WFT- anathema

14 August 2008

Merriam-Webster's Word for the Day on Monday, August 11th was anathema.  I read the WOTD email and thought "Wow.  That's a word I haven't heard used outside of Scripture."

Here is how M-W defined it:

1 a : one that is cursed by ecclesiastical authority b: someone or something intensely disliked or loathed 2 a : a ban or curse solemnly pronounced by ecclesiastical authority and accompanied by excommunication b : a vigorous denunciation : curse

They also provided this interesting etymological insight:

Historically, "anathema" can be considered a one-word oxymoron. When it first appeared in English in 1526, it was used to refer to something accursed. Shortly thereafter, however, people also began to use it to refer to something consecrated to divine use — generally a good thing. Why the contradiction? “Anathema” comes from Greek, where it initially meant “anything devoted” and later “anything devoted to evil.” The “consecrated to divine use” sense of “anathema” comes from that earlier Greek use but is not widely used today.

I did a quick word search and did not find "anathema" used in the NASB translation but I did find it used once in the KJV:

If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.  - 1 Cor 16:22

The NASB translates the verse like this:

If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha.

[FWIW, I quickly checked out "Maranatha" and found this:

"A transliterated Aramaic phrase."- NAS Exhaustive Concordance.

"Of Chaldee origin (meaning our Lord has come); maranatha, that is, an exclamation of the approaching divine judgment." - Strong's.

Sorry... tangent, but an interesting one! :) ]

I reviewed the Greek Majority Text and "Jesus Christ" [Iesous Criston] is present.  (Score one for the KJV team.)

The Greek word translated by the KJV as the English word "anathema" is (surprise!) "anathema": αναθεμα.  This word is used 6 times in the NASB:

Acts 23:14 - They came to the chief priests and the elders and said, "We have bound ourselves under a solemn [anathema] oath [anathematizo] to taste nothing until we have killed Paul.

Romans 9:3- For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,

1 Cor 12:3- Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is accursed"; and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.

1 Cor 16:22-  (our verse above)

Galatians 1:8-9 - But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!  As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

This led me to consider the Septuagint's use of this term and the verses from the Tanakh that used that Greek word.  Here are those verses from the NASB:

Lev 27:28  'Nevertheless, anything which a man sets apart to the LORD out of all that he has, of man or animal or of the fields of his own property, shall not be sold or redeemed. Anything devoted to destruction [Heb. charam.  Strongs # 2763a] is most holy to the LORD.

Num 21:3  The LORD heard the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites; then they utterly destroyed [Heb. charam] them and their cities. Thus the name of the place was called Hormah.

Deu 7:26  "You shall not bring an abomination into your house, and like it come under the ban; you shall utterly detest it and you shall utterly abhor it, for it is something banned [Heb. cherem. Strongs # 2764a].

Deu 13:15  you shall surely strike the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying [Heb. charam] it and all that is in it and its cattle with the edge of the sword.

Deu 13:17  "Nothing from that which is put under the ban [Heb. cherem] shall cling to your hand, in order that the LORD may turn from His burning anger and show mercy to you, and have compassion on you and make you increase, just as He has sworn to your fathers,

Deu 20:17  "But you shall utterly destroy [Heb. charam] them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the LORD your God has commanded you,

Jos 6:17  "The city shall be under the ban [Heb. cherem], it and all that is in it belongs to the LORD; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in the house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent.

Jos 6:18  "But as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban [Heb. cherem], so that you do not covet them and take some of the things under the ban [Heb. cherem], and make the camp of Israel accursed [Heb. cherem] and bring trouble on it.

Jos 7:1  But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban [Heb. cherem], for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban [Heb. cherem], therefore the anger of the LORD burned against the sons of Israel.

Jos 7:11  "Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban [Heb. cherem] and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things.

Jos 7:12  "Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed [Heb. cherem]. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban [Heb. cherem] from your midst.

Jos 7:13  "Rise up! Consecrate the people and say, 'Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, for thus the LORD, the God of Israel, has said, "There are things under the ban [Heb. cherem] in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you have removed the things under the ban [Heb. cherem] from your midst."

Jos 22:20  'Did not Achan the son of Zerah act unfaithfully in the things under the ban [Heb. cherem], and wrath fall on all the congregation of Israel? And that man did not perish alone in his iniquity.'"

1Ch 2:7  The son of Carmi was Achar, the troubler of Israel, who violated the ban [Heb. cherem].

Zec 14:11  People will live in it, and there will no longer be a curse [Heb. cherem], for Jerusalem will dwell in security.

This provides us with some insight from Scripture that things that are "devoted to destruction for God" are pretty serious business.

Anathema... who knew?


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