Chapter III:17: Denial of Fundamentals--Heresy, Part 2

When the Apostle prescribes to Titus to avoid, to reject, to repudiate a heretical man of this sort, Titus 3:10, see below Chapter XXXIII, § 21, he adds this reason for this his commandment in verse 11, εἰδὼς ὅτι ἐξέστραπται ὁ τοιοῦτος, καὶ ἁμαρτάνει, ὢν αὐτοκατάκριτος, knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself. In which a twofold, New Testament ἅπαξ λεγόμενον, hapax legomenon, occurs, namely, the verb ἐκστρέφειν, to subvert, and the term αὐτοκατάκριτος, self-condemned; which vocabulary is not met elsewhere, except that WETTSTEIN[1] produces one passage of EPIPHANIUS alone from hæresibus LXVI, opera, tome I, page 704B, where the same thing is also read: while the Synopsis Sacræ Scripturæ, which is in Operibus Athanasii, opera, tome 2, page 92, employs the vocabulary with manifest regard to our Pauline verse, whence he takes the words reciprocally. With the former phrase, ὅτι ἐξέστραπται ὁ τοιοῦτος, that such a one is subverted, is able to be compared a phrase found in the Septuagint, Deuteronomy 32:20, ὅτι γενεὰ ἐξεστραμμένη ἐστίν, that it is a perverted generation, in the place of the Hebrew, כִּ֣י ד֤וֹר תַּהְפֻּכֹת֙ הֵ֔מָּה, for they are a generation of perversities, altogether perverse in every way. And the Apostle shall indicate that a man of this sort, who, in withdrawing from the sound doctrine that he previously professed, does not suffer himself by repeated admonitions to be recalled from the deadly doctrine unto which has turned himself, but, however much convicted and silenced, nevertheless obstinately cleaves to his opinions; shows himself to be altogether subverted, and in this way is perverted and overthrown, as it were; so that almost no hope of reducing him to a better mind appears to remain, after such effort has already been expended upon it in vain: and that such a man is to be left to himself, lest, if he should remain in the communion of the Church, many be infected by him, and he also call many disciples after him. Indeed, such an heretical man, who ἐξέστραπται, is subverted, also speaks διεστραμμένα, distorted things, perverted things, and belongs to a γενεὰν σκολιὰν καὶ διεστραμμένην, nation crooked and perverse, which οὐ παύεται διαστρέφουσα τὰς ὁδοὺς Κυρίου τὰς εὐθείας, does not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord, by a comparison of Acts 20:30; Philippians 2:15; Acts 13:10. He is of the number of διεφθαρμένων ἀνθρώπων τὸν νοῦν, καὶ ἀπεστερημένων τῆς ἀληθείας, men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, as it is in 1 Timothy 6:15. The same Apostle emphatically describes men of this sort, 2 Timothy 3:8, ὃν τρόπον δὲ Ἰαννῆς καὶ Ἰαμβρῆς ἀντέστησαν Μωϋσεῖ, οὕτω καὶ οὗτοι ἀνθίστανται τῇ ἀληθείᾳ, ἄνθρωποι κατεφθαρμένοι τὸν νοῦν, ἀδόκιμοι περὶ τὴν πίστιν, now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth; men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. Such a one that ἐξέστραπται, is subverted, in this way is to be avoided and rejected, after the Church or its Overseers have for a sufficiently long time attempted, but in vain, αὐτὸν πλανηθέντα ἀπὸ τῆς ἀληθείας, him that errs from the truth, ἐπιστρέφειν ἐκ πλάνης ὁδοῦ αὐτοῦ, to convert from the error of his way, by comparison with James 5:19, 20.


Another reason is added, why Titus ought to command that heretical man be handled in this way, since he knows ὅτι καὶ ἁμαρτάνει, that he also sins, and that grievously, continues to sin, according the emphasis of this verb in the New Testament often met with, indeed, was sinning ὢν αὐτοκατάκριτος, being self-condemned. Not as if this were specific to all and each Heretic, actually to be condemned by his own Judgment and the dictate of his own Conscience; in such a way that they, tacitly recognizing within themselves that they fundamentally err concerning the doctrine of faith and salvation, notwithstanding will obstinately to persevere in disseminating errors recognized as such by them. Thus, 1. such an Heretic would commit the unforgiveable sin against the Holy Spirit, Hebrews 10:26, 27. 2. Thus such an Heretic would at the same time be the worst Hypocrite, as hiding the true opinion of his own mind, and teaching things contrary to those that he thinks within: neither would he himself be erring, but he only induces others into error; while rather πλανῶντες/deceivers of this sort are themselves καὶ πλανώμενοι, also deceived, as it is in 2 Timothy 3:13. 3. Thus no Heretic would ever be able to be discerned by other men, unless he himself should reveal this desperate malignity of his own soul; while in other respects καρδιογνωσία, the knowledge of the heart, is to be left to God alone, 1 Corinthians 2:11; but Paul reckons Heresies as also among the works of the flesh, that are φανερὰ/manifest, Galatians 5:19, 20. 4. Consequently also the Church would never be able to deal with Heretics according to the precept delivered by Paul in Titus 3:10. 5. It is also evident that in the forging and passing of Heresies many things are able to come in between, so that the Heretic himself might not quite recognize his error and its gravity, nor discern that he has embraced an error instead of the truth: such is the supine ignorance of the Scriptures, the neglected sedulous searching of the same, the prejudice of authority, the affection of the depraved presumption of their own wisdom, ambition, avarice, carnal advantage, blindness of mind through the deceptions of the devil and the supernatural judgment of God, etc.; compare Matthew 22:29; Romans 9:31, 32; Acts 22:3, 4; 26:9-11; Galatians 6:12, 13; 2 Corinthians 4:3, 4; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11. What then shall the Apostle indicate, in saying of such an Heretic, concerning whom he speaks, ὢν αὐτοκατάκριτος, being self-condemned? That he condemns himself by his doctrine and deeds (in which sense concerning the condemnation of himself through his own deeds that αὐτοκατάκριτος/self-condemned is also used by EPIPHANIUS, hæresibus LXVI, opera, tome I, page 704B), by which he shows himself so inexcusable that, if his conscience would but rightly perform its duty, he would not κεκαυτηριασμένος τὴν ἰδίαν συνείδησιν, have his conscience branded,[2] and would not be condemned by the judgment of that conscience: since, 1. he had known that he receded from the doctrine delivered by the Apostles, who denounced against such, even if he be an Angel, an anathema, Galatians 1:8, 9. 2. Because he had known that the Gospel of the Apostles was worthy of all acceptation,[3] since the Lord Himself and His Spirit had furnished testimony for it from heaven, and had confirmed the same by Miracles posited beyond all contradiction, by comparison with Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:3, 4. 3. Because he was not able to cloak his error with ignorance or a want of better instruction: since, on the other hand, Titus had admonished him contrariwise concerning his wandering from the way of truth; by refutation had so convicted him concerning the gravity, hurtfulness, and danger of his erroneous dogma that his mouth might be shut, not having anything to answer; by manifestation of the truth to his conscience had tried to bring him again to a better mind: but, with all these things notwithstanding, he had refused to receive the teaching of the truth, obstinately cleaving to his error, and thus plainly showing that he is altogether ἐξέστραπται/subverted, in the way that I explain above. Unto this sense ABRAHAM HEIDANUS explains the saying of the Apostle, de Origine Erroris, book VII, chapter IV, § 8, pages 420, 421, where among other things you will read, They are truly αὐτοκατάκριτοι, that is, condemned of themselves, for they are the cause of the evil to themselves, and they are not able to impute their ruin and perdition to anyone other than themselves. So to the Greeks he is an αὐτοφόντης, αὐτόχειρ, who kills himself, and has no other author of his death than himself: αὐτοδίδακτος, who had no other doctor and teacher than himself, and owes to no other the knowledge that he has, but his own study and industry. So he is an αὐτοκατάκριτος, to the Syrian interpreter and paraphrast, who condemns his own soul, although he be not condemned by his own soul. But he is one that by the very fact judges and condemns himself, doing such things as are worthy of condemnation before God and the Church, although in his own mind he is not judging and condemning himself. This is to be held, so that it might be taken with better understanding, that in various ways one is able to condemn himself: in mind, speech, and deed. Many are found that condemn themselves in speech and deeds; those that in their own judgment charge themselves with guilt, even if such also be granted (as it is evident in Cain,[4] Judah,[5] Francis Spira,[6] and others), and not excluded here, are comparatively rarely treated in Scripture, and, when examples of this sort occur, they are exemplars of the extraordinary wrath of God against such impiety and injustice. But how many are found that condemn themselves by their deeds and often even by their mouths? Thus we read in Luke 19:22, Wicked servant, out of thine own mouth will I judge thee. He that by his own words supplies two arguments of condemnation, is condemned of himself, by his own mouth, speaking testimony against himself, although he wishes that he might be justified by it. But he that condemns another in that which he himself does, is judged by the Apostle to condemn himself, Romans 2:1. In which place both manners of condemnation are conjoined; of the mouth, in the condemnation of another, of deeds, in his own works. Similarly a heretic condemns himself, because he so obstinately rejects and despises the doctrine, admonitions, counsels, and reproofs of the Church, which he is obliged to hear. He that does so condemns himself. Let the Apostle be heard, 1 Timothy 6:3, If any man ἑτεροδιδασκαλεῖ, teach different doctrine, and consent not to the wholesome words of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine that is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but being mad over questions and λογομαχίας, strifes of words, etc.: from such he advises a withdrawal; see also Romans 16:17, 18. And does not an heretic, embracing the letter of the Divine Word, and from that busying himself to establish his own dogmas, and to refute true doctrine, at least acknowledge with the mouth those truths, by which his error is refuted? Often it happens also to them, what happened to the Pharisees, Matthew 22:46, who were not able to answer Christ a word: when they are so pressed with reasons and arguments that, even if they be unwilling to concede, yet they are not able to contradict, and thus are able, even if unwilling, to be judges of their own error, if they will pay attention. Because sometimes, when they are not thinking, a confession of the truth breaks out, when they, being forgetful of their hypothesis, assert that at one time, which at another time (because no other escape route is provided) they deny: and in this way they judge and condemn themselves by their own mouths and deeds.

[1] Johann Jakob Wettstein (1693-1754) was a Swiss Theologian. His career was stormy; he was suspected of Arianism and Socinianism. Nevertheless, his work in the collation of New Testament manuscripts has had enduring value.


[2] 1 Timothy 4:2.


[3] 1 Timothy 1:15; 4:9.


[4] Genesis 4:4-16.


[5] Genesis 38.


[6] Francis Spira was an Italian lawyer. In 1548, he converted to Lutheranism, and became a zealous advocate for the doctrines of the Reformation. Later, under pressure from Roman Catholic theologians, he fell away from the Protestant faith. This sin against conscience led to a profound despair, and his case of despair became proverbial among Protestants.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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