Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe: Documents in Translation

Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe: Documents in Translation

Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe: Documents in Translation

Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe: Documents in Translation

Synopsis

Throughout the Middle Ages and early modern Europe theological uniformity was synonymous with social cohesion in societies that regarded themselves as bound together at their most fundamental levels by a religion. To maintain a belief in opposition to the orthodoxy was to set oneself in opposition not merely to church and state but to a whole culture in all of its manifestations. From the eleventh century to the fifteenth, however, dissenting movements appeared with greater frequency, attracted more followers, acquired philosophical as well as theological dimensions, and occupied more and more the time and the minds of religious and civil authorities. In the perception of dissent and in the steps taken to deal with it lies the history of medieval heresy and the force it exerted on religious, social, and political communities long after the Middle Ages.

In this volume, Edward Peters makes available the most compact and wide-ranging collection of source materials in translation on medieval orthodoxy and heterodoxy in social context.

Excerpt

The debates about the nature of Christian belief and the sources of legitimate authority in the Christian community that began to trouble the peace of the early churches two thousand years ago had both immediate and longer-lasting effects. From the epistles of St. Paul to the great age of church councils in the fifth and sixth centuries, the twin concepts of orthodoxy and heterodoxy were constituted as the third of the divisions that defined a true Christian, following the distinctions between Christianity and paganism on the one hand, and Christianity and Judaism on the other. The substance of Christian belief was articulated in apostolic and patristic literature, based upon an increasingly homogeneous scriptural canon and selected traditions, circulated widely, and finally, from the fourth century on, given juridical form by councils and prelates. Those against whom the early Fathers wrote and the early councils legislated were first described (as they are in the epistles of St. Paul) as factious, sectarian, and schismatic; that is, they were regarded as attempting to divide the indivisible community of the Church. From the second century on, they were increasingly described as heretics -- that is, as people who chose (from the Greek word haireseín) a belief that the representatives of orthodox Christian communities defined as heterodox and therefore untenable by a true Christian.

St. Paul had written his letters to particular communities of Christians in the cities of the central and eastern Mediterranean world of the Roman Empire. Some of the earliest treatises against heterodoxy were written by individual . . .

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