July 1, 2024
Ministry Voice

Exploring the Meaning of Hairesis in Greek



Parts of Speech: Noun Feminine

Hairesis Definition

NAS Word Usage – Total: 9

  1. act of taking, capture: e.g. storming a city
  2. choosing, choice
  3. that which is chosen
  4. a body of men following their own tenets (sect or party)
    1. of the Sadducees
    2. of the Pharisees
    3. of the Christians
  5. dissensions arising from diversity of opinions and aims


What is the historical significance of the term “Hairesis” in Greek in the context of the Bible?

The term “Hairesis” holds a significant place in the Greek language, particularly in the context of the Bible. In Greek, “Hairesis” means a choice or a sect. It is important to understand the historical context in which this term is used in the Bible to grasp its full significance.

In the New Testament, “Hairesis” is mentioned several times, mostly translated as “sect” or “heresy.” This term is used to describe divisions or factions within a religious group, particularly referring to those who deviate from orthodox beliefs or teachings. The concept of “Hairesis” was crucial in early Christianity as the fledgling faith faced various challenges and diverging interpretations.

One significant mention of “Hairesis” in the Bible is found in Acts 24:14, where the apostle Paul defends himself before Governor Felix, stating, “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers.” Here, Paul acknowledges the label of being part of a sect (Hairesis) but asserts his commitment to worshiping God.

The term “Hairesis” also appears in Galatians 5:20, where it is listed among the works of the flesh, indicating a divisive or sectarian spirit that goes against the unity and harmony promoted in Christian communities.

Understanding the historical significance of “Hairesis” in the Greek context of the Bible sheds light on the early challenges faced by the early Christian communities in maintaining doctrinal purity and unity. It teaches believers the importance of discernment and adherence to true teachings while also warning against divisive attitudes that can lead to schisms and conflicts within the church.

How is the Concept of “Hairesis” Portrayed in Early Christian Writings and Teachings?

In the context of the Bible, the Greek word “hairesis” is used to refer to a division or sect. Its meaning goes beyond the modern understanding of a ‘heresy’ – an opinion or belief that goes against the official doctrine of a church. In early Christian writings, “hairesis” was used to describe factions or groups within the community of believers.

The concept of “hairesis” can be seen in the New Testament, where it is mentioned in several passages. In the Book of Acts, for example, the Apostle Paul warns against the dangers of divisive factions within the church. He writes, “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you” (1 Corinthians 11:19, KJV). Here, the term “heresies” is translated from the Greek “hairesis,” emphasizing the presence of differing opinions or factions.

Early Christian writers such as Ignatius of Antioch and Justin Martyr also discussed the concept of “hairesis” in their works. Ignatius, in his letters to various churches, urged believers to stay united in the faith and to avoid being swayed by false teachings. Justin Martyr, in his dialogue with Trypho, a Jewish scholar, argued against the divisions and sects that arose within Christianity.

The portrayal of “hairesis” in early Christian writings reflects a concern for maintaining unity and orthodoxy within the church. While diversity of thought was acknowledged, there was also a focus on preserving the core teachings of the Christian faith. The term served as a warning against divisions that could threaten the unity of the body of believers.

In what ways does the term “Hairesis” impact the understanding of religious diversity in biblical interpretation?

The term “Hairesis,” originating from the Greek language, holds significant importance in the study of religious diversity within biblical interpretation. In the context of the Bible, the word “Hairesis” is commonly translated as “sect” or “heresy.” Understanding the nuances of this term sheds light on how different religious beliefs and practices were perceived in the biblical times, which continues to influence interpretations today.

In the New Testament, “Hairesis” is mentioned several times, particularly in relation to conflicting beliefs and factions within the early Christian community. The Apostle Paul, in his letters, often warns against falling into “Hairesis,” emphasizing the importance of unity in faith. The term is used to denote a deviation from orthodox beliefs, leading to division and discord among believers.

The impact of “Hairesis” on the understanding of religious diversity lies in its portrayal of divergent beliefs as contentious and harmful to the body of believers. It highlights the struggle to maintain doctrinal purity and unity within the Christian faith, cautioning against the acceptance of teachings deemed heretical. This perspective shapes how religious diversity is viewed in the context of biblical interpretation, emphasizing the importance of discernment and adherence to core theological principles.

Furthermore, the term “Hairesis” underscores the complexity of navigating belief systems within the biblical narrative. It prompts readers to consider the implications of differing interpretations and the potential consequences of deviating from established truths. By examining how the term is used in various biblical passages, one can gain insight into the challenges faced by early Christian communities in maintaining doctrinal integrity amidst diverse theological viewpoints.


In conclusion, the Greek word “Hairesis” in the context of the Bible holds a rich and nuanced meaning that goes beyond its simple translation of “sect” or “party.” It signifies a division or a choice that sets one apart from the larger group, often with the implication of causing strife or discord. Understanding the original Greek roots of this term offers a deeper insight into the various sects and factions mentioned in the New Testament, shedding light on the complexities of early Christian communities. By exploring the historical and cultural context of “Hairesis,” we can appreciate the importance of unity and cohesion within the body of believers, while also recognizing the diversity and freedom of thought that characterized the early Christian movement.

About the Author

Ministry Voice

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Want More Great Content?

Check Out These Articles