SACRILEGE (săk'rĭ-lĕj). The expression commit sacrilege, used once (Rom.2.22 kjv, mlb), translates hierosyleō in the NT; hierosylos, a related term, may generally mean one who commits irreverent acts against a holy place.

SACRILEGE (ἱαροσυλημα; the robbing of temples, violating the sacred).

The word occurs twice in the NT. The Ephesian shrine-makers, fearing a loss in income, warned against the desecration of the temple of Diana (Acts 19:27), and Paul charged the Jews with inconsistency and asked rhetorically: “You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?” (Rom 2:22). It occurs also in 2 Maccabees 4:39 where there is described the looting of the temple treasures by the renegade priest Lysimachus.

In Rom. law the term connoted the removal of a sacred object from a sacred place, and carried severe penalties. Cicero wrote: “Let him be treated as a parricide who steals or carries off ought sacred or what is entrusted to a sacred person” (De Legibus, ii, 9). In Ger. law the meaning was extended to cover the removal of a sacred object from any assigned place. In the Middle Ages it was viewed as a crime against both church and state, punishable by fines and even execution. The term in the narrower sense denoted the theft of any sacred object and in the broader, any injury or dishonor inflicted upon a sacred object or person.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

sak’-ri-lej: For "commit sacrilege" in Ro 2:22 (the King James Version and the English Revised Version margin), the Revised Version (British and American) has "rob temples," which more exactly expresses the meaning of the verb (hierosuleo; compare Ac 19:37, "robbers of temples" (which see)). The noun occurs in 2 Macc 4:39 (the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American)) for the corresponding form hierosulema.