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Classifying Christians"Ethnography, Heresiology, and the Limits of Knowledge in Late Antiquity"$
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Todd S. Berzon

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780520284265

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520284265.001.0001

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Comparing Theologies and Comparing Peoples

Comparing Theologies and Comparing Peoples

The Customs, Doctrines, and Dispositions of the Heretics

Chapter:
(p.58) 2 Comparing Theologies and Comparing Peoples
Source:
Classifying Christians
Author(s):

Todd S. Berzon

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520284265.003.0003

This chapter looks at the ethnographic microcosms of the heretics as recounted in the heresiologists' polemical writings. It examines the heresiologists' description of heretical customs and habits, including dietary practices, rituals, and textual traditions, in order to dissect the relationship between heresy, theology, and praxis. In tracing how ethnography was written “Christianly,” the chapter emphasizes—through a close reading of Epiphanius' description of the ascetical Messalians—how the study of the heretics both upended and reinforced ethnographic tropes and aspirations. The heresiologists used the opinions and practices of the heretics to produce sectarian communities and to identify heretical dispositions. In this way, the heresiologists established a culture of heresy in order to demolish it.

Keywords:   heretics, heresiologists, heresy, theology, Christian ethnography, Epiphanius, Messalians

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