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excommunication Summary and Overview

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excommunication in Smith's Bible Dictionary

(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. #Joh 9:1| ... In #Lu 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." 2. Christian excommunication. --Excommunication, as exercised by the Christian Church, was instituted by our Lord, #Mt 18:15,18| and it was practiced and commanded by St. Paul #1Co 5:11; 1Ti 1:20; Tit 3:10| Int he epistles we find St. Paul frequently claiming the right to exercise discipline over his converts; comp. #2Co 1:23; 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, #1Co 5:5| and the protection of the sound members of the Church, #2Ti 3:17| (4) that its subjects are those who are guilty of heresy, #1Ti 1:20| or gross immorality, #1Co 5:1| (5) that it is inflicted by the authority of the Church at large, #Mt 18:18| wielded by the highest ecclesiastical officer, #1Co 5:3; Tit 3:10| (6) that this officer's sentence is promulgated by the congregation to which the offender belongs, #1Co 5:4| in defence to his superior judgment and command, #2Co 2:9| and in spite of any opposition on the part of a minority, #2Co 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, #2Co 2:8| (9) that penitence is the condition on which restoration to communion is granted, #2Co 2:8| (10) that the sentence is to be publicly reversed as it was publicly promulgated. #2Co 2:10|

excommunication in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

EXCOMMUNICA'TION . The writings of the Rabbins mention the various offences for which men were cut off from the privileges of the synagogue, and even from social life. Our Lord is supposed to refer to the excommunications practised -- "the simple separation, the additional malediction, and the final exclusion" -- when he said, "Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach yon, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake." Luke 6:22. Another and yet more evident reference to these Jewish ceremonies is that in John's story of the man born blind. John 9:22-23, John 9:34-35. Rabbinical excommunication does not rest upon the Law of Moses. It is the natural outgrowth of a well-organized society, which keeps itself clear of all obnoxious persons. In its mildest form it was a prohibition from "the use of the razor, the bath, or the convivial table, and all who had to do with the offender were commanded to keep him at four cubits' distance." It lasted 30 days, but might be renewed for an equal period. In case of continued rebellion, the second step was taken. In a solemn manner the offender was cursed, and prohibited from teaching or being taught, hiring or being hired, and from "performing any commercial transactions beyond purchasing the necessaries of life." The third and last step was entire exclusion from the congregation. It was to be expected that in the Christian Church the practice of excommunication would be continued. Its institution by our Lord is recorded in Matt 18:15, Matt 18:18, and the practice and commands of Paul are given in 1 Tim 1:20; 1 Cor 6:11;2 Cor 2:5-10; Tit 3:10. Christian excommunication, as we gather from these Pauline Epistles, was a purely spiritual penalty, inflicted for the good of the sufferer and in order that the church might be protected. The sentence might be increased or lightened according to circumstances. Repentance was the condition of restoration; and as the exclusion of the offender from the temporal body of Christ was a public and congregational act, so the reception of the excommunicated member was of the same character. EXECU'TIONER In O.T. times the post was honorable. The executioner of Mark 6:27 belonged to the king's body-guard.

excommunication in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

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 (Psalm 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).