch, Paul versus the Super-Apostles in Corinth, John and the secessionists, Jewish Christian groups persisted, early Gnostics emerged too like Basilides and Valentinus, etc. The team that won would eventually become “orthodoxy.” Thus, the story of early Christianity was not an innocent and pure church constantly rinsing out the dirt of heresy, but something more like a horse race and one horse eventually one.