As explained at Mark 7:11, “corban” is “a gift dedicated to God.” The Greek word there rendered “corban” is kor·banʹ, the equivalent of the Hebrew word qor·banʹ, meaning an offering. Qor·banʹ is used in Leviticus and Numbers and applies both to offerings containing blood and those that are bloodless. (Lev. 1:2, 3; 2:1; Num. 5:15; 6:14, 21) This Hebrew word is also employed at Ezekiel 20:28 and 40:43. Akin to the Greek word kor·banʹ is kor·ba·nanʹ, appearing at Matthew 27:6, where the chief priests are reported as saying that it would not be lawful to take the betrayal money Judas had thrown into the temple and drop these silver pieces into the “sacred treasury [kor·ba·nanʹ],” because they were “the price of blood.”
By the time of Jesus Christ’s ministry on earth, a culpable practice had developed in connection with corban, it especially being fostered by the Pharisees. They taught that money, property or anything dedicated to the temple as “corban,” or a votive gift, thereafter belonged to the temple and could not be used for some other purpose. Actually the gift or devoted thing was kept by the person who made the vow. Yet, according to this practice, a son could avoid his responsibility to support his old and indigent parents merely by saying that his property, or some portion of it, was “corban,” a gift dedicated to God or to the temple. He would say, “Be it corban,” or, “It is corban,” and he would not have to use such property to support his parents who might be in desperate straits and request or need his aid in the future. In later Judaism, even if a person rashly employed the term “corban” and thereafter changed his mind, the gift so designated was never to be used in any other way.—Mark 7:9-13.
The historian Josephus reports that Pontius Pilate caused a great disturbance “by expending that sacred treasure which is called corban upon aqueducts” to help supply Jerusalem with water. (Wars of the Jews, Book II, chap. IX, par. 4) Josephus also associated “corban” with persons, stating: “Such also as dedicate themselves to God, as a corban, which denotes what the Greeks call a gift, when they are desirous of being freed from that ministration, are to lay down money for the priests.” (Antiquities of the Jews, Book IV, chap. IV, par. 4) However, the term “corban” was more generally used for property dedicated as a gift to God. Of some interest is an Aramaic inscription appearing on the lid of an ossuary found in a Jewish tomb (said to date from the beginning of the Common Era) discovered at Jebel Hallet et-Tûri, SE of Jerusalem. The inscription uses the Aramaic word for “corban” and, while its wording is somewhat uncertain, a suggested reading is: “All that a man may find-to-his-profit in this ossuary (is) an offering to God from him who is within it.”