Though Gnosticism was expelled from the Church as it perfected its
organization and institutions on the basis of the episcopate, the Canon of
Scripture, and the creeds, outside the Catholic Church, or the Church as
thus organized, Gnosticism existed for centuries, though rapidly declining
in the third century. The strength of the movement was still further
diminished by loss of many adherents to Manichaeanism (v. § 54), which
had much in common with Gnosticism. The persistence of these sects,
together with various later heresies, in spite of the very stringent laws
of the Empire against them (v. § 73) should prevent any hasty
conclusions as to the unity of the faith and the absence of sects in the
patristic age. Unity can be found only by overlooking those outside the
unity of the largest body of Christians, and agreement by ignoring those
who differed from it.
Theodoret of Cyrus, Epistulae 81, 145. (MSG, 83:1259, 1383.)
Ep. 81 was written to the Consul Nonus, A. D. 445. Ep. 145 was
written to the monks of Constantinople, A. D. 450.
Ep. 81. To every one else every city lies open, and that not only to the
followers of Arius and Eunomius, but to Manichaeans and Marcionites, and to
those suffering from the disease of Valentinus and Montanus, yes, and even
to pagans and Jews; but I, the foremost champion of the teaching of the
Gospel, am excluded from every city. I led eight villages of Marcionites
with their surrounding country into the way of truth, another full of
Eunomians and another of Arians I brought to the light of divine
knowledge, and, by God's grace, not a tare of heresy was left among us.
Ep. 145. I do indeed sorrow and lament that I am compelled by the attacks
of fever to adduce against men, supposed to be of one and the same faith
with myself, the arguments which I have already urged against the victims
of the plague of Marcion, of whom, by God's grace, I have converted more
than ten thousand and brought them to holy baptism.
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