Would you give up your salvation for another's?

michael_legna's picture

I was doing some research on the term anathema (for an answer in another thread) and was reminded of an old question we were presented with as children in parochial school with regard to how much we could love another or how far that love would go. You know - hypothetical ideas like would you die for another etc.?

The specific question is would you give up your salvation if you could lead another person to theirs?

I always thought that I would not do that. That was too much to ask of anyone - to give up eternity with God so another could have that. But in doing my research I ran across the following quotes in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Like I said the research I ran across starts out speaking about the meaning of anathema (which it takes as referencing separation - rather than accursedness - though it should be noted both work for this topic) so it precedes the text above with this...

"A term formerly indicating offerings made to the divinity which were suspended from the roof or walls of temples for the purpose of being exposed to view. Thus anathema according to its etymology signifies a thing offered to God. The word anathema is sometimes used in this sense in the Old and New Testaments: In Judith, xvi, 23, it is said that Judith, having taken all the arms of Holofernes which the people had given him and the curtain of his bed which she herself had brought,offered them to the Lord as an anathema of oblivion. In II Mach., ix, 16, Antiochus promises to adorn with precious gifts (anathemata) the temple he has pillaged; and in Luke, xxi, 5, mention is made of the temple built of precious stones and adorned with rich gifts (anathemata). As odious objects were also exposed to view, e.g. the head of a criminal or of an enemy, or his arms or spoils, the word anathema came to signify a thing hated, or execrable, devoted to public abhorrence or destruction. "To understand the word anathema", says Vigouroux, "we should first go back to the real meaning of herem of which it is the equivalent. Herem comes from the word haram, to cut off, to separate, to curse, and indicates that which is cursed and condemned to be cut off or exterminated, whether a person or a thing, and in consequence, that which man is forbidden to make use of."

...and then goes to pointing out one of the uses of the term in New Testament scripture and how it expresses just how far Paul would have gone to bring another to Christ and his expression of love goes to being separated or accursed of Christ.

"In the New Testament anathema no longer entails death, but the loss of goods or exclusion from the society of the faithful. St. Paul frequently uses this word in the latter sense. In the Epistle to the Romans (9:3) he says: "For I wished myself to be an anathema from Christ, for my brethren, who are my kinsmen according to the flesh", i.e. "I should wish to be separated and rejected of Christ, if by that means I would procure the salvation of my brethren."

Here is the actual verse in question:

Rom 9:3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

The term accursed is the English translation of anathema.

All this sounds to me like I got it wrong as a child, and would not have gone far enough with my expression of love in this entirely hypothetical situation. What do you all think?

undercoverdave's picture


Oh yes, you caught me! Hopefully I didn't confuse too many people with that blunder.

Jesus was sent primarily for Israel -- and I guess I could argue that so was Paul, but in a very indirect way... For all practical purposes he was sent primarily to the Gentiles, but his motivation was the Jews. His even higher motivation than the Jews was Christ himself. In submission to the plan of God, he used those motivations to reach the Gentiles.