On heresy in modern patristic scholarship: The case of evagrius ponticus

Heythrop Journal 53 (2):241-252 (2012)
Patristics is a lively scholarly domain in which theologians and historians contribute to the study of Christian antiquity. But modern trends in patristic study (especially the application of contemporary critical theory to ancient sources) are not always conducive to theological research. This paper identifies the preoccupation in modern patristic study with heresy as a major source of problems. The modern study of Evagrius Ponticus (c. 345–99) provides an exemplary case in which some of these problems can be identified and explored. The initial presentation of modern scholarship will bring into focus the way that Evagrius' relationship to the sixth-century condemnations of Origenism is interpreted by most scholars. Next, the paper identifies and evaluates recent indications that Evagrius is prized precisely because he is considered a heretic. In the final section of the paper, attention is paid to the problem of presuming that subsequent events disclose the theological meaning of earlier writings and to the problem of foreclosing independent theological assessment in order to preserve ancient condemnations. The conclusions suggest that preoccupations with alleged heresy can be every bit as detrimental to understanding of theological writings as preoccupations with orthodoxy
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-2265.2008.00428.x
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