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THE NATURE OF AN OATH
A Sacred Act of Worship


Throughout the history of Western Civilization, oaths have been understood to be solemn declarations made in the presence of God, to Whom we are accountable.[1]

The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) devotes an entire chapter (ch. xxii) to "Lawful Oaths and Vows." An oath is said to be "a part of religious worship" ( I; cf. The Larger Catechism Q. 108.), which can only be done in the Name of God ( II, VI), and must be subordinated to "the Word of God" ( VII). See also Larger Catechism Q. 108. (one of "the duties required in the second commandment," citing "Deut. vi. 13. Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name." [Emphasis in Catechism]).

The Bible says that an oath is made in the presence of God. It is therefore sacred, an act of worship.

The Bible says it's OK to take an oath. In fact, the Westminster Confession of Faith says "it is a sin to refuse an oath touching any thing that is good and just, being imposed by lawful authority."[2] Here's are some things the Bible says about oaths:

1. God swears oaths. In fact, we could speak of the Bible itself as divided into the "Old Oath" and the "New Oath." A "Testament" is a promise to transfer property. The Bible says God made these promises under a solemn oath. No oath, no salvation.[3]

2. As God is holy, we are to be holy. So the Bible has numerous provisions regarding our oath-taking.

3. In some circumstances, swearing an oath is commanded by God.

4. By claiming God's Name, we remind our audience that God Lives.

Taking oaths has a long history among God's people. The Reformed/Presbyterian heritage (which is part of this country's heritage, as well as my own personal history) is very pro-oath. Reformed Theology has always seen the oath as an act of religious worship. People who lived at the time the Constitution was ratified understood this.

John Witherspoon, Presbyterian theologian, mentor of many of the Founders, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, explained that religion and the oath were inseparable:

An oath is an appeal to God, the Searcher of hearts, for the truth of what we say and always expresses or supposes an imprecation [a calling down] of His judgment upon us if we prevaricate [lie]. An oath, therefore, implies a belief in God and His Providence and indeed is an act of worship, and so accounted in Scripture, as in that expression, Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and shalt swear by His name. . . . . Persons entering on public offices are also often obliged to make oath that they will faithfully execute their trust . . . . [4]

A well-known expositor of the theology of the Reformation, A.A. Hodge, a Professor at Princeton, wrote in 1869 about the requirements of God's Law:

1. A lawful oath consists in calling upon God, the occasion being of sufficient seriousness and importance, to witness the truth of what we affirm as true, or our voluntary assumption of an obligation to do something in the future-with an implied imprecation of God's disfavour if we lie or prove unfaithful to our engagements. This last is generally expressed by the phrase forming the concluding part of the formula of most oaths, "So help me God;"-i.e., Let God so help me as I have told the truth, or as I will keep my promise.

Hence an oath is an act of supreme religious worship, since it recognizes the omnipresence, omniscience, absolute justice and sovereignty of the Person whose august witness is invoked, and whose judgment is appealed to as final.

2. It hence follows that it is a sin equivalent to that of worshipping a false god if we swear by any other than the only true and living God; and a sin of idolatry if we swear by any thing or place, although it be associated with the true God.

This principle is fully recognized in Scripture. We are told to swear by the true God: "Unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear," Isa. xlv.23; "He that sweareth in the earth shall swear by the God of truth," Isa. lxv.16; "Thou shalt fear JEHOVAH thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name," Deut. vi.13. We are forbidden to swear by the name of false gods: "How shall I pardon the for this? thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods." Jer.v.7; Josh. xxiii.7.

3. The literal meaning of the Third Commandment is, "Thou shalt not take the name of thy God in that which is false"-that is, to confirm an untruth. The command not to take a false oath, or any oath upon a trifling occasion, by implication carries with it the permission to call upon the God of truth to confirm the truth upon all worthy occasions. Hence the oath is enjoined in the Old Testament as a recognized religious institution. Deut. vi.13; x.10, etc.[5]


John Locke
Lastly, those are not all to be tolerated who deny the being of God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all; besides also, those that by their atheism undermine and destroy all religion, can have no pretence of religion whereupon to challenge the privilege of toleration.
Essay on Toleration, Chas Sherman ed., (NY: Appleton-Century, 1937) pp. 212-13
 
U.S. Supreme Court Justice James Iredell (1788):
According to the modern definition of an oath, it is considered a "solemn appeal to the Supreme Being for the truth of what is said by a person who believes in the existence of a Supreme Being and in a future state of rewards and punishments according to that form which would bind his conscience most.
Jonathan Elliot, ed., Debates on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, Vol. 4, p.196
Debates in the Convention of North Carolina, Wednesday, July 30, 1788.
 
John Witherspoon, Presbyterian theologian, mentor of many of the Founders, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, explained that religion and the oath were inseparable:
An oath is an appeal to God, the Searcher of hearts, for the truth of what we say and always expresses or supposes an imprecation [a calling down] of His judgment upon us if we prevaricate [lie]. An oath, therefore, implies a belief in God and His Providence and indeed is an act of worship, and so accounted in Scripture, as in that expression, Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and shalt swear by His name. . . . . Persons entering on public offices are also often obliged to make oath that they will faithfully execute their trust . . . .
The Works of John Witherspoon (Edinburgh: J. Ogle, 1815), vol. VII, pp. 139-40, 142, from his "Lectures on Moral Philosophy," Lecture 16 on Oaths and Vows.
 
Rufus King, very influential Founder (but unknown to most secularists):
[In o]ur laws . . . by the oath which they prescribe, we appeal to the Supreme Being so to deal with us hereafter as we observe the obligation of our oaths. The Pagan world were and are without the mighty influence of this principle which is proclaimed in the Christian system -- their morals were destitute of its powerful sanction while their oaths neither awakened the hopes nore fears which a belief in Christianity inspires.
Reports of the Proceedings and Debates of the Convention of 1821, Assembled for the Purpose of Amending The Constitution of the State of New York (Albany: E. and E. Hosford, 1821), p. 575, Oct. 30, 1821.
 
Hon. OLIVER WOLCOTT
I do not see the necessity of such a test as some gentlemen wish for. The Constitution enjoins an oath upon all the officers of the United States. This is a direct appeal to that God who is the avenger of perjury. Such an appeal to him is a full acknowledgment of his being and providence. An acknowledgment of these great truths is all that the gentleman contends for. For myself, I should be content either with or without that clause in the Constitution which excludes test laws. Knowledge and liberty are so prevalent in this country, that I do not believe that the United States would ever be disposed to establish one religious sect, and lay all others under legal disabilities. But as we know not what may take place hereafter, and any such test would be exceedingly injurious to the rights of free citizens, I cannot think it altogether superfluous to have added a clause, which secures us from the possibility of such oppression. I shall only add, that I give my assent to this Constitution, and am happy to see the states in a fair way to adopt a Constitution which will protect their rights and promote their welfare.
Jonathan Elliot, Debates on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, Vol. 2, p.202
Fragment of the Debates in the Convention of the State of Connecticut, January 9, 1788
 
Jurare est Deum in testum vocare, et est actus divini cultus.
To swear is to call God to witness, and is an act of religion.
3 Co. Inst. 165. Vide 3 Bouv. Inst. n. 3180, note; 1 Benth. Rat. of Jud. Ev. 376, 371, note.

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The rest of this page is devoted to reprinting Scripture references to oaths. Most people are unaware of the significance of oaths in the Bible. Perhaps these verses will help us recover a missing dimension of the Christian life.

Verses from Nave's Topical Bible


God Makes Oaths

Genesis 22:15-17 Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, {16} and said: "By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son; {17} "blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.

Psalm 89:35 Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David:

Psalm 95:11 So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.'"

Psalm 105:9 The covenant which He made with Abraham, And His oath to Isaac,

Psalm 132:11 The LORD has sworn in truth to David; He will not turn from it: "I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body.

Isaiah 14:24 The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying, "Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, And as I have purposed, so it shall stand:

Isaiah 45:23 I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, And shall not return, That to Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall take an oath.

Isaiah 49:18 Lift up your eyes, look around and see; All these gather together and come to you. As I live," says the LORD, "You shall surely clothe yourselves with them all as an ornament, And bind them on you as a bride does.

Jeremiah 11:5 "that I may establish the oath which I have sworn to your fathers, to give them 'a land flowing with milk and honey,' as it is this day." ' " And I answered and said, "So be it, LORD."

Jeremiah 22:5 "But if you will not hear these words, I swear by Myself," says the LORD, "that this house shall become a desolation."' "

Jeremiah 49:13 "For I have sworn by Myself," says the LORD, "that Bozrah shall become a desolation, a reproach, a waste, and a curse. And all its cities shall be perpetual wastes."

Jeremiah 51:14 The LORD of hosts has sworn by Himself: "Surely I will fill you with men, as with locusts, And they shall lift up a shout against you."

Luke 1:73 The oath which He swore to our father Abraham:

Hebrews 3:11,18 So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.'" {18} And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey?

Hebrews 4:3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: "So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest,' " although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.

Hebrews 6:13-14,17 For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, 14 saying, "Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you." {17} Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath,

Hebrews 7:21,28 (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him: "The LORD has sworn And will not relent, 'You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek'"), {28} For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.

Revelation 10:5-6 The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his hand to heaven {6} and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer,

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Swearing in God's Name

Deuteronomy 6:13 "You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name.

Deuteronomy 10:20 "You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him, and to Him you shall hold fast, and take oaths in His name.

Joshua 23:7 "and lest you go among these nations, these who remain among you. You shall not make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause anyone to swear by them; you shall not serve them nor bow down to them,

1 Samuel 20:42 Then Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, since we have both sworn in the name of the LORD, saying, 'May the LORD be between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants, forever.' " So he arose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.

1 Samuel 24:21 "Therefore swear now to me by the LORD that you will not cut off my descendants after me, and that you will not destroy my name from my father's house."

1 Kings 22:16 So the king said to him, "How many times shall I make you swear that you tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?"

2 Chronicles 18:15 So the king said to him, "How many times shall I make you swear that you tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?"

Psalm 63:11 But the king shall rejoice in God; Everyone who swears by Him shall glory; But the mouth of those who speak lies shall be stopped.

Isaiah 48:1 "Hear this, O house of Jacob, Who are called by the name of Israel, And have come forth from the wellsprings of Judah; Who swear by the name of the LORD, And make mention of the God of Israel, But not in truth or in righteousness;

Jeremiah 12:16 "And it shall be, if they will learn carefully the ways of My people, to swear by My name, 'As the LORD lives,' as they taught My people to swear by Baal, then they shall be established in the midst of My people.

Jeremiah 44:26 "Therefore hear the word of the LORD, all Judah who dwell in the land of Egypt: 'Behold, I have sworn by My great name,' says the LORD, 'that My name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, "The Lord GOD lives."

Zechariah 5:4 "I will send out the curse," says the LORD of hosts; "It shall enter the house of the thief And the house of the one who swears falsely by My name. It shall remain in the midst of his house And consume it, with its timber and stones."

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Biblical Form: "The LORD Lives!"

Numbers 14:28 "Say to them, 'As I live,' says the LORD, 'just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you:

Judges 8:19 Then he said, "They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. As the LORD lives, if you had let them live, I would not kill you."

Ruth 3:13 "Stay this night, and in the morning it shall be that if he will perform the duty of a close relative for you; good; let him do it. But if he does not want to perform the duty for you, then I will perform the duty for you, as the LORD lives! Lie down until morning."

1 Samuel 14:39,45 "For as the LORD lives, who saves Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die." But not a man among all the people answered him. {45} But the people said to Saul, "Shall Jonathan die, who has accomplished this great deliverance in Israel? Certainly not! As the LORD lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day." So the people rescued Jonathan, and he did not die.

1 Samuel 19:6 So Saul heeded the voice of Jonathan, and Saul swore, "As the LORD lives, he shall not be killed."

1 Samuel 20:3,21 Then David took an oath again, and said, "Your father certainly knows that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said, 'Do not let Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved.' But truly, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death." {21} "and there I will send a lad, saying, 'Go, find the arrows.' If I expressly say to him, 'Look, the arrows are on this side of you; get them and come'; then, as the LORD lives, there is safety for you and no harm.

1 Samuel 25:26,34 "Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, since the LORD has held you back from coming to bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hand, now then, let your enemies and those who seek harm for my lord be as Nabal. {34} "For indeed, as the LORD God of Israel lives, who has kept me back from hurting you, unless you had hastened and come to meet me, surely by morning light no males would have been left to Nabal!"

1 Samuel 26:10,16 David said furthermore, "As the LORD lives, the LORD shall strike him, or his day shall come to die, or he shall go out to battle and perish. {16} "This thing that you have done is not good. As the LORD lives, you deserve to die, because you have not guarded your master, the Lord's anointed. And now see where the king's spear is, and the jug of water that was by his head."

1 Samuel 28:10 And Saul swore to her by the LORD, saying, "As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing."

1 Samuel 29:6 Then Achish called David and said to him, "Surely, as the LORD lives, you have been upright, and your going out and your coming in with me in the army is good in my sight. For to this day I have not found evil in you since the day of your coming to me. Nevertheless the lords do not favor you.

2 Samuel 4:9 But David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said to them, "As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life from all adversity,

2 Samuel 12:5 So David's anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, "As the LORD lives, the man who has done this shall surely die!

2 Samuel 14:11 Then she said, "Please let the king remember the LORD your God, and do not permit the avenger of blood to destroy anymore, lest they destroy my son." And he said, "As the LORD lives, not one hair of your son shall fall to the ground."

2 Samuel 15:21 And Ittai answered the king and said, "As the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, surely in whatever place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also your servant will be."

2 Samuel 22:47 "The LORD lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let God be exalted, The Rock of my salvation!

1 Kings 1:29 And the king took an oath and said, "As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life from every distress,

1 Kings 2:24 "Now therefore, as the LORD lives, who has confirmed me and set me on the throne of David my father, and who has established a house for me, as He promised, Adonijah shall be put to death today!"

1 Kings 17:1,12 And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word." {12} So she said, "As the LORD your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die."

1 Kings 18:10,15 "As the LORD your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to hunt for you; and when they said, 'He is not here,' he took an oath from the kingdom or nation that they could not find you. {15} Then Elijah said, "As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely present myself to him today."

1 Kings 22:14 And Micaiah said, "As the LORD lives, whatever the LORD says to me, that I will speak."

2 Kings 2:2,4,6 Then Elijah said to Elisha, "Stay here, please, for the LORD has sent me on to Bethel." But Elisha said, "As the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!" So they went down to Bethel. {4} Then Elijah said to him, "Elisha, stay here, please, for the LORD has sent me on to Jericho." But he said, "As the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!" So they came to Jericho. {6} Then Elijah said to him, "Stay here, please, for the LORD has sent me on to the Jordan." But he said, "As the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!" So the two of them went on.

2 Kings 3:14 And Elisha said, "As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, surely were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you, nor see you.

2 Kings 4:30 And the mother of the child said, "As the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you." So he arose and followed her.

2 Kings 5:16,20 But he said, "As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing." And he urged him to take it, but he refused. {20} But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, "Look, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, while not receiving from his hands what he brought; but as the LORD lives, I will run after him and take something from him."

2 Chronicles 18:13 And Micaiah said, "As the LORD lives, whatever my God says, that I will speak."

Jeremiah 4:2 And you shall swear, 'The LORD lives,' In truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; The nations shall bless themselves in Him, And in Him they shall glory."

Jeremiah 5:2 Though they say, 'As the LORD lives,' Surely they swear falsely."

Jeremiah 8:3 "Then death shall be chosen rather than life by all the residue of those who remain of this evil family, who remain in all the places where I have driven them," says the LORD of hosts.

Jeremiah 12:16 "And it shall be, if they will learn carefully the ways of My people, to swear by My name, 'As the LORD lives,' as they taught My people to swear by Baal, then they shall be established in the midst of My people.

Jeremiah 16:14-15 "Therefore behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "that it shall no more be said, 'The LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,' {15} but, 'The LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them.' For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their fathers."

Jeremiah 22:24 "As I live," says the LORD, "though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet on My right hand, yet I would pluck you off;

Jeremiah 23:7-8 "Therefore, behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "that they shall no longer say, 'As the LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,' {8} but, 'As the LORD lives who brought up and led the descendants of the house of Israel from the north country and from all the countries where I had driven them.' And they shall dwell in their own land."

Jeremiah 38:16 So Zedekiah the king swore secretly to Jeremiah, saying, "As the LORD lives, who made our very souls, I will not put you to death, nor will I give you into the hand of these men who seek your life."

Jeremiah 44:26 "Therefore hear the word of the LORD, all Judah who dwell in the land of Egypt: 'Behold, I have sworn by My great name,' says the LORD, 'that My name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, "The Lord GOD lives."

Jeremiah 46:18 "As I live," says the King, Whose name is the LORD of hosts, "Surely as Tabor is among the mountains And as Carmel by the sea, so he shall come.

Hosea 4:15 "Though you, Israel, play the harlot, Let not Judah offend. Do not come up to Gilgal, Nor go up to Beth Aven, Nor swear an oath, saying, 'As the LORD lives';

Zephaniah 2:9 Therefore, as I live," Says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, "Surely Moab shall be like Sodom, And the people of Ammon like Gomorrah; Overrun with weeds and saltpits, And a perpetual desolation. The residue of My people shall plunder them, And the remnant of My people shall possess them."

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from Naves Topical Bible:

Exodus 20:7 "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

Leviticus 19:12 'And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.

Deuteronomy 5:11 'You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.


Exodus 22:10-11 "If a man delivers to his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any animal to keep, and it dies, is hurt, or driven away, no one seeing it, {11} "then an oath of the LORD shall be between them both, that he has not put his hand into his neighbor's goods; and the owner of it shall accept that, and he shall not make it good.

Exodus 23:1 "You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.

Numbers 5:19-24 'And the priest shall put her under oath, and say to the woman, "If no man has lain with you, and if you have not gone astray to uncleanness while under your husband's authority, be free from this bitter water that brings a curse. {20} "But if you have gone astray while under your husband's authority, and if you have defiled yourself and some man other than your husband has lain with you"; {21} 'then the priest shall put the woman under the oath of the curse, and he shall say to the woman; "the LORD make you a curse and an oath among your people, when the LORD makes your thigh rot and your belly swell; {22} "and may this water that causes the curse go into your stomach, and make your belly swell and your thigh rot." Then the woman shall say, "Amen, so be it." {23} 'Then the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall scrape them off into the bitter water. {24} 'And he shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and the water that brings the curse shall enter her to become bitter.

Leviticus 6:2-5 "If a person sins and commits a trespass against the LORD by lying to his neighbor about what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or about a pledge, or about a robbery, or if he has extorted from his neighbor, {3} "or if he has found what was lost and lies concerning it, and swears falsely; in any one of these things that a man may do in which he sins: {4} "then it shall be, because he has sinned and is guilty, that he shall restore what he has stolen, or the thing which he has extorted, or what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or the lost thing which he found, {5} "or all that about which he has sworn falsely. He shall restore its full value, add one-fifth more to it, and give it to whomever it belongs, on the day of his trespass offering.

Deuteronomy 6:13 "You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name.

Deuteronomy 10:20 "You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him, and to Him you shall hold fast, and take oaths in His name.

1 Kings 8:31-32 "When anyone sins against his neighbor, and is forced to take an oath, and comes and takes an oath before Your altar in this temple, {32} "then hear in heaven, and act, and judge Your servants, condemning the wicked, bringing his way on his head, and justifying the righteous by giving him according to his righteousness.

Psalm 15:1-2,4 LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? {2} He who walks uprightly, And works righteousness, And speaks the truth in his heart; {4} In whose eyes a vile person is despised, But he honors those who fear the LORD; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

Ecclesiastes 8:2 I say, "Keep the king's commandment for the sake of your oath to God.

Isaiah 48:1 "Hear this, O house of Jacob, Who are called by the name of Israel, And have come forth from the wellsprings of Judah; Who swear by the name of the LORD, And make mention of the God of Israel, But not in truth or in righteousness;

Jeremiah 4:2 And you shall swear, 'The LORD lives,' In truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; The nations shall bless themselves in Him, And in Him they shall glory."

Jeremiah 5:2 Though they say, 'As the LORD lives,' Surely they swear falsely."

Jeremiah 12:16 "And it shall be, if they will learn carefully the ways of My people, to swear by My name, 'As the LORD lives,' as they taught My people to swear by Baal, then they shall be established in the midst of My people.

Daniel 9:11 "Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him.

Daniel 12:7 Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished.

Hosea 4:15 "Though you, Israel, play the harlot, Let not Judah offend. Do not come up to Gilgal, Nor go up to Beth Aven, Nor swear an oath, saying, 'As the LORD lives';

Matthew 26:63-64 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, "I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!" {64} Jesus said to him, "It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven."

2 Corinthians 1:23 / Galatians 1:20    See Below

Hebrews 6:16 For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute.

Revelation 10:5-6 The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his hand to heaven {6} and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer,

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Paul's Oaths

Romans 1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers,

Romans 9:1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,

2 Corinthians 1:18 But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay.

2 Corinthians 1:23  Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth.

2 Corinthians 11:31  The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.

Galatians 1:20  (Now concerning the things which I write to you, indeed, before God, I do not lie.)

Ephesians 4:17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,

Philippians 1:8  For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 2:5  For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness; God is witness.

1 Timothy 2:7  Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.


I cannot take a secular oath. To do so is to declare publicly that my words are not made in the Presence of God. It is to swear in the name of some other god than the God of the Bible. I can only take an explicitly Trinitarian "test oath."


Conclusions

Because of the importance attached to oaths by Scripture and centuries of common law experience, it is important for us to consider the oath of office.

If we are tempted to think that the oath is not important, perhaps because we have heard some Christians say the Bible says we should never take an oath at all, we should reconsider our position.


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NOTES

1. "Wigmore has traced the long history of the oath from its 'summoning of Divine vengeance upon false swearing,' to 'a method of reminding the witness of the Divine punishment somewhere in store for false swearing,' 6 Wigmore on Evidence 285" Imbrie v. Marsh, 3 NJ 578, 71 A2d 352 at 354, 18 ALR2d 241 at 243 (1950).

Rushdoony quotes Calvin:

We shall soon see that to swear by God's name is a species or part of religious worship, and this is manifest too from the words of Isaiah (xlv.23), for when he predicts that all nations shall devote themselves to pure religion, he thus speaks, "As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall swear by me." [Calvin, Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses, II, 408.]
Rushdoony, "Swearing as Worship," Institutes of Biblical Law, n.p.: The Craig Press, 1973, 115. 

Webster's Dictionary (1828 ed.) defines oath:

A solemn affirmation or declaration, made with an appeal to God for the truth of what is affirmed. The appeal to God in an oath, implies that the person imprecates his vengeance and renounces his favor if the declaration is false, or if the declaration is a promise, the person invokes the vengeance of God if he should fail to fulfill it. A false oath is called perjury.

 [Back to text]

2. Ch. XXII, iii, citing Numbers 5:19,21; Nehemiah 5:12; Exodus 22:7- 11.  [Back to text]

3. Cf. R. Rushdoony, "Oath and Covenant," in Institutes of Biblical Law 522-525 (1973); G. North, "Oaths, Covenant, and Contracts," in The Sinai Strategy, 51-71 (1986).  [Back to text]

4. (Works, Ed. Ogle, 1815, vol VII, 139-140 "Lectures on Moral Philosophy," Lecture 16 on Oaths and Vows.) Quoted in Dreisbach, In Search of a Christian Commonwealth: An Examination of Selected Nineteenth-Century Commentaries on References to God and the Christian Religion in the United States Constitution, 48 BAYLOR L. REV. 927, 982 (1996), with attribution to Witherspoon, Of Oaths and Vows, in LECTURES ON MORAL PHILOSOPHY 130 (Varnum L. Collins, ed., 1912)  [Back to text]

5. A.A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith, 287 (1869 [1978]). Hodge was a professor at Princeton, 1877-86.  [Back to text]


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