From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

Excommunication is a form of ecclesiastical censure involving exclusion from the membership of the Church. Such exclusion may be temporary or permanent. It may cut off the offender from all communion and every privilege, or it may be less severe, allowing some intercourse and certain benefits.

1. The term. -The word ‘excommunication’ is not found in Authorized Versionor Revised Version, nor are the obsolete forms ‘excommunion’ (Milton), ‘excommenge’ (Holinshed), ‘excommuned’ (Gayton). There are general references to the subject, and one or two cases are mentioned with some detail. The Greek verb ἀφορίζω signifies ‘mark off from (ἀπό) by a boundary (ὄρος).’ It is used sometimes in a good sense ( e.g.  Acts 13:2,  Romans 1:1,  Galatians 1:15), and sometimes in a bad one ( e.g.  Luke 6:22; note the three degrees of evil treatment-ἀφορίσωσιν, ὀνειδίσωσιν, ἐκβάλωσιν τὸ ὄνομα). See also  Matthew 13:49;  Matthew 25:32,  2 Corinthians 6:17,  Galatians 2:12. It is employed by various Greek writers-Sophocles, Euripides, Plato, and others-and is found frequently in the Septuagint. Excommunicatio is a Latin word of later origin. It is used in the Vulgate.

2. Warrant for the practice in the Apostolic Church .-Excommunication in apostolic times rested upon a threefold warrant.

(1) Natural and inherent right .-Every properly constituted society has the right and power to exclude members not conforming to its rules. The Church has authority to exercise a right which every society claims. An analogy is sometimes drawn between the Church and the State. The State has power to send into exile, to deprive of civil rights, and even claims and exercises the power to inflict a death-sentence. So, in spiritual matters, the Church may pass sentences of separation more or less complete, and though the supreme judge alone can pronounce the sentence of death in an absolute sense, yet the Church can pass such a sentence in a relative sense-the offender being regarded as dead from the standpoint of the ecclesiastical court. Upon this point-whether in excommunication and in ‘binding and loosing’ the power of the Church is final and absolute-two divergent views have been held. As typical of these two schools of thought, see Dante, de Mon . iii. viii. 36ff., and Tarquini, Juris eccl. Inst . 4, Rome, 1875, p. 98. The former declares it is not absolute, ‘sed respective ad aliquid.… Posset [enim] solvere me non poenitentem, quod etiam facere ipse Deus non posset’; the latter states that St. Peter ( Matthew 16:19) is invested with ‘potestas clavium, quae est absoluta et monarchica.’

(2) The example of the Jewish nation and Church .-In the Pentateuch it is stated that certain heinous sins cannot be forgiven. By some form of excommunication or by death itself the sinner is to be ‘cut off.’ Thus the sanctity of the nation is restored and preserved. In the later days of Judaism the penalties became somewhat milder as a general rule. The foundations of Jewish excommunication are  Leviticus 13:46,  Numbers 5:2-3;  Numbers 12:14-15; Numbers 16,  Judges 5:23,  Ezra 7:26,  Nehemiah 13:25. The effects are described in  Ezra 7:26;  Ezra 10:8. The Talmud mentions three kinds of excommunication, the first two disciplinary, the third complete and final expulsion. There was separation, separation with a curse, and final separation with a terrible anathema. For Gospel references see  Luke 6:22,  John 9:22;  John 9:34-35;  John 12:42;  John 16:2. The sentence might be pronounced on twenty-four different grounds.

(3) The authority of Jesus Christ .-The main basis of authority for the Christian Church is the teaching of its Founder. The passages of most importance on the subject under consideration are  Matthew 16:19;  Matthew 18:18,  John 20:23. Excommunication must be preceded by private and public exhortation, conducted in the spirit of love, with caution, wisdom, and patience. Only as a last resort, and when all else has failed, must the sentence of banishment be pronounced (see  Matthew 13:24-30;  Matthew 13:36-43;  Matthew 13:47-50). From Christ Himself the Church received authority, not only to ‘bind’ the impenitent and unbelieving and to ‘loose’ the penitent believer, but also, in its properly constituted courts, to condemn and expel gross offenders and to forgive and re-instate them if truly penitent.

3. Legislation in the Apostolic Church. -The general methods of procedure are made clear by St. Paul’s method of dealing with the case of the incestuous person at Corinth (1 Corinthians 5,  2 Corinthians 2:6-11). The excommunication of the offender was a solemn, deliberate, judicial act of the members of the Church specially gathered together ‘in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ’ for the purpose, and equipped with the authority and ‘power of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ The act of exclusion was that of the Church itself and not of the Apostle Paul. The power was not in the hands of an official, or body of officials. Wherever it has become the prerogative of a priesthood it has led to great abuse and the results have been disastrous both to priests and people.

The object of this act of discipline was to reform the sinner ( 1 Corinthians 5:5), and to preserve the purity of the Church. Where a difference of opinion existed as to the course to be pursued, the verdict was decided by the majority ( 2 Corinthians 2:6). The sentence might be modified or rescinded according to sub-sequent events ( 2 Corinthians 2:6-8). ‘To deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus’ ( 1 Corinthians 5:5), is an obscure passage. Perhaps St. Paul thought that a sin of the flesh was more likely to be cured by bodily suffering than in any other way. In his opinion certain afflictions of the body were due to the operations of Satan ( 2 Corinthians 2:11;  2 Corinthians 12:7,  1 Timothy 1:20). Probably he thought that, in accordance with the sentence of the Church, God would allow Satan to inflict some physical malady that would lead the offender to repentance. If we may take  2 Corinthians 2:6-11 to refer to the same case, the desired result was reached.

‘It cannot have been unknown to Paul that he was here using a form of words similar to the curses by which the Corinthians had formerly been accustomed to consign their personal enemies to destruction by the powers of the world of death. It seems not open to doubt that the Corinthians would understand by this phrase that the offender was to suffer disease and even death as a punishment for sin; and Paul goes on to add that this punishment of the flesh is intended to bring salvation ultimately to his soul (ἴνα τὸ πνεῦμα σωθῇ): by physical suffering he is to atone for his sin.… The whole thought stands in the closest relation to the theory of the confession-inscriptions, in which those who have been punished by the god thank and bless him for the chastisement’ (Ramsay in Expository Times x. [1898-99] 59).

For cases in which physical ill followed ecclesiastical censure see  Acts 5:1;  Acts 8:20;  Acts 13:10. Some hold that the ‘delivery to Satan’ was by virtue of the special authority of St. Paul himself, while the Church had power to expel only. There is nothing in the text to support such a view. This punishment must not be confounded with the anathema of  Romans 9:3,  1 Corinthians 16:22,  Galatians 1:8-9. ‘The attempt to explain the word (ἀνάθεμα) to mean “excommunication” from the society-a later use of the Hebrew in Rabbinical writers and the Greek in ecclesiastical-arose from a desire to take away the apparent profanity of the wish’ (Sanday-Headlam, Romans 5 [ International Critical Commentary , 1902], p. 228). Calvin and some other reformers thought the expression ἀνάθεμα. Μαρὰν ἀθά ( 1 Corinthians 16:22) was a formula of excommunication. Buxtorf ( Lex. Chald. , Basel, 1639, pp. 827, 2466) says it was part of a Jewish cursing formula from the Prophecy of Enoch ( Judges 1:14).There is no reason for such an opinion. It was not held until the meaning of the words was lost or partially so. They are neither connected nor synonymous as some have supposed, and are rightly separated in Revised Version-‘If any man loveth not the Lord, let him be anathema. Maran atha’ (cf.  Philippians 4:5).

In addition to the specific case at Corinth and general references in such passages as  1 Thessalonians 5:14,  2 Thessalonians 3:14 (cf.  Romans 16:17,  James 5:16), we find more precise directions in later books-the Pastoral Epistles and General Epistles of St. John (see  1 Timothy 5:19-20;  1 Timothy 6:3,  Titus 3:10,  1 John 1:8 f.,  1 John 5:16,  2 John 1:10,  3 John 1:9-10). Heresy, schism, insubordination, usurpation of the authority of the Church by a section, became grounds of excommunication. The morals, doctrine, and government of the Church were all imperilled at times and could be preserved only by strict discipline and severe penalties upon wrong-doers. As in the Jewish community, the sentence of excommunication might be lighter or heavier, the exclusion being more or less complete. It might mean only expulsion from the Lord’s Table, but not from the Lord’s House; or it might be utter banishment from the Lord’s House and an interdict against all social intercourse with its members.

It is beyond the scope of this article to trace the history of excommunication in the Christian Church. Suffice it to say that the distinction between the minor (ἀφορισμός) and major (παντελὴς ἀφορισμὸς ἁνάθεμα) forms of it, which existed from very early times, if not from the Apostolic Age itself, were continued for centuries with a wealth of elaborate detail as to the exact penalties involved in each, and as to the attitude of those within the Church to those without its pale. Unfortunately, excommunication often became an instrument of oppression in the hands of unworthy men. In mediaeval days it frequently entailed outlawry and sometimes death.

‘The censures of the Church, reserved in her early days for the gravest moral And spiritual offences, soon lost their salutary terrors when excommunications became incidents in territorial squabbles, or were issued on the most trivial pretext; and when the unchristian penalty of the interdict sought to coerce the guilty by robbing the innocent of the privilege of Christian worship and even of burial itself’ (A. Robertson, Regnum Dei [Bampton Lectures, 1901], p. 257).

See also Anathema, Chastisement, Discipline, Restoration of Offenders.

Literature.-articles ‘Discipline’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , Dict. of Christ and the Gospels , ‘Discipline (Christian)’ in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics , ‘Excommunication’ in Dict. of Christ and the Gospels , Smith’s Dict. of the Bible 2, Jewish Encyclopedia , Catholic Encyclopedia , ‘Bann (kirchlicher)’ in Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche 3; E. v. Dobschütz, Christian Life in the Primitive Church , Eng. translation, London, 1904; H. M. Gwatkin, Early Church History , do. 1909; E. Schürer, History of the Jewish People (Eng. tr. of GJV).] , Edinburgh, 1885-1890; C. v. Weizsäcker, Das apostolische Zeitalter 3, Tübingen, 1902 (Eng. translationof 2nd ed., London, 1894-95); A. Edersheim, LT [Note: T Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Edersheim).]4, London, 1887; J. Bingham, Origines Ecclesiasticae , do. 1708-1722; H. Hallam, View of the State of Europe during the Middle Ages 10, do. 1853.

H. Cariss J. Sidnell.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [2]

A penalty, or censure, whereby persons who are guilty of any notorious crime or offence, are separated from the communion of the church, and deprived of all spiritual advantages. Excommunication is founded upon a natural right which all societies have of excluding out of their body such as violate the laws thereof, and it was originally instituted for preserving the purity of the church; but ambitious ecclesiastics converted it by degrees into an engine for promoting their own power, and inflicted it on the most frivolous occasions. In the ancient church, the power of excommunication was lodged in the hands of the clergy, who distinguished it into the greater and less. The less consisted in excluding persons from the participation of the eucharist, and the prayers of the faithful; but they were not expelled the church. The greater excommunication consisted in absolute and entire seclusion from the church, and the participation of all its rights: notice of which was given by circular letters to the most eminent churches all over the world, that they might all confirm this act of discipline, by refusing to admit the delinquent to their communion. The consequences were very terrible.

The person so excommunicated, was avoided in all civil commerce and outward conversation. No one was to receive him into his house, nor eat at the same table with him; and, when dead, he was denied the solemn rites of burial. The Jews expelled from their synagogue such as had committed any grievous crime.

See  John 9:32 .  John 12:42 .  John 16:2 . and Joseph.Antiq. Jud. lib.9. cap. 22. and lib. 16. cap. 2. Godwyn, in his Moses and Aaron distinguishes three degrees or kinds of excommunication among the Jews. The first he finds intimated in  John 9:22 . the second in  1 Corinthians 5:5 . and the third in  1 Corinthians 16:22 . The Romish pontifical takes notice of three kinds of excommunication.

1. The minor, incurred by those who have any correspondence with an excommunicated person.

2. The major, which falls upon those who disobey the commands of the holy see, or refuse to submit to certain points of discipline; in consequence of which they are excluded from the church militant and triumphant, and delivered over to the devil, and his angels.

3. Anathema, which is properly that pronounced by the pope against heretical princes and countries. In former ages, these papal fulminations were most terrible things; but latterly they were formidable to none but a few petty states of Italy. Excommunication, in the greek church, cuts off the offender from all communion with the three hundred and eighteen fathers of the first council of Nice, and with the saints; consigns him over to the devil and the traitor Judas, and condemns his body to remain after death as hard as a flint or piece of steel, unless he humble himself, and make atonement for his sins by a sincere repentance. The form abounds with dreadful imprecations; and the Greeks assert, that, if a person dies excommunicated, the devil enters into the lifeless corpse; and, therefore, in order to prevent it, the relations of the deceased cut his body in pieces, and boil them in wine. It is a custom with the patriarch of Jerusalem annually to excommunicate the pope and the church of Rome; on which occasion, together with a great deal of idle ceremony, he drives a nail into the ground with a hammer, as a mark of malediction.

The form of excommunication in the church of England anciently ran thus: "By the authority of God the Father Almighty, the Son, and Holy Ghost, and of Mary the blessed mother of God, we excommunicate, anathematize, and sequester from the holy mother church, & 100:" The causes of excommunication in England are, contempt of the bishops' court, heresy, neglect of public worship and the sacraments, incontinency, adultery, simony, &c. It is described to be twofold; the less is an ecclesiastical censure, excluding the party from the participation of the sacrament; the greater proceeds farther, and excludes him not only from these, but from the company of all christians; but if the judge of any spiritual court excommunicates a man for a cause of which he has not the legal cognizance, the party may have an action against him at common law, and he is also liable to be indicted at the suit of the king. Excommunication in the church of Scotland, consists only in an exclusion of openly profane and immoral persons from baptism and the Lord's supper; but is seldom publicly denounced, as, indeed, such persons generally exclude themselves from the latter ordinance at least; but it is attended with no civil incapacity whatever.

Among the Independents and Baptists, the persons who are or should be excommunicated, are such as are quarrelsome and litigious,  Galatians 5:12; such as desert their privileges, withdraw themselves from the ordinances of God, and forsake his people,  Judges 1:19; such as are irregular and immoral in their lives, railers, drunkards, extortioners, fornicators, and covetous,  Ephesians 5:5 .  1 Corinthians 5:11 . "The exclusion of a person from any Christian church does not affect him temporal estate and civil affairs; it does not subject him to fines or imprisonments; it interferes not with the business of a civil magistrate; it makes no change in the natural and civil relations between husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants; neither does it deprive a man of the liberty of attending public worship; it removes him, however, from the communion of the church, and the privileges dependent on it: this is done that he may be ashamed of his sin, and be brought to repentance; that the honour of Christ may be vindicated, and that stumbling-blocks may be removed out of the way."

Though the act of exclusion be not performed exactly in the same manner in every church, yet (according to the congregational plan) the power of excision lies in the church itself. The officers take the sense of the members assembled together; and after the matter has been properly investigated, and all necessary steps taken to reclaim the offender, the church proceeds to the actual exclusion of the person from among them, by signifying their judgment or opinion that the person is unworthy of a place in God's house. In the conclusion of this article, however, we must add, that too great caution cannot be observed in procedures of this kind; every thing should be done with the greatest meekness, deliberation, prayer, and a deep sense of our own unworthiness; with a compassion for the offender, and a fixed design of embracing reproving, instructing, and, if possible, restoring him to the enjoyment of the privileges he has forfeited by his conduct.

See Church

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]

EXCOMMUNICATION . In the OT the sentence against those who refused to part with their ‘strange’ wives (  Ezra 10:8 ) ‘his substance shall be confiscated and he himself separated’ is the earliest instance of ecclesiastical excommunication. This was a milder form of the ancient Heb. chçrem , curse or ban , which in the case of man involved death (  Leviticus 27:29 ), and devotion or destruction in the case of property. The horror of this curse or chçrem hangs over the OT (  Malachi 4:6 ,   Zechariah 14:11 ). Anathema , the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] equivalent of chçrem ( e.g . in   Deuteronomy 7:26 ,   Joshua 6:17 ,   Numbers 21:3 ), appears in   1 Corinthians 16:22 ‘If any love not the Lord, let him be anathema ’ (which refers, as does also   Galatians 1:8 , to a permanent exclusion from the Church and doubtless from heaven), and in   1 Corinthians 12:3 ‘No one speaking in the Spirit of God says, Jesus is anathema,’ i.e . a chçrem or cursed thing under the ban of God. Here there may be a reference to a Jewish brocard which afterwards gave rise to the Jewish tradition that Jesus was excommunicated by the Jews. The forms said to be in vogue in His day were: (1) niddûi , a short sentence of thirty days; (2) chçrem , which involved loss of all religious privileges for a considerable time; (3) shammattâ , complete expulsion or aquae et ignis interdictio . This last form, however, lacks attestation.

References in the NT to some form of Jewish procedure are:  John 9:22;   John 12:42;   John 16:2 ,   Luke 6:22 ,   Matthew 18:15-17 may be a reference to some Jewish procedure that was taken over by the Church. It mentions admonition: (1) in private, (2) in the presence of two or three witnesses, (3) in the presence of the Church. The sentence ‘let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican’ involved loss of social and spiritual privileges (cf.   Titus 3:10 ).   1 Corinthians 5:4 shows a formal assembly met ‘in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ to deliver one guilty of incest unto Satan, for the destruction of the flesh. The purpose of the punishment, ‘that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord’ (v. 5) is remedial, and shows that the sentence is not a life one, as anathema seems to be (cf.   1 Timothy 1:20 , where Hymenæus and Alexander are delivered to Satan , that they may be taught not to blaspheme). The Gr. word exarate , ‘remove,’ used in   1 Corinthians 5:13 , suggests ara , which means both ‘ curse ’ and ‘prayer.’ In this case, at all events, the curse was intended to lead to penitence and prayer.   2 Corinthians 2:6-11 seems to refer to a different case. Here the censure or punishment was given by ‘the majority’ without Paul’s intervention, as in   1 Corinthians 5:4; the purpose of his writing here is ‘that your ( v.l . ‘our’) care for us ( v.l . ‘you’) might be made manifest in the sight of God’; but there he writes for the man’s sake; here the sinner is discussed with leniency, there the case is stated with due severity. If the case be a new one, it shows a growing independence of the Christian communities, and also that the Corinthians had received a salutary lesson. The phrase ‘lest an advantage should he gained over us by Satan’ (  2 Corinthians 2:11 ) refers to the term of excommunication which St. Paul wished to end, lest the punishment should defeat its end and lead to ruin instead of recovery, and so Satan should hold what was only, metaphorically speaking, lent to him to hurt. In   2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 the Apostle orders an informal and less severe excommunication of those who obey not his word. Its purpose, too, is remedial: ‘that he may be ashamed.’ St. John (  2 John 1:10 ) orders a similar form, and   3 John 1:9-10 describes the manner in which Diotrephes receives neither him nor the brethren, does not permit others to receive them, and casts them out of the Church the first instance of one party in the Christian Church excommunicating another for difference of doctrine. The loss of social and spiritual intercourse was intended to lead, in such cases, to recantation of opinions, as in others to repentance for sin.

F. R. Montgomery Hitchcock.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [4]

is the judicial exclusion of offenders from the religious rites and other privileges of the particular community to which they belong. Founded in the natural right which every society possesses to guard its laws and privileges from violation and abuse by the infliction of salutary discipline, proportioned to the nature of the offences committed against them, it has found a place, in one form or another, under every system of religion, whether human or divine. That it has been made an engine for the gratification of private malice and revenge, and been perverted to purposes the most unjustifiable and even diabolical, the history of the world but too lamentably proves; yet this, though unquestionably a consideration which ought to inculcate the necessity of prudence, as well as impartiality and temperance in the use of it, affords no valid argument against its legitimate exercise. From St. Paul's writings we learn that the early excommunication was effected by the offender not being allowed to "eat" with the church, that is, to partake of the Lord's Supper, the sign of communion. In the early ages of the primitive church also, this branch of discipline was exercised with moderation, which, however, gradually gave place to an undue severity. From Tertullian's "Apology" we learn, that the crimes which in his time subjected to exclusion from Christian privileges, were murder, idolatry, theft, fraud, lying, blasphemy, adultery, fornication, and the like, and in Origen's treatise against Celsus, we are informed that such persons were expelled from the communion of the church, and lamented as lost and dead unto God; [ ut perditos Deoque mortuos; ] but that on making confession and giving evidence of penitence, they were received back as restored to life. It was at the same time specially ordained, that no such delinquent, however suitably qualified in other respects, could be afterward admitted to any ecclesiastical office. But it does not appear that the infliction of this discipline was accompanied with any of those forms of excommunication, of delivering over to Satan, or of solemn execration, which were usual among the Jews, and subsequently introduced into them by the Romish church. The authors and followers of heretical opinions which had been condemned, were also subject to this penalty; and it was sometimes inflicted on whole congregations when they were judged to have departed from the faith. In this latter case, however, the sentence seldom went farther than the interdiction of correspondence with these churches, or of spiritual communication between their respective pastors.

To the same exclusion from religious privileges, those unhappy persons were doomed, who, whether from choice or from compulsion, had polluted themselves, after their baptism, by any act of idolatrous worship; and the penance enjoined on such persons, before they could be restored to communion, was often peculiarly severe. The consequences of excommunication, even then, were of a temporal as well as a spiritual nature. The person against whom it was pronounced, was denied all share in the oblations of his brethren; the ties both of religious and of private friendship were dissolved; he found himself an object of abhorrence to those whom he most esteemed, and by whom he had been most tenderly beloved; and, as far as expulsion from a society held in universal veneration could imprint on his character a mark of disgrace, he was shunned or suspected by the generality of mankind.

2. It was not, however, till churchmen began to unite temporal with spiritual power, that any penal effects of a civil kind became consequent on their sentences of excommunication; and that this ghostly artillery was not less frequently employed for the purposes of lawless ambition and ecclesiastical domination, than for the just punishment of impenitent delinquents, and the general edification of the faithful. But as soon as this union took place, and in exact proportion to the degree in which the papal system rose to its predominance over the civil rights as well as the consciences of men, the list of offences which subjected their perpetrators to excommunication, was multiplied; and the severity of its inflictions, with their penal effects, increased in the same ratio. The slightest injury, or even insult, sustained by an ecclesiastic, was deemed a sufficient cause for the promulgation of an anathema. Whole families, and even provinces, were prohibited from engaging in any religious exercise, and cursed with the most tremendous denunciations of divine vengeance. Nor were kings and emperors secure against these thunders of the church; their subjects were, on many occasions, declared, by a papal bull, to be absolved from allegiance to them; and all who should dare to support them, menaced with a similar judgment. These terrors have passed away; the true Scriptural excommunication ought to be maintained in every church; which is the prohibition of immoral and apostate persons from the use of those religious rites which indicate "the communion of saints," but without any temporal penalty.

Holman Bible Dictionary [5]

Old Testament In the Old Testament, excommunication came as a curse from God as punishment for sin ( Deuteronomy 27:26;  Deuteronomy 28:15;  Psalm 119:21;  Malachi 2:2-9;  Malachi 4:6 ). The Jewish community assumed authority to curse on God's behalf ( Numbers 23:8;  Isaiah 66:5 ). Old Testament terms for excommunication include: Karath , to be excluded or cut off ( Exodus 12:15 ,  Exodus 12:19;  Leviticus 17:4 ,  Leviticus 17:9 ); cherem , banish, devote, or put to destruction ( Exodus 22:19;  Leviticus 27:28-29;  Joshua 6:17 ); and qelalah , desolation or thing of horror ( 2 Kings 22:19;  Jeremiah 25:18 ). The covenant community protected itself from curse and temptation by distancing covenant-breakers from the community even to the point of executing them.

New Testament Expulsion from the synagogue was one form of New Testament excommunication. Christians were frequently subject to expulsion, which was punishment for blasphemy or for straying from the tradition of Moses ( Luke 6:22;  John 9:22;  John 12:42;  John 16:2 ). Many early Christians thus endured excommunication from the worship place of their fathers to be Christians. The apostles practiced excommunication based on the binding and loosing authority Jesus gave to them ( John 20:23;  Matthew 18:18 ). See  Galatians 1:8 ) for gross, deliberate sin ( 1 Corinthians 5:1;  2 John 1:7 ) and perhaps for falling away from church belief and practice ( Hebrews 6:4-8 ). The purpose was to purify the church and to encourage offenders to repent ( 1 Corinthians 5:5-6;  2 Corinthians 2:6-10;  2 Thessalonians 3:15 ). Punishment ranged in scope from limited ostracism to permanent exclusion and may even have included some form of physical punishment if the church continued synagogue practice ( Luke 4:28-30;  John 8:2-11;  Acts 5:1-5;  Acts 7:58 ). New Testament terms for excommunication include: being delivered to Satan ( 1 Corinthians 5:5;  1 Timothy 1:20 ); anathema or cursed and cut off from God ( Romans 9:3;  1 Corinthians 16:22;  Galatians 1:8 ). The New Testament churches apparently used excommunication as a means of redemptive discipline. See Apostasy .

In Church History During the Middle Ages, when church and state became intertwined, excommunication was often used as a political tool. In 1054, the Catholic church was divided into east and west. Each claimed primacy as the true church. They “resolved” the issue by excommunicating each other.

Disputes with reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin frequently produced excommunications in varying degrees. Many of Luther's essays were written in response to calls for him to recant or be excommunicated. During Calvin's power struggle in Geneva, a city government council tried to gain authority to excommunicate in order to use it as a political weapon.

Contemporary In its broadest sense, excommunication now means denial of sacraments, congregational worship, or social contact of any kind. Excommunication is practiced in this manner by both Protestant and Catholic churches. However, the term itself is used mainly in the Catholic church and usually indicates the permanent ban. Lesser punishments are called censures.

Donna R. Ridge

Smith's Bible Dictionary [6]

Excommunication. (Expulsion From Communion).

1. Jewish excommunication. - The Jewish system of excommunication was threefold.

The twenty-four offences for which it was inflicted are various, and range in heinousness from the offence of keeping a fierce dog to that of taking God's name in vain. The offender was first cited to appear in court; and if he refused to appear or to make amends, his sentence was pronounced. The term of this punishment was thirty days; and it was extended to a second and to a third thirty days, when necessary.

If, at the end of that time, the offended was still contumacious, he was subjected to the second excommunication. Severer penalties were now attached. The sentence was delivered by a court of ten, and was accompanied by a solemn malediction.

The third excommunication was an entire cutting off from the congregation.

The punishment of excommunication is not appointed by the law of Moses; it is founded on the natural right of self-protection which all societies enjoy. In the New Testament, Jewish excommunication is brought prominently before us in the case of the man that was born blind.  John 9:1. In  Luke 6:22, it has been thought that our Lord referred specifically to the three forms of Jewish excommunication: "Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall Separate you from their company, and shall Reproach you, and Cast Out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake."

Christian excommunication. - Excommunication, as exercised by the Christian Church, was instituted by our Lord,  Matthew 18:15;  Matthew 18:18, and it was practiced and commanded by St. Paul  1 Corinthians 5:11;  1 Timothy 1:20;  Titus 3:10. In the Epistles, we find St. Paul frequently claiming the right to exercise discipline over his converts; compare  2 Corinthians 1:23;  2 Corinthians 13:10. We find,

(1) that it is a spiritual penalty, involving no temporal punishment, except accidentally;

(2) that it consists in separation from the communion of the Church;

(3) that its object is the good of the sufferer,  1 Corinthians 5:5, and the protection of the sound members of the Church,  2 Timothy 3:17.

(4) that its subjects are those who are guilty of heresy,  1 Timothy 1:20, or gross immorality,  1 Corinthians 5:1.

(5) that it is inflicted by the authority of the Church at large,  Matthew 18:18, wielded by the highest ecclesiastical officer,  1 Corinthians 5:3;  Titus 3:10.

(6) that this officer's sentence is promulgated by the congregation to which the offender belongs,  1 Corinthians 5:4, in defence to his superior judgment and command,  2 Corinthians 2:9, and in spite of any opposition on the part of a minority,  2 Corinthians 2:6.

(7) that the exclusion may be of indefinite duration, or for a period;

(8) that its duration may be abridged at the discretion and by the indulgence of the person who has imposed the penalty,  2 Corinthians 2:8.

(9) that penitence is the condition on which restoration to communion is granted,  2 Corinthians 2:8.

(10) that the sentence is to be publicly reversed as it was publicly promulgated.  2 Corinthians 2:10.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [7]

As the church is a society constituted for maintaining certain doctrines and corresponding morals, it plainly has the right to exclude from communion such as flagrantly violate its doctrinal and moral code. The Jews had three forms of excommunication, alluded to in  Luke 6:22 by our Lord, "blessed are ye when men shall separate you from their company (the Jewish Niddui , for 30 days), and shall reproach you (the second form, Cherem , for 90 days (See Anathema ),  Judges 5:23), and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake" (the third form, Shammatha , perpetual cutting off):  John 9:34-35 margin; compare  Exodus 30:33;  Exodus 30:38; also  John 12:42;  John 16:2.

Christian excommunication is commanded by Christ ( Matthew 18:15-18); so  1 Timothy 1:20;  1 Corinthians 5:11;  Titus 3:10; "delivering unto Satan" means casting out of the church, Christ's kingdom of light, into the world that lieth in the wicked one, the kingdom of Satan and darkness ( Colossians 1:13;  Ephesians 6:12;  Acts 26:18;  1 John 5:19). The apostles besides, under divine inspiration, inflicted bodily sicknesses and death on some (e.g. Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira;  Acts 13:10, Elymas). For other cases of virtual, if not formal, exclusion from communion, though in a brotherly not proud spirit, see  2 Thessalonians 3:14;  Romans 16:17;  Galatians 5:12;  1 Timothy 6:3;  2 John 1:10;  3 John 1:10;  Revelation 2:20;  Galatians 1:8-9.

Paul's practice proves that excommunication is a spiritual penalty, the temporal penalty inflicted by the apostles in exceptional cases being evidently of extraordinary and divine appointment and no model to us; it consisted in exclusion from the church; the object was the good of the offender ( 1 Corinthians 5:5) and the safeguard of the sound members ( 2 Timothy 2:17); its subjects were those guilty of heresy and great immorality ( 1 Timothy 1:20); it was inflicted by the church ( Matthew 18:18) and its representative ministers ( Titus 3:10;  1 Corinthians 5:1;  1 Corinthians 5:3-4). Paul's infallible authority when inspired is no warrant for uninspired ministers claiming the same right to direct the church to excommunicate as they will ( 2 Corinthians 2:7-9). Penitence is the condition of restoration. Temporary affliction often leads to permanent salvation ( Psalms 83:16); Satan's temporary triumph is overruled "to. destroy the flesh that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" ( Luke 22:31).

Morrish Bible Dictionary [8]

Though this word does not occur in the A.V. the duty of excommunicating wicked persons from the fold of Israel, and from the church as the house of God, is plainly taught. Again and again we read in the O.T. that for particular sins "that soul shall be out off from Israel" or "cut off from his people."  Exodus 12:15;  Exodus 30:33,38;  Leviticus 7:20,21,25,27;  Numbers 9:13;  Ezra 10:8; etc. How far this was acted upon we do not know. In the N.T. we find the authorities agreeing that if any one confessed that Jesus was the Christ he was to be cut off; and they excommunicated the man that had been born blind because he said that Jesus must be of God.  John 9:34 .

In the church we have a case of 'putting away' at Corinth. The assembly were admonished to put away from themselves the wicked person that was among them.  1 Corinthians 5:13 . The person was cast out. He was afterwards repentant, and then the Corinthian saints were instructed to forgive him and to receive him again into communion.  2 Corinthians 2:6-11 . The necessity of putting away an evil person is apparent; the presence of God, who is holy, demands it, and believers are called to holiness: "the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are."  1 Corinthians 3:17 . As to discipline on earth there is a dispensational binding and loosing (cf.  Matthew 18:18 ), to which the saints are called where it is needful to put away evil from the assembly, but always with the hope that restoration may follow. See Discipline

Connected with the case at Corinth there was also mentioned the delivering unto Satan of the guilty person for the destruction of the flesh, but this was the determination of Paul as being there in spirit with them ( 1 Corinthians 5:4,5 ), which seems to stamp it as an apostolic act. Paul individually did the same with Hymenaeus and Alexander.  1 Timothy 1:20 . The positive injunction to the church at Corinth was to put away from among themselves the wicked person. In 3John we read of Diotrephes who took upon himself to cast some out of the church, which John would not forget when he visited them. As is seen at Corinth, 'putting away' should be an act of the assembly, not of an individual.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [9]

An ecclesiastical penalty, by which they who incur the guilt of any heinous sin, are separated from the church, and deprived of its spiritual advantages. Thus the Jews "put out of the synagogue" those they deemed unworthy  John 9:22   12:42   16:2 . There were two degrees of excommunication among them: one a temporary and partial exclusion form ecclesiastical privileges, and from society; the other a complete excision form the covenant people of God and their numerous privileges, and abandonment to eternal perdition. See Anathema .

The right and duty of excommunication when necessary were recognized in the Christian church by Christ and his apostles,  Matthew 18:15-18   1 Corinthians 5:1-13   16:22   Galatians 5:12   1 Timothy 1:20   Titus 3:10 . The offender, found guilty and incorrigible, was to be excluded from the Lord's supper and cut off from the body of believers. This excision from Christian fellowship does not release one from any obligation to obey the law of God and the gospel of Christ; nor exempt him from any relative duties, as a man or a citizen. The censure of the church, on the other hand, is not to be accompanied, as among papists, with enmity, curses, and persecution. Our Savior directs that such an offender be regarded "as heathen man and a publican;" and the apostles charge the church to "withdraw from" those who trouble them, and "keep no company with them," "no, not to eat;" but this is to be understood of those offices of civility and fraternity which a man is at liberty to pay or to withhold, and not of the indispensable duties of humanity, founded on nature, the law of nations, and the spirit of Christianity,  2 Thessalonians 3:6,15   2 John 1:10-11 .

Webster's Dictionary [10]

(n.) The act of communicating or ejecting; esp., an ecclesiastical censure whereby the person against whom it is pronounced is, for the time, cast out of the communication of the church; exclusion from fellowship in things spiritual.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [11]

the judicial exclusion of offenders from the religious rites and privileges of the particular comemunlity to which they belong. It is a power founded upon a right inherent in all, religious societies, and is analogous to the powers of capital punishment, banishment, and exclusion from membership which are exercised by political and municipal bodies. If Christianity is merely a philosophical idea thrown into the world to do battle with other theories, and to be valued according as it maintains its ground or not in the conflict of opinions, excommunication, and ecclesiastical punishments and discipline are unreasonable. If a society has been instituted for maintaining any body of doctrine and any code of morals, they are necessary to the existence of that society. That the Christian Church is an organized polity, a spiritual "kingdom of God" on earth, is the declaration of the Bible; and that the Jewish Church was at once a spiritual and a temporal organization is clear. Among the Jews, however, excommunication was not only an ecclesiastical, but also a civil punishment, because in their theocracy there was no distinction between the divine and the statutory right ( Exodus 31:14;  Ezra 10:3;  Ezra 10:11;  Nehemiah 13:28). But among Christians excommunication was strictly confined to ecclesiastical relations, as the situation and constitution of the Church during the first three centuries admitted of no intermingling or confounding of civil and religious privileges or penalties. Excommunication, in the Christian Church, consisted at first simply in exclusion from the communion of the Lord's Supper and the love-feasts: "with such a one, no, not to eat" ( 1 Corinthians 5:11). It might also include a total separation from the body of the faithful; and such a. person was, with regard to the Church, "as a heathen man and a publican." But this excision did not exempt him from my duties to which he was liable in civil life, neither did it withhold from him any natural obligations, such as are founded on nature, humanity, and the law of nations ( Matthew 18:17;  1 Corinthians 5:5;  1 Corinthians 5:11;  1 Corinthians 10:16-18;  2 Thessalonians 3:6;  2 Thessalonians 3:14;  2 John 1:10-11). (See Church).

I. Jewish. The Jewish system of excommunication was threefold. For a first offense a delinquent was subjected to the penalty of נִדּוּי (niddui). Rambaam (quoted by Lightfoot, Horae Hebraicae, on  1 Corinthians 5:5), Moriunus (De Panitentia, 4:27), and Buxtorf (Lexicon Tahn. col. page 303 sq.) enumerate the twenty-four offenses for which it was inflicted. They are various, and range in heinousness from the offense of keeping a fierce dog to that of taking God's name in vain. Elsewhere (Talm. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 16, 1) the causes of its infliction are reduced to two, termed money and epicurism, by which is meant debt and wanton insolence. The offender was first cited to appear in court, and if he refused to appearer to make amends, his sentence was pronounced "Let NI. or N. be under excommunication." The excommunicated person was prohibited the use of the bath, or of the razor, or of the convivial table; and all who had to do with him were commanded to keep him at four cubits' distance. He was allowed to go to the Temple, but not to make the circuit in the ordinary manner. The term of this punishment was thirty days, and it was extended to a second and to a third thirty days when necessary. If at the end of that time the offender was still contumacious, he was subjected to the second excommunication termed הֶרֶם (cherem), a word meaning something devoted to God ( Leviticus 27:21;  Leviticus 27:28;  Exodus 22:20 [19];  Numbers 18:14). Severer penalties were now attached. The offender was not allowed to teach or to be taught in company with others, to hire or to be hired, nor to perform any commercial transactions beyoand purchasing the necessaries of life. The sentence was delivered by a court of ten, and was accompanied by a solemn malediction, for which authority was supposed to be found in the "Curse ye Meroz" of  Judges 5:23. Lastly followed שִׁמָּתָא (shamma-tha), which was an entire cutting off from the congregation. It has been supposed by some that these two latter forms of excoanmunication were undistinguishable from each other. See BAN.

The punishment of excommunication is not appointed by the law of Moses. It is founded on the natural right of self-protection which all societies enjoy. The case of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. (Numbers 16), the curse denounced on Meroz ( Judges 5:23), the commission and proclamation of Ezra ( Ezra 7:26;  Ezra 10:8), and the reformation of Nehemiah (13:25), are appealed to by the Talmudists as precedents by which their proceedings are regulated. In respect to the principle involved, the "cutting off from the people" commanded for certain sins ( Exodus 30:33;  Exodus 30:38;  Exodus 31:14;  Leviticus 17:4), and the exclusion from the camp denounced on the leprous (Leveticus 13:46;  Numbers 12:14), are more apposite.

In the New Testament, Jewish excommunication is brought prominently before us in the case of the man that was born blind and restored to sight (John 9). "The Jews had agreed already that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. Therefore said his parents, He is of age, ask him" ( John 9:22-23). "And they cast him out. Jesus heard that they had cast him out" ( John 9:34-35). The expressions here used, Ἀποσυνάγωγος Γένηται —Ἐξέβαλον Αὐτὸν Ἔξω , refer, no doubt, to the first form of excommunication, or niddui. Our Lord warns his disciples that they will have to suffer excommunication at the hands of their countrymen ( John 16:2), and the fear of it is described as sufficienmt to prevent persons in a respectable position from acknowledging their belief in Christ ( John 12:42). In  Luke 6:22, it has been thought that our Lord referred specifically to the three forms of Jewish excommunication, "Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company [ Ἀφορίσωσιν ], and shall reproach you [ Ὀνειδίσωσιν ], and cast out your name as evil [ Ἐκβάλωσιν ], for the Son of man's sake." The three words very accurately express the simple separation, the additional malediction, and the final exclusion of Niddui, cherem, and Shammathal. This verse makes it probable that the three stages were already formally distinguished from each other, though, no doubt, the words appropriate to each are occasionally used inaccurately. See the monographs in Latin on Jewish excommunication by Musculus (Lips. 1703), Opitz (Kilon. 1680). II. In The New Testament. Excommunication in the New Testament is not merely founded on the natural right possessed by all societies, nor merely on the example of the Jewish Church and nation. It was instituted by our Lord ( Matthew 18:15;  Matthew 18:18), and it was practiced by and commanded by Paul ( 1 Timothy 1:20;  1 Corinthians 5:11;  Titus 3:10).

1. Its Institution. The passage in Matthew has led to much controversy, into which we do not enter. It runs as follows: "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 the 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 themn, tell it unto the Church; but if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be. bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Our Lord here recognizes and appoints a way in which a member of his Church is to become to his brethren as a heathen man and a publican, i.e., be reduced to a state analogous to that of the Jew suffering the penalty of the third form of excommunication. It is to follow on his contempt of the censure of the Church passed on him for a trespass which he has committed. The final excision is to be preceded, as in the case of the Jew, by two warnings.

2. Apostolic Example . In the Epistles we find Paul frequently claiming the right to exercise discipline over his converts (comp.  2 Corinthians 1:23;  2 Corinthians 13:10). In two cases we find him exercising this authority to the extent of cutting off offenders from the Church. One of these is the case of the incestuous Corinthian "Ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" ( 1 Corinthians 5:2-5). The other case is that of Hymenmeus and Alexander: "Holding faith and a good conscience, which some, having put away concerning faith, have made shipwreck; of whom is Hymeneeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme" ( 1 Timothy 1:19-20). It seems certain that these persons were excommunicated, the first for immorality, the others for heresy. What is the full meaning of the expression "deliver unto Satan" is doubtful. All agree that excommunication is contained in it, but whether it implies any further punishment, inflicted by the extraordinary powers committed specially to the apostles, has been questioned. The strongest argument for the phrase meaning no more than excommunication may be drawn from a comparison of  Colossians 1:13.

Addressing himself to the "saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse," Paul exhorts them to "give thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." The conception of the apostle here is of men lying in the realm of darkness, and transported from thence into the kingdom of the Son of God, which is the inheritance of the saints in light, by admission into the Church. What he means by the power of darkness is abundantly clear from many other passages in his writings, of which it will be sufficient to quote  Ephesians 6:12 : "Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil; for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Introduction into the Church is therefore, in Paul's mind, a translation from the kingdom and power of Satan to the kingdom and government of Christ. This being so, he could hardly more naturally describe the effect of excluding a man from the Church than by the words "deliver him unto Satan," the idea being that the man ceasing to be a subject of Christ's kingdom of light, was at once transported back to the kingdom of darkness, and delivered therefore into the power of its ruler, Satan. This interpretation is strongly confirmed by the terms in which Paul describes the commission which he received from the Lord Jesus Christ when he was sent to the Gentiles: "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me" ( Acts 26:18). Here again the act of being placed in Christ's kingdom, the Church, is pronounced to be a translation from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God. Conversely, to be cast out of the Church would be to be removed from light to darkness, to be withdrawn from God's government, and delivered into the power of Satan (so Balsamon and Zonaras, In Basil. Song Of Solomon 7 ; Estius, in 1 Corinthians 5; Beveridge, in Can. Apost. 10). If, however, the expression means more than excommunication, it would imply the additional exercise of a special apostolical power, similar to that exerted on Ananias and Sapphira ( Acts 5:1), Simon Magus (8:20), and Elymas (13:10). (So Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine, Hammond, Grotius, Lightfoot.)

3. Apostolic Precept . In addition to the claim to exercise discipline, and its actual exercise in the form of excommunication by the apostles, we find apostolic precepts directing that discipline should be exercised by the rulers of the Church, and that in some cases excommunication should be resorted to: "If any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother," writes Paul to the Thessalonians ( 2 Thessalonians 3:14). To the Romans: "Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have heard, and avoid them" ( Romans 16:17). To the Galatians: "I would they were even cut off that. trouble you" ( Galatians 5:12). To Timothy: "If any man teach otherwise, ... from such withdraw thyself" ( 1 Timothy 6:3). To Titus he uses a still stronger expression: "A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject" ( Titus 3:10). John instructs the lady to whom he addresses his second epistle not to receive into her house, nor bid God speed to any who did not believe in Christ ( 2 John 1:10); and we read that in the case of Cerinthus he acted himself on the precept that he had given (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3:28). In his third epistle he describes Diotrephes, apparently a Judaizing presbyter, "who loved to have the pre- eminence," as "casting out of the Church," i.e., refusing Church communion to the stranger brethren who were traveling about preaching to the Gentiles ( 3 John 1:10). In the addresses to the Seven Churches the, angels or rulers of the church of Pergamos and of Thyatira are rebuked for "suffering" the Nicolaitans and Balaamites "to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things, sacrificed unto idols" ( Revelation 2:20). There are two passages still more important to our subject. In the epistle to the Galatians, Paul denounces, "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 [ Ἀνάθεμα Ἔστω ]. As I said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed" ( Ἀνάθεμα Ἔστω ,  Galatians 1:8-9). And in the second epistle to the Corinthians: "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha" (1 Corinthians 16:22). It has been supposed that these two expressions, "let him be Anathema," "let him be Anathema Maranatha," refer respectively to the two later stages of Jewish excommunication the cherem and the shammahi. This requires consideration.

The words Ἀνάθεμα and Ἀνάθημα have evidently the same derivation, and originally they bore the same meaning. They express a person or thing set apart, laid up, or devoted. But whereas a thing may be set apart by way of honor or for destruction, the words, like the Latin "sacer" and the English "devoted," came to have opposite senses —Τὸ Ἀπηλλοτριωμένον Θεοῦ , and Τὸ Ἀφωρισμένον Θεῷ . The Sept. and several ecclesiastical writers use the two words almost indiscriminately, but in general the form Ἀνάθημα is applied to the votive offering (see  2 Maccabees 9:16;  Luke 21:5; and Chrysost. Hom. 16 in Ep. cad Rom.), and the form Ἀνάθεμα to that which is devoted to evil (see  Deuteronomy 7:26;  Joshua 6:17;  Joshua 7:13). Thus Paul declares that he could wish himself an Ἀνάθεμα from Christ if he could thereby save the Jews ( Romans 9:3). His meaning is that he would be willing to be set apart as a vile thing, to be cast aside and destroyed, if only it could bring about the salvation of his brethren. Hence we see the force of Ἀνάθεμα Ἔστω in  Galatians 1:8. "Have nothing to do with him," would be the apostle's injunction, "but let him be set apart as an evil thing, for God to deal with him as he thinks fit." Hammond (in loc.) paraphrases it as follows: "You are to disclaim and renounce all communion with him, to look on him as on an excommunicated person, under the second degree of excommunication, that none is to have any commerce with in sacred things." Hence it is that Ἀνάθεμα Ἔστω came to be the common expression employed by councils at the termination of each canon which they enacted, meaning that whoever was disobedient to the canon was to be separated from the communion of the Church and its privileges, and from the favor of God, until he repented (see Bingham, Ant. 16:2,16). (See Anathema).

The expression Ἀνάθεμα Μαραναθά as it stands by itself without explanation in  1 Corinthians 16:22, is so peculiar, that it has tempted a number of ingenious expositions. Parkhurst hesitatingly derives it from

אִתָּה מָחַרָם , "Cursed be thou." But this derivation is not tenable. Buxtorf, Morinus, Hammond, Bingham, and others identify, it with the Jewish Shammatha. They do so by translating Shammatha, "The Lord comes." But Shammatha cannot be made to mean "The Lord comes" (see Lightfoot, in loc.). Several fanciful derivations are given by rabbinical writers, as " There is death," "There is desolation;" but there is no mention by them of such a signification as "The Lord comes." Lightfoot derives it from שִׁמֵּת , and it probably means a thing excluded or shut out. Maranatha, however peculiar its use in the text may seem to us, is a Syro-Chaldaic expression, signifying "The Lord is come" (Chrysostom, Jerome, Estius, Lightfoot), or "The Lord cometh." If we take the former meaning, we may regard it as giving the reason why the offender was to be anathematized; if the latter, it would either imply that the separation was to be in perpetuity, "donee Dominus redeat" (Augustine), or, more properly, it would be a form of solemn appeal to the day on which the judgment should be ratified by the Lord (comp.  Judges 1:14). In any case it is a strengthened form of the simple Ἀνάθεμα Ἔστω . And thus it may be regarded as holding towards it a similar relation to that which existed between the Shanmaftha and the Cherem, but not on any supposed ground of etymological identity between the two words Shammatha and Maranatha. Perhaps we ought to interpunctuate more strongly between Ἀνάθεμα , and Μαραναθά and read Ἤτω Ἀνάθεμα· Μαραναθά , i.e., "Let him be anathema. The Lord will come." The Anathema and the Cherem answer very exactly to each other (see  Leviticus 27:28;  Numbers 21:3;  Isaiah 43:28). (See Maranatha).

4. Restoration To Communion. Two cases of excommunication are related in Holy Scripture, and in one of them the restitution of the offender is specially recounted. The incestuous Corinthian had been excommunicated by the authority of Paul, who had issued his sentence from a distance without any consultation with the Corinthians. He had required them publicly to promulgate it and act upon it. They had done so. The offender had been brought to repentance, and was overwhelmed with grief. Hereupon Paul, still absent as before, forbids the further infliction of the punishment, pronounces the forgiveness of the penitent, and exhorts the Corinthians to receive him back to communion, and to confirm their love towards him.

5. The Nature Of Excommunication is made more evident by these acts of Paul than by any investigation of Jewish practice or of the etymology of words. We thus find

(1) that it is a spiritual penalty, involving no temporal punishment except accidentally;

(2) that it consists in separation from the communion of the Church;

(3) that its object is the good of the sufferer ( 1 Corinthians 5:5), and the protection of the sound members of the Church ( 2 Timothy 3:17);

(4) that its subjects are those who are guilty of heresy ( 1 Timothy 1:20) or gross immorality ( 1 Corinthians 5:1);

(5) that it is inflicted by the authority of the Church at large ( Matthew 18:18) wielded by the highest ecclesiastical officer ( 1 Corinthians 5:3;  Titus 3:10);

(6) that this officer's sentence is promulgated by the congregation to which the offender belongs ( 1 Corinthians 5:4), in deference to his superior judgment and command ( 2 Corinthians 2:9), and in spite of any opposition on the part of a minority ( Ib. 6);

(7) that the exclusion may be of indefinite duration or for a period;

(8) that its duration may be abridged at the discretion and by the indulgence of the person who has imposed the penalty (Ib. 8);

(9) that penitence is the condition on which restoration to communion is granted (Ib. 7);

(10) that the sentence is to be publicly reversed as it was publicly promulgated (Ib. 10).

III. In The Post-Apostolic Christian Church.

(I.) In General. Such a power is necessarily inherent in Every community; and although "the only sense in which the apostles, or, of course, any of their successors in the Christian ministry, can be empowered to 'forgive sins' As Against God is by pronouncing and proclaiming His forgiveness of all those who, coming to him through Christ, repent and forsake their sins," yet since offenses As Against A Community may "be visited with penalties by the regular appointed officers of that community, they may enforce or remit such penalties. On these principles is founded the right which the Church claims both to punish ecclesiastical offenses, and to pronounce an absolute and complete pardon of a particular offender on his making the requisite submission and reparation." (II.) In The Early Christian Church.

1. In the discipline of the primitive Church, according to the apostolic injunction, recourse was not had to excommunication until "after the first and second admonition" ( Προθέσμια ) . If the offender proved refractory after the time granted for repentance (Siegel, Alterthumer, 2:131), he was liable to excommunication, which at first consisted simply in the removal of the offender from the Lord's Supper and the love-feasts: hence the word Excommunication, separation from Communion. The practice was founded on the words,f the apostle ( 1 Corinthians 5:11), "with such an one, no, not to eat;" which do not refer to ordinary meals and the common intercourse of life, but to the Agapae and other solemnities. The chief difference between Jewish and Christian excommunication consisted in this: the former extended in its consequences to the affairs of civil life, whereas the latter was strictly confined to ecclesiastical relations. It was impossible, in the constitution and situation of the Church during the three first centuries, that there should have been any confounding or intermingling of civil and religious privileges or penalties. But, though instituted at first for the purpose of preserving the purity of the Church, excommunication was afterwards by degrees converted by ambitious ecclesiastics into an engine for promoting their own power, and was often inflicted on the most frivolous occasions (Bingham, Orig. Ecclesiastes book 15, chapter 2). The primitive Church was very cautious in exercising its power of excommunication. No man could be condemned to it in his absence, or without being allowed liberty to answer for himself. Legal conviction was always required, i.e., by his own confession, by credible evidence, or by open notoriety. Minors were subjected to corporal discipline rather than to this censure (Bingham, Orig. Eccl. book 16, chapter 2; Cave, Prim. Christianity, 3:5).

2. There were two excommunications, the greater (major) and lesser (minor). The Excommunicatio Minor ( Ἀφορισμός ) excluded from participation in the Eucharist and prayers of the faithful, but did not expel from the Church; for the person under its sentence might stay to hear the psalmody, reading of the Scripture, sermons and prayers of the catechumens and penitents, and then depart as soon as the first service, called the Service Of Catechumens, was ended (Theod. Ep. 77; Ad Eelul. 3:797). This punishment was commonly inflicted upon lesser crimes, or if upon greater, upon such sinners only as showed a willingness to repent- upon those who had lapsed rather through infirmity than maliciousness. The excommunicatio major, greater excommunication ( Παντελὴς Ἀφορισμός ), was a total expulsion from the Church, and separation from communion in all holy offices with it (Encyclop. Metropolitana). When attended with execratioans, excommunication was called anathema (see article, volume 1, page 219). The several churches mutually informed each other of their own separate excommunications in order that a person excommunicated by one church might be held so by all; and any church which received him was held deserving of similar punishment. He who was guilty of any intercourse with an excommunicated person, himself incurred a like sentence, which deprived him of Christian burial and insertion in the diptychs or catalogues of the faithful. No gifts or oblations were received from the excommunicated. No intermarriages might take place with them. Their books might not be read, but were to be burned (Bingham, Oruq. Eccl. book 15). For the restoration of excommunicated persons, penances (q.v.) and public professions of repentance were required; and in Africa and Spain the absolution of lapsed persons (i.e., those who, in time of persecution, had yielded to the force of temptation, and fallen away from their Christian profession by the crime of actual sacrifice to idols) was forbidden, except at the hour of death, or in cases where martyrs interceded for them. (See Lapsi).

(III.) The Roman Church. As the pretensions of the hierarchy increased, excommunication became more and more an instrument of ecclesiastical power, as well as a means of enlarging it. When the Church had full control of the state, its sentences were attended with the gravest civil as well as ecclesiastical consequences. There are three degrees of excommunication, the minor, the Major, and the anathema.

1. The minor is incurred by holding communion with an excommunicated person: oratione, Locutione, Bibendo, comedendo praying, speaking, drinking, eating; and absolution may be given by any priest on confession. Priests who have incurred the minor ban may administer the Eucharist, but cannot partake of it.

2. The major excommussicatio falls upon those who disobey the commands of the pope, or who, having been found guilty of any offense, civil or criminal, refuse to submit to certain points of discipline; in consequence of which they are excommunicated from the Church triumphant, and delivered over to the devil and his angels. It requires a written sentence from a bishop after three admonitions. It deprives the condemned person of all the blessings of the Church in any shape, except that he is not debarred from hearing the Word. So long as the State obeyed the Church, civil disabilities followed the sentence of excommunication; no obedience was due to the excommunicated; the laws could give them no redress for injuries; and none could hold intercourse with them under penalty of excommunication. On this last point, however, a distinction has been made since the 15th century between those who are called tolerati (tolerated) and those who are designated as vitandi (persons to be shunned). Only in the case of the latter (a case extremely rare, and confined to heresiarchs, and other signal offenders against the faith or public order of the Church) are the ancient rules for prohibition of intercourse enforced. With the 'tolerated,' since the celebrated decree of Pope Martin V in the Council of Constance, the faithful are permitted to maintain the ordinary intercourse. By the 12th century the word ban (bannus, bannum), which in ancient jurisprudence denoted a declaration of outlawry, had come into ecclesiastical use to denote the official act of excommunication. (See Ban).

The professed aim of excommunication was the reform of the offender as well as the purification of the Church. Absolution can be granted, in case of the major ban, only by the authority which laid the bans or its successor. Before absolution the authorities must be satisfied of penitence. The "penitent must first swear to obey the commands of the Church, and to make all necessary atonement for his special offense; he must then be reconciled by kneeling, bareheaded and stripped to his shirt, before the bishop sitting at the church gates. Here he again repeats his oath, and the bishop, reciting the psalm Deus misereatar, strikes him with a rod during each verse. Then, after certain prayers, he absolves him and leads him into the church."

3. The anathema is attended with special ceremonies. "The bishop must be attended by twelve priests, each of whom, as well as himself, bears a lighted candle. He then sits before the high altar, or any other public place which he prefers, and delivers his sentence, which adjudges the offender to be anathemizatsum et damnatum Cum Diabolo Et Angelis Ejus Et omnibus Reprobis In Wternum Igem cursed and damned with the devil and his angels and all the reprobate to eternal fire. The candles are then dashed down. The ceremonials of absolution from this sentence are not very different from the last, although the form of prayer is varied" (Encyclop. Metrop. s.v.). The effects of the anathema were summed up in the monkish lines

Si pro delicto anathema quis efficiatur,

Os, orare, vale, comnamunio, mensa negatur.

(See Anathema); (See Book And Candlebell )

"In the Roman Catholic Church the power or excommunicating is held t6 reside, not in the congregation, but in the bishop; and this is believed to be in exact accordance with the remarkable proceeding commemorated in the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians ( 1 Corinthians 5:3;  1 Corinthians 5:5), and with all the earliest recorded examples of its exercise. Like all the powers of the episcopate, it is held to belong, in an especial and eminent degree, to the Roman bishop, as primate of the Church; but it is by no means believed to be. long to him exclusively, nor has such exclusive right ever been claimed by the bishops of Rome. On the contrary, bishops within their sees, archbishops while exercising visitatorial jurisdiction, heads of religious orders within their own communities, all possess the power to issue excommunication, not only by the ancient law of the Church, but also by the most modern discipline" (Chambers, s.v.). But Aquinas held that excommunication, as not belonging to the keys of order, not to those of jurisdiction, and as not referring to grace directly, but only accidentally, might be exercised by persons not in holy orders, but yet having jurisdiction in ecclesiastical courts (Summa, Suppl. 3, qu. 22). See Marshall, Penitential Discipline, Oxf. 1844, page 139. The Council of Trent declares (sess. 25, chapter 3, de Reform.) that, "Although the sword of excommunication is the very sinews of ecclesiastical discipline, and very salutary for keeping the people in their duty, yet it is to be used with sobriety and great circumspection; seeing that experience teaches that if it be rashly or for slight causes wielded, it is more despised than feared, and produces destruction rather than safety. It shall be a crime for any secular magistrate to prohibit an ecclesiastical judge from excommunicating any one, or to command that he revoke an excommunication issued, under pretext that the things contained in the present decree have not been observed; whereas the cognizance hereof does not pertain to seculars but to ecelesiastics. And every excommunicated person soever who, after the lawful monitions, does not change his mind, shall not only not be received to the sacraments and to communion and intercourse with the faithful, but if, being bound with censures, he shall, with obdurate heart, remain for a year in the defilement thereof, he may even be proceeded against as suspected of heresy." The popes have exercised the power of excommunication against entire communities at once. The Capitularies of Pepin the Less, in the 8th century, ordained that the greater excommunication should be followed by banishment from the countmy. On the claim of the popes to excommunicate and depose monarchs, and to free subjects from their allegiance, see M'Clintock, Temporal Power of the Pope (N.Y. 1855, 12mo). "The latest examples of papal excommunication of monarchs were Napoleon I in 1809, and Victor Emmanuel, king of Italy, in 1860; neither of whom, however, was excommunicated by name, the pope having confined himself to a solemn and reiterated publication of the penalties decreed by his predecessors against those who unjustly invaded the territories of the Holy See, usurped or violated its rights, or violently impeded their free exercise. The excommunication of a sovereign was regarded as freeing subjects from their allegiance; and, in the year 1102, this sentence was pronounced against the emperor Henry IV, an example which subsequent popes likewise ventured to follow. But the fearful weapons with which the popes armed themselves in this power of excommunication were rendered much less effective through their incautious employment, the evident worldly motives by which it was sometimes governed and the excommunications which rival popes hurled against each other during the time of the great papal schism" (Chambers, s.v.).

(IV.) The Greek Church. In the Greek Church excommunication cuts off the offender from all communion with the 318 fathers of the first Council of Nicena, consigns him to the devil and his angels, and condemns his body to remain after death as hard as a piece of flint, unless lie humbles himself and makes atonement for his sins by a sincere repentance. "The form abounds with dreadful imprecations; and the Greeks assert that, if a person dies excommunicated, the devil enters into the lifeless corpse; and, therefore, in order to prevent it, the relations of the deceased cut his body in pieces and boil them in wine. Every year, and a fixed Sunday, the greater ban' is pronounced against the pope and the Church of Rome, on which occasion, together with a great deal of idle ceremony, he drives a nail into the ground with a hammer as a mark of malediction" (Buck, s.v.). Sir Paul Rycaut (Present State of the Greek and Armenian Churches, Lond. 1679, 8vo), who wrote his observations on the state of that communion in 1678, has gives? in the original Greek, the form of an excommunication issued against an unknown thief whom the authorities were seeking to discover. It runs as follows: "If they restore not to him that which is his own, and possess him peaceably of it, but suffer him to remain injured and damnifyed, let him be separated from the Lord God Creator, and be accursed, and unpardoned, and undissolvable after death in this world, and in the other which is to come. Let wood, stones, and iron be dissolved, but not they: may they inherit the leprosy of Gehazi and the confusion of Judas may the earth be divided, and devour them like Dathn and Abiram; may they sigh and tremble an earth like Cain, and the wrath of God be upon their heads and countenances; may they see nothing of that for which they labor, and beg their bread all the days of their lives; may their works, possessions, labors, and services be accursed; always without effect or success, and blown away like dust; may they have the curses of the holy and righteous patriarchs Abram, Isaac, and Jacob; of the 318 saints who were the divine fathers of the Synod of Nice, and of all other holy synods; and being without the Church of Christ, let no human administer unto them the things of the Church, or bless them, or offer sacrifice for them or give them the Ἀντίδωρον , or the blessed bread, or eat, or drink, or work with them, or converse with them; and after death let no man bury them, in penalty of being under the same state of excommunication; for so let them remain until they have performed what is here written."

(V.) In Protestant Churches . New relations between Church and State followed hard upon the Reformation, and new limits were soon assigned to the exercise of discipline. According to the view of the Wittemberg reformers, the ban could have no civil effect unless ratified by the State. The necessity of the power of excommunication in the Church was asserted by all the Reformers. They maintained that excommunication is the affair of the whole Church, clergy and laity (Calvin, Institut. volume 4, chapter 11; Melancthon, Corpus Ref. ed. Bretschneider, 3:965). (See Erastianism). They disclaimed the right of using the Excommunicatio Major. In general, the "Reformers retained only that power of excommunication which appeared to them to be inherent in the constitution of the Christian society, and to be sanctioned by the Word of God; nor have any civil consequences been generally connected with it in Protestant countries. To connect such consequences with excommcunication in any measure whatever is certainly inconsistent with the principles of the Reformation" (Chambers, s.v.).

The causes of excommunication in the established Church of England are, contempt of the bishops' court, heresy, neglect of public worship and the sacraments, incontinency, adultery, sinony, etc. If the judge of any spiritual court excommunicates a man for a cause of which he has not the legal cognizance, the party may have an action against him at common law, and he is also liable to be indicted at the suit of the king (Can. 65, 68; see also the Homily On the Right Uses of the Church). The 33d Article of Religion is as follows: "That person which, by open denunciation of the Church, is rightly cut off from the unity of the Church, and excommunicated, ought to be taken of the whole multitude of the faithful as a heathen and publican until he be openly reconciled by penance, and received into the Church by a judge that hath authority thereunto." "By old English law an excommunicated person was disabled from doing any act required to be done by one that is probes et legalis honzo. He could not serve on juries, nor be witness in any court, nor bring an action real or personal to recover lands or money due to him. By stat. 5 and 6 Edward VI, cap. 4, striking, or drawing a weapon to strike, in a church or churchyard, incurred ipso facto excommunication; ipso facto excommunication, or latae sententivs, meaning some act so clear or manifest that no sentence is requisite, in contradistinction from sententiae ferendae, i.e., when sentence must be passed before the offender be considered excoamumunicated. The offenses which, in the reign of Edward III, 1373, were punished by ipsofacto excommunication, are enumerated in some articai issued when Wittlesey was archbishop of Canterbury; most of them are such as might be injurious to the persons or properties of the clergyi The document may be found in Conc. Magn. Britt. 3:95. By 3 James I, cap. 5, every popish recusant convict stands to all intents and purposes disabled, as a person lawfully excommunicated.

The ecclesiastical law denies Christian burial to those excommunicated majori excommunicatione, and an injunction to the ministers to that effect will be found in the sixty-eighth canon, and in the rubric of the burial service. The law acknowledged two excommunications: the lesser excluded the offender from the communion of the Church only; the greater from that communion, and also from the company of the faithful, etc. The sixty fifth canon enjoins ministers solemnly to denounce those who stand lawfully excommunicated every six months, as well in the parish church as in the cathedral church of the diocese in which they remain, 'openly in time of divine service, upon some Sunday,' 'that others may be thereby both admonished to refrain their company and society, and excited the rather to procure out a writ de exconmunicato copiendo, thereby to bring and reduce them into due order and obedience.' By statute 52 George III, cap. 127, excommunications, and the proceedings following thereupon, are discontinued, except in certain cases specified in the act; which may receive definitive sentences as spiritual censures for offenses of ecclesiastical cognizance; and instead of sentence of excommunication, which used to be pronounced by the ecclesiastical courts in cases of contumacy, the offenders are to be declared contumacious, and to be referred to the court of chancery, by which a writ de contumae capiendo is issued instead of the old writ de excommunicato capiendo. Formerly this writ de excommunicato capiendo was issued by the court of chancery upon it being signified by the bishop's certificate that forty days have elapsed since sentence of excommunication has been published in the church without submission of the offender. The sheriff then received the writ, called also a significavit, and lodged the culprit in the county jail till the bishop certified his reconciliation. A similar method of proceeding to that now adopted was recommended by a report of a committee of both houses of Parliament as far back as March 7, 1710, and again on April 30, 1714. No person excommunicated for such offenses as are still liable to the punishment can now be imprisoned for a longer term than six months (Burns, Eccl. Law, by Tyrwhit, adv.). In Scotland, when the lesser excommunication, or exclusion from the sacraments has failed, the minister pronounces a form by which the impenitent offender is declared 'excommunicated, shut out from the communion of the faithful, debarred from their privileges, and delivered unto Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.' The people are then warned to avoid all unnecessary intercourse with him. Anciently, in Scotland, an excommunicated person was incapable of holding feudal rights, but at present the sentence is unaccompanied by any civil penalty or disqualification" (Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, s.v.).

The law of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America, as expressed by the 42d canon of 1832, is as follows: Sec. 1. If any persons within this Church offend their brethren by any wickedness of life, such persons shall be repelled from the holy communion, agreeably to the rubric. Sec. 2. On information being laid before the bishop that any one has been repelled from communion, it shall not be his duty to institute an inquiry unless there be a complaint made to him in writing by the repelled party. But on receiving complaint, it shall be the duty of the bishop, unless he think fit to restore him from the insufficiency of the cause assigned by the minister, to institute an inquiry, as may be directed by the canons of the diocese in which the event has taken place. Sec. 3. In the case of a great heinousness of offense on the part of members of this Church, they may be proceeded against to the depriving them of all privileges of church membership, according to such rules or process as may be provided by the General Convention, and, until such rules and process shall be provided, by such as may be provided by the different State Conventions. See also the 33d Article of Religion.

In the Methodist Episcopal Church the power of excommunication lies with the minister after trial before a jury of the peers of the accused party. The grounds and forms of trial are given in the Discipline, part in, chap. i It is provided in the Constitution that no law shall ever be made doing away the privilege of accused ministers or members to have trial and right of appeal (Discipline, part 2, chapter 1, § 1).

"Among the Independents, Congregationalists, and Baptists, the persons who are or should be excommunicated are such as are quarrelsome and litigious ( Galatians 5:12); such as desert their privileges, withdraw themselves from the ordinances of God, and forsake his people ( Judges 1:19); such as are irregular and immoral in their lives, railers, drunkards, extortioners, fornicators, and covetous ( Ephesians 5:5;  1 Corinthians 5:11). In the United States these simple principles of Church discipline are very generally followed by all evangelical denominations" (Buck, s.v.). See particularly the Form, of Government of the Presbyterian Church, book 2 of Discipline; Dexter, On Congregationalism (Boston, 1865), pages 191-2; Ripley, On Church Polity (Bost. 1867), page 81 sq.; Edwards, Nature and Use of Excommunication (Works, N.Y. 1848), 4:6:8.

Literature. See, besides the works already cited, Ferraris, Promta Bibliotheca, ed. Migne, 3:846 sq.; Siegel, Christl.-kirchl. Alterthumer, 2:131 sq.; Bingham, Orig. Ecclesiastes book 16, chapter 2, 3; Van Espen, De Censuris Ecclesiasticis (Opera, Paris, 1753, 4 volumes); Scheele, Die Kirchenzucht (Halle, 1852, 8vo); Hooker, Eccl. Polity, 8:1, 6; Calvin, Institutes, book 4, chapter 12; Thorndike, Works (Oxford, 1856), 6:21; Waterland, Works (Oxford, 1853), 3:456; Winer, Comp. Darstellung, § 20; Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctrines, ed. Smith, § 255; Herzog, Real- Encyklopaldie, s.v. Bann; Palmer, On the Church, 1:96; 2:277, 304; Watson, Theological Institutes, 2:574; Burnet, On the Articles, Browne, On the Articles, Forbes, On the Articles (each on Article XXXIII); Wheatly, On Common Prayer, Bohn's ed., page 442 sq.; Scott, Synod of Dort (Philadelphia Presb. Board), page 249; Gibbon, Decline and Fall, chapter 15, part 5. (See Anathema);(See Ban); (See Discipline).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [12]

eks - ko - - ni - kā´shun  : Exclusion from church fellowship as a means of personal discipline, or church purification, or both. Its germs have been found in (1) The Mosaic "ban" or "curse" (חרם , ḥērem , "devoted"), given over entirely to God's use or to destruction ( Leviticus 27:29 ); (2) The "cutting off," usually by death, stoning of certain offenders, breakers of the Sabbath ( Exodus 31:14 ) and others ( Leviticus 17:4; Ex 30:22-38); (3) The exclusion of the leprous from the camp ( Leviticus 13:46;  Numbers 12:14 ). At the restoration ( Ezra 10:7 ,  Ezra 10:8 ), the penalty of disobedience to Ezra's reforming movements was that "all his substance should be forfeited ( ḥērem ), and himself separated from the assembly of the captivity." Nehemiah's similar dealing with the husbands of heathen women helped to fix the principle. The New Testament finds a well-developed synagogal system of excommunication, in two, possibly three, varieties or stages. נדּוּי , niddūy , for the first offense, forbade the bath, the razor, the convivial table, and restricted social intercourse and the frequenting of the temple. It lasted thirty, sixty, or ninety days. If the offender still remained obstinate, the "curse," ḥērem , was formally pronounced upon him by a council of ten, and he was shut out from the intellectual, religious and social life of the community, completely severed from the congregation. שׁמּתא , shammāthā' , supposed by some to be a third and final stage, is probably a general term applied to both niddūy and ḥērem ̌ . We meet the system in  John 9:22 : "If any man should confess him to be Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue" ( ἀποσυναγωγός , aposunagōgós );  John 12:42 : "did not confess ... lest they should be put out of the synagogue"; and   John 16:2 : "put you out of the synagogue." In   Luke 6:22 Christ may refer to the three stages: "separate you from their company ( ἀφορίσωσιν , aphorı́sōsin ), and reproach you (ὀνειδίσωσιν , oneidı́sōsin = ḥērem , "malediction"), and cast out your name as evil (ἐκβάλωσιν , ekbálōsin )."

It is doubtful whether an express prescription of excommunication is found in our Lord's words ( Matthew 18:15-19 ). The offense and the penalty also seem purely personal: "And if he refuse to hear the church also, let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican," out of the pale of association and converse. Yet the next verse might imply that the church also is to act: "Verily I say unto you, What things soever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven," etc. But this latter, like   Matthew 16:19 , seems to refer to the general enunciations of principles and policies rather than to specific ecclesiastical enactments. On the whole, Jesus seems here to be laying down the principle of dignified personal avoidance of the obstinate offender, rather than prescribing ecclesiastical action. Still, personal avoidance may logically correspond in proper cases to excommunication by the church.  2 Thessalonians 3:14 : "Note that man, that ye have no company with him";   Titus 3:10 : "A factious man ... avoid" (American Revised Version margin);   2 John 1:10 : "Receive him not into your house," etc., all inculcate discreet and faithful avoidance but not necessarily excommunication, though that might come to be the logical result. Paul's "anathemas" are not to be understood as excommunications, since the first is for an offense no ecclesiastical tribunal could well investigate:   1 Corinthians 16:22 , "If any man loveth not the Lord, let him be anathema"; the second touches Paul's deep relationship to his Lord:  Romans 9:3 , "I myself ... anathema from Christ"; while the third would subject the apostle or an angel to ecclesiastical censure:  Galatians 1:8 ,  Galatians 1:9 , "Though we, or an angel ... let him be anathema."

Clear, specific instances of excommunication or directions regarding it, however, are found in the Pauline and Johannine writings. In the case of the incestuous man ( 1 Corinthians 5:1-12 ), at the instance of the apostle ("I verily, being absent in body but present in spirit"), the church, in a formal meeting ("In the name of our Lord Jesus, ye being gathered together"), carrying out the apostle's desire and will ("and my spirit"), and using the power and authority conferred by Christ ("and with the power of our Lord Jesus"), formally cut off the offender from its fellowship, consigning (relinquishing?) him to the power of the prince of this world ("to deliver such a one unto Satan"). Further, such action is enjoined in other cases: "Put away the wicked man from among yourselves."  2 Corinthians 2:5-11 probably refers to the same case, terminated by the repentance and restoration of the offender. 'Delivering over to Satan' must also include some physical ill, perhaps culminating in death; as with Simon Magus (  Acts 8:20 ), Elymas ( Acts 13:11 ), Ananias ( Acts 5:5 ).  1 Timothy 1:20 : "Hymenaeus and Alexander ... that they might be taught not to blaspheme," is a similar case of excommunication accompanied by judicial and disciplinary physical ill. In   3 John 1:9 ,  3 John 1:10 we have a case of excommunication by a faction in control: "Diotrephes ... neither doth he himself receive ... and them that would he ... casteth out of the church."

Excommunication in the New Testament church was not a fully developed system. The New Testament does not clearly define its causes, methods, scope or duration. It seems to have been incurred by heretical teaching ( 1 Timothy 1:20 ) or by factiousness ( Titus 3:10 (?)); but the most of the clear undoubted cases in the New Testament are for immoral or un-Christian conduct (  1 Corinthians 5:1 ,  1 Corinthians 5:11 ,  1 Corinthians 5:13; perhaps also  1 Timothy 1:20 ). It separated from church fellowship but not necessarily from the love and care of the church ( 2 Thessalonians 3:15 (?)). It excluded from church privileges, and often, perhaps usually, perhaps always, from social intercourse (  1 Corinthians 5:11 ). When pronounced by the apostle it might be accompanied by miraculous and punitive or disciplinary physical consequences ( 1 Corinthians 5:5;  1 Timothy 1:20 ). It was the act of the local church, either with ( 1 Corinthians 5:4 ) or without ( 1 Corinthians 5:13;  3 John 1:10 ) the concurrence of an apostle. It might possibly be pronounced by an apostle alone ( 1 Timothy 1:20 ), but perhaps not without the concurrence and as the mouthpiece of the church. Its purpose was the amendment of the offender: "That the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" ( 1 Corinthians 5:5 ); and the preservative purification of the church: "Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, even as ye are unleavened" ( 1 Corinthians 5:7 ). It might, as appears, be terminated by repentance and restoration ( 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 ). It was not a complex and rigid ecclesiastical engine, held in terrorem over the soul, but the last resort of faithful love, over which hope and prayer still hovered.


Arts. in HDB , DB , Jewish Encyclopedia , DCG  ; Martensen, Christian Ethics , III, 330ff; Nowack, Benzinger, Heb Archaeol .; Commentary in the place cited.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [13]

An ecclesiastical punishment inflicted upon heretics and offenders against the Church laws and violators of the moral code; was formulated in the Christian Church in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. It varied in severity according to the degree of transgression, but in its severest application involved exclusion from the Eucharist, Christian burial, and the rights and privileges of the Church; formerly it had the support of the civil authority, but is now a purely spiritual penalty.