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For the band, see Anathema (band).
Anathema, a term derived from Greek ἀνάθεμα, which meant
something dedicated and, in the Septuagint and New Testament,
something dedicated to evil and thus accursed, has various
One source presents the meanings in two classes:
1. something or someone that one vehemently dislikes;
2. a formal curse by a pope or a council of the Church,
excommunicating a person or denouncing a doctrine.
Another arranges them in four groups:
1. A formal ecclesiastical ban, curse, or excommunication;
2. A vehement denunciation; a curse;
3. One that is cursed or damned;
4. One that is greatly reviled, loathed, or shunned.
1 Generic usage
2 Religious usage
2.2 New Testament
2.3 Early Church
2.4 Eastern Orthodox churches
2.5 Catholic Church
3 See also
5 External links
Anathema (in the sense of a curse) attributed to Pope Gregory XI
In general usage, the word "anathema" is employed mainly to
describe vehement disagreement with or dislike of something.
Examples: "Some people will consider this definition anathema;" or
"Doing homework after school is a complete anathema to her;" or
"That political party would paint as anathema any idea not their own,
no matter how good it is."
In the Old Testament the word was applied to anything set aside for
sacrifice and thus banned from profane use and dedicated to
destruction, as in the case of the enemy and their cities and
possessions in the case of religious wars. In the New Testament, the
word is used with the meanings of a curse and forced expulsion of
someone from the Christian community.
The Greek word ἀνάθεμα (anathema), meaning something offered to
a divinity, was used by the Jewish translation of the Bible known as
the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew word םרח (herem), used in
verses such as Leviticus 27:28 to refer to things offered to God, and
so banned for common (non-religious) use. The Hebrew word was
also used of what was devoted by virtue of a simple vow and
declared to belong not to the Lord, but to the priest. In postexilic
Judaism, the meaning of the word changed to an expression of God's
displeasure with all persons, Jew or pagan, who do not subordinate
their personal conduct and tendencies to the discipline of the
theocracy and who must be purged from the community, thus making
anathema an instrument of synagogal discipline.
The noun ἀνάθεμα (anathema) occurs in the Greek New Testament
six times: in 1 Cor 12:3; 16:22; 9&src=ESV Gal 1:8, 9; Rom 9:3; Acts
23:14. Its meaning in the New Testament is disfavour of God, a
meaning that, according to Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of
Old Testament and New Testament Word, in Acts 23:14 to the
sentence of disfavour, and in the other instances to the object of
See also: History of early Christianity
Since the time of the apostles, the term 'anathema' has come to
mean a form of extreme religious sanction, known as
excommunication. 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 "minor"
excommunication evolved, where "minor" 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 an 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. 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—so far—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. For the thorns of vanity and the
tares 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.
The 1917 Code of Canon Law declared anathema to be another
name for excommunication, "especially if it is inflicted with the
solemnities described in the Pontificale Romanum".
The same Code abolished all penalties of whatever kind envisaged in
previous canonical legislation but not included in the Code, and
the Pontificale Romanum, as revised since the Second Vatican
Council, has no mention of particular solemnities associated with the
infliction of excommunication.
The ceremony described by Joseph Gignac in the 1907 Catholic
Encyclopedia is thus only of historical interest.
Mark and avoid
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