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What does ‘I never knew you’ mean?

The following is taken from the First Fruits of Zion materials. It is not publicly available.

We will protest that we ministered, prophesied, and performed miracles in His name: “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” (Matthew 7:22). He will say to us, “I never knew you,” and then He will quote Psalm 6:9[8], “Depart from me, all you who do iniquity.”

The words, “I never knew you” are a rabbinic expression for placing one’s disciple on the ban. With those words, the rabbi disavowed relationship with his disciple for the duration of the ban—ordinarily from seven to thirty days, but in this case, at the very least, for the duration of the Messianic Era.

The rejected disciples, barred from the Messianic Era, will see the great banquet of Messiah, but they will not find a place at the table. They will see “Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:28), and many others “will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:29), but they themselves will be thrown out. Then “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:28). Those who “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), however, will be among those seated at the table.

The Bablyonian Talmud, Book 4: Tracts Pesachim, Yomah and Hagiga is confirms this.

Has it not happened that R. Simeon bar Rabbi and Bar Qappara have been studying together, and they came across a difficult question? Said R. Simeon to Bar Qappara: “This question must be solved by Rabbi (my father).” And Bar Qappara answered him: “What could Rabbi say to this?” 1 R. Simeon reported this statement to his father, and he became angry. Subsequently Bar Qappara came to visit him, and Rabbi said to him: “Bar Qappara, I have never known thee.” Bar Qappara understood this reproach, and he reprimanded himself for thirty days?

What does it mean to be banned?

What is meant by “banishment”? Said Ada Mari in the name of Ne’hemiah bar Baruch in the name of R. Hyya bar Abin, quoting R. Jehudah: “It means, prosecution.” What kind of prosecution? Said R. Jehudah, son of R. Samuel bar Shilath, in the name of Rabh: “It means that he is put under the ban at once, and if he does not repent within thirty days the ban is continued; and if he still continues to be disobedient, he is excommunicated after the lapse of sixty days.”

Ban or ‘herem‘ in Hebrew entails:

Herem (Hebrew: חֵרֶם‎, also Romanized chērem, ḥērem) is the highest ecclesiastical censure in the Jewish community. It is the total exclusion of a person from the Jewish community.

The Talmudic usage of herem for excommunication can be distinguished from the usage of herem described in the Tanakh in the time of Joshua and the early Hebrew monarchy, which was the practice of consecration by total annihilation at the command of God carried out against peoples such as the Midianites, the Amalekites, and the entire population of Jericho.

The niddui (Hebrew: נידוי‎) ban was usually imposed for a period of seven days (in Israel thirty days). If inflicted on account of money matters, the offender was first publicly warned (“hatra’ah”) three times, on Monday, Thursday, and Monday successively, at the regular service in the synagogue. During the period of niddui, no one except the members of his immediate household was permitted to associate with the offender, or to sit within four cubits of him, or to eat in his company. He was expected to go into mourning and to refrain from bathing, cutting his hair, and wearing shoes, and he had to observe all the laws that pertained to a mourner. He could not be counted in the quorum for the performance of a public religious function. If he died, a stone was placed on his hearse, and the relatives were not obliged to observe the ceremonies customary at the death of a kinsman, such as the tearing of garments,

The same idea is conveyed in the footnotes of the Rabbinic Commentary on the New Testament shown below.


  1. The phrase ‘I never knew you’:
    1. Is not describing the absence of a relationship the disciple failed to have with Jesus in the past.
    2. Is not describing the quality of the relationship with Jesus.
    3. Is not suggesting that Jesus never had a genuine relationship with Jesus.
    4. Is not suggesting that Jesus has no relationship with him now.
  2. The phrase ‘I never knew you’:
    1. Is a Hebrew idiom used by the Rabbis to banishment someone for a period of time.
    2. Involved members of the banished person’s community not associating with him and so acting as though they didn’t know him.
    3. Is describing how Jesus will treat a disciple in the future if He is found guilty of iniquity.
    4. Is describing how a disciple will be banished from His presence and will be treated as though Jesus never knew him.
    5. Implies that there was a previous real relationship and that the disciple was a member of the Christian community. If he were not a member of the community, he could not be banished from it.

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