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ANATHEMA (a-năth'ĕ-ma, Gr. anathema, the rendering in the LXX and in the NT of the Hebrew herem, anything devoted). A thing devoted to God becomes his and is therefore irrevocably withdrawn from common use. A person so devoted is doomed to death—a death implying moral worthlessness (
The word means literally “something set up” or “placed” for a divinity. Both this and the rather stronger classical Greek form were originally used of a votive offering (cf. Luke 21:5). In the LXX the word anathema corresponds to the Hebrew term “consecrated (to God”) or “accursed.” Becoming anathema in the OT period could involve extermination (Deut. 7:1f., etc.). The NT use of the word implies exclusion, being banned, rather than complete extinction (Rom. 9:3; 1 Cor. 16:22, lect. vid.; Gal. 1:8f.; cf. 1 Cor. 12:3; Acts 23:14). The early church extended the biblical meaning (see A.F. Walls, NBD, p.35) to make it synonymous with excommunication. The earliest example of anathematizing beyond the NT occurs in the legislation of the .* Normally the conciliar anathema was invoked against heresy (cf. the twelve anti-Nestorian anathemas of Cyril of Alexandria*). From the sixth century onward, anathematizing (as complete banning from the church) is distinguished from excommunication (as exclusion from worship and the sacraments).
See also Excommunication.
ANATHEMA ə năth’ ə mə (ἀνάθεμα, G353, / ἀνάθημα, G356, חֵ֫רֶם, H3051; that which is devoted, dedicated, banned or cursed). Although the word occurs only once in KJV (
In non-Biblical Gr. the emphasis of anathema is upon the idea of dedicating something to deity and anatithēmi becomes used technically for offering up a votive offering. A possible exception to this emphasis is the use of anathema in a curse tablet, but the lateness of the text renders it disputed as to whether it is uninfluenced by Biblical usage.
In the NT one finds the two LXX uses continued:
J. Behm, in TWNT (1933); N. Snaith, The Distinctive Ideas of the(1944).