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  • Writer's pictureRob

The Sixty-Eighth (Heresy)

I hope you had a wonderful week! Did you learn something new? Remember to seek! That's how we find the pearls He's hidden in His Word just for us. This week, we're going to look at a word that gets thrown around a lot. Mainly, it gets used by individuals attacking someone for a doctrine or belief they disagree with. We'll see what it really means, how it should be used, and how we are supposed to avoid it.

You might be interested to know that the word heresy/heresies occurs only four times in the KJV of scripture. The first occurrence is in Acts 24:14. What's interesting about this verse is that you'll find in some versions of scripture the word "way" is capitalized. Why would that be? In fact, that's what's being called heresy in this verse by Paul's accusers. In this chapter, Luke is recounting Paul's experience with being taken in for accusations, by Jews and others, that he was starting an insurrection, being a leader of the "Nazarenes."

As a side note, Nazarenes is the name given by Jews to those that followed Jesus. They were considered a sect, just like the Pharisees, Sadducees and the Essenes. Interestingly, the Greek word for sect is the same as that for heresy! So, when the accusers were saying Paul was a leader of the "sect of the Nazarenes," in the Greek they said he was the "leader of the Nazarene heresy."

Now, this gives us slightly more information, so we have to take a look at this Greek word. What we find is the Greek word translated to sect and heresy/heresies is hairesis. Our HELPS word-studies tells us it comes from the word haireomai, which means "personally select, choose." When we look at the word itself, it means "a strong, distinctive opinion," and it's clear this was intended as a word used to describe a strong choice that causes division. As you can see, it was used in the context of groups of Jews with differing beliefs, like the Sadducees who didn't believe in resurrection and the Pharisees who placed their man-made oral tradition in a position of such importance that it led people into the bondage of such tradition.

But let's bring this to today. When we apply this idea to what we see in the world today, we see that every denomination is hairesis because they're simply personal choices of what to believe. However, if you walk up to someone that considers themselves a part of a denomination and call them a heretic you'll likely be met with some intense emotions! So, it kinda makes you wonder how we got to the place where heresy means speaking or believing something that's against scripture.

Well, it turns out heresy has quite a past. Not that it wildly changed definitions over time, but that it was taken and used by various groups of people to cause division and even encourage torture and war. Obviously, there was the use of the word by the Roman Catholic Church to label and subsequently punish individuals, but there was also councils of select individuals that got together to determine what heresies were. So in the end, it turned into a word used by a group of people to label things they didn't agree with. And really, that's how it's used today.

In general, you like to think of a heresy that is something against scripture, but is it really? Or is it just something that's against your belief of scripture? Paul was a part of what they called the Way, which his accusers called hairesis, when really those in the Way would have called his accusers hairesis. Either way, this word just causes division, which we can see time and time again throughout history.

So how are we supposed to avoid hairesis? Simple. Avoid division! Listen, if someone doesn't believe the same thing as you, it's ok. All you can do is continue to love that person and pray that the Holy Spirit either convicts him or her of his or her error, of convicts you of yours. I guarantee that if you go into a conversation like that simply with the intention of talking about a topic rather than trying to convince the other person of what you believe you both will come away learning something and Jesus will likely be there leading you (Matthew 18:20).

Apparently, one of the key aspects of the Way was believing all things written in the law and the prophets. Paul pointed this out specifically, which means at least one of the Jewish "sects" did not have this belief. When you take account of your beliefs, do they include a wholly complete belief in scripture as Truth? When you read, "Jesus wept," do you wholeheartedly believe that He did? Or that six days was how long creation took?

Remember, everyone is a heretic to everyone else in some aspect or another. So rather than causing division by name-calling, approach in love with the hopes of everyone involved coming closer to Yehovah.

Shabbat Shalom and God bless you!

-Rob and Sara Gene

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