In a word, "heresiarch"

The Baltimore Sun

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your vocabulary. This week's word: 


Just about as soon as you have faith, you get heresy.

Christianity, which began as an offshoot of Judaism, had to set up shop independently once the early Christians were expelled from the synagogues, almost immediately generating violent disputes about the details of belief. Over the centuries Christians have relished persecuting one another as much as persecuting unbelievers, if not more so. 

Orthodoxy (from the Greek orthodoxos, orthos, "right" + doxa, "opinion") seems to require heresy (from the Greek hairesis, "choice") to throw itself into relief. 

And as a religion or a sect requires a founder, so does a heresy. The founder or head of a heresy or heretical sect is a (or an, if you prefer) heresiarch (pronounced huh-REEZ-ee-ark or huh-REZ-ee-ark), from the Greek hairesis + arches, "leader."

Whether a religious leader is a holy man or woman, or a heresiarch, depends, of course, on which side of the fence you are standing. 

Example: From "It would be lawful to pray for the death of a perniciously active heresiarch with a view to putting a stop to his ravages among the Christian people."

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