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Borrowed from French hérésiarque, from Ecclesiastical Latin haeresiarcha (or directly from the Latin word), from ecclesiastical Byzantine Greek αἱρεσιάρχης (hairesiárkhēs, leader of a sect), from Ancient Greek αἵρεσῐς (haíresis, heresy) + -ᾰ́ρχης (-árkhēs, suffix meaning ‘leader, ruler’),[1] corresponding to heresy +‎ -arch.



heresiarch (plural heresiarchs)

  1. (religion) The founder of a heresy, or a major ecclesiastical proponent of such a heresy. [from mid 16th c.]
    Synonym: arch-heretic
    • 1838, James Henthorn Todd, “Note D.—See Lecture I. p. 34. The Fratricelli, and Beguins.”, in Discourses on the Prophecies Relating to Antichrist in the Writings of Daniel and St. Paul; [], Dublin: Printed at the University Press; London: J. G. F. and J. Rivington; [], published 1840, OCLC 5191883, footnote h, pages 463–464:
      He died in 1223, and seems to have had no successor; not is it an ascertained point that more than one such hæresiarch was ever recognized.
    • 1839 April, [Thomas Babington Macaulay], “Art. X.—The State in Its Relations with the Church. By W[illiam] E[wart] Gladstone, Esq., Student of Christ Church, and M.P. for Newark. 8vo. Second Edition. London: 1839. [book review]”, in The Edinburgh Review, or Critical Journal, volume LXIX, number CXXXIX, Edinburgh: Printed by Ballantyne and Hughes; for Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longman, London. [...], OCLC 950902861, pages 249–250:
      Is the heresiarch a less pernicious member of society than the murderer? Is not the loss of one soul a greater evil than the extinction of many lives? [] If then, the heresiarch causes infinitely greater evils than the murderer, why is he not as proper an object of penal legislation as the murderer? We can give a reason,—a reason, short, simple, decisive, and consistent. We do not extenuate the evil which the heresiarch produces; but we say that it is not evil of that sort against which it is the end of government to guard.
    • 1843 August 24, Oliver Wendell Holmes [Sr.], “Terpsichore”, in The Poetical Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1st English edition, London: G[eorge] Routledge & Co., [], published 1852, OCLC 3233337, page 38:
      Sermons, whose writers played such dangerous tricks / Their own heresiarchs called them heretics, []
    • 1858, William Smith, “Nestorǐus”, in A Classical Dictionary of Biography, Mythology, and Geography, Based on the Larger Dictionaries, 4th revised edition, London: John Murray, []; Walton and Maberly, [], OCLC 316433650, page 476, column 1:
      Nestorǐus, a celebrated Haeresiarch, was appointed patriarch of Constantinople a.d. 428, but in consequence of his heresy was deposed at the council of Ephesus, 431. [] Nestorius carefully distinguished between the divine and human nature attributed to Christ, and refused to give to the Virgin Mary the title of Theotocus (Θεοτόκος) or "Mother of God."
    • 1913, Frederick Rogers, “James Allanson Picton, 1868–1878”, in Labour, Life and Literature: Some Memories of Sixty Years, London: Smith, Elder & Co., [], OCLC 504515836, page 39:
      Beautiful as Mr. [James Allanson] Picton's book was, its tendency was away from Christianity, and, followed to its logical conclusions, led to the renunciation of the Christian faith. He was illustrating an old truth, though to me then an undiscovered one, that a heresiarch may be, and often is, a very noble man, whatever may be the result to society of his views.
    • 2007, Einar Thomassen (introduction); Marvin Meyer, transl. and editor, “NHC I,3; XII,2”, in The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, international edition, New York, N.Y.: HarperOne, →ISBN, page 34:
      Although questions remain, it is, on balance, most reasonable to assign the Gospel of Truth to the Valentinian tradition. This is also the judgment of the majority of scholars. Whether the homily was actually composed by Valentinus himself, as some believe, cannot confidently be known. However, the quality of the composition and the authority of the voice that speaks in it do point in the direction of the heresiarch himself, rather than some minor and unknown figure.
    • 2008, Louisa A[nne] Burnham, “Heretics, Heresiarchs, and Leaders”, in So Great a Light, So Great a Smoke: The Beguin Heretics of Languedoc (Conjunctions of Religion and Power in the Medieval Past), Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, →ISBN, page 135:
      Who were the heresiarchs of the Beguins? Surely the ultimate heresiarch was Peter [John] Olivi himself, and his body ("relics" to his followers, mere bones to the inquisitors) were spirited away from Narbonne at the very beginning of the conflict to be burned like a live heresiarch, with the ashes thrown into the Rhône.

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