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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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Knowledge Fair and Foul

Knowledge Fair and Foul

The Rhetoric of Heresiological Inquiry

(p.156) 5 Knowledge Fair and Foul
Classifying Christians

Todd S. Berzon

University of California Press

This chapter studies heresiological theorizations of social discourse and exchange—the lifeblood of ethnography. Tertullian's Rule against the Heretics insists on the theological futility of investigating heresy. He cautions against inquiry born of curiosity—in which heresy serves as the epitome of curiosity—because it leads the mind astray. Heresiology thus becomes a meditation on the nature and limitations of Christian knowledge. The heresiologists' fear of delving too deeply into the abyss of heresy ran up against their self-described effort to serve the greater Christian world as its polemical ethnographers. To counteract the corruption of the heretics, the heresiologists deployed a rhetoric of antiethnographic ethnography. They expressed their disdain for engaging with and collecting knowledge about the heretics just as they heralded their triumph over these blasphemous peoples.

Keywords:   heresiology, heresy, Tertullian, heretics, Christian knowledge, antiethnographic ethnography

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