The Christian church was highly fissiparous and many local Christian movements ended up being condemned and expelled by the “catholic” or “universal” church. The Ebionites, descendants of the original Jewish Christians, regarded Jesus Christ as the Messiah but rejected the doctrine of his divinity and the virgin birth. Gnosticism was a dualistic movement that emerged from Platonism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity. The most enduring of the dualistic movements were the Manichaean followers of the third century Persian profit Mani, whose radical opposition between matter (evil) and spirit (good) profoundly challenged Christian orthodoxy. The rigorous perfectionism of the Donatists, and the rejection of clergy they deemed to be compromised, provoked a schism in the church in Carthage in the early fourth century CE. Arius’s easily comprehensible doctrine maintained, simply, that Jesus Christ could not be “co-eternal” and of the same essence as God the Father because “if the father begat the Son… it is evident that there was a time when the Son was not.” Arianism flourished amongst the Germanic tribes.
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