John 9:22

John 9:22

These words spake his parents
these were the answers they returned to the three questions put to them: and the reason why they answered in the manner they did to the third, was,

because they feared the Jews;
the Jewish sanhedrim, otherwise they were Jews themselves:

for the Jews had agreed already;
the sanhedrim had made a decree, either at this time, upon this account, or some time before,

that if any man did confess that he was Christ;
that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah,

he should be put out of the synagogue;
which was not that sort of excommunication which they called (ywdn) , "Niddui", a separation from civil society for the space of four cubits, and which held but thirty days, if the person repented; if he did not, it was continued to sixty days; and after that, in case of non-repentance, to ninety days; and if no amendment, then they proceeded to another excommunication called (Mrx) , "Cherem", or (atmv) , "Shammatha", whereby such were anathematized, and cut off from the whole body of the Jewish church and people, called sometimes the synagogue and congregation of Israel F18; and this struck great terror in the minds of the people; and this was what intimidated the parents of the blind man, being what is intended here. Though these are sometimes put one for another, and signify the same thing; and he that was under the former of those censures, is said to be (rwbyu Nm) (ldbwm) , "separated from the congregation" F19, a phrase by which the word here used may be very well rendered: but in some things there was a difference between them; the one was without cursing, the other with; he that was under "Niddui", might teach others the traditions, and they might teach him; he might hire workmen, and be hired himself: but he that was under "Cherem" might neither teach others, nor they teach him; but he might teach himself, that he might not forget his learning; and he might neither hire, nor be hired; and they did not trade with him, nor did they employ him in any business, unless in very little, just to keep him alive F20; yea, the goods which he was possessed of, were confiscated, and which they conclude should be done from F21 ( Ezra 10:8 ) , which may be compared with this passage; so that this greatly and chiefly affected them in the affairs of civil life, and which made it so terrible: for I do not find that they were obliged to abstain from the temple, or temple worship, or from the synagogue, and the worship of it, and which is the mistake of some learned men: it is certain, they might go into places of worship, though with some difference from others; for it is said F23, that

``all that go into the temple, go in, in the right hand way, and go round, and come out in the left, except such an one to whom anything has befallen him, and he goes about to the left; (and when asked) why dost thou go to the left? (he answers) because I am a mourner; (to whom it is replied) he that dwells in this house comfort thee: (or) (hdwnm ynav) , "because I am excommunicated"; (to whom they say) he that dwells in this house put it into thy heart (that thou mayest hearken to the words of thy friends, as it is afterwards explained) and they may receive thee.''

And it is elsewhere said F24, that

``Solomon, when he built the temple, made two gates, the one for bridegrooms, and the other for mourners and excommunicated persons; and the Israelites, when they went in on sabbath days, or feast days, sat between these two gates; and when anyone came in by the gate of the bridegrooms, they knew he was a bridegroom, and said unto him, he that dwells in this house make thee cheerful with sons and daughters: and when anyone came in at the gate of mourners, and his upper lip covered, they knew that he was a mourner, and said unto him, he that dwells in this house comfort thee: and when anyone came in at the gate of mourners, and his upper lip was not covered, they knew (hdwnm hyhv) , "that he was excommunicated"; and said unto him, he that dwells in this house comfort thee, and put it into thy heart to hearken to thy friends.''

And it is afterwards also said in the same place, that when the temple was destroyed, it was decreed that such persons should come into synagogues and schools; but then they were not reckoned as members of the Jewish church, but as persons cut off from the people of Israel, and scarce allowed to be of their commonwealth. And it may be further observed, that excommunication with the Jews was not only on religious accounts, but on civil accounts; on account of money, or when a man would not pay his debts, according to the decree of the sanhedrim F25. The twenty four reasons of excommunication, given by Maimonides F26, chiefly respect contempt of the sanhedrim, and of the wise men, and breach of the traditions of the elders; sometimes they excommunicated for immorality, particularly the Essenes, as Josephus relates, who says F1, that such who are taken in grievous sins, they cast them out of their order; and he that is so dealt with commonly dies a miserable death; for being bound by oaths and customs, he cannot eat the food of others, and so starves. The same is reported F2 by R. Abraham Zachuth: and sometimes excommunication was for Epicurism, or heresy, and such they reckoned the belief of Jesus of Nazareth, as the Messiah, on account of which this decree was made, and which continued with them; for not only this blind man was cast out of the synagogue by virtue of it, but our Lord tells his disciples, that they should be so treated by the Jews after his death; and we find it remained in force and practice many hundreds of years afterwards. Athanasius F3 relates of a Jew, that lived in Berytus, a city in Syria, between Tyre and Sidon, that an image of Christ being found in his house by another Jew, though unknown to him; and this being discovered to the chief priests and elders of the Jews, they cast him out of the synagogue. Sometimes this sentence was pronounced by word of mouth, and sometimes it was delivered in writing: the form of one is given us by Buxtorf F4, out of an ancient Hebrew manuscript; and a dreadful shocking one it is; and is as follows:

``according to the mind of the Lord of lords, let such an one, the son of such an one, be in "Cherem", or anathematized, in both houses of judgment, of those above, and those below; and with the anathema of the saints on high, with the anathema of the "Seraphim" and "Ophanim", and with the anathema of the whole congregation, great and small; let great and real stripes be upon him, and many and violent diseases; and let his house be an habitation of dragons; and let his star be dark in the clouds; and let him be for indignation, wrath, and anger; and let his carcass be for beasts and serpents; and let those that rise up against him, and his enemies, rejoice over him; and let his silver and his gold be given to others; and let all his children be exposed at the gate of his enemies, and at his day may others be amazed; and let him be cursed from the mouth of Addiriron and Actariel, (names of angels, as are those that follow,) and from the mouth of Sandalphon and Hadraniel, and from the mouth of Ansisiel and Pathchiel, and from the mouth of Seraphiel and Zaganzael, and from the mouth of Michael and Gabriel, and from the mouth of Raphael and Meshartiel; and let him be anathematized from the mouth of Tzabtzabib, and from tile mouth of Habhabib, he is Jehovah the Great, and from the mouth of the seventy names of the great king, and from the side of Tzortak the great chancellor; and let him be swallowed up as Korah and his company, with terror, and with trembling; let his soul go out; let the reproof of the Lord kill him; and let him be strangled as Ahithophel in his counsel; and let his leprosy be as the leprosy of Gehazi; and let there be no raising him up from his fall; and in the sepulchres of Israel let not his grave be; and let his wife be given to another; and let others bow upon her at his death: in this anathema, let such an one, the son of such an one be, and let this be his inheritance; but upon me, and upon all Israel, may God extend his peace and his blessing. Amen.''

And if he would, he might add these verses in ( Deuteronomy 29:19-21 ) : "and it come to pass when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: the Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord, and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven. And the Lord shall separate, him unto evil, out of all the tribes of Israel, according, to all the curses of the covenant, that are written in this book of the law". There were many rites and ceremonies, which in process of time were used, when such a sentence was pronounced, as blowing of horns and trumpets, and lighting of candles, and putting them out: hence, trumpets are reckoned F4 a among the instruments of judges. It is said F5 of R. Judah, that being affronted by a certain person, he resented the injury, and brought out the trumpets and excommunicated him: and they tell us F6, that Barak anathematized Meroz, whom they take to be some great person, with four hundred trumpets: and they also say F7, that four hundred trumpets were brought out, and they excommunicated Jesus of Nazareth; though these words are left out in some editions of the Talmud. Now this was done in order to inject terror both into those that were guilty, and also into the whole congregation of the people, that they might hear and fear; for the "Cherem", or that sort of excommunication which goes by that name, was done publicly before the whole synagogue, all the heads and elders of the church being gathered together; and then candles were lighted, and as soon as the form of the curse was finished, they were put out, as a sign that the excommunicated person was unworthy of the heavenly light F8. Very likely the Papists took their horrible custom from hence of cursing with bell, book, and candle.


F18 Vid. Maimon. Talmud Tora, c. 7. sect. 6. Buxtorf. Lex. Rab. col. 1303. & Epist. Heb. Institut. p. 57.
F19 Maimon. Hilchod Talmud Tora, c. 7. sect. 4.
F20 Ib. sect. 5.
F21 T. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 16. 1.
F23 Misn. Middot, c. 2. sect. 2.
F24 Pirke Eiiezer, c. 17.
F25 T. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 16. 1. & Gloss in ib.
F26 Hilchot Talmud Tora, c. 6. sect. 14.
F1 De Bello Jud. l. 2. c. 8. sect. 8.
F2 Juchasin, fol. 139. 2.
F3 Oper. ejus, Tom. 2. p. 12, 17. Ed. Commelin.
F4 Lex Rab. col. 828.
F4 T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol 7. 2.
F5 T. Bab. Kiddushin, c. 4. in Beth Israel, fol. 57. 1.
F6 T. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 16. 1. & Shebuot, fol. 36. 1.
F7 T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 107. 2. Ed. Venet.
F8 Buxtorf. Epist. Heb. Institut. c. 6. p. 56.