Apostasy in the Church -- By: Charles C. Ryrie

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 121:481 (Jan 1964)
Article: Apostasy in the Church
Author: Charles C. Ryrie

Apostasy in the Church

Charles C. Ryrie

[Charles C. Ryrie, Dean of the Graduate School, Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

Apostasy is a subject more often discussed than defined these days. Neverthless, since the church is warned against apostasy repeatedly, it is a proper subject for discussion. First, however, a definition and some distinctions are necessary.

Meaning and Usage of Words Involved

Apostasia. The substantive occurs twice in the New Testament (Acts 21:12; 2 Thess 2:3). The first instance concerns a departure from the teachings of Moses and the second refers to the eschatological apostasy. In the papyri it is used in the general sense of rebellion.1 Liddell and Scott give the meaning as follows: “defection, revolt, especially in religious sense, rebellion against God, apostasy… 2. departure, disappearance. 3. distinguishing… 4. distance.”2 Sometimes it was used of political revolt. It is important to note that all lexicographers give the primary meaning as apostasy or rebellion and the secondary meaning as departure, which latter meaning is only found in classical Greek unless 2 Thessalonians 2:3 be a Biblical exception.3

Apostasis. This is the older substantive from which apostasia is directly derived. In the LXX it was used interchangeably with apostasia and always with the meaning of revolt (usually religious rebellion). This uniform usage in the LXX would indicate that the word came into the New Testament era with virtually the technical meaning of apostasy and exclusive of the meaning of departure.

Aphistemi. The verb to stand off, withdraw from, fall away, apostatize, occurs fourteen or fifteen times in the New

Testament (Luke 2:37; 4:13; 8:13; 13:27; Acts 5:37, 38; 12:10; 15:38; 19:9; 22:29;

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