i can't stand it when Catholics try to make it sound as if their version of Christianity is the first and most valid version of Christianity with the highest fidelity to the teachings of Jesus!
the early church
the early church was characterized by differences in christology and theology that makes the differences between today's Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches look silly by comparison.
some different christologies were adoptionist, the belief that Jesus wasn't divine but rather that he was just a highly moral man and was adopted by god to bring god's message to the people; docetic, the belief that Jesus was a spirit, that his physical appearance was an illusion and that he did not physcially die on the cross; patripassionist, literally "father sufferer", a pejorative coined by opponents of those who believed that Jesus was god incarnate come to earth to bring his message; seperationist, the belief that Jesus, the man, was merely the container for the spirit Christ that entered Jesus at his baptism and left him just before the crucifixion; and many others!
some groups that vied for dominance in the 1st and 2nd centuries were the Ebionites, apocalyptic followers of Jesus who remained Jews, following and keeping the Jewish Law- perhaps the closest followers of Jesus' true apparent teachings; the Marcionists, ostensibly followers of Jesus but who revered Paul's teachings while going further than Paul's rejection of Judaism in rejecting the Jewish scriptures and even the Jewish god- they believed that the god that had sent Jesus was the one true god and that the god of the Jews was a distinct inferior god; there were several Gnostic sects, one of which was the Valentians, they believed that each person had a divine spark but was trapped down here and only by understanding the Knowledge that Jesus brought, an understanding of who you really are, i.e., divine, could they be set free to be with god again; there was also the Montanists, a "prophetic only" group who favored direct revelation over written scripture. of course there was also the group of early Christians who's christology and theology would evolve into the Catholic Church. the point of all this is that the early disputes over christology and theology weren't concluded in any real sense until well after Constantine (272-337 CE) converted to Christianity and Theodosius (347-395 CE) elevated one version of Christianity by making it the state religion of the Roman Empire. in no sense was the Catholic Church the first version of Christianity.
the teachings of Jesus
Jesus was a devout Jew of the apocalyptic sect who taught that the Law must be followed- not just followed but followed more strictly than even the Pharisees. he would have understood as a Jew that the Law was eternal according to the Hebrew Bible (gen. 17:19, lev. 23:14, 21, 31; deut. 4:8-9, deut. 7:9, deut. 11:26-28, psalm 119:151-152, psalm 119:160, malachi 4:4). his understanding is clear when in matt 5:18-19 he says:
I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven
and again in luke 16:17:
It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.
so where do Christians get the idea that as followers of Jesus they aren't bound by the Law when Jesus himself said they are? from Paul.
see, Paul was originally a staunch critic of the followers of Jesus until, so the story goes, he had a vision of Jesus confirm the truth of Jesus' message and converted. Paul was incredibly successful at setting up churches all around the Mediterranean, preaching to pagans where ever he went. Paul rejected the assertion of many of the early followers of Jesus, notably the apostle Peter himself, that for a person to be a follower of Jesus they necessarily had to first convert to Judaism and follow the Jewish Law including being circumcised. Paul believed that it was clear that god had turned away from the Jews because they hadn't kept the Law necessitating god sending Jesus to wash away everyone's sins. to Paul this meant that god's covenant with the Jews was over. according to this idea, to convert to Judaism and keep the Law would have been to reject god's offer of salvation through Jesus and so therefore it wasn't just not a requirement that a follower of Jesus become a Jew and follow the Law but that to do so would endanger your salvation and so was expressly forbidden by Paul in his instructions to his churches.
why didn't Paul just read the Hebrew Bible or the verses in Matthew and Luke i quoted above? because Matthew and Luke didn't exist yet. Paul's letters were written starting around 50 CE while the first of the gospels that would eventually find their way into the canon, Mark, wasn't written until 70 CE while Matthew and Luke weren't written until around 85 CE. that's right- Paul was essentially making shit up. Paul was making shit up and so many Christians today follow the teachings of Paul rather than Jesus that you might as well call Christianity Paulianity instead.
i could get into how Jesus himself never calls himself divine (we have the gospel of John to thank for that idea) or about how the apocalyptic sect of Judaism of which Jesus was a part never believed or taught anything about a heaven above or a hell below or in eternal punishment or reward in an afterlife but what's the point? the Catholic Church has nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus as we can know them from comparing the The Synoptics, weeding out the words of the Q document, and thereby finding out what his real teachings may have been. do we even need to point out that the words trinity, original sin, immaculate conception, christmas, pope, cardinal, catechism, purgatory, penance, transubstantiation, excommunication, dogma, chastity, unpardonable sin, papal infallibility, eucharist, the lord's prayer, good friday, and advent appear nowhere in the New Testament?
no, the Catholic Church wasn't the first version of Christianity. nor is it the version with the highest fidelity to the teachings of Jesus.
ahhhhh.... i feel much better now. XD