In a convoluted evolution, “heresy” ended right up there with “wrong”. But it didn’t start out that way. It is rooted in the Hellenic aireo, to take with your hand, to grasp. This evolved into airesis, choice, election. Thus, new ideas could be chosen, new schools of thought could be grasped and elected.

     This was revolutionary. By the first century of the Common Era, Diodorus of Sicily complained that the Hellenes, in contrast to the peoples East, always felt free to choose a new doctrinal innovation in important matters, freely taking a new hairesis (the “h” is how English demarcates an aspirated ai). By the second century, hairesis had become a standard term to indicate distinct philosophical schools.

     However, in the fourth century, the Council at Nicaea canonized the Christian Scripture and with Imperial power soon purged all other knowledge as false beliefs or heresy. Freely choosing new ideas was bitten by the dogma. Who’s heretical now?


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