Disfellowshipping heretics?

1 Timothy 6:5 and Titus 3:10 are favourites with those who insist on their reading of the bible as the only possible one.  Phrases advocating withdrawal and rejecting heretics play well.  On closer examination these passages do not support the conservative’s case, but rather illustrate a tendancy to do inadequate due diligence on the verses they use against others.

Some look to 1 Timothy 6:5 imagining the passage supports their calls for withdrawal/disfellowship.  The verse ends with the injunction to “from such withdraw thyself” (KJV). But Paul never wrote this.  This most enthusiastic to defend the bible (or rather their understanding of it) are failing to treat the bible with appropriate respect.  Basic investigation would reveal the phrase is not original.Bro Booker noted in his 1990 book “Biblical Fellowship” that the phrase is “omitted altogether in most versions, including the Diaglott, RV, RSV, NEB, and NIV“. To this list now can be added the NET and ESV.

Textual scholar Metzer gives the detail on the textual insertion to some the text behind the KJV:

“Although the reading is ancient, as appears from patristic testimony, it must be rejected as a pious but banal gloss, because (a) the best manuscripts of both the Alexandrian and the Western types of text (א A D* F G 048 33 81 88 424c 1739 1881 ….. Origen Ambrose) support the shorter reading, and (b) if it were present originally, no good reason can be assigned for its omission.”[1]

Almost all bible students accept the Johannine comma as an insertion in many Greek texts.  This is another one of the small number of such transmission errors.  As a community of bible students, we should be alert to such possibilities and do our homework before using such passages against brethren and sisters with whom we disagree.

Of course those implacably opposed to EC, convinced it is a major departure from the faith are also happy to apply the word heresy to EC (and heretic to its proponents).  This of course nicely ties into Tit 3:10 “A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject”.  Without reconciling their position to the Lord’s teaching about wheat and tares they imagine they have apostolic warrant for casting out others.

Unfortunately here again they are mistaken.  The problem is the meaning of the word heretic has changed.  Modern translations like the ESV and NET use the word “divisive”, a choice supported by BDAG, LSJ, Louw-Nida and more.  The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia traces the meaning of the word from division/divergence (such as was evidence in Corinth where dissentions/divisions and heresy are essentially synonymous 1 Cor 1:10ff, 1 Cor 11:18-19) noting it “finally undergoes the change of meaning that makes it a technical term in Christian history”[2].  The heretic of Tit 3:10 is one who promotes division, who causes breaks in the community through insistence on their way (note this conclusion was also reached by Bro Booker [3]).  Paul also notes the heretic is not only aware of their sins but is self-condemned.  Ie casting them out is not required, they self select.  That doesn’t apply to the brethren and sisters who hold to EC.


[1] Metzger, B. M., United Bible Societies. (1994). A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition a companion volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.) (pp. 575–576). London; New York: United Bible Societies.

[2] Bromiley, G. W. (1979–1988). Heresy. In G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 2, p. 685). Wm. B. Eerdmans.

[3] Booker, G. (n.d.). Biblical Fellowship.


One thought on “Disfellowshipping heretics?

  1. Paz

    Also some very encouraging words in the following passages to reminds us of the need for tolerance and unity in Christ:
    Romans 14:1 ” Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions.”
    13 ” Let us therefore no longer pass judgement on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.”

    Liked by 1 person


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