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SECT (ἁίρεσις). The Gr. word hairesis, from which the Eng. “heresy” is transliterated, is derived from haireo, to take, to choose, to prefer. Hence, that which is taken or chosen in a religious or political sense is a heresy, party, or sect. The Gr. hairesis appears nine times in the NT, but is tr. “sect” in only three instances in the RSV. It does not mean “heresy” in the later ecclesiastical sense, but a school, party, or body of people separating themselves from others by choice.

The three uses of “sect” all refer to the Christian movement, and every instance with a suggestion of reproach. In Paul’s trial before Felix, Tertullus charged Paul with being “a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5). In Paul’s reply he called Christianity “the Way, which they call a sect” (24:14). The Jews in Rome said to Paul, “with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against” (28:22).

The same Gr. word was tr. “party of the Sadducees” (5:17), and “party of the Pharisees” (15:5; 26:5). It was also tr. “factions” (1 Cor 11:19); “party spirit” (Gal 5:20); and “destructive heresies” (2 Pet 2:1).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


See Heresy.