802. Excommunication

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According to the Talmud and the rabbit’s there were two, and perhaps three, grades of excommunication among the Jews. The first was called niddin, and those on whom it was pronounced were not permitted for thirty days to have any communication with any person save at a distance of four cubits. They were not prohibited from attending public worship, though they could not during the thirty days enter the temple by the ordinary gate. They were not allowed during that time to shave, and were required to wear garments of mourning. The second was called cherem, and was pronounced on those who remained contumacious under the first. It was of greater severity than the other, and required the presence of at least ten members of the congregation to make it valid. The offender was formally cursed, was excluded from all intercourse with other people, and was prohibited from entering the temple or a synagogue. The third was called shammatha, and was inflicted on those who persisted in their contumacy. By this they were cut off from all connection with the Jewish people, and were consigned to utter perdition. It is not clear, however, that there was any real distinction between the second and third grades here noted, Lightfoot suggests (in Horae Hebraicae, on 1 Corinthians 5:55To deliver such an 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)) that the penalty of excommunication was probably inflicted for those faults for which neither the law nor tradition made any certain provision. The Talmud assigns as the two general causes of excommunication, money and epicurism. The first refers to those who refused to pay the moneys which the court directed them to pay; and the second refers to those who despised the word of God or of the scribes. Some rabbinical writers enumerate twenty-four different offenses for which excommunication was inflicted, some of them being frivolous in the extreme.