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The Defence Against Heresy

The Church first met the various dangerous heresies which distracted it in
the second century by councils or gatherings of bishops ( 26). Although
it was not difficult to bring about a condemnation of novel and manifestly
erroneous doctrine, there was need of fixed norms and definite authorities
to which to appeal. This was found in the apostolic tradition, which could
be more clearly determined by reference to the continuity of the apostolic
office, or the episcopate, and especially to the succession of bishops in
the churches founded by Apostles ( 27), the apostolic witness to the
truth, or the more precise determination of what writings should be
regarded as apostolic, or the canon of the New Testament ( 28); and the
apostolic faith, which was regarded as summed up in the Apostles' Creed (
29). These norms of orthodoxy seem to have been generally established as
authoritative somewhat earlier in the West than in the East. The result
was that Gnosticism was rapidly expelled from the Church, though in some
forms it lingered for centuries ( 30), and that the Church, becoming
organized around the episcopate, assumed by degrees a rigid hierarchical
constitution ( 31).

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