Christian Heresies  

Heresy (/ˈhɛɹəsi/) is a false teaching in contradiction to established beliefs or customs

In Early Christianity, the crime of Heresy did not exist. Small Christian communities believed what they wanted, and worshiped as they chose.

  • No central authority
  • No set rituals
  • No agreed canon of scripture
  • No Church hierarchy
  • No established body of doctrine

Roman Catholicism first introduced Heresy as a Crime
Initially, heresy related to crimes of a religious nature, i.e. people who disagreed with Roman Catholicism. Later on, heresy was extended to include many aspects of daily life, like a 'Social Control' mechanism.
W Heresy

Heresy carried the Death Penalty
In 380 AD, Emperor Theodosius ordered Christians to embrace the term 'Catholic Christians'. The rest were judged to be demented, insane and followers of heretical dogmas ... 'they shall be smitten first by divine vengeance'
From 430 AD, virtually all Christian theologians agreed heretics should be PERSECUTED and KILLED. Heresy was explicitly identified as as akin to leprosy. A disease that threatened to destroy a healthy body of believers, if they strayed from [Rome] Church's view of religious orthodoxy Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 AD
Thomas thought it virtuous to burn heretics, and favoured the option of burning them alive Thomas Aquinas, 1225-1274 AD

The table below lists a few crimes of Christian heresies, which led to excommunication, imprisonment or even death at the hands of Roman authorities.

Crimes of Heresy
1. HERESY | Adoptionism
Belief that, God granted Jesus powers and then adopted him as a Son.
2. HERESY | Albigenses/Catharism
Belief in, Reincarnation and two gods: one good and other evil.
3. HERESY | Apollinarianism
Belief that, Jesus' divine will overshadowed and replaced the human will.
4. HERESY | Arianism
Belief that, Jesus was a lesser, created being.
5. HERESY | Docetism
Belief that, Jesus was divine but only seemed to be human.
6. HERESY | Donatism
Belief that, validity of sacraments depends on character of the minister.
7. HERESY | Eutychianism
Belief that, Jesus' finite human nature is swallowed up in His infinite divine nature.
8. HERESY | Gnosticism
Belief in, dualism of good and bad and special knowledge for salvation.
In 385 AD, the first recorded executions for heresy involved Priscillian, Bishop of Ávila who was charged with witchcraft, though his real crime seems to have been agreeing with Gnosticism.
Emperor Maimus, 385 AD
In 450 AD, Pope Leo the Great commended the Emperor Justinian for torturing and executing heretics on behalf of the Christian Church.
Emperor Justinian, 450 AD
9. HERESY | Kenosis
Belief that, Jesus gave up some divine attributes while on earth.
10. HERESY | Marcionism
Belief that, God of the Old Testament is evil, and God of the New Testament is good.
11. HERESY | Modalism/Sabellianism
Belief that, in God is one person in three modes.
12. HERESY | Monarchianism
Belief that, God is one person.
13. HERESY | Monophysitism
Belief that, Jesus had only one nature: divine.
14. HERESY | Nestorianism
Belief that, Jesus was two persons.
15. HERESY | Patripassionism
Belief that, the Father suffered on the cross.
16. HERESY | Pelagianism
Belief that, Man is unaffected by the fall and can keep all of God's laws.
17. HERESY | Semi-Pelagianism
Belief that, Man and God co-operate to achieve man's salvation.
18. HERESY | Socinianism
Belief in, denial of the Trinity. Also, Jesus is a deified man.
19. HERESY | Subordinationism
Belief that, the Son is lesser than the Father in essence and attributes.
20. HERESY | Tritheism
Belief that, the Trinity is really three separate gods.
21. HERESY | Unitarianism
Belief that, Jesus was a normal human being and not a deity or God incarnate
In 1612, Unitarians were executed in London, Lichfield and in Dumfries.
Other Heresies
22. HERESY | Call for Social Reform
Anabaptists (known as Baptists today) call for Social Reform, to favour adult baptism over infant baptism, and to embrace pacifism - they would not kill, condone capital punishment or serve in armies. The Anabaptist leaders died in various ways:
In 1525, Thomas Münzer was burned at the stake.
In 1526, Feliz Manz was drowned (drowning was a favourite way of executing Anabaptists because of their views on baptism).
In 1527, Michael Sattler had his tongue cut off, was mutilated by red-hot pincers, and was burned alive.
In 1530, a town, Münster, converted to Anabaptism in the 1530s, the Anabaptist leaders were publicly tortured to death with red-hot pincers and their bodies hung in cages outside a church, where they remained for years.
23. HERESY | Seperate Church and State
In 1592, Henry Barrow and John Greenwood, who preached congregationalism, were hanged at Tyburn for "obstinately refusing to come to church". Their real crime seems to have been to advocate the separation of Church and State.
In 1243, following the apostolic commands of Pope Innocent IV, the Archbishop of Narbonne had 200 heretics burned alive.
24. HERESY | Belief that Church power and wealth was un-Christian
In 1155, Arnold held that the wealth and power of the Church was un-christian. He led a movement to establish a Roman republic and return the clergy to apostolic poverty. He was hanged and then burned as a heretic by Pope Adrian IV.
Arnold of Brescia, a pupil of Abelard, 1155 AD
25. HERESY | Deny authority of priests
In 1184, the Waldensians, or Vaudois denied the authority of Christian priests and objected to Church papal corruption. They were ex-communicated as heretics in 1184 AD at the Council of Verona.
In 1393, 150 heretics were burned at Grenoble in a single day.
26. HERESY | Reject authority of Archbishop of Bremen
In 1229, Pope Gregory declared it the duty of every Christian Catholic to persecute heretics. He preached a crusade against the Stedingers, a Germanic people for rejecting the authority of the Archbishop of Bremen. An army of 40,000 under the bishops of Ratzebourg, Lubeck, Osnabrück, Munster and Minden slaughtered nearly 11,000 Stedingers in battle. Many were drowned in the Weser along with women, children and old men. The whole population was exterminated.
Pope Gregory IX, 1229 AD
27. HERESY | Criticise the Archbishop
In 1633, William Prynne, a Puritan lawyer, published criticisms of Archbishop Laud. As punishment, his ears hacked off by the public hangman.
In 1637, William Prynne was charged and tried again by the Star Chamber. As Prynne still had stumps left on the side of his head, these were severed off. Prynne was branded on the cheeks, and then imprisoned for life.
28. HERESY | Criticise a cleric
29. HERESY | Imitate Jesus' Apostles
In 1300, the Apostlicals, a Christian sect tried to live like the apostles. The sect's founder was burned at the stake. His successor, Dulcino of Novara was publicly torn to pieces with hooks, as was his wife.
30. HERESY | Calculate Jesus' birthdate using Astrology
In 1327, Cecco d'Ascoli, an Italian scientist, was burned at the stake for having calculated the date of Jesus' birth using the stars.
31. HERESY | Claim Jesus and disciples did not own property
Under Pope John, spiritual heretics were burned to death for claiming Jesus and his disciples had not owned property, preaching absolute poverty, wearing traditional hoods and habits and refusing to lay up stores of food.
Pope John XXII
32. HERESY | Translate or Print the Bible in another language
Translating the bible or helping with the printing of such a bible was heresy according to the Roman Church. In general, the punishment was women were buried alive, and men were burned alive.
In 1536, William Tyndale translated the Greek Bible into English. He was arrested in the Netherlands, and was duly executed.
One printer in Paris was burned on a pyre of his own books.
33. HERESY | Cite inappropriate Bible verses
In 1676, a Protestant writing master from Toledo was burned at the stake for having decorated a room with the verses of the Ten Commandments.
34. HERESY | Read the Bible
35. HERESY | Speak the Greek language
36. HERESY | Reject Infant Baptism
37. HERESY | Refuse to take an Oath
38. HERESY | Deny money lending is Sinful
39. HERESY | Deny dead will be resurrected
In 1531, Martin Luther started advocating the death penalty for heretics and blasphemers. He thought it should be a capital offence to deny the resurrection of the dead
Martin Luther, 1531 AD
40. HERESY | Deny existence of Heaven and Hell
In 1531, Martin Luther started advocating the death penalty for heretics and blasphemers. He thought it should be a capital offence to deny the reality of heaven and Hell
Martin Luther, 1531 AD
41. HERESY | Deny the Eucharist
In 1546, Anne Askew was burned at Smithfield because of her beliefs about the Eucharist.
42. HERESY | Refuse to attend Mass
Any person in Villaro who refused to attend the Roman Catholic mass was executed in one of the following ways::

  • Crucified upside down
  • Maimed and left to die of starvation
  • Strips of flesh cut off their bodies until they bled to death
  • Stoned to death
  • Impaled alive upon stakes or hooks
  • Dragged along the ground until there flesh was scraped away
  • Their mouths stuffed with gun-powder which was then ignited
  • Even children were killed in various ways before the eyes of their parents
  • Daniel Rambaut had his toes and fingers cut off in sections: one joint being amputated each day in an attempt to make him recant and accept the Roman Catholic faith.
    Paolo Garnier of Roras was castrated, then skinned alive.
    Waldensians Heresy, Peter Waldo of Lyon, 1184 AD
    43. HERESY | Belief Mass attendees receive Bread and Wine
    44. HERESY | Refuse to pay Church contributions/taxes
    45. HERESY | Not thinking like a Catholic
    Around 1520, the Diocese of Lincoln was convicting over 100 people a year for the crime of "not thinking like a Catholic".
    46. HERESY | Deny Free-Will
    In 1528, Patrick Hamilton was burned at St Andrews for holding heretical opinions, notably a denial of the freedom of will.
    47. HERESY | Refuse to kill Chickens
    In 1051, a group of Christians who declined to kill chickens were executed for heresy.
    Goslar, Germany 1051 AD
    48. HERESY | Become a vegetarian
    Only eating vegetables, and never meat
    49. HERESY | Consume meat on Friday
    Secular Law
    Today, due to Secular Laws, the Churches now have more difficulty in persecuting heretics, even though persecution is still part of mainstream Christian thought.

    The oath taken by Roman Catholic bishops at their consecration includes the following undertaking "with all my power I will persecute and make war upon heretics".

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