Berzon, “Heresiology as Ethnography: Theorising Christian Difference”

Berzon, Todd. 2014. “Heresiology as Ethnography: Theorising Christian Difference,” in Religious Competition in the Third Century C.E.: Jews, Christians, and the Greco-Roman Worlds, ed. Nathaniel P. DesRosiers, Jordan D. Rosenblum, and Lily C. Vuong. Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht. 180–192.

Excerpt: In the preface to his five-book refutation of heresies, Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon (c. 130-202), enumerate the principle hazard of the heretics. Their scheming argumentation, delusory interpretations, elaborate cosmologies, and falsification of scriptural proof text induces the addled-minded to abandon their training in the true faith and instead embrace the speculative opinions of duplicitous men. Precisely because they “think differently about the same things at different times, they never attain a steadfast knowledge, desiring more to be sophists of words than disciples of truth.” …In elaborating even the most minute of heretical customs and doctrines – from baptismal rituals and elaborate cosmologies to dietary habits and alternative scriptural interpretations – the heresiologists exhibit not only their own ethnographic of the formidable bastion that is the world of Christian heresy, they confront how the procession, production, and ordering of knowledge itself underscores and alters the very foundations of Christianity and the Christian world …


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