The word anathema comes from the Greek word ana'thema, which means "a person or thing accursed or consigned to damnation or destruction." The word appears in the Bible six separate times. The more modern translations often substitute the word "cursed" or "eternally condemned" for the word anathema, as opposed to older versions, such as the KJV. The word "anathematize" is also used to describe the action of putting a curse on oneself that would be activated upon failure to carry out a vow. In their zeal to slay the Apostle Paul, the Pharisees "anathematize[d] themselves, saying neither to eat nor to drink till they may kill Paul" (Acts 23:12 YLT).
What does 'anathema' mean? What is the definition of anathema?
This is interesting, because all other instances of the word are found in Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Galatians, which were all letters written by Paul—an ex-Pharisee. He took the word he had learned as a religious teacher and applied it to false teachers, saying if anyone "may proclaim good news to you different from what we did proclaim to you -- anathema let him be!" (Galatians 1:8-9 YLT). He also used the word against anyone who does not love the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 16:22). Lastly, he used it against himself. In his passion to see the Jewish nation saved, Paul says "for I was wishing, I myself, to be anathema from the Christ -- for my brethren, my kindred, according to the flesh" (Romans 9:3 YLT). This wish was impossible, because Paul was in Christ (Romans 8:38-39), but it shows the depth of his feeling for his fellow men.
In 1 Corinthians 16:22, the word ana'thema is juxtaposed with the word maranatha, which is the same as saying "Come, O Lord!" The passage says "If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed [anathema]. Our Lord, come [maranatha]!" It is difficult sometimes to understand the concept of eternal condemnation in conjunction with God's loving nature, but knowing that God knows everything (1 John 3:20), and is wiser than men (1 Corinthians 1:25), and is just (Genesis 18:25), we must trust Him with those things that seem strange to the human mind (Proverbs 3:5-6). We can assume that when the word anathema is used, it is according to God's will, and serves a right purpose.
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