"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Heresy's History

It has for too long been a tedious habit on the part of some academics and others to sneer at the very categories of "heresy" and "orthodoxy," viewing them through the so-called hermeneutic of suspicion as merely labels crudely covering nothing more than a will to power. But if you read early Christian history, you know how seriously Christians felt about these issues and how crucial it was to get them right. Routledge e-mails me this week with word of a new book that has just been released treating the history of the concept of heresy: Robert M. Royalty, The Origin of Heresy: A History of Discourse in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity (Routledge 2012), 246pp. 

About this book the publisher tells us:
Heresy is a central concept in the formation of Orthodox Christianity. Where does this notion come from? This book traces the construction of the idea of ‘heresy’ in the rhetoric of ideological disagreements in Second Temple Jewish and early Christian texts and in the development of the polemical rhetoric against ‘heretics,’ called heresiology. Here, author Robert Royalty argues, one finds the origin of what comes to be labelled ‘heresy’ in the second century. In other words, there was such as thing as ‘heresy’ in ancient Jewish and Christian discourse before it was called ‘heresy.’ And by the end of the first century, the notion of heresy was integral to the political positioning of the early orthodox Christian party within the Roman Empire and the range of other Christian communities.This book is an original contribution to the field of Early Christian studies. Recent treatments of the origins of heresy and Christian identity have focused on the second century rather than on the earlier texts including the New Testament. The book further makes a methodological contribution by blurring the line between New Testament Studies and Early Christian studies, employing ideological and post-colonial critical methods.

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