“αιρετικον ανθρωπον” (Titus 3:10)

How should we translate “αιρετικον ανθρωπον”, in Titus 3:10?  Looking at the Bible Gateway site, I find an interesting range.  Greek;

  • KJV: “A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject”
  • NIV: “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.”
  • NASB: “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning”;
  • ESV: “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him”;
  • Darby: “An heretical man after a first and second admonition have done with”
  • NRSV: “After a first and second admonition, have nothing more to do with anyone who causes divisions
  • Vulgate: “hereticum hominem post unam et secundam correptionem devita”

The term here is “hairetikon anthropon”, singular and masculine and accusative. 

The most natural English usage would appear to be ‘heretic’ or ‘heretical man’.  Why don’t we say so?  How would we translate this in a patristic text? The Vulgate does not hesitate to say “haereticum hominem” – “heretic man”.

A heretic is not necessarily a “divisive person”, after all.  The Greek word, surely, will relate more to the variety of belief in the philosophical schools (haereses) than to modern ecumenism, or indeed even to 4th and 5th century doctrinal debates?

Perhaps someone with the relevant tools at hand would care to do a word-study on this.  What really is meant here?

15 thoughts on ““αιρετικον ανθρωπον” (Titus 3:10)

  1. Hi Roger,

    I don’t really have the relevant tools at hand. But what about, and as a way of maintaining what is implied in the greek verb haireo, i.e. “to choose,” by translating it “a person who has chosen another path”?

  2. I wondered about this myself; the idea of choosing your own religion (rather than submitting to the gospel revelation) seems to me definitely involved here.

    Isn’t it annoying that the tools we need aren’t on the web?

  3. In 9th grade Religious Education (in Greece we do religious education from 3rd to 12th grade, by far the most boring course) we learned that a heretic is someone who knows his choice is wrong but chooses to be wrong. The word heretic in modern (at least) Greek NEVER has a positive meaning

  4. Hey Roger,

    I think that that the modern translations have probably got it right when translating “hairetikon ” as “divisive” or “factious.” The Greek-English dictionary of the NT and Other Early Christian Lit. gives a rather short definition for “hairetikos” as “factious, causing divisions, perhaps heretical.”

    The same definition is more explicit with “hairesis” (commonly translated as heresy). It says that this can either be a “sect, party, school” or “in in a later sense a heretical sect.” Another definition is “a dissension or faction” and a third possibility is an “opinion or dogma.”

    I guess what this comes down to is that “hairetikos” is someone who creates splits in the church. This may be over doctrinal matters, but could also refer to practical things, or, really, anything the “hairetikos” is divisive about. People who try to get pastors fired for insignificant things (like how they deliver sermons) seem to me to fit the category of “hairetikos” rather well. I would imagine that in later christian literature the meaning began to adopt more of the doctrinal meaning.

    Tom

  5. The only example of hairetikos in all of the LXX, NT, and any Christian writings earlier than 150 is the one you quoted in Titus, at least that was all I could find. In terms of secular references the 19th century Lidell and Scott Oxford Dictionary and the NT and other Early Christian Lit Dictionary give the following:

    Diogenes Laertius uses it in 7.126, but I can’t find an english translation that uses that numbering system. He uses the adverbial form of it so its not absolutely applicable, but still useful

    Aelian apparently uses it in his Nature of Animals 6.59

    Hierocles Stoic evidently uses it in Ethics 9.5 [after which the dictionary mysteriously says “here 7”]

    I have not been successful in finding these references. I do not have access to TLG otherwise I would search it. Let me know if you can find out anything else.

    Tom

  6. Interestingly I was just reading Hippolytus’ “The Apostolic Tradition” and he uses “hairetikos”:

    “For upon all who harken to the Apostolic Tradition and keep it, no heretic [hairetikos] will prevail to deceive. Thus many heresies increased because those who were at the head would not learn the purpose of the Apostles but according to their own pleasure do what htey choose and not what is fitting.” Apostolic Tradition 38.2-4

    Incidentally, I am hoping to digitize B.S. Easton’s out of copyright translation of the Apostolic Tradition, however, I have yet to get my hands on a copy. I was going to use Hugh Connoly’s but it is far from a complete translation. I’ll keep you posted on any progress.

  7. Hi Folks,

    Roger, an excellent post and thread.

    With your last question:

    “I wonder what Greek word would we translate as “heretic”, if not hairetikos?”

    you have highlighted a major problem with the modernist dependency on simply using definitions spoon-fed from Louw & Nida, Liddel & Scott, etc.

    Due to their limitations (and at times doctrinal foibles) these will not have the full range of expression of the English language, and therefore miss the full range of expression of the Greek, which in terms of conceptual expression will be comparable.

    Defenders of “factious” criticizing the use of “heretic” would have to take the stance that men like Paul or Hippolytus were limited, constrained in their thinking concepts by Greek language limitations .. and we supposedly know those limitations by the corpus of Nida definitions !

    Your points appear 100% solid . In the Bible context, “αιρετικον ανθρωπον” translates strongly and clearly as a heretic.

    Shalom,
    Steven

  8. Thanks a lot for the explanations. Helps clarify for me a foggy spot I have. From: Someone who isn’t versed in Greek

  9. From my studies on this subject, there is no doubt that the greek adjective, hairetikos, means factious, or, sectarian. In our modern times it refers to an adherrent of a denomination, or, a “church”. Hairetikos is derived from the greek verb, haireo, which means to “self-choose” (a faction, party, denomination or “church”.

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