One of the favorite theses advanced by some of those who make claims on behalf of the authority of the Gnostic texts is that, in some sense, these writings should be viewed on an equal footing with the canonical New Testament books. Perhaps the classical modern expression of such a contention was promoted by Walter Baur in his 1934 volume, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity.^3

Baur argued that second century Christendom witnessed a wide variety of theological viewpoints. Gnosticism existed in this milieu as an alternative to what was later recognized as the orthodox position. In fact, in some areas, Gnostic tendencies may have been the chief expressions of Christianity. However, out of this multiplicity, orthodoxy still emerged, but not necessarily because it was the original position of Jesus and his disciples.^4