Until I attended JW meetings, I had never thought or heard about apostasy. I therefore wasn’t clear how one became an apostate. I have heard it mentioned often at JW meetings and knew it wasn’t something you wanted to be, just by the way it is said. However, I did not have a true understanding of what the word actually means.
I started out by looking up the word in the Encyclopaedia Britannica (EB) which reads:
EB: “Apostasy, the total rejection of Christianity by a baptized person who, having at one time professed the Christian faith, publicly rejects it. … It is distinguished from heresy, which is limited to the rejection of one or more Christian doctrines by one who maintains an overall adherence to Jesus Christ.
In the Merriam-Webster dictionary is a more detailed description of apostasy. It states that the word is “Middle English apostasie, borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Late Latin apostasia, borrowed from Greek apostasia which means “defection, revolt, (Septuagint) rebellion against God”.
These explanations are helpful, but I wanted more background. I therefore went to the 2001 Translation, An American English Bible (AEB), based on the Greek Septuagint.
AEB points out that the Greek word apostasis literally means, ‘turn away from (apo)’ a ‘standing or state (stasis),’ and that the Bible term ‘apostasy’ doesn’t refer to some disagreement over doctrine, and that the word is misapplied by some modern religious groups.
To strengthen its view, AEB quotes Acts 17:10, 11. Quoting from the New World Translation, we read: “But they have heard it rumored about you that you have been teaching all the Jews among the nations an apostasy from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or to follow the customary practices.”
AEB: “Notice that Paul wasn’t accused of being an apostate for teaching a wrong doctrine. Rather, they were accusing him of teaching a ‘turning from’ or an apostasy from the Law of Moses.
Therefore, his teachings weren’t what they were calling ‘apostate.’ Rather, it was the act of ‘turning from’ the Law of Moses that they were calling ‘an apostasy.’
So, a correct modern use of the word ‘apostasy’ would refer to a person turning from a moral Christian way of life, not to some disagreement over the meaning of a Bible verse.”
AEB further goes on to quote Acts 17:10, 11 which highlights how important it is to examine the Scriptures:
“Immediately by night the brothers sent both Paul and Silas to Beroea. On arriving, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they accepted the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:10, 11 NWT)
“But they have heard it rumored about you that you have been teaching all the Jews among the nations an apostasy from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or to follow the customary practices.” (Acts 21:21)
“Let no one lead you astray in any way, because it will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3 NWT)
Based on the foregoing, a correct modern use of the word ‘apostasy’ should refer to a person turning from a moral Christian way of life, not to some disagreement over the meaning of a Bible verse.”
The old saying, “Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words will never hurt me”, isn’t quite true. Words do hurt. I don’t know if this clarification of apostasy helps to relieve the guilt some may feel; but for me to know that while Jehovah’s Witnesses may be taught to call me an apostate, I am not one from Jehovah God’s point of view.