One helpful way to understand what we believe as Christians is to clarify what we do not believe. A heresy is a teaching that is rejected by the Church. There have been many clearly defined heresies throughout the history of the Catholic Church especially in the early years as the Nicene Creed was developed.
Download a worksheet below to help teach about the major heresies in the early Church including Docetism, Manichaeism, Arianism, Nestorianism, Pelagianism, and Monophysitism.
The Early Christian Heresies
Each of these heresies were debated and condemned by the Church in ecumenical councils:
- Docetism (1st-2nd centuries): Claimed that Jesus’s body was an illusion.
- Manichaeism (3rd century): Claimed that everything physical was evil.
- Arianism (3rd-4th centuries): Denied the divinity of Jesus Christ.
- Nestorianism (4th-5th centuries): Denied that the Virgin Mary was the Mother of God and claimed that she was only the mother of Christ’s body.
- Pelagianism (4th-5th centuries): Denied Original Sin and expected true Christians to be perfect.
- Monophysitism (5th century): Claimed that Jesus’s divine nature overwhelmed his human nature.
Early Christian Heresies Reflection Questions
Here are the questions your students will answer in the worksheet:
- What are some of the common ideas among these heresies?
- Why do you think it is so important to express equally both Jesus Christ’s humanity and his divinity?
- If you had to pick one heresy that people are tempted to believe most today. What would it be and why?
- When you have questions about your faith and the teachings of the Church, where do you go for answers?
Download the Early Christian Heresies Worksheet
Download a copy of a printable handout to teach about these heresies here:
Get the Complete Set of Church History Worksheets
The Religion Teacher’s Church History Worksheet Collection includes twenty printable handouts featuring the major events, people, and movements in the Catholic Church in the last 2,000 years.