Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Catholicity and Heresy in the Early Church

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Catholicity and Heresy in the Early Church

Article excerpt

Ancient Catholicity and Heresy in the Early Church. By Mark Edwards. (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing. 2009. Pp. vi, 201. $114.95 cloth, ISBN 978-0-754-66291-4; $29.95 paperback, ISBN 978-0-754-66297-6.)

In this typically combative and stimulating book Mark Edwards argues for the constructive and not merely catalytic role of so-called heresy in the formation of early Christian orthodoxy. Taking issue with the contemporary consensus that would speak of various competing Christianities, Edwards in his introduction argues for the existence of a right-versus-wrong interpretation from the beginning, defining orthodoxy in terms of what in any epoch was taught by the majority of bishops, and Catholic not simply as worldwide, representative, and tolerant but as willing to incorporate ideas once deemed heretical. Thus in chapter 1, "The Gnostic Beginnings of Orthodoxy," he notes the pioneering views of Gnostics (always self-designated in the evidence, he insists) on the image of God; Basilides on sonship, divine and human; Valentinus on the mythical fall and redemption of wisdom; and Marcion on the end of the law. In chapter 2, "The Catholicity of Irenaeus," he argues that the system of the Gnostics' principal critic not only derives its shape but also some of its ideas from their views, such as his understanding of the Trinity and man in the image of God, while some of their views that he rejected became orthodox later. In chapter 3, "The Foundation of Catholic Teaching in the Third Century," he argues both that the great Alexandrians, Clement and Origen, derived a good deal from their Valentinian opponents and that the trinitarian assault on the Monarchian heresy led by their Western counterparts, Hippolytus and Tertullian, may have been occasioned by a terminological misunderstanding. In chapter 4, "Origen and Orthodoxy," Edwards seeks to defend Origen against later charges of heresy and show how his views on God, Christ, and the Resurrection, once condemned, became the basis of later orthodoxy. In chapter 5, "The Nicene Council and Its Aftermath," he argues for Eusebius as one of the architects of the homoousian victory, suggests the contributions of Origen to the ultimate definition, and represents the key role of the homoiousians as an augmentation of the Nicene teaching on the divinity of Jesus rather than a compromise. …

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