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
he 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).