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Paul in Galatians 1:8-9 twice warns his readers that those who preach a different gospel are to be accursed ("let him be accursed"). In what way is this life accursed? What does it look like? How is it different from the non-accursed life?

Galatians 3:10 says that "as many as are of the works of the law [as opposed to those who live by faith] are under the curse." Is this different from being accursed?

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The Greek here is anathema which in the New Testament had a specific meaning of "something dedicated to evil and thus accursed." In later Christian usage, it gradually took on an association with excommunication.

In Galatians 1:8-9, Paul curses ("let that one be accursed") anyone who preaches the Galatians a gospel different to that taught by Paul himself. Paul seems to have the view that whichever missionary founded a church has proprietary rights as to what is henceforth taught in that church. By contrast, when Paul wrote to the Romans, a church that he did not found and only wished to visit briefly on his way to Spain, he was at pains to demonstrate to the Romans that his teachings about Jesus Christ were in accordance with their own. In Romans 15:20, "so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation:" This was Paul's quid pro quo.

In Galatians 3:10, Paul is defending his teaching against the Jewish law code. In Galatians 3:1-4, Paul calls the Galatians stupid because they have been informed that Jesus was crucified, and should have faith in what they heard, not in supposed benefits in observing the law. In the second part of verse 3:10, Paul is quoting from Deuteronomy 27:26, which is part of a long list of Mosaic curses. Christopher D. Stanley says, in 'Paul's "Use" of Scripture: Why the Audience Matters', published in As It Is Written (edited by Porter and Stanley), page 150, the primary problem is the apparent conflict between the wording of the quotation and Paul's assertion in the first part of the verse. Where Deuteronomy pronounces a curse on the person who does not continually follow the requirements of Torah, Paul appears to apply the curse to those who seek to comply with the laws of Torah. Stanley says the cited verse fails to support Paul's assertion (and could, in fact, be read as upholding the views of his opponents).

In another context, Paul says (Romans 9:3): "For I could wish that I myself were accursed and separated from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kin according to the flesh."

In each case, Paul was not talking about a different life. In the first case he was symbolically placing a curse on anyone who crosses him, in the second he was clumsily quoting from Deuteronomy in order to support his teaching against Jewish law, and in the third case he was wishing himself accursed, thereby forfeiting his salvation, if that would bring about the salvation of his fellow-Jews.

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The Greek here is anathema which in the Septuagint and the New Testament had a specific meaning of "something dedicated to evil and thus accursed." <---- Source? –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Jan 23 at 5:52
@H3br3wHamm3r81 Thanks for pointing that out. I spent so much time creating links for each Bible reference, but forgot that one. Good work. –  Dick Harfield Jan 23 at 6:09
Can you cite an instance in the LXX where anathema means "something dedicated to evil and thus accursed"? –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Jan 23 at 7:15
@H3br3wHamm3r81 I put this in because the Wikipedia article I cited says so - although I know it usually means almost the opposite. Since this is only about Galatians, and therefore only about the NT, I have removed this reference, rather than put my mind around what the Wiki author intended. –  Dick Harfield Jan 23 at 11:40
@DickHarfield I think you need to look again at the meaning of ἀνάθεμα it carries the sense of being 'consecrated' when used negatively as here the idea is of 'irredeemably consecrated to destruction' rather then 'dedicated to evil' see from example Friberg or Thayer –  Jonathan Chell Jun 23 at 12:55

Consider the statement "let God be true and every man a liar" (Romans 3:4). This is not saying God should be true, but a fact. In the same sense, let him be accursed is not referring to the church cursing someone, but a statement of fact. Consider also Romans 9:3 "I could wish myself accursed." Accursed is to be under judgment of God and would not necessarily manifest a difference in this life. In Galatians 3:10, the latter half of the verse explains the curse he refers to:

Galatians 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

It is a quote form the book of Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 11:3-5 And say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant, 4 Which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God: 5 That I may perform the oath which I have sworn unto your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day. Then answered I, and said, So be it, O Lord.

In I cor. 16:22 the expression is used in conjunction with Maranatha indicating the judgement of Christ at His return.

1 Corinthians 16:22 If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.

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This is not really answering the question, which is about what being accursed is, but thanks for stopping by! –  Steve Jul 25 '14 at 0:43
I thought the being under the curse of God would answer it; however if it is asking what it looks like, there is often no visible evidence of being cursed or under a curse. They are simply lost. –  Liam Aug 10 '14 at 22:59
I think you're just one step from a good answer, but you're missing a concluding summary of your answer. It's too spread out in your answer requiring the reader to piece it together. Put it together for us please. –  Joshua Bigbee Apr 25 at 14:43

αναθεμα comes from two Greek words meaning "to set high" as in off-limits. It came to be used to refer to objects that were set aside for destruction. See Euripides, The Trojan Women

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