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Orthodoxy and the Courts in Late Antiquity$
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Caroline Humfress

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780198208419

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198208419.001.0001

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Defining Heresy and Orthodoxy

Defining Heresy and Orthodoxy

(p.217) 8 Defining Heresy and Orthodoxy
Orthodoxy and the Courts in Late Antiquity

Caroline Humfress (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that late Roman heresiology was not simply a discourse controlled by the ‘orthodox’ at the expense of the ‘heretic’ — all Christians were inscribed within it whether they wanted to be or not. Nor was the late Roman discourse of heresiology a ‘rhetorical construct’; rather it produced its own field. In other words, it created the very objects that previously it had been thought merely to explain or describe. Heresiological categories and classifications were part of late Roman lived experience. What was to be defined as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ belief, was constructed through argument; moreover, the very processes of theological and legal definition threw up new matters to be defined and categorized. Individuals, however, are not passive subjects of a given structure (such as ‘law’ or ‘orthodoxy’, for example), but rather active participants — constituting and reconstituting the structure itself by their constant negotiation of its rules and expectations.

Keywords:   late Roman, heresiology, heretics, orthodox, belief

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