Monday, July 30, 2018


Identikits for Thoughtcrime

Brent D. Shaw, Sacred Violence: African Christians and Sectarian Hatred in the Age of Augustine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 308 (footnotes omitted):
It is the writings of Epiphanius, the bishop of Salamis in Cyprus, in the 370s that especially mark the new phase of energetic concern with heresy that configured much ecclesiastical and theological writing in the later fourth and early fifth centuries. His ideas were to have considerable repercussions in the Latin West. This second anti-heretical movement was characterized by a determined drive to identify heretics: to develop systematic identikits to identify the hated enemies of right thinking. This late fourth-century interest in heresies had its own style. It was different both in kind and extent from the earlier anti-heretical movement. The big concern of the later age was not so much one of internal ideological defense and cleansing of a single threatening idea as it was with the identification of a wide range of various types of external pseudo-Christian enemies. Rather than the extensive and detailed theological treatise, it is the heresy list that is the characteristic document of the second movement devoted to hunting down the enemies of the true church.
Id., p. 309:
This later tradition produced extensive hit lists of heresies, lists that were meant to provide quick identity profiles by which concerned believers could recognize any one of the variegated host of enemies that the orthodox faced....[T]he bishop Epiphanius, a converted Jew, seated at Salamis on the island of Cyprus, found himself located at the epicenter of a vast circuit of lands and heresies that surrounded him. The striking panorama of heretical species that he could spy from this vantage point set his Linnaean instincts alight. With a fervour that helped fire the age, he began categorizing, labeling, and describing them in his Panarion — a Medicine Box because it was intended to be a doctor's medical bag filled with the medicaments necessary to cure the poisonous infections of wrong belief.

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