Biblical definition of heresy

The Explanatory Dictionary of the Romanian Language (DEX) defines heresy as follows:

Heresy, heresies, s.f. 1. A religious doctrine or belief which arises in the bosom of a church, deviating from consecrated dogmas, and which is condemned by that church. 2. FIG. Mistake, error, wandering. – From fr. heresy, lat. haeresis (DEX, p. 346)


According to this definition, for any church or denomination, all others, which do not share its doctrines, are heresies. The same applies to others. I mean that in this way, all the churches and denominations in the world can categorize the others as heresies. An example in this respect can be the great church schism of 1054 when the Catholic and Orthodox churches declared each other “anathema,” meaning heretical.

Who then is right and what is the criterion by which you can know what is right doctrine and what is heresy? In this article I propose to make a Biblical analysis on this subject, because the Bible is the Word of God, recognized by most churches, but even if some do not want to recognize it as it is, nothing changes from it. The Holy Scriptures remain and will always be the Word of God.

The word “heresy” is mentioned in the New Testament and is the Greek word “hairesis,” which can be translated “a choice,” or “group,” or “sect.” In fact, let’s look at the Bible texts where this text is applied and so we will see how they were translated and what they teach us about heresy.

1 Corinthians 11:19 contains a mention of the Greek word “hairesis,” which is translated here with the word “factions.” The apostle Paul speaks of the way Christians in Corinth came and partook of the sacrament, that is, the Lord’s Supper. Here is what he says:

For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there also have to be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. (1 Corinthians 11:18-19 NASB)

In the situation described, we see that the heretics have not yet come out of the church, but, being with other Christians, have created a group that brings division in the church. Even if they are with other Christians, heretics do not have peace and cooperation with them. This is the effect that heresies bring, they create parties within the church and ultimately lead to division.

Galatians 5:20 translates the word “hairesis” with “factions” or “divisions.” The churches of Galatia were planted by the apostle Paul, but were exposed to an acute attack by the heretical teaching of the Judaizers, who said that it is not enough to believe in the Lord Jesus to be saved, you must also keep the commandments of the Old Testament Law, such as circumcision, the Sabbath, various washings, food restrictions, and more. Paul wrote this epistle very angrily, and he was most upset by the naivete of the Christians in Galatia, who were so “easily misled” in this heresy. When he lists the works of the flesh, Paul also lists the heresies. Here is the biblical passage:

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: sexual immorality, impurity, indecent behavior, idolatry, witchcraft, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 NASB)

According to this biblical passage, heresies are the deeds of a sinful nature, which are condemned, and those who practice them will not inherit the kingdom of God.

2 Peter 2:1 is the biblical reference where the Greek word “hairesis” was translated with the word “heresy.” Here is what the biblical text says:

But false prophets also appeared among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. (2 Peter 2:1 NASB)

According to this passage, heresy is a teaching that brings destruction and is slipped in by false teachers, that is, by those who do not adhere to the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, but sneak in another teaching.

As you can see, all these passages speak nothing of the doctrine of one church or another, but of the teaching of our Lord God. Heresy is a wrong teaching that goes against the sound teaching of the Bible, which is the Word of God.

How well do you know the Holy Scriptures? How much time do you spend studying them every day? Only personal and deep knowledge of the Bible can protect you from any heretical teaching that is abundantly preached around you.

Don’t procrastinate. Go today and buy a Bible and start studying it systematically and deeply. Only in this way can you know the Lord Jesus and eternal life and stand firm in the face of destructive heresies. Do not rely on what people say without checking the Holy Scriptures.

Translated by Ina Croitoru