As Christianity grew, its troubles and growing pains came not only from the external source of the Roman authorities but also from its own ranks. Many Christians struggled to interpret the meaning of the Gospel and its lessons. From the beginning Christianity was not limited to the performance of certain rituals, nor even to a certain code of moral behavior. Rather, it proclaimed a new message that touched upon the whole of reality in all of its depth and breadth. The proper interpretation of this message
of the Gospel was sometimes the subject of disagreement and debate. At various points in its history the Christian community has had to declare which interpretations were consistent with the essential message of the Gospel and which were not. Those that were not were called "heresies," meaning that they were misinterpretations of the message of the Gospel. The interpretations that were consistent with the essential message of the Gospel were declared "correct" or "orthodox."
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