Avoiding Cults

This is actually the most important thing for someone who wants to be a part of a close community to watch out for. This has been underemphasized in general by those looking for community. I would recommend studying Steven Hassan’s books and his website: https://freedomofmind.com

As long as people are freely able to join with informed consent (which includes full and honest disclosure of the group’s doctrine and practices), and can choose to disaffiliate without shunning, fear, or harassment, then it is not a destructive cult.


“Destructive cult” is not meant to mean “groups whose beliefs we dislike and think are weird” but “groups that exercise undue influence over members.”


Welcome to Hebrew Roots Intentional Communities Please check out the rough draft of our paper on the communal teachings in the Bible and give us feedback. The link is here:

If you know how to use version control feel free to make a pull request for us here:  Our Github

Locating Communities

We have found this resource helpful for locating communities: https://www.ic.org In addition this is specifically for Christian communities: https://www.nurturingcommunities.org


If you want to give your time and meet people that are similarly dedicated, here are some suggestions for volunteer work that someone volunteered to send us! The act of volunteering can help you and your community: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/volunteering-and-its-surprising-benefits.htm The following is from them:

Trials and tribulations are a part of this life, but we are called by God to help others who are facing challenging situations. Sometimes it can be hard to see how you can make a difference, though. The following resources can point you in the right direction.

Address Hunger

People the world over go without one of our most basic necessities: food. Yet there are easy ways you can address food insecurity.

  • Organizations like Feed the World work to teach people to become self-reliant through better utilization of local resources.
  • Did you know homes with children are more likely to experience food insecurity? Teach your kids about generosity by helping to feed others.
  • You can donate or volunteer at your local food bank.
  • Do you know someone who is struggling to put food on the table? Bring them a meal.

A Roof Overhead

Homelessness is a problem all over the world. How can you help in your community?

  • Having no place for protection from the elements leads to health issues and a shortened life span.
  • Homelessness is caused by many issues, like being unable to find employment due to a criminal history or drug addiction.
  • You can volunteer for or donate to organizations like Habitat for Humanity.
  • Consider hosting a clothing drive for the homeless.

Vulnerable Populations

People of all ages and social backgrounds can be victims of abusive relationships. From women in oppressive situations, children who are neglected, and elderly who are mishandled, there are ways to help.

  • There are organizations all over the world who help women in oppressive or abusive situations.
  • Do you have a heart for children? Check in with groups that support them.
  • Aging presents vulnerability and challenges, but you can help.
  • People with special needs are often victimized. Connect with an agency that assists them.

There are people in your community who need help, just like there are people across the globe who are in need. Decide where you feel called, and lend them a hand up.


This site is dedicated to helping people avoid cults while looking for Hebrew Roots Intentional Communities, for now we will point you to Steven Hassan’s website to do more research: https://freedomofmind.com This site is also for presenting arguments for intentional community as how the kingdom of God on earth is to be organized and that it is the movement that Yeshua (Jesus) started. In addition, we wish to connect people together who have the common goal of making intentional communities that self-replicate into networks of intentional communities or who wish to join intentional communities that do. We wish to help organize those who want to make churches like those in Acts 2:44-47 and Acts 4:33-35.

We also want to gather critiques of our ideas to strengthen our arguments and lead us closer to the truth so we welcome you even if you don’t agree with us. This is, unfortunately, an unusual attitude today. We plan to have articles on a variety of different controversial topics and authors with a number of unusual opinions to make sure we attract open-minded people and can better evaluate how to live as believers. Keep in mind, many posts do not reflect the majority view on this site nor sometimes even the author’s own opinion (e.g. paraphrases of Herb Montgomery’s lectures when the author doesn’t have time to note the things they disagree with). If you want to become a writer for the blog contact us on the forums in this topic:  “Post here if you want to write for our site” We would like you to be involved in as many ways as possible.

The reason we are so free with different (or even strange ) ideas is that we believe “heresy” (αἵρεσις, strong’s G139) has been misunderstood. We believe words can have different meanings in different contexts but that often there is a core meaning to the word that explains these differences. We would like to explore this idea with the Hebrew meaning behind the Greek word “heresy” (αἵρεσις, strong’s G139) According to LSJ the definition contains the ideas of “taking” and of “choice” but it can be used in a variety of ways in Greek literature:

αἵρεσις , εως,

A.taking, esp. of a town, Hdt.4.1, etc.; βασιλέοςαἵthe taking by the king, Id.9.3; “ἐλπίζωνταχίστην –σινἔσεσθαι” Th. 2.75αἵδυνάμεωςacquisition of power, Pl.Grg.513a:—generally, taking, receiving, “ἐπιγενημάτων” PTeb.27.66 (ii B. C.).

B. (αἱρέομαιchoice, “αἵρεσίντ᾽ἐμοὶδίδου” A.Pr.779; “τῶνδε . . αἵρεσινπαρδίδωμι” Pi.N.10.82; foll. by relat., αἵδιδόναιὁκοτέρην . . , εἰ . . , etc., Hdt.1.11, cf. D.22.19αἵπροτιθέναιπροβάλλεινPl. Tht.196cSph.245b; “εἰνέμοιτιςαἵρεσιν” S.Aj.265; “αἵρεσινλαβεῖν” D.36.11; “ποιεῖσθαι” Isoc.7.19; “αἵγίγνεταίτινι” Th.2.61οὐκἔχειαἵρεσιν it admits no choicePlu.2.708b.
2.choice, election of magistrates, Th.8.89, cf. Arist.Pol.1266a26, al.; αἱρέσει, opp. κλήρῳ1300a19, etc.
3.inclination, choice, πρόςτινα Philipp. ap. D.18.166Plb.2.61.9, etc., cf. IG2.591b; opp. φυγή, Epicur.Ep.3p.62U.; περὶαἱρέσεωνκαὶφυγῶν, title of treatise by Epicurus.

II.purpose, course of action or thought, like προαίρεσιςPl.Phdr.256c; “αἵτῆςπρεσβείας” Aeschin. 2.11αἵἘλληνικήthe study of Greek literature, Plb.39.1.3:—conduct,PTeb.28.10 (ii B. C.).
2.system of philosophic principles, or those who profess such principles, sect, school, Plb.5.93.8D.S.2.29, Polystr.p.20 W., D.H.Amm.1.7, Comp.2,al., cf. Cic.Fam.15.16.3κατὰτῶναἱ., title of treatise by Antipater of Tarsus; περὶαἱρέσεων, title of Menippean satire by Varro, cf. Fr.164; αἵρεσιςπρὸςΓοργιππίδην, title of work by Chrysippus, D.L.7.191; esp. religious party or sect, of the Essenes, J.BJ2.8.1; the Sadducees and Pharisees, Act.Ap.5.1715.526.5; the Christians, ib.24.5,1428.22, generally, faction, party, App.BC5.2.
3.corps of epheboi, OGI 176 (Egypt). 4. Astrol., ‘condition’, Ptol.Tetr.21ἡμερινὴαἵ. Vett. Val.1.13.

III.proposed condition, proposalD.H.3.10.
2.commissionἐπὶτοὺςνέουςαἵPl.Ax.367aembassy, mission,IG4.937 (Epid.).
3.freewill offering, opp. vowLXX Le.22.18,al.
4.bid at auction, “τὴνἀμείνονααἵδιδόντιπαραδοθῆναι” POxy.716.22 (ii A. D.), cf. 1630.8 (iii A. D.).


The root word is https://studybible.info/strongs/G138 and has the meaning of:

A. Act., take with the hand, grasp, seize
B. Med., with pf. ᾕρημαι (v. supr.), take for oneself
C. Pass., to be taken


This, in turn, comes from https://studybible.info/strongs/G142:

I.to take up, raise, lift up,
II.to bear, sustain,
III.to raise up, exalt
IV.to lift and take away, to remove,
B.Mid., with perf. pass. ἦρμαι, to take up for oneself: to carry off, win, gain
II.to take upon oneself, undergo, carry, bear,
III.to raise up,


In the Bible, G139 is translated as “factions” (NRSV) and is used synonymously with the word for “divisions.” (σχίσμα, G4978) “σχίσμα” is transliterated as “schisma;” and is where we get our word “schism.”

17 Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions [G4978] among you; and to some extent I believe it. 19 Indeed, there have to be factions [G139] among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine. 20 When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper. 21 For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk.

(1 Co 11:17-21 NRSV)

The first occurrence of this word in the Septuagint actually refers to how Simeon and Levi had committed injustice (which they did through violence and tricking/manipulating the men of Shechem to become circumcised): https://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/G139

5 Simeon and Levi — brothers. They completed injustice by their sects[G139]. 6 [5into 6their counsel 1May 3not 4come 2my soul], and [5with 6their joint-conspiracy 1may 3not 4be established 2my insides]. For in their rage they killed men, and in their passion they hamstrung a bull. 7 Accursed is their rage, for it was self-willed. And accursed is their vehement anger, for it was hardened. I will divide them in Jacob, and disseminate them in Israel.

(Gen 49:5-7 ABP)

Note that their punishment is like their action: they will be “divided” in Jacob. The 1st and 2nd definition in Thayer’s Greek Lexicon (a Lexicon more specifically for the Bible unlike the LSJ) corresponds to what they did (taking a city by a choice of their own separate/divided from their father’s) and the 4th and 5th are related to what we have seen the word mean in 1 Cor 11:17-21:

1. (from αἱρέω), act of taking, captureτῆς πόλεως, the storming of a city; in secular authors.
2. (from αἱρέομαι), choosing, choice, very often in secular writings: Sept. Leviticus 22:18; 1 Macc. 8:30.
. . .
4. a body of men separating themselves from others and following their own tenets (a sect or party): as the Sadducees, Acts 5:17; the Pharisees, Acts 15:5Acts 26:5; the Christians, Acts 24:514 (in both instances with a suggestion of reproach); Acts 28:22 (in Diogenes Laërtius 1 (13) 18f, others, used of the schools of philosophy).
5. dissensions arising from diversity of opinions and aims: Galatians 5:201 Corinthians 11:19. [Cf. Meyer, at the passages cited; B. D. American edition under the word Sects; Burton, Bampt. Lect. for 1829; Campbell, Diss. on the Gospels, diss. ix., part iv.]

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G139&t=KJV (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)

Not only did Simeon and Levi storm the city of Shechem but they manipulated the men of the city into receiving a rite from their religion. Notice Thayer’s second definition has the idea of “choosing” and the corresponding Hebrew word for G139 can mean “free will, readiness of mind (to give), a spontaneous offering, largeness, abundance”

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H5071&t=KJV from a root with a similar idea, but defined as “to impel, to urge, to incite . . . to show oneself willing, to offer oneself freely, to give spontaneously or willingly, to offer.”


This is maybe from the idea of not originating from divine or human mandate. The root (H5068) may imply it is something that originates from personal urging or inciting rather than a command–like a free-will offering. Indeed the ABP does say in Gen 49:7 “Accursed is their rage, for it was self-willed. (G829) And accursed is their vehement anger for it was hardened. (G4645)” These two Greek words are associated with selfishness and stubbornness:

A 2-0-0-1-0=3
Gn 49,3.7; Prv 21,24
arrogant, stubborn


σκληρύνω+ V 17-8-4-5-4=38
Gn 49,7; Ex 4,21; 7,3.22; 8,15
A: to harden, to make heavy [τι] 2 Chr 10,4; to harden (one’s heart) [τι] (of pers.) Ps 94(95),8; id. (of
God) Ex 4,21; to stiffen (the neck) [τι] 2 Chr 36,13
P: to be hardened (of feelings) Gn 49,7; to become stubborn Sir 30,12; to be sharp (of words) 2 Sm
19,44; to be withered Ps 89 (90),6
ἐσκλήρυνεν Φαραω ἐξαποστεῖλαι ἡμᾶς Pharao hardened (his heart) so as not to send us away, Pharao
refused to send us away Ex 13,15; ἐσκλήρυνας τοῦ αἰτήσασθαι you hardened in asking, you asked a hard
thing 2 Kgs 2,10
Cf. DOGNIEZ 1992, 127; LE BOULLUEC 1989, 38; SPICQ 1982, 606-610; WEVERS 1990 98.201-202;


Also for corresponding Hebrew in this verse, while Gesenius has the meaning of “strong or vehement” and “heavy” respectively, both words are associated with impudence and stubbornness in other usages, see: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H5794&t=KJV and https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H7185&t=KJV

The words in the NRSV are bolded below:

5 Simeon and Levi are brothers;
weapons of violence are their swords.
6 May I never come into their council;
may I not be joined to their company—
for in their anger they killed men,
and at their whim they hamstrung oxen.
7 Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce,
and their wrath, for it is cruel!
I will divide them in Jacob,
and scatter them in Israel.

(Gen 49:5-7 NRSV)

This is possibly related to why this word has the idea of dividing from God or people: it’s a choice that is not from authority and hence may separate or divide from that authority. This is possibly why the Greek root G138 is “take with the hand, grasp, seize,” it’s taken for oneself, the decision of the voluntary offering was made by oneself “willingly” and not from the law. Also, the root of that word: G142, “take up, raise, lift up” seems to have the idea of offering or of picking something up for oneself (metaphorically a decision or behavior). However, the Greek roots we would consider less important than the corresponding Hebrew word since the Septuagint is a translation trying to convey the Hebrew meanings.

Here’s a Greek Lexicon of the Septuagint that takes this Hebrew meaning into account and you can see that they take the word in Gen 49:5 as meaning “at [Simeon and Levi’s] own discretion” (implying not from Jacob’s or other’s). If they had done something else at their own discretion (like eat the honey they found) that did not contradict with Jacob’s will, it would not need to be stated: “they did it at their own discretion.” Of course, they did it at their own discretion–they are adults and make their own decisions–why be so pedantic? So while the word used for a voluntary offering implies it is not required by the law, the same word used with Simeon and Levi implies a division from others and authority. Hence this definition:

αἵρεσις,-εως+ N3F 3-0-0-0-1=4
Gn 49,5; Lv 22,18.21; 1 Mc 8,30
free choice 1 Mc 8,30 free-will offering Lv 22,18
ἐξ αἰρέσεως by choice, at one’s own discretion Gn 49,5; κατὰ πᾶσαν αἵρεσιν voluntarily, freely Lv 22,18
Cf. HARLÉ 1988, 185; →NIDNTT; TWNT

http://www.glasovipisma.pbf.rs/phocadownload/knjige/greek%20lexicon%20for%20the%20septuagint.pdf (A GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON OF THE SEPTUAGINT)

From the story of Simeon and Levi, we have some ideas that are closely related to the way it is used in 1 Co 11:17-21. We don’t have the space here to go through all the usages of the word (that is a task we will leave up to the reader to check our work and see if our ideas can fit the word) and we aren’t claiming that all the ideas here were intended when the text of Gen 49:5 was written. However, the ideas in the story of Simeon and Levi are: manipulating people into accepting a religious rite, using violence, storming/taking a city, and dividing. So we can see these things theoretically fit and we can see some application for today: violence causes division, storming a city of a different religious belief (whether literally or figuratively) causes division, and especially forcing or manipulating parts of your religion on others, causes division. The idea that was certainly meant originally is division. You may notice we left out one item from Thayer’s Greek Lexicon:

3. that which is chosen, a chosen course of thought and action; hence one’s chosen opinion, tenet; according to the context, an opinion varying from the true exposition of the Christian faith (heresy): 2 Peter 2:1 (cf. DeWette at the passage), and in ecclesiastical writings [cf. Sophocles‘ Lexicon, under the word].

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G139&t=KJV (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)

This is the one we would like to clarify: different opinions need not cause division–actions cause division. The places in the law where you are supposed to cut off or punish people are all related to actions and this is what we see with the corresponding Hebrew: it is an offering not required by law or action at one’s own discretion and divided/at-odds from others. It is not an opinion. In fact, there is not even legal punishment for speaking in the name of other gods. It says not to do this in Exodus 23:13 and Joshua 23:7 but with no legal punishment listed afterward. It also says not to eat the flesh of animals that have died of themselves yet it also gives those not in the covenant in Israel permission to eat it in Deuteronomy 14:21. Seemingly the laws without punishments were a way to be lenient to outsiders who practiced differently. Maybe if the violations got out of hand as a whole then the leaders would have to take action.

It seems the only way you could get punished according to the Torah for speaking in the name of other gods is if you secretly did this (maybe infiltrating as the Gnostics did) or were claiming to speak with prophetic authority. (Deuteronomy 15:2-5)

6 If anyone secretly entices you—even if it is your brother, your father’s son or your mother’s son, or your own son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your most intimate friend—saying, “Let us go worship other gods,” whom neither you nor your ancestors have known, 7 any of the gods of the peoples that are around you, whether near you or far away from you, from one end of the earth to the other, 8 you must not yield to or heed any such persons. Show them no pity or compassion and do not shield them. 9 But you shall surely kill them; your own hand shall be first against them to execute them, and afterwards the hand of all the people.

(Deuteronomy 13:6-9 NRSV)

Now, it is possible to have an opinion that leads to action which causes division. You can have an opinion that is so extreme that you aren’t keeping the commands and are worshipping another god. For example, prophecy should result from direct communication with God not opinion but if you speak your opinion as a prophecy it is the act of telling and representing it as prophecy that causes you to be judged as a prophet.

2 and the omens or the portents declared by them take place, and they say, “Let us follow other gods” (whom you have not known) “and let us serve them,” 3 you must not heed the words of those prophets or those who divine by dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you indeed love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul. 4 The Lord your God you shall follow, him alone you shall fear, his commandments you shall keep, his voice you shall obey, him you shall serve, and to him you shall hold fast. 5 But those prophets or those who divine by dreams shall be put to death for having spoken treason against the Lord your God—who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery—to turn you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

(Deuteronomy 13:2-5 NRSV)

20 But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.” 21 You may say to yourself, “How can we recognize a word that the Lord has not spoken?” 22 If a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it.

(Deuteronomy 18:20-22 NRSV)

Or you can have an opinion that is enough to disfellowship you from believers if it causes you to break the more serious things in the law (again maybe they would be regarded as worshiping another god in this case especially since idolatry is in the context):

19 Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood.

(Acts 15:19-20 NRSV)

Or you can have an opinion that requires you to be involved in violence or manipulation like Simeon and Levi especially if it requires you to make others believe like you. These opinions indirectly cause division. However, people with different opinions on scripture can and do get along in our experience. Ironically, creating divisions over opinion that do not need to be there is exactly what people have done who have employed the word “heresy” historically. Paul actually says that dividing (along the lines of who baptized you) has the effect of making the cross of Christ empty of power:

11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. 12 What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.

(1 Corinthians 1:11-17 NRSV)

In the Jewish tradition, the Talmud presents arguments and all kinds of opinions. Today’s Daf Yomi email from My Jewish Learning had an interesting observation which may show why Yeshua sided mostly with Hillel in his arguments with the Pharisees (some of whom actually agreed with Yeshua and Hillel as well) In addition, some scholars at The Jerusalem Perspective have argued that “the kingdom of heaven” was an anti-zealot slogan while it was Shammai who encouraged the zealots (who created division and brought catastrophe down on the Jews not just from the Roman reaction but from killing their own people)

Berakhot 11: Disagreeing With Integrity
Hillel’s reputation was for being more fair-minded and also more lenient — making the law more manageable to follow. Shammai’s reputation was for being more stringent, aiming at a higher level of piety.
. . .
In this short passage, we can see why Hillel was so beloved and ultimately rose to much greater fame than Shammai. Hillel evinces concern not only for the welfare of the Jews who follow his ruling (by making observance manageable for them), but also for his opponent (whose opinion he takes time to respectfully address). He is not satisfied until all are answered thoroughly. This makes him not only a scholar, but a mensch.

(A Daily Dose of Talmud Daf Yomi for Everyone, from My Jewish Learning)


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