Volume 1: 1771 Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica!


Anathema, among ecclesiastical writers, imports whatever is set apart, separated, or divided; but is most usually meant to express the cutting off a person from the privileges of society, and communion with the faithful.

The anathema differs from excommunication in the circumstances of being attended with curses and execrations. It was practiced in the primitive church against notorious offenders; and the form of that pronounced by Synecius against one Andronicus, is as follows:

"Let no church of God be open to Andronicus, but let every sanctuary be shut against him. I admonish both private men and magistrates, neither to receive him under their roof, nor to their table; and priests more especially, that they neither converse with him living, nor attend his funeral when dead."

Several councils also have pronounced anathemas against such as they thought corrupted the purity of the faith, and their decisions have been conceived in the following form: Si quis dixerit, etc. anathema sit.

There are two kinds of anathemas, the one judiciary, the other abjuratory. The former can only be denounced by a council, a pope, or a bishop; the latter makes a part of the ceremony of abjuration, the convert being obliged to anathematize the heresy he abjures.

Anathema, in heathen antiquity, was an offering or present made to some deity, and hung up in the temple. Whenever a person left off his employment, it was usual to dedicate the tools to the patron-deity of the trade. Persons too who had escaped from imminent danger, as shipwreck and the like, or had met with any other remarkable instance of good fortune, seldom failed to testify their gratitude by some present of this kind.

Anathema likewise denotes Christian offerings, otherwise called donations. See DONATIONS.

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