Cor'ban (κωρβᾶν, for קָרבָּן, korban', an offering), a Hebrew word (occurring frequently in the original of the O.T., but only in Leviticus and Numb., except in Eze 20:28; xl, 43) employed in the Hellenistic Greek, just as the corresponding Greek word δῶρον was employed in the Rabbinical Hebrew (Buxtorf, Lex. Rab. col. 579) to designate an oblation of any kind to God, whether bloody or bloodless, but particularly in fulfillment of a vow (Jahn, Bibl. Arch. v, § 392, 394). It occurs only once in the New Testament (Mr 7:11), where it is explained (as also by Josephus, Ant. 4:4, 4; contra Ap. 1:22) by the word "gift." Money, lands, and houses, which had been made the subject of this vow, became the property of the tabernacle or the Temple, except that the land might be redeemed before the year of Jubilee (Le 27:1-24). Among other false doctrines taught by the Pharisees, who were the keepers of the sacred treasury (κορβανᾶς, from corban, Mt 27:6), was this, that as soon as a person had pronounced to his father or mother this form of consecration or offering, "Be it (or, It is) corban [i.e. devoted] whatever of mine shall profit thee" (ָקָרבָּן שׁאָנַי נִהֲנָה ל), he thereby consecrated all he had spoken of to God, and must not thenceforth do anything for his indigent parents if they solicited support from him. Therefore our Lord reproaches them with having destroyed by their tradition not only that commandment of the Law which enjoins children to honor their father and mother, but also another divine precept, which, under the severest penalty, forbade that kind of dishonor which consists in contumelious words (Mr 7:9; Mr 10:13). They, however, proceeded even further than this unnatural gloss; for though the son did not give, or even mean to give, his property to the Temple, yet, if he afterwards should repent of his rashness, and wish to supply his parents with anything, what he had formerly said precluded the possibility of doing so, for, according to the Pharisaic doctrine, the sacred treasury had a claim upon him in preference to his parents, although he was perfectly at liberty to keep it to himself (see Lightfoot, Hor. Heb., and Grotius, Annot., on Mt 15:5). The law laid down rules for vows, 1. affirmative; 2. negative. By the former, persons, animals, and property might be devoted to God, but, with certain limitations, they were redeemable by money payments. By the latter, persons interdicted themselves, or were interdicted by their parents, from the use of certain things lawful in themselves, as wine, either for a limited or an unlimited period (Le 27; Nu 30; Jg 13:7; Jer 35; comp.
Josephus, Ant. 4:4, 4; War, 2:15, 1; see Ac 18:18; Ac 21:23-24). SEE VOW. Upon these rules the traditionists enlarged, and laid down that a man might interdict himself by vow, not only from using for himself, but from giving to another, or receiving from him some particular object, whether of food or any other kind whatsoever. The thing thus interdicted was considered as corban, and the form of interdiction was virtually to this effect; "I forbid myself to touch or be concerned in any way with the thing forbidden, as if it were devoted by law," i.e. "let it be corban." (The exact formula, ָקוֹנֵם שׁאָנַי נִהֲנָה ל, "[that] has been given [to God], which [in respect to] me is beneficial to thee," of which the Evangelist's δῶρον, ὃ ἐὰν ἰξ ἐμοῦ ῶφεληθῇς seems a strict rendering, is cited by Schöttgen, Hor. Heb. 1:138: from the Mishna, Nedarim, fol. 24, 1.) So far did they carry the principle that they even held as binding the incomplete exclamations of anger, and called them יָדוֹת, handles. A person might thus exempt himself from assisting or receiving assistance from some particular person or persons, as parents in distress; and, in short, from any inconvenient obligation under plea of corban, though by a legal fiction he was allowed to suspend the restriction in certain cases (Surenhusius, Mischna, de Votis, 1:4; 2:2). It was with practices of this sort that our Lord found fault (Mt 15:5; Mr 7:11), as annulling the spirit of the law. SEE OFFERING.
Theophrastus, quoted by Josephus (Ap. 1:22), notices the system, miscalling it a Phoenician custom, but in naming the word corban identifies it with Judaism. Josephus (War, 2:9, 4) calls the treasury in which offerings for the Temple or its services were deposited, κορβανᾶς, corbanas; and Matthew (Mt 17:6) uses the same word to signify the treasury, saying that the chief priests did not think it lawful to put the money of Judas into it (εἰς τὸν κορβανᾶν) (Bingham, Orig. Eccl. v. 4, 2). Origen's account of the corban-system is that children sometimes refused assistance to parents on the ground that they had already contributed to the poor fund, from which they alleged their parents might be relieved. In the early Church, oblations were presented monthly, and they were always voluntarily placed in the treasury. Baronius thinks this treasury was called corban, because Cyprian uses the word when he speaks of the offerings of the people, rebuking a rich matron for coming to celebrate the Eucharist without any regard to the corban. SEE ALMS.