Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe: Documents in Translation

By Edward Peters | Go to book overview

should exist, so that those who were approved might be made manifest; just as those who had been steadfast in persecutions were they who did not fly to heresies....

Moreover, if he [ St. Paul ] criticizes dissensions and divisions, which clearly are evils, he immediately adds heresies also. That which he has associated with evils he certainly indicates is an evil, and indeed, the worse, since he says that he believed as touching divisions and dissensions for this reason -- that he knew there must be heresies also. For he shows that in seeing ∴a more grievous evil, he easily believed that lighter ones also exist.... Finally, if the sense [of St. Paul's epistle to the Corinthians] points to the keeping of unity, and the limitation of divisions, and if heresies keep men from unity just as much as divisions and dissensions do, then he places heresies in the same category in which he places divisions and dissensions....

This is the same Paul who elsewhere numbers heresies among the wicked works of the flesh and who advises Titus that a man who remains a heretic after the first rebuke must be rejected since he is perverted and sins, being condemned by himself. But in nearly every epistle where he urges them to avoid false doctrines he reproves heresies, which themselves are false doctrines. They are called by the Greek word haireseis in the sense of choice which a man exercises either to establish them or to adopt them. Therefore he has called the heretic condemned by himself because he has chosen for himself something for which he is condemned. For us it is not lawful to introduce any doctrine of our own choosing, neither may we choose some doctrine which someone else has introduced by his own choice. We have for our authority the Apostles of the Lord, who did not choose of themselves to introduce anything by their own will, but faithfully gave to the nations and peoples the religion which they had received from Christ. Wherefore, "though an angel from heaven should preach any other gospel," he would be cursed by us....

These are the doctrines of men and demons, created for itching ears eager for the spirit of this world, which the Lord called foolishness. The foolish things of this world confound even philosophy itself. For the things of this world are such that its wisdom makes the interpreter rash in explaining the nature of God and the order He established. Finally, heresies themselves are tricked out by philosophy. Hence the Aeons, and who knows what "finite forms" and "the trinity of man" according to Valentinus. He belonged to the school of Plato. The god of Marcion, more excellent because of his indolence, came from the Stoics. The doctrine that the soul dies is taken over from the Epicu-

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