Thursday, July 17, 2008

Biblical answers on the death penalty

This discussion of the capital punishment wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t look at the Biblical view of the death penalty. The Bible is absolutely clear about God’s opinion…or is it. We all know Ex 21 which includes the phrase, “An eye for an eye, ” but very few people have ever looked at the context. Well, here it is Ex 21 22-27

22 "If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
26 "If a man hits a manservant or maidservant in the eye and destroys it, he must let the servant go free to compensate for the eye. 27 And if he knocks out the tooth of a manservant or maidservant, he must let the servant go free to compensate for the tooth. NIV

So the whole “eye for an eye” thing is talking about accidentally striking a pregnant lady while in the middle of a brawl. Considering the context of this verse, I think it is fair to say, the use of this verse in the death penalty debate is worthless. But don’t worry there is plenty in the Bible to support the capital punishment.

Here is an extremely short list of offenses which call for the death penalty.

Murder Gen 9:6

Disobedient children Ex 21:15, Ex 21:17 Lev 20:9

Witches Ex 22:18

Those who worship other Gods Ex 22:20

Those who break the Sabbath Ex 31:14, 31:15 and Ex 35:2

Blasphemy Lev 24:16

Bestiality Ex 20:15 and don’t forget to kill the animal also.

Not being a virgin your wedding night Dt 22:13-22

Rape victims who don’t cry loudly enough Dt 22:23-24

That would seem to settle the case the Bible is clearly in favor of capital punishment. Except then Jesus has to go and make things all complicated. Let’s all turn in our Bibles to John 8:3-7. This is the story of the woman caught in adultery which is summed up in the statement, “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.”

So, we don’t have a clear message from the Bible. People are free to pick and choose the pieces of scripture which fit their preconceived position. This is a little troubling because according to Deuteronomy 13:6-11, I should be getting a pious execution any day now.

6 If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, "Let us go and worship other gods" (gods that neither you nor your fathers have known, 7 gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), 8 do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. 9 You must certainly put him to death. Your hand must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people. 10 Stone him to death, because he tried to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 11 Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again. NIV

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