Heresy (Greek, "choice"), the adoption by persons professing Christianity of opinions at variance with the general teaching of the Church.
Heretics had already appeared in the Apostolic age - viz. Judaisers, who strove to maintain the old dispensation, Nicolaitans (Rev. ii.), Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Tim. ii. 17), Simon Magus, and Cerinthus (q.v.). The principal heresiarchs and heretical sects are treated separately; a summary of the chief points concerning which unorthodox views arise, with the names of leaders or sects who supported them, will therefore be sufficient here. (1) The Creation and the origin of evil - Gnostics, Manichaeans. (2) The Trinity - Montanists; Monarchians, Ebionites, Carpocrates, Arians; Macedonians; Photinians. (3) The Person of Christ - Arius; Valentinus, Tatian, Docetee, Monophysites, Monothelites; Cerinthus, Basilides, Nestorius, Eutyches. The laws De Hwrdicis in the Justinian Code, a collection of all preceding enactments, by which heresy was made a civil crime, involving in some cases the penalty of death, we're subsequently adopted in the various kingdoms of Europe. Persons suspected of heresy were tried by the archbishop and his council in a provincial synod, and, if found guilty, were handed over to the civil arm. The English statute De Haretico Comburendo (2 Henry IV. c. 15) empowered the diocesan to hand over a convicted heretic to the civil arm without receiving a royal writ confirming the sentence to death. It was repealed in the reign of Charles II.