The concept of heresy was defined in Christian civilization by processes of differentiation, dissent and disagreement over doctrinal orthodoxy defined as such within the institutionalization of Christianity and its doctrinal systematization.
It’s indeed extensive the set of movements and heretic currents and dissidents that have emerged and proliferated in different places where Christianity was implanted. The definition of heresy considered here as an operative concept is one that encompasses different doctrinal currents which diverged from the orthodoxy here taken as a frame of reference: the orthodoxy established by the Church with the power that was being increasingly centralized in Rome. This orthodoxy has gained special strength and consistency with the Constantinization process of the Church, leading to its Romanization in terms of reference to a leadership that is recognized by those who regard this doctrine as true.
The orthodox doctrine was built and refined across the centuries through the ecumenical councils and the supreme ecclesiastical authority represented by the Roman Pontiff. Through formal acts of assertion of a doctrinal truth and expressing condemnation of what they considered erroneous currents or doctrines, by reference to their orthodoxy, they have objectively established what they considered to be anathematized heresy. The now known as the Catholic Church eventually became the heiress of this historical consolidation process of an ecclesiological and theological orthodoxy now qualified as Catholic, asserting itself as such in dispute and competition with schisms and heresies that fractured universal Christendom.
The vastness, the influence and the importance of the so-called heresies that asserted themselves at different times in the history of Christianity are widely known. In fact, the knowledge and understanding of the history of culture, politics, religion and mentality of the last two thousand years of history marked by Christianity are deeply shaped by the role of thought considered heretical. The very understanding of how a particular orthodoxy was imposed could only benefit with its controversial confrontation with competing doctrinal formulations.
The reasons for the affirmation of what ultimately embodied and became known in Western Christian civilization as orthodoxy, as opposed to heterodoxy, are variously complex. Heresy, which is a dynamic expression of heterodox thinking, may be designated in many ways: dissidence, marginality, the defeat of Christianity.
In this work of synthesis and systematization of existing knowledge about the history of heretical currents, we intend to undertake an interdisciplinary approach, combining in particular Theology, History of Culture and History of Mentalities, Philosophy and Literary Sciences, among other fields of knowledge.
There is currently a lack of synthetic, upgraded tools to study and systematize the knowledge of the great heretical movements and other dissidents, highlighting the overlap in culture and its multiple expressions from philosophy to art. With the development of a dictionary on heresies, giving special attention to their expressions in history and culture, we intend to fill this gap.
From the point of view of research and systematization of knowledge, it should be clear that this work intends to cover the issue of heresy but only of the Christianity’s universe, and by specific reference to a particular orthodoxy, as mentioned above. Aware that the concept of heresy and the phenomenon of heretical movements by reference to orthodoxy also occur within the framework of other religious, political and cultural systems, we are just dealing here with heresy in the context of Christianity, for the sake of thematic circumscription and economy of means.
From the point of view of a chronological horizon, we intend to carry out a synthesis of knowledge inscribed in a longue durée perspective. Thus, the dictionary is intended to embrace the systematization of knowledge of heretical currents since the dawn of Christianity until the Second Vatican Council.