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Anathema (in Greek Ανάθεμα) originally meant something lifted up as an offering to the gods; later, with evolving meanings, it came to mean:

  1. to be formally set apart;
  2. banished, exiled, excommunicated;
  3. denounced, sometimes accursed; or
  4. a literary term

Contents

Interpretation

There is some difficulty translating this word, especially since it has now become commonly used with the term accursed or "accustomed". The original meaning of the Greek word, as used in non-Biblical Greek literature, was an offering to a god. The Hebrew word herem meant something 'forbidden' or 'off limits.' It was used in verses such as Leviticus 27:28 to refer to things offered to God, and hence 'off limits' to common (non-religious) use. Because the Greek word anathema meant things offered to God, it was used to translate the Hebrew word herem in such contexts. Thus, the meaning of the Greek word anathema, under the influence of the Hebrew word herem, was eventually taken as meaning 'set apart,' (like herem) rather than 'an offering to god,' as it had meant in Greek, and eventually the word came to be seen as meaning 'banished' and to be considered beyond the judgment and help of the community.

In Greek usage, an anathema was anything laid up or suspended; hence anything laid up in a temple or set apart as sacred. In this sense the form of the word was once (in plural) used in the Greek New Testament, in Luke 21:5, where it is rendered 'gifts.' It is used similarly in the Book of Judith, where it is translated as 'gift to the Lord.' In the Septuagint the form anathema is generally used as the rendering of the Hebrew word herem, derived from a verb which means (1) to consecrate or devote; and (2) to exterminate. Any object so sacrificed or devoted to the Lord could not be redeemed (Numbers 18:14; Leviticus 27:28-29); and hence the idea of exterminating was connected with the word. The Hebrew verb (haram) is frequently used of the extermination of idolatrous nations. It had a wide range of application. The anathema or herem was a person or thing irrevocably devoted to God (Leviticus 27:21, KJV); and "none devoted shall be ransomed. He shall surely be put to death" (KJV). The Hebrew word therefore carried the idea of devoted to destruction (Numbers 21:2-3; Joshua 6:17); and hence a majority of scholars have treated the word anathema similarly, generally as meaning a thing accursed. For example, in Deuteronomy 7:26 an idol is called a herem = anathema, understood to mean a thing accursed. There is however, an alternative view that the Greek word 'anathema,' in these passages, was used by the Greek Septuagint translators to mean "offered up to God."

In the New Testament

In the New Testament the word anathema often implies denouncement and banishment. In some instances an individual pronounces an anathema on himself if certain conditions are not fulfilled (Acts 23:12, 23:14, 23:21). "To call Jesus denounced" [anathema] (1 Corinthians 12:3) is to pronounce him execrated or accursed. "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:8-9); i.e., let his conduct in so doing be accounted banished..

Sometimes, however, the word 'anathema' in the New Testament invokes an alternative meaning, that of being "offered up to God."

In Romans 9:3, the expression "anathema from Christ," i.e., excluded from fellowship or alliance with Christ, has occasioned much difficulty. The traditional view is that the apostle here does not speak of his wish as a possible thing. It is simply a vehement expression of feeling, showing how strong was his desire for the salvation of his people. The word "anathema" in 1 Corinthians 16:22 might suggest that they who love not the Lord are objects of loathing and execration to all holy beings; they are unrepentant of a crime that merits the severest condemnation; they are exposed to the sentence of "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord" for they do not embrace saving beliefs, as was the sentence of all mankind before the atonement, justification and sanctification of the blood of Christ Jesus that washed away our sins. Alternatively, the Apostle Paul could be suggesting that those who do not love the Lord should be offered up to God.

According to the former view, an Anathema would be a charge laid against a person to be delivered up for the immediate but temporary judgment of God in order to prevent the spread of false doctrine, with ultimate goal of restoring a person to fellowship, to halt his or her error, and to end false teaching and bad doctrine. Both the Church's process of excommunication and the Lord's bringing tragedy into the offender's life could be understood to unfold with the hope of bringing the offender back into a right understanding of the scripture and into a right relationship with both God and all brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.

Early Christianity

Since the time of the apostles, the term 'anathema' has come to mean a form of extreme religious sanction beyond excommunication, known as major excommunication.[citation needed] The earliest recorded instance of the form is in the Council of Elvira (c. 306), and thereafter it became the common method of cutting off heretics; for example, the Synod of Gangra (c. 340) pronounced that Manicheanism was anathema. Cyril of Alexandria issued twelve anathemas against Nestorius in 431. In the fifth century, a formal distinction between anathema and excommunication evolved, where excommunication entailed cutting off a person or group from the rite of Eucharist and attendance at worship, while anathema meant a complete separation of the subject from the Church.

Eastern Orthodox churches

The Eastern Orthodox churches distinguishes between "separation from the communion of the Church" (excommunication) and other epitemia (penances) laid on a person, and anathema. While undergoing epitemia, the person remains a Eastern Orthodox Christian, even though his or her participation in the mystical life of the church is limited; but those given over to anathema are considered to be completely torn away from the Church until repentance.[1] Epitemia or excommunication is normally limited to a specified period of time — though it is always dependent upon the repentance of the one penanced, but the lifting of anathema is dependent solely upon the repentance of the one condemned. The two causes for which a person may be anathematized are heresy and schism. Anathematization is only a last resort, and must always be preceded by pastoral attempts to reason with the offender and bring about his restoration.

For the Orthodox, anathema is not final damnation; God alone is the judge of the living and the dead, and up until the moment of death repentance is always possible. The purpose of public anathema is twofold: to warn the one condemned and bring about his repentance, and to warn others away from his error. Everything is done for the purpose of the salvation of souls.

On the First Sunday of Great Lent, which is known as the "Sunday of Orthodoxy", the church celebrates the Rite of Orthodoxy, at which anathemas are pronounced against numerous heresies. This rite commemorates the end of Iconoclasm -- the last great heresy to trouble the church (all subsequent heresies merely being restatements in one form or another of previous errors) -- at the Council of Constantinople in 842. The Synodicon, or decree, of the council was publicly proclaimed on this day, including an anathema against not only Iconoclasm but also of previous heresies. The Synodicon continues to be proclaimed annually, together with additional prayers and petitions in cathedrals and major monasteries throughout the Orthodox Church. During the rite (which is also known as the "Triumph of Orthodoxy"), lections are read from Romans 16:17-20, which directs the church to "...mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine you have learned, and avoid them. For they … by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple", and Matthew 18:10-18 which recounts the parable of the Good Shepherd, and provides the procedure to be followed in dealing with those who err:

"… if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he shall neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, whatever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

After an ektenia (litany), during which petitions are offered that God will have mercy on those who err and bring them back to the truth, and that he will "make hatred, enmity, strife, vengeance, falsehood and all other abominations to cease, and cause true love to reign in our hearts…", the bishop (or abbot) says a prayer during which he beseeches God to: "look down now upon Thy Church, and behold how that, though we have joyously received the Gospel of salvation, we are but stony ground.[2] For the thorns[3] of vanity and the tares[4] of the passions make it to bear but little fruit in certain places and none in others, and with the increase in iniquity, some, opposing the truth of Thy Gospel by heresy, and others by schism, do fall away from Thy dignity, and rejecting Thy grace, the subject themselves to the judgment of Thy most holy word. O most merciful and almighty Lord … be merciful unto us; strengthen us in the right Faith by Thy power, and with Thy divine light illumine the eyes of those in error, that they may come to know Thy truth. Soften the hardness of their hearts and open their ears, that they may hear Thy voice and turn to Thee, our Saviour. O Lord, set aside their division and correct their life, which doth not accord with Christian piety. … Endue the pastors of Thy Church with holy zeal, and so direct their care for the salvation and conversion of those in error with the spirit of the Gospel that, guided by Thee, we may all attain to that place where is the perfect faith, fulfillment of hope, and true love …." The Protodeacon then proclaims the Synodicon, anathematizing various heresies and lauding those who have remained constant in the dogma and Sacred Tradition of the church.

Catholic Church

While "minor excommunication" could be incurred by associating with an excommunicate, and "major excommunication" could be imposed by any bishop, "anathema" was imposed by the Pope in a specific ceremony described in the Pontificale Romanum. Wearing a purple cope (the liturgical color of penitence) and holding a lighted candle, he, surrounded by twelve priests, also with lighted candles, pronounced the anathema with a formula that concluded with the words:

Wherefore in the name of God the All-powerful, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, of Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and of all the saints, in virtue of the power which has been given us of binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth, we deprive (Name) himself and all his accomplices and all his abettors of the Communion of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, we separate him from the society of all Christians, we exclude him from the bosom of our Holy Mother the Church in Heaven and on earth, we declare him excommunicated and anathematized and we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate, so long as he will not burst the fetters of the demon, do penance and satisfy the Church; we deliver him to Satan to mortify his body, that his soul may be saved on the day of judgment.[5]

The priests respond: "Fiat, fiat, fiat" (Let it be done), and all, including the pontiff, cast their lighted candles on the ground. Notice is sent in writing to the priests and neighbouring bishops of the name of the one who has been thus excommunicated and the cause of his excommunication, in order that they may have no communication with him. Although he is delivered to Satan and his angels, he can still, and is even bound to repent. The Pontifical gives the form for absolving him and reconciling him with the Church.[5]

The 1917 Code of Canon Law, which abolished all ecclesiastical penalties not mentioned in the Code itself (canon 6), made "anathema" synonymous with "excommunication" (canon 2257). The ritual described above is not included in the post-Vatican II revision of the Pontifical.

A literary term

Used in literature, an anathema is a thing or person accursed or damned; a thing or person greatly detested; a formal curse or condemnation excommunicating a person from a church or damning something; any strong curse

References

  1. ^ St. John Maximovitch, "The Word 'Anathema' and its Meaning", Orthodox Life, vol 27, Mar-April 1977, pp. 18-19
  2. ^ Cf. Matthew 13:5, etc.
  3. ^ Cf. Matthew 13:7, etc.
  4. ^ Cf. Matthew 13:25-40
  5. ^ a b The Catholic Encyclopedia, Anathema

to exclude, to be banished or to be and out cast.

See also

External links

This article incorporates text from Easton's Bible Dictionary (1897), a publication now in the public domain.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ANATHEMA (from Gr. avarLOEvac, to lift up), literally an offering, a thing set aside. The classical Greek form dvaOn�a (Lat. anathema) was the technical term for a gift (cf. donarium, oblatio) made to a god either in gratitude or with a view to propitiation. Thus at Athens the Thesmothetae (perhaps all the archons) made a vow that, should they break any law, they would dedicate a life-size gilt statue in the temple at Delphi. Similarly, of spoils taken in war, a part, generally a tenth, was dedicated to the god of the city (e.g. to Athena); to this class probably belong the trophies erected by the victors on the field of battle; sometimes a captured ship was placed upon a hill as an offering to Poseidon (Neptune). Persons who had recovered from an illness offered anathemata in the temples of Asclepius (Aesculapius); those who had escaped from shipwreck offered their clothes, or, if these had been lost, a lock of hair, to Neptune (Hor. Odes, i. 5.13; Virg. Aeneid, xii. 768). The latter offering was very commonly made by young men and girls, especially young brides. Works of art of all kinds and the implements of a craftsman giving up his work were likewise dedicated. Such presents were far more common, as also more valuable, among the Greeks than among the Romans. Similar practices were prevalent, to an extent hardly realized, among the Christians up to the middle ages and even later. Just as the ancients hung their offerings on trees, temple columns and the images of the gods, so offerings were made to the Cross, to the Virgin Mary and on altars generally.

In the form anathema, the word is used in the Septuagint, the New Testament and ecclesiastical writers as the equivalent of the Hebrew herem, which is commonly translated " accursed thing " (A.V.) or " devoted thing " (R.V.; cf. the Roman devotio). In Hebrew the root h-r-m means to " set apart," " devote to Yahweh," for destruction; but in Arabic it means simply to separate or seclude (cf. " harem "). The idea of destruction or perdition is thus a secondary meaning of the word, which gradually lost its primary sense of consecration. In the New Testament, though it is used in the sense of " offering (Luke xxi. 5), it generally signifies " separated " from the church,. i.e. " accursed " (cf. Gal. i. 8 ff.; I Cor. xvi. 22), and it became the regular formula of excommunication from the time of the council of Chalcedon in 451, especially against heretics, e.g. in the canons of the council of Trent and those of the Vatican council of 1870. The expression maranatha (" the Lord cometh "), which follows anathema in I Cor. xvi. 22, is often erroneously quoted as though it were an amplification of the curse.

See Excommunication; Penance.


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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

anything laid up or suspended; hence anything laid up in a temple or set apart as sacred. In this sense the form of the word is anath(ee)ma, once in plural used in the Greek New Testament, in Lk 21:5, where it is rendered "gifts." In the LXX. the form anathema is generally used as the rendering of the Hebrew word herem, derived from a verb which means (1) to consecrate or devote; and (2) to exterminate. Any object so devoted to the Lord could not be redeemed (Num 18:14; Lev 27:28, 29); and hence the idea of exterminating connected with the word. The Hebrew verb (haram) is frequently used of the extermination of idolatrous nations. It had a wide range of application. The anathema_ or _herem was a person or thing irrevocably devoted to God (Lev 27:21, 28); and "none devoted shall be ransomed. He shall surely be put to death" (27:29). The word therefore carried the idea of devoted to destruction (Num 21:2, 3; Josh 6:17); and hence generally it meant a thing accursed. In Deut 7:26 an idol is called a herem = anathema, a thing accursed.

In the New Testament this word always implies execration. In some cases an individual denounces an anathema on himself unless certain conditions are fulfilled (Acts 23:12, 14, 21). "To call Jesus accursed" [anathema] (1Cor 12:3) is to pronounce him execrated or accursed. If any one preached another gospel, the apostle says, "let him be accursed" (Gal 1:8, 9); i.e., let his conduct in so doing be accounted accursed.

In Rom 9:3, the expression "accursed" (anathema) from Christ, i.e., excluded from fellowship or alliance with Christ, has occasioned much difficulty. The apostle here does not speak of his wish as a possible thing. It is simply a vehement expression of feeling, showing how strong was his desire for the salvation of his people.

The anathema in 1Cor 16:22 denotes simply that they who love not the Lord are rightly objects of loathing and execration to all holy beings; they are guilty of a crime that merits the severest condemnation; they are exposed to the just sentence of "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord."

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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(Gr. anathema -- literally, placed on high, suspended, set aside).


A term formerly indicating offerings made to the divinity which were suspended from the roof or walls of temples for the purpose of being exposed to view. Thus anathema according to its etymology signifies a thing offered to God. The word anathema is sometimes used in this sense in the Old and New Testaments: In Judith, xvi, 23, it is said that Judith, having taken all the arms of Holofernes which the people had given him and the curtain of his bed which she herself had brought, offered them to the Lord as an anathema of oblivion. In II Mach., ix, 16, Antiochus promises to adorn with precious gifts (anathemata) the temple he has pillaged; and in Luke, xxi, 5, mention is made of the temple built of precious stones and adorned with rich gifts (anathemata). As odious objects were also exposed to view, e.g. the head of a criminal or of an enemy, or his arms or spoils, the word anathema came to signify a thing hated, or execrable, devoted to public abhorrence or destruction. "To understand the word anathema", says Vigouroux, "we should first go back to the real meaning of herem of which it is the equivalent. Herem comes from the word haram, to cut off, to separate, to curse, and indicates that which is cursed and condemned to be cut off or exterminated, whether a person or a thing, and in consequence, that which man is forbidden to make use of." This is the sense of anathema in the following passage from Deut., vii, 26: "Neither shalt thou bring anything of the idol into thy house, lest thou become an anathema like it. Thou shalt detest it as dung, and shalt utterly abhor it as uncleanness and filth, because it is an anathema." Nations, individuals, animals, and inanimate objects may become anathema, i.e. cursed and devoted to destruction. It was thus that the people inhabiting the Promised Land were anathematized as Moses says (Deut., vii, 1, 2): "When . . . the Lord thy God shall have delivered them to thee, thou shalt utterly destroy them." When a people was anathematized by the Lord, they were to be entirely exterminated. Saul was rejected by God for having spared Agag, King of the Amalecites, amid the greater part of the booty (I K. xv, 9-23). Anyone who spared anything belonging to a man who had been declared anathema, became himself anathema. There is the story of Achan who had charge of the spoils of Jericho: "The anathema is in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thy enemies till he be destroyed out of thee that is defiled with this wickedness." Achan, with his family amid herds, was stoned to death. Sometimes it is cities that are anathematized. When the anathema is rigorous all the inhabitants are to be exterminated, the city burned, and permission denied ever to rebuild it, and its riches offered to Jehovah. This was the fate of Jericho (Jos., vi, 17). If it is less strict, all the inhabitants are to be put to death, but the herds may be divided among the victors (Jos., viii, 27). The obligation of killing all inhabitants occasionally admits of exceptions in the case of young girls who remain captives in the hands of the conquerors (Num., xxxi, 18). The severity of the anathema in the Old Testament is explained by the necessity there was of preserving the Jewish people and protecting them against the idolatry professed by the neighbouring pagans.


In the New Testament anathema no longer entails death, but the loss of goods or exclusion from the society of the faithful. St. Paul frequently uses this word in the latter sense. In the Epistle to the Romans (ix, 3) he says: "For I wished myself to be an anathema from Christ, for my brethren, who are my kinsmen according to the flesh", i.e. "I should wish to be separated and rejected of Christ, if by that means I would procure the salvation of my brethren." And again, using the word in the same sense, he says (Gal. i, 9): "If any one preach to you a gospel besides that which you have received, let him be anathema." But he who is separated from God is united to the devil, which explains why St. Paul, instead of anathematizing, sometimes delivers a person over to Satan (I Tim., i, 20; I Cor., v, 5). Anathema signifies also to be overwhelmed with maledictions, as in I Cor., xvi, 22: "If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema." At an early date the Church adopted the word anathema to signify the exclusion of a sinner from the society of the faithful; but the anathema was pronounced chiefly against heretics. All the councils, from the Council of Nicæa to that of the Vatican, have worded their dogmatic canons: "If any one says . . . let him be anathema". Nevertheless, although during the first centuries the anathema did not seem to differ from the sentence of excommunication, beginning with the sixth century a distinction was made between the two. A Council of Tours desires that after three warnings there be recited in chorus Psalm cviii against the usurper of the goods of the Church, that he may fall into the curse of Judas, and "that he may be not only excommunicated, but anathematized, and that he may be stricken by the sword of Heaven". This distinction was introduced into the canons of the Church, as is proved by the letter of John VIII (872-82) found in the Decree of Gratian (c. III, q. V, c. XII): "Know that Engeltrude is not only under the ban of excommunication, which separates her from the society of the brethren, but under the anathema, which separates from the body of Christ, which is the Church." This distinction is found in the earliest Decretals, in the chapter Cum non ab homine. In the same chapter, the tenth of Decretals II, tit. i, Celestine III (1191-98), speaking of the measures it is necessary to take in proceeding against a cleric guilty of theft, homocide, perjury, or other crimes, says: "If, after having been deposed from office, he is incorrigible, he should first be excommunicated; but if he perseveres in his contumacy he should be stricken with the sword of anathema; but if plunging to the depths of the abyss, he reaches the point where he despises these penalties, he should be given over to the secular arm." At a late period, Gregory IX (1227-41), bk. V, tit. xxxix, ch. lix, Si quem, distinguishes minor excommunication, or that implying exclusion only from the sacraments, from major excommunication, implying exclusion from the society of the faithful. He declares that it is major excommunication which is meant in all texts in which mention is made of excommunication. Since that time there has been no difference between major excommunication and anathema, except the greater or less degree of ceremony in pronouncing the sentence of excommunication.


Anathema remains a major excommunication which is to be promulgated with great solemnity. A formula for this ceremony was drawn up by Pope Zachary (741-52) in the chapter Debent duodecim sacerdotes, Cause xi, quest. iii. The Roman Pontifical reproduces it in the chapter Ordo excommunicandi et absolvendi, distinguishing three sorts of excommunication: minor excommunication, formerly incurred by a person holding communication with anyone under the ban of excommunication; major excommunication, pronounced by the Pope in reading a sentence; and anathema, or the penalty incurred by crimes of the gravest order, and solemnly promulgated by the Pope. In passing this sentence, the pontiff is vested in amice, stole, and a violet cope, wearing his mitre, and assisted by twelve priests clad in their surplices and holding lighted candles. He takes his seat in front of the altar or in some other suitable place, amid pronounces the formula of anathema which ends with these words: "Wherefore in the name of God the All-powerful, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, of the Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and of all the saints, in virtue of the power which has been given us of binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth, we deprive N-- himself and all his accomplices and all his abettors of the Communion of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, we separate him from the society of all Christians, we exclude him from the bosom of our Holy Mother the Church in Heaven and on earth, we declare him excommunicated and anathematized and we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate, so long as he will not burst the fetters of the demon, do penance and satisfy the Church; we deliver him to Satan to mortify his body, that his soul may be saved on the day of judgment." Whereupon all the assistants respond: "Fiat, fiat, fiat." The pontiff and the twelve priests then cast to the ground the lighted candles they have been carrying, and notice is sent in writing to the priests and neighbouring bishops of the name of the one who has been excommunicated and the cause of his excommunication, in order that they may have no communication with him. Although he is delivered to Satan and his angels, he can still, and is even bound to repent. The Pontifical gives the form for absolving him and reconciling him with the Church. The promulgation of the anathema with such solemnity is well calculated to strike terror to the criminal and bring him to a state of repentance, especially if the Church adds to it the ceremony of the Maranatha.


At the end of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, xvi, 22, St. Paul says, "If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema, maranatha," which means, "The Lord is come." But commentators have regarded this expression as a formula of excommunication very severe among the Jews. This opinion, however, is not sustained by Vigouroux, "Dict. de la Bible" (s.v. Anathème). In the Western Church, Maranatha has become a very solemn formula as anathema, by which the criminal is excommunicated, abandoned to the judgment of God, and rejected from the bosom of the Church until the coming of the Lord. An example of such an anathema is found in these words of Pope Silverius (536-38): "If anyone henceforth deceives a bishop in such a manner, let him be anathema maranatha before God and his holy angels." Benedict XIV (1740-58--De Synodo dioecesana X, i) cites the anathema maranatha formulated by the Fathers of the Fourth Council of Toledo against those who were guilty of the crime of high treason: "He who dares to despise our decision, let him be stricken with anathema maranatha, i.e. may he be damned at the coming of the Lord, may he have his place with Judas Iscariot, he and his companions. Amen." There is frequent mention of this anathema maranatha in the Bulls of erection for abbeys and other establishments. Still the anathema maranatha is a censure from which the criminal may be absolved; although he is delivered to Satan and his angels, the Church, in virtue of the Power of the Keys, can receive him once more into the communion of the faithful. More than that, it is with this purpose in view that she takes such rigorous measures against him, in order that by the mortification of his body his soul may be saved on the last day. The Church, animated by the spirit of God, does not wish the death of the sinner, but rather that he be converted and live. This explains why the most severe and terrifying formulas of excommunication, containing all the rigours of the Maranatha have, as a rule, clauses like this: Unless he becomes repentant, or gives satisfaction, or is corrected.

Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.
This article needs to be merged with ANATHEMA (Jewish Encyclopedia).

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