“Varii errores qui ab origine mundi emerserunt”. The semantic scope of the term “heresy” in Philastrius’ of Brescia Diversarum hereseon liber


The bishop of Brescia, Philastrius, author of the first Latin catalogue of he­resies, written between 380 and 388, presented in his treaty an extremely large number of heterodox movements: 28 within Judaism and 128 in early Christianity. This comes as a result of a wide understanding of the term heresis. For Philastrius this term was synonymous with the term error, recognized as any deviation from the universal truth in the history of the world, inspired by Satan as “the father of lies”, ocurring primarily in Judaism and Christianity. Among the early Christian views defined by the bishop of Brescia as heresy five groups can be distinguished. The first group includes mainly the erroneous views on fundamental theological questions contained in the rule of faith, such as the concept of a creator God and saviour Jesus Christ. The second set of he­resies, closely related with the previous one, contains the erroneous doctrines of anthropology, such as questioning the resurrection of the human body or the view of the materiality of the human soul. The third group includes the views related to the misinterpretation of Scripture, especially exaggerated literal interpretations of the texts of the Old Testament, as well as the cosmological views which do not agree with descriptions contained within the Bible. The fourth group contains the moral issues related to the based on laxism or rigorism way of life, as well as to the attitude of lack of deference to the laws of the Church, but non-threatening the primary truths of the Christian faith. The fifth group of heresies includes the movements defined by the authors of the late patristic period as a schizm, while the term schisma is not at all used by the bishop of Brescia in his work. The semantic scope of the term heresis in Philastrius’ treaty went beyond the noncompliance with the regula fidei. According to the bishop of Brescia each offense – whether in doctrinal teaching or practice of life, as well as with regard to the understanding of the text of Scripture – is a heresy because it offends God and the Church. Therefore, in Philastrius opinion one should not differentiate between superior and minor error, but equally condemn them as attitudes directed against God as the Father of Truth.


Filastrius of Brescia; heresy; schism; early Christian theology

Augustinus, De fide et symbolo, PG 40, 181-196.
Augustinus, Epistulae 185-270, ed. A. Goldbacher, CSEL 57, Vindobonae – Lipsiae 1911.
Augustinus, De haeresibus, PL 42, 21-50.
Basilius Caesariensis, De iudicio Dei, PG 31, 653-676.
Basilius Caesariensis, Epistulae, ed. Y. Courtonne: Saint Basile, Lettres, vol. 1-3, Paris 1957-1966.
Epiphanius, Panarion, ed. K. Holl, GCS 25, Leipzig 1915; GCS 31, Leipzig 1922; GCS 37, Leipzig 1933.
Filastrius Brixiensis, Diversarum hereseon liber, ed. F. Heylen – G. Banterle, Scriptores circa Ambrosium 2, Milano – Roma 1991.
Irenaeus, Adversus haereses V, ed. A. Rousseau – L. Doutreleau – Ch. Mercier, SCh 152- 153, Paris 1969.
Isidorus Hispalensis, De haeresibus liber, ed. A.C. Vega, PLS 4, 1815-1820.
Johannes Damascenus, Liber de haeresibus, ed. B. Kotter, in: Die Schriften des Johannes Damaskos, vol. 4: Liber de haeresibus. Opera polemica, PTS 22, Berlin 1981, 1-67.
Tertullianus, De anima, ed. J.H. Waszink, CCL 2, Turnhout 1954, 779-869.
Theodoretus Cyrensis, Haereticarum fabularum compendium, PG 83, 335-556.
Gilski M., Epifaniusz z Salaminy i jego „Panarion”, in: Epifaniusz z Salaminy, Panarion. Herezje 1-33. Tekst grecki i polski, przekład i wstęp M. Gilski, opr. i kom. A. Baron, Kraków 2015, 5-20.
Guibert J. De, La notion d’hérésie chez s. Augustin, BLE 21 (1920) 369-382.
Moutsoulas E., Der Begriff „Häresie” bei Epiphanius von Salamis, StPatr 7 (1966) 362-371.
Stachura M., Heretycy, schizmatycy i manichejczycy wobec cesarstwa rzymskiego (lata 324-428, wschodnia część Imperium), Kraków 2000.
Szram M., Ciało zmartwychwstałe w myśli patrystycznej przełomu II i III wieku, Lublin 2010.
Szram M., Duchowy sens liczb w alegorycznej egzegezie aleksandryjskiej (II-V w.), Lublin 2001.
Szram M., Geneza herezji wczesnochrześcijańskich w ujęciu Filastriusza z Brescii, "Vox Patrum" 65 (2016) 631-651.
Widok N., Ortodoksja, herezja, schizma – wyjaśnienie pojęć, w: Ortodoksja, herezja, schizma w Kościele starożytnym, red. F. Drączkowski – J. Pałucki – P. Szczur – M. Szram – M. Wysocki – M. Ziółkowska, Lublin, 2012, 15-34.
Young F.M., Did Epihanius know what he meant by heresy?, StPatr 17/1 (1982) 199-205.

Published : 2018-12-16

Szram, M. (2018). “Varii errores qui ab origine mundi emerserunt”. The semantic scope of the term “heresy” in Philastrius’ of Brescia Diversarum hereseon liber. Vox Patrum, 68, 315-325. https://doi.org/10.31743/vp.3358

Mariusz Szram 
Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski Jana Pawła II  Poland

Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 3 4 > >>