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EARLY HERESIES AND THE DEFENDERS OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH.
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A heresy is a belief that deviates from some standard, official belief. When religious authorities decide that a belief is heretical, they usually take active efforts to eradicate the belief, usually including the removal of the offending believers (by excommunication or worse).
God is a trinity, three persons but one essence; Jesus Christ was one person, simultaneously human and divine. That these two statements are not particularly rational was considered irrelevant. The trinity was seen as mysterious and a matter of faith, not reason. Most Christian heresies centered around the twin issues of the nature of the trinity and, more specifically, the nature of Jesus Christ.
Sabellianism Sabellianism is named for its founder Sabellius (fl. 2nd century). It is sometimes referred to as modalisticmonarchianism. The father, son, and holy ghost are three modes, roles, or faces of a single person, God. This, of course, implies that Jesus Christ was purely divine, without humanness, and therefore could not truly have suffered or died.
Ebionites The Ebionites were a group of Christian Jews who denied that Christ was God incarnate and claimed that he was just a good teacher
Docetism The name comes from the Greek word dokesis, meaning "to seem." Along the same lines as Sabellianism, Docetism says that Christ was not a real human being and did not have a real human body. He only seemed to be human to us. In a nutshell…Christ only (no Jesus)
Monophysitism Monophysite comes from the Greek words for "one body." This heresy says that Jesus Christ was a joining of the eternal Logos with the human person Jesus, which occured at incarnation. He therefore is two separate natures joined in one body. Monophysitism is very much alive in several present-day Egyptian and Middle Eastern sects of Christianity. Jesus > Jesus ChristChrist
Adoptionism Adoptionism says that Jesus was a human being who was "adopted" by God at his conception, at which point he developed a divine nature. Later versions sometimes suggest that he was adopted later, such as when he was baptized by John the Baptist. Jesus > Christ
Nestorianism Supposedly, Nestorius, Patriarch of Antioch (fl. 410), believed that Jesus Christ had two natures -- man and God -- which remained separate throughout his period on earth. This is not really what Nestor said (although he did deny virgin birth) but the name stuck. You can still find a few Nestorian churches in Iran. Jesus...... Christ.....
Apollinarianism Named for Apollinaris of Laodicea (fl. 350), this heresy says that Jesus Christ was not a real man, but not totally divine either. Apollinarians suggested that he had a human body and a human soul, but his mind was taken over by the eternal Logos. Je(Christ)sus
Arianism Arianism is named after Arius (c. 250 - c. 336), a priest in Alexandria. This is considered the most serious heresy. Jesus Christ was thought of as a special creation by God for man's salvation. Arianism was the form of Christianity that the Goths adhered to, and it was popular in all the areas they conquered, including Italy, Spain, and Africa.
Socianism A version of Arianism called Socianism (from the Latin socius, meaning "companion), simply says that Jesus was an extraordinary man. This heresy still lives on in two very different forms, the Unitarians and the Jehova's Witnesses.Jesus only (no Christ)
Donatism Named for its leader, the theologian Donatus the Great (d. 355), Donatism included a group of extremist sects, mostly in North Africa, that emphasized asceticism. They valued martyrdom, found lapses of faith (even under torture or threat of death) inexcusable, and believed that the sacraments required a pure priest to be effective.
Pelagianism Another group of sects, centered in Gaul, Britain, and Ireland, is associated with the Irish monk Pelagius (fl. 410). He believed that original sin was not transmitted from Adam and Eve to their children (and thereby to us). Baptism was not considered necessary, and people could be "saved" by their own efforts, that is, they did not necessarily require the grace of God. Many modern liberal Christians agree with Pelagius.
Gnosticism The Gnostics were a more dangerous group: They claimed that the true Christian Faith was only known by an elite few, called the Perfect, through a secret tradition which the Church’s bishops and faithful didn’t have access to. They also claimed that the world was created by an evil being called the Demiurge, and not by God
Manicheanism Manicheanism is actually a separate religion which blends Christianity with Gnosticism, Mithraism, neo-Platonism, and even Buddhism. Again, it was considered a very serious heresy. It survived well into the Middle Ages, where it strongly influenced the Bogomils in the Balkans and the Cathars in southern France.
THE APOLOGISTS Purpose: To defend the faith
The approach and purpose of the Apologists were entirely different from those of the Apostolic Fathers. The Apologists sought to win legal recognition for Christianity and to defend it against various charges leveled by the pagan populace.
Justin Martyr Probably the most dramatic and therefore the best known of the Apologists was Justin Martyr. Born about A.D. 100 in a small town in Samaria (but apparently a gentile), Justin in early years became acquainted will the various philosophical systems. But his great knowledge of these philosophies also led him to a realization of their inadequacies
Tatian One of Justin’s converts in Rome was Tatian (a native of Assyria), a writer skilled in argumentation. His Address to the Greeks was largely a tirade against paganism; it ridiculed almost every pagan practice Tatian is probably best known for his Diatessaron, the earliest harmony of the gospels, composed about AD 150-160.
Tertullian An important church father, he wrote a long list of apologetic and theological works in Latin and Greek. His Apologeticus (c. 197), addressed to the Roman governor of Carthage, refuted the common charges leveled against Christians, demonstrated the loyalty of Christians to the empire, and showed that persecution of Christians was foolish anyway, because they multiplied whenever persecuted.
THE POLEMICISTS Purpose: To attack errors
As the Christian movement grew older, errors arose within its ranks – errors that called forth defenders of the faith and that by reaction led to the development of Christian doctrines and the formulation of a New Testament canon. It is significant that in refuting errors, the Polemicists appealed extensively to New Testament books as the source of true doctrine. Thus they gave impetus to the later pronouncements on the contents of the New Testament canon.
Irenaeus Although most of the Apologists lived in the East, most of the Polemicists lived in the West. Earliest of the group was Irenaeus who wrote Against Heresies about 185 AD at Lyons, France, where he served as bishop. Primarily aimed at the philosophical error of Gnosticism.
Hippolytus Hippolytus was the most important third century theologian. In addition to his apologetic work, he is especially known for his Apostolic Tradition, which provides a picture of Roman church order and worship about AD 200. It deals with baptism, the Eucharist (the Lord’s Supper), ordination and other church practices. He also wrote a commentary on Daniel, the oldest commentary on a biblical book to survive intact. Part of his commentary on Song of Songs also remains.
Tertullian Tertullian may be classified with the Apologists if one emphasizes his Apologeticus or as Scientific Theologian if one focuses on his De Anima (concerning the origin of the soul). In fact, he is commonly regarded as the fouder of Latin (Roman Catholic) theology. But he is classified here because of his intensely passionate opposition to paganism, Judaism, early form of Unitarianism and Gnosticism. It has been said that he did more than anyone to overthrow Gnosticism.
Cyprian Cyprian (martyred in 258) in his polemic activity is known for his opposition to Novatianism. Novatus (Novatian) held that those who lapsed during the persecution could not be pronounced forgiven by the church and restored to its fellowship; forgiveness must be left for God alone. In line with this controversy, the church had become conscious of her catholicity and unity by this time, and those who would not submit to divinely appointed bishops were regarded as heretics.
THE SCIENTIFIC THEOLOGIANS Purpose: To develop scientific methods of biblical interpretation
The classification of these writers falls roughly into three groups: (1) Those living in Alexandria – the most speculative in approach and usually followed an allegorical interpretation of Scripture; (2) writers of the West – tended to emphasize the authority of the church and its tradition; and (3) those ministering in Asia Minor and Syria – took a generally literal approach to biblical study.
Clement Associated with Pantaenus (leader of Alexandrian school until 190 AD but his writings are not yet discovered or no longer exists), Clement (probably an Athenian) headed the school of Alexandria from 190 to 202, when he was forced by persecution to leave the city. His writings include Address to the Greeks, The Tutor, The Miscellanies and the Outlines of Scripture Interpretation
Origen Most famous of the Alexandrian writers was Origen, who led the school from 202 – 232. Thereafter he moved to Caesarea in Palestine, where he continued his illustrious career for another twenty years until the Decian persecution
Athanasius Many decades later the great Athanasius (c. 293 -373) rose to a position of leadership in Alexandria. To him goes special credit for the triumph of the orthodox view of Christ over Arianism, “a thinly disguised paganism”, at the Council of Nicea in 325
Cyril A later figure of significance in Alexandria was Cyril (376 – 4440. Becoming patriarch of Alexandria in 412, he devoted himself to the defense of the orthodox doctrine of the person of Christ, but sometimes did so in a highhanded and pompous manner. He advanced the veneration of Mary with his effective promulgation in the church that she was Theotokos or the bearer of God. An outstanding theologian, he put in systematic form the classical statement of the doctrines of the Trinity and the person of Christ.
Jerome One of the greatest of the Western Fathers was Jerome (c. 345-420). Born in northeastern Italy, he spent several years in Rome, studying languages and philosophy, and was baptized at the age of nineteen. During the next twenty years he moved around a great deal – in Gaul, the East and Italy – perfecting his knowledge of Greek and Hebrew and becoming a convert of monasticism.
Ambrose Ambrose, bishop of Milan (374-397), was another of the most illustrious Fathers of the Western church. Because his writings represent an official witness to the teachings of the Roman church in his own time and earlier centuries, they have been constantly appealed to by popes, councils and theologians. He employed the allegoric-mystical method of interpretation: he admitted a literal sense, but sought everywhere a deeper mystical meaning that he converted into practical instruction for the Christian life.
Augustine St. Augustine, bishop of Hippo in North Africa, stands preeminent among theologians of all time. His influence upon all Christian faiths has been significant. His emphasis on a personal experience of the grace of God as necessary to salvation has caused Protestants to accept him as a forerunner of the Reformation. His emphasis on the church, her creed, and sacraments has appealed to Roman Catholics.
The three Great Cappadocians Of these three, Basil the Great (330-397) of Caesarea in Cappadocia is known for his opposition to heresies especially Arianism. His brother, Gregory, bishop of Nyssa (332-398), was a champion of orthodoxy at the Council of Constantinople in 381 and is respected as one of the founders of the Eastern Church. Gregory of Nazianzus (329-390), became bishop of Constantinople in 381 and preached effectively in defense of the Nicene faith against Arianism there. Highly educated in Cappadocia, Palestine, Egypt and Athens, he wrote extensively; about 1,200-1,500 manuscripts of his works survive.
Theodore Theodore (350-428) was bishop of Mopsuestia in Cilicia (Asia Minor) for thirty six years. A brilliant exegete, he wrote commentaries on most books of the Bible, generally following grammatico-historical and realistic explanations of the text. This method of interpreting the words of the Scriptures according to their ordinary grammatical meaning and in the light of their historical background was the prevailing mode of interpretation in the Antiochene school of thought, from which background Theodore had come.
John Chrysostom John Chrysostom (347-407), the most prominent leader of the Greek church, also was important as a representative of the grammatico-historical interpretation of Scripture in opposition to the allegorical and mystical interpretation of Alexandria. While Chrysostom did not exclude all allegorical and mystical elements from scriptural study, he confined them to cases in which he felt the inspired author suggested such a meaning. Chrysostom is also important for the reformation of Eastern theology.