|God and the
by Pastor Bob Enyart
|God and the Death Penalty
by Ordinary Christian Kevin Craig
|The article at left is an attempt to justify
"capital punishment" on Biblical grounds. In this column is a
response, also on Biblical grounds. Many opponents of "capital
punishment" will not like the arguments in this column, but many who
support "capital punishment" on Biblical grounds will be challenged to
re-think their support of "capital punishment."
This is a worldview issue. Biblical opposition to "capital punishment" is not based on a desire to normalize murder, adultery, homosexuality or other sins. Nor is it based on opposition to a particular form of punishment. It's based on the belief that "capital punishment" works to buttress the power of an atheistic State and fosters a secular culture. The way of thinking that justifies "capital punishment" contributes to a culture that moves progressively away from Biblical values. This in spite of the fact that defenders of "capital punishment" like Rev. Dr. Pastor Enyart at left claim to be defenders of Biblical values.
For more on the worldview behind this opposition to "capital punishment" see The Vine & Fig Tree Worldview
|Jeffrey Dahlmer raped, killed and ate parts of at least thirteen men. As punishment, the government was planning to feed, clothe, educate, medicate, entertain, and legally represent him for the rest of his life. Families of his victims would pay taxes, in part, to keep Dahlmer comfortable, warm in winter and cool in summer. That type of punishment should scare the dickens out of other mass murderers. Interrupting the governments plans for Dahlmer however, an inmate beat the cannibal to death in prison.||I agree with Enyart that prisons
|Some oppose the death penalty on practical grounds, arguing that it is not a deterrent. However, in the late sixties, when there were an average of 6,000 murders a year, the United States Supreme Court struck down the death penalty as unconstitutional in the way it was administered. Six years later, when it was re-instituted in the early seventies the number of average annual murders had jumped to nearly 16,000 victims per year.||This is an example of the "post hoc ergo
propter hoc" fallacy: "after this, therefore because of
this." I think a better argument can be made that the increase in crime can
be attributed to the U.S. Supreme Court removing voluntary prayer and Bible
reading from public schools. See David Barton, To
Pray or Not to Pray
Nihilists are bent on suicide. "Capital punishment" does not deter those who do not respect any life, even their own. The number of abortions that took place last year was much larger than the number in 1973. This isn't solely because of Roe v. Wade (though that's obviously important). At that time there was a great stigma attached to out-of-wedlock births, even though there was no criminal penalty attached to illegitimacy. Today there is virtually no stigma attached to illegitimate pregnancies. That was not because of a change in the penal code. The Supreme Court has said local schools cannot teach children that God says "Thou shalt not kill." Some school-aged kids kill because it's "cool." Government-killing will not reverse this culture of death.
|In countries like Saudi Arabia, which enforce a swift and certain death penalty, violent crime is rare. Singapore and Los Angeles have equivalent populations, yet in one year Singapore had 58 murders (most followed by swift execution) while Los Angeles had 1,063. Criminal sub-cultures like the Mafia show that the death penalty is a powerful deterrent even among career criminals, since few will ever double-cross their superiors, fearing the repercussions.||An argument can be made that a totalitarian police
state, where the people have no rights, and arbitrary arrest, torture, and harsh
punishments are the norm, might reduce outward crime. But why would any
Christian hold up Saudi Arabia or Singapore as models for a Christian society??
Sure, we could live in a totalitarian dictatorship where 50% of the population are armed government thugs who monitor the other 50% of the population 24-7. Violations are instantly punished with torture and public execution. Would this deter crime? Absolutely! Who wants this? These are Christian models?
Where does the Bible prescribe death for selling drugs? See "U.S.-Approved Mass Murder," in James Bovard, The Bush Betrayal, pp. 143-147.
|Others oppose the death penalty on moral grounds. The "morality" arguments of atheists are not persuasive because if there is no God, then there is no absolute morality, only arbitrary and subjective opinion. The anti-death-penalty morality arguments of some Christians, on the other hand, are persuasive to many. They base their arguments on statements made by Jesus Christ and therefore many listen attentively.||Enyart is correct when he says that atheism cannot
create or maintain a workable system of ethics.
The most important idea in our culture is not "kill the criminals!" The most important idea is moral absolutes: "The Laws of Nature and of Nature's God." Unchanging principles of ethics which bind every generation. Like "Thou shalt not kill." Today's students don't know whether there is any such thing as crime at all. The "crime epidemic" is a result of removing religion and morality from public schools. We have forgotten that this is the most important feature of education. Converting America into a police state and executing someone every day will not make up for secular schools.
|These "moral" opponents of the death penalty often intimidate good people into shying away from execution. Many Christians claim society should forgive criminals and instruct them to "go and sin no more." Ideas have consequences and the popularity of this idea parallels a huge sustained crime epidemic.||Ideas do indeed have consequences. Opposition to "capital punishment" which is based on tolerance of sin has bad consequences, even if it results in the abolition of capital punishment. Support of "capital punishment" which is based on tolerance of other sins (vengeance, statism, etc.) has bad consequences even if it results in the abolition of a sinner.|
|There is a right way to deter criminals and to end the crime epidemic. That deterrence, however, does not lie in telling Dahlmer to "go and eat no more."||Ha ha.|
you profane Me among My people...
|This verse is not talking about capital punishment. It's talking about prophets who assure the evil that God's judgment will not come, and destroy the hope of the Godly. God judges the wicked by raising up violent armies like the Assyrians, who judged Israel (Isaiah 10:1-11). But these acts of destruction are contrary to God's Commandments, and God destroys His own executioners for their evil deeds (Isaiah 10:12ff.). Many people have trouble understanding how God could send evil and then judge the evil He sent. But this is the consistent teaching of Scripture, not that we should want to sign up for the Assyrian Army, or turn Israel into an Assyrian Police State.|
|Death Penalty Opposition|
|Biblical arguments against execution consist primarily of six arguments:|
|First, Jesus said:|
|"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you... whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also." Mat. 5:38-39|
|Second, Jesus forgave the woman "caught in adultery, in the very act." To those arguing that she should be put to death, Jesus said:||Bad argument against "capital punishment." See here.|
|"He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." John 8:7|
|Third, Jesus taught believers to forgive:|
|"But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Mat. 6:15|
|Fourth, the New Testament teaches Christians not to judge:||Bad argument against "capital punishment." See here.|
|"Judge not, that you be not judged." Mat. 7:1|
|Fifth, Paul taught believers to:|
|Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse... Repay no one evil for evil... do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I Will repay," says the Lord." Rom. 12:14, 17, 19||Study vengeance.|
|Sixth, the Ten Commandments teach "Thou shalt not kill" (Ex. 20:13).|
|Biblical History of Execution|
|In the first crime in the Bible, Cain murdered his brother Abel. Cain intuitively believed that everyone would think themselves justified in executing a murderer.||Cain and Abel had obviously been commanded to brings sacrifices to God (Genesis 4:3-4), even though Scripture does not record God giving them such commandments, or the content of those commandments. As we will discover below, the command to shed the blood of murderers was likely also given when these commands to bring sacrifices was given.|
|"It will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me." Gen. 4:14||"Anyone" alive at that time knew that God required sacrifices, and likely knew that God commanded that the blood of murderers be shed. This is why Cain feared for his life after murdering Abel.|
|So God forbade capital punishment:||The Patriarchal Power of "Capital Punishment"|
|"Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold." And the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him. Gen. 4:15|
|Without the death penalty, lawlessness reigned on earth:||Enyart uses the word "lawlessness" instead of "violence," as though the earth were filled with adultery, homosexuality, and murder. That may well have been, but the Bible describes the problem differently: archism. The Bible never says that violence reigned on the earth due to the absence of "capital punishment."|
|So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them..." Gen. 6:12-13|
|Within ten verses of the account of Noah's departure from the ark, God instituted the death penalty. Interestingly, the first three commands given to man after the flood parallel the very first three commands given to man before the flood.||Remember, God's command not to execute Cain was not one of "the very first three commands given to man before the flood." He had already given the commands that Cain violated: don't murder, and bring a blood sacrifice.|
|Are we still commanded not to eat food with blood?|
|These were the only three commands given to mankind before the flood, and the only three commands given to mankind after the flood and before Israel's covenant of circumcision.||Why is the word "only" italicized when these clearly were not the only three commands given to man? God had obviously told Cain not to murder Abel. The command to "exercise dominion" was also broken down into commands regarding the naming of the animals and "tending" and "guarding" the Garden.|
|Thou Shalt Not Kill|
|The rendering of the sixth commandment in the King James was very unfortunate. "Thou shalt not kill" in recent versions (like the NKJV, NIV, RSV, ASB, NASB, etc.) is accurately translated "You shall not murder" (Ex. 20:13). In Hebrew, as in English, the words for "murder" and "kill" can be used interchangeably, but their different meanings are easily understood from the context.||It is clearly an error to say that the command "Thou shalt not kill" somehow cancels out God's command to shed the blood of murderers (which results in the death of the murderer). They are both God's commands. It is not the case that there is some important difference in the meaning between "murder" and "kill." We are not to kill unless God commands us to. An unauthorized killing is the definition of "murder."|
|The Hebrew word for murder (ratsach, which appears in Ex. 20:13) is translated by the King James as murder/murderer 17 times, slayer/slain/slayeth 21 times, kill/killing 6 times, manslayer 2 times, and death once. The Hebrew word for kill (which appears in Ex. 13:15-harag) is translated by the King James as slay/slayer/slain 132 times, as kill 27 times, murder/murderer 3 times, destroyed once, out of hand once, and made/put/surely 3 times.||The Hebrew word does not always mean
|The Ten Commandments forbid murder, not killing1. The chapter following the giving of the Ten Commandments has a number of commands from God to execute criminals, including:||"Thou shalt not kill" means we are to take steps and be cautious not to accidentally kill someone.|
|"He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death." Ex. 21:12|
|"He who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death." Ex. 21:15|
|"He who kidnaps a man... shall surely be put to death." Ex. 21:16|
|"He who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death." Ex. 21:17|
|"[If an unborn baby is killed] you shall give life for life." Ex. 21:23|
|It is not plausible to suppose that God contradicted Himself just a few sentences after delivering the Ten Commandments to Moses. Clearly God prohibited murder but insisted upon execution of murderers and others. Some Christians, however, are so influenced by the world's philosophy that they are ashamed of the Lord's own words in Exodus 21. Others talk as though God was a bad God in the Old Testament but that now in the New, He is a much nicer God, as though He has gone through a rite of passage.||Enyart is right to criticize sloppy thinking.|
|God forbid [sic] murder, and commanded the lawful execution of murderers.|
|Execution Not Optional|
|As punishment for murder, the death penalty was applicable to each and every murderer:|
|"Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death.... You shall have the same law for the [foreigner] and for one from your own country; for I am the Lord your God." Lev. 24:17-22|
|The death penalty was not a maximum penalty, nor was it optional. As the Lord said:|
|'Moreover you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death... So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.' Num. 35:31-33||Making atonement is not an option. Whether shedding the blood of a murderer or a heifer is now the preferred way to make atonement -- that's a different issue.|
|Did God change this law in the New Testament? Consider that Jesus supports the death penalty in Matthew and Mark, and so does John in Revelation, and Paul in Acts and Romans, as does the book of Hebrews.||The requirement to make atonement did not change. Whose blood is to be shed in order to propitiate the wrath of God -- that's a different issue.|
|Jesus Supports Capital Punishment|
|Jesus affirmed the Mosaic Law even to the keeping of the "least of these commandments" (Mat. 5:17-19). He blasted the Pharisees for giving their own ideas precedence over God's commands:||If we had lived before the Cross, Jesus would have
supported animal sacrifices at the Temple. This fact would not make a good
argument for animal sacrifices in our day.
|"Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying... `He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' But you say..." Mat. 15:3-4||(Leviticus 20:9) For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.|
|"For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men..." [Jesus] said to them, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother; and 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' But you say..." Mark 7:8-11||
One commentator writes:
Modern Issues: Stoning Disobedient Children | Chalcedon Report
|Jesus reaffirmed the capital statutes of God's law. Not only the murderer (Rev. 13:10; 1 Tim. 1:8-9; Rom. 13:4), but even the one who curses a parent must be put to death (Ex. 21:17 and Lev. 20:9) just as God commanded. God's commands to execute the one who strikes or curses a parent are the death penalty statutes that liberal Christians are the most embarrassed over. However, Christ was not at all embarrassed over His Fathers commands. Jesus repeated these commands without caveat or reservation.|
|Laying aside the commands of God has its consequences. In America, murder has become the number one cause of death among young black males, and suicide is the number three cause of death among all teenagers. There is a death penalty when children disrespect their parents. If Jesus' telling of God's command is ignored, countless children will die terrible deaths at the hands of other children and by their own hands. On the other hand, if God's command were enforced, rather than ridiculed, the shedding of innocent blood would virtually disappear in our land. God's wisdom would save thousands of children. man's wisdom destroys them.||"Laying aside the sacrificing of animals in the
temple has its consequences."
This is unBiblical reasoning.
|While Jesus was on the cross the Romans inflicted the death penalty on the two criminals2 next to Him. Christ said nothing in their defense, or against their crucifixions. One of those two mocked Christ. In response, the other criminal (whom Jesus would immediately declare righteous, Luke 23:43) said of their punishments, "we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong" (Luke 23:41). What did this forgiven criminal, this newly justified man, say about the death penalty? Bottom line: the criminals were getting their just punishment. The dying criminal knew the truth, as he said, "we indeed" are "justly" punished.||Christ said nothing against slavery. Is slavery
Christ is famous for saying nothing in his own defense. Should we conclude from this that Christ was justly executed?
There is no way a Christian can justify crucifixion as a form of punishment, even if death is required. Crucifixion is a form of torture, barbaric and pagan.
Matthew 27:44 identifies the two as "robbers." Are robbers justly punished with death?
There's a lot of bumper stickers and sound-bites, but not a log of solid, Biblical logic.
|Revelation Supports Capital Punishment|
|The angels in heaven also recognize the principle of just punishment.|
|And I heard the angel of the waters saying: "You are righteous, O Lord... because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due." Rev. 16:5-6||What does it mean to give someone "blood to drink?" Something today's justice department should do?|
|God will equip the two witnesses of Revelation 11 to execute those trying to harm them.|
|And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. Rev. 11:5||The mere desire to harm is punishable by death?
The rest of Revelation 11:5 -- And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. Today's murderer should be burned to death? With fire out of whose mouth?
|The Apostle John also taught that you reap what you sow:|
|...he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. Rev. 13:10||Enyart leaves out part of the verse:
(Revelation 13:10) He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
If the Soviet Union had succeeded in its war against Afghanistan, and taken Afghanis captive to Moscow, should Gorbachev have been punished by being sent captive to Patmos?
Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
|Paul Supports Capital Punishment|
|The Apostle Paul did not object to the death penalty. He knew his rights as a Roman citizen and defended them. Yet while on trial, he volunteered the following endorsement of capital punishment to Porcius Festus, Governor in Caesarea:||It is bad (unBiblical) logic to say that everything
that was not overtly, explicitly objected to is therefore morally legitimate.
Paul's appeal and invocation of Roman citizenship was arguably a mistake:
(Acts 26:32) Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.
|"For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar." Acts 25:11||This is a logical fallacy. Anyone confident of his innocence could say the same thing -- even someone who doesn't believe in the moral legitimacy of capital punishment -- simply as a way of emphasizing his own innocence.|
|Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, "You have appealed to Caesar? To Caesar you shall go!" Acts 25:12|
|Vengeance is inherently good. God said, "Vengeance is Mine." Individuals, however, are not to avenge themselves, but are to allow God to avenge in His way:||Vengeance taken by human beings is inherently bad.|
|Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. Rom. 12:19 (see also Lev. 19:18)||Study vengeance.|
|While Paul instructs people not to seek their own revenge, but to "give place to wrath." Paul then explains that the proper channel for wrath is the "governing authorities." The government is the "place" for wrath and vengeance:||Using a phrase like "governing authorities" sanitizes the evil done by those who take vengeance, because our allegiance to the State is greater than our allegiance to God. Those who take vengeance are judged. Taking vengeance is a sin. God uses sinners. Evil-doers serve God's purposes. God then judges these "deacons." God ordains evil.|
|Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities... For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Rom. 13:1, 3|
|Godly rulers are a terror to evil doers. Note that God's two witnesses in Revelation "tormented those who dwell on the earth" (Rev. 11:10).|
|God through Paul specifically commands earthly governments to execute criminals with the sword:||The "sword" was not a symbol of an individual penal sanction. It was a symbol of conquest and war. Rome's conquests were thoroughly unBiblical.|
|For [the governing authority] is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Rom. 13:4||In Isaiah chapters 10, 13, and elsewhere, God describes pagan armies as His "ministers" because they "serve" His purposes. In only a few years after Paul wrote to the Romans, God's "ministers" would invade Jerusalem and bring God's judgment.|
|A sword is not used for scourging but for killing.||Does Enyart demand beheading rather than the electric chair?|
|Paul instructs believers to "not avenge" themselves, "but rather give place to wrath." Governments are the place for wrath for they are "God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath." Individuals have one role, governments have another. Individuals do not avenge themselves, the government does. Believers forgive3, governments execute. So, if the governing authorities are to obey God, they must not bear the sword in vain but execute wrath on the criminal, for they are God's minister to avenge and bring terror on him who practices evil. Thus God commanded execution in large part to meet out vengeance against capital criminals.||If I want to take vengeance on my enemy, can I hire
someone to do it for me? Are individuals allowed to vote for politicians who
will order capital punishment for their enemies? Do governments appear out of
thin air? What is the moral distinction between "personal vengeance,"
a "hired hit-man," and an "elected representative?"
If I am not allowed to take vengeance, am I allowed to stand before a jury of my peers and urge them with all the passion I can muster to take vengeance for me? If I am a juror and one of my peers asks me to take vengeance for him, should I do so? If I am the king, can I take vengeance on my enemies as long as I do not do so in my "private" capacity, but only in my capacity as "the king?" If I live in a democracy am I allowed to take vengeance on my enemies if I hire a consultant, run a campaign, and get "voters" to "elect" me executioner?
|Hebrews Supports Capital Punishment|
|The author of the book of Hebrews also supports the death penalty. The certainty of punishment under the Mosaic law proves the certainty of punishment for rejecting Jesus Christ:||Would the author of Hebrews support capital punishment under any and every circumstance?|
|Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies (present tense) without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot... Heb. 10:28-29|
|Temporal punishment through the law teaches men of the certainty of God's eternal punishment. If the government neglects the death penalty, then the people will scoff at the second death (Rev. 2:11; Rev. 20:6, Rev. 20:12-14; Rev. 21:8).||This is false. The writer to the Hebrews is urging people not to scoff at the Son, yet they had capital punishment. The Hebrews rejected the Son, but it wasn't because they didn't have capital punishment. Conversely, people who listen to the Son don't need capital punishment.|
|Be afraid of the sword for yourselves; for wrath brings the punishment of the sword, that you may know there is a judgment. Job 19:29||This passage actually teaches the opposite. Job was
not worried about physical punishment.
|The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance... So that men will say, "Surely there is a reward for the righteous; Surely He is God who judges in the earth." Ps. 58:10-11||Psalm
10 The (1) righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; He will wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.
Will Bob Enyart wash his feet in the blood of today's murderers?
|Further, showing mercy to the wicked does not produce repentance. As Isaiah wrote:|
|Let grace be shown to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness... Isa. 26:10|
|And as the proverb states:|
|A man of great wrath will suffer punishment; for if you rescue him, you will have to do it again. Prov. 19:19|
|While the Old and New Testaments strongly support the death penalty, some Christians think Jesus repealed capital punishment during an event that John described in his Gospel.|
|The Woman Caught In Adultery|
|Does the story of the woman caught in adultery, forgiven and released (John 8:3-11) negate the death penalty?||John 8 does not support modern anti-capital punishment advocates. Nor does it support capital punishment.|
|God Forgave Adulterers Before|
|Gomer was an adulteress yet God forgave her (Hos. 3:1). Still, He demanded that His people obey His law (Hos. 4:6).|
|King David committed adultery and murder (2 Sam. 11). Yet God forgave him (Psalm 32:1-5).|
|It was a conscious decision on God's part to not execute David. As Nathan said to David:|
|"The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However... by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme..." 2 Sam. 12:13|
|Still, God's law remained in effect (Ps. 1:2; 19:7; 78:1, 5-8; 89:30-32; 119).|
|God forgave the New Testament adulterer just as He forgave Old Testament adulterers, in neither instance revoking His law. God has all authority to forgive the criminal and disregard temporal punishment. Contrariwise, Men must obey God and cannot ignore punishment.||Matthew
Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
|The Pharisees Wanted to Trap Christ|
|The Pharisees wanted to accuse Jesus of rebelling against the Roman Empire:|
|This [the Pharisees] said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. John 8:6|
|Rome had revoked the Jews' authority to put a criminal to death (John 18:31). A straight-forward answer to the Pharisees would have brought Jesus into premature conflict with Rome before His "hour had come." Jesus solved this problem stating, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first" (John 8:7). Christ often frustrated the Pharisees giving clever answers that thwarted their wicked intentions (Mat. 22:15-22; 21:21-27; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26).|
|Jesus Did Not Repeal The Law|
|Without the law, lawlessness cannot exist. Yet as Christ said, "because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold" (Mat. 24:12). Christ will throw "those who practice lawlessness... into the furnace of fire" (Mat. 13:41-42).|
|Jesus was born under the Old Testament law:|
|...God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law. Gal. 4:4|
|The Mosaic law was still in effect in the New Testament according to Jesus:|
|"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets... Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great..." Mat. 5:17-19|
|And Jesus said to him, "See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded as a testimony to them." Mat. 8:4|
|"The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do..." Mat. 23:2-3|
|[Jesus said,] "Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? ... Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath?" John 7:19-23|
|Some argue that all this changed after the resurrection. Yet after His resurrection, Jesus said:|
|"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations... teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you." Mat. 28:19-20|
|And years later, "James and all the elders" said to Paul:|
|"You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law." Acts 21:20|
|Paul Used The Law|
|Paul teaches that the unrepentant world is still under the law, and that the law is designed to show guilt and to bring people to Christ:|
|But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless... and for sinners... for murderers... for sodomites, for kidnappers, for perjurers... 1 Tim. 1:8-10|
|All the world is under the law:|
|Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God... Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law. Rom. 3:19, 31|
|Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. Gal. 3:24-25|
|Christians who are untutored in the evangelistic role of the law oppose the foundation of the criminal code upon God's law.|
|Turn the Other Cheek|
|"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also." Mat. 5:38-39||"Turn the other cheek" would be wrong if it encourages the attacker to increase his sin. We want others to repent, not aggravate their crimes.|
|Pacifists have an unworkable interpretation of this passage. Imagine applying the pacifist view to a woman being raped? Does a father tell his daughter to not resist the rapist? Pacifist father to daughter being raped: "Don't resist the evil man, honey. Remember, Jesus said, 'Love your enemy.' If he wants you for one hour, stay with him two."||No, anti-pacifists slander pacifists with silly
No "pacifist" says this. This is a violation of the 9th Commandment in order to avoid dealing with whatever it is that Jesus is saying in this passage, and other Biblical commands against vengeance.
|Rather, this teaching is similar to Paul's teaching, "Do not avenge yourselves," knowing that the government is to bring wrath and vengeance against the perpetrator. The command to not avail oneself of "an-eye-for-an-eye" is not a strictly New Testament concept. Many falsely presume that this is a New Testament teaching which opposes Old Testament teachings. However, the command to avoid personal vengeance was just as applicable to Old Testament believers as to us. "Do not say, 'I will do to him just as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work" (Prov. 24:29). Graciousness from the believer in his personal life is an enduring virtue and not a new concept.||Paul in Romans 12 and Jesus in the Sermon on the
Mount are both saying something revolutionary and counter-imperial. The purpose
of both Paul and Jesus is to profoundly challenge our normal thoughts and
actions. Enyart negates all its meaning.
The long-standing distinction between "personal" vengeance and "civil" vengeance is a myth. The "capital punishment" verses are not about vengeance, they are about atonement. It is not the case that the Old Testament prohibited "personal" vengeance but allowed the creation of an institution of war and vengeance called "the State." Creation of such an institution is a rejection of God.
|Further, a slap "on your right cheek" would normally be a back-handed slap such as an insult. A punch to the face would usually land on the left cheek, as most men are right-handed Thus Jesus was not talking about a full-fledged violent attack, an attempted murder or a rape.||The line is arguably hyperbole, and should not be literally exegeted for public policy formulation.|
|Jesus was not here repealing the Mosaic law, but was teaching patience, forgiveness, and self control for the individual.||. . . and allowing vengeance, war, imperialism, and genocide for the individual as voter or as politician.|
|It Is Personal, Not Governmental|
|The Sermon on the Mount (Mat. 5-7) does not lay down rules for governments but principles for an upright heart.||Governments are not made up of people who are obligated to obey God's Commands?|
|"Blessed are the poor in spirit... You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder'... But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without cause shall be in danger of the judgment... Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way... I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Mat. 5:3-28|
|In this very sermon Jesus made the distinction between individuals and governments:|
|"Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. Mat. 5:25-26||We mentioned prisons above. Nowhere does the Bible authorize imprisoning someone for whatever disagreement is in view in this verse. Jesus wasn't talking to Roman guards. He was talking to those who felt it was utterly inappropriate for "the chosen people" to be subjugated by pagans.|
|Jesus did not tell the judge or the officer to turn the other cheek or to void the law. God wants the governing authorities to uphold the law without mercy (Heb. 10:28; Rom. 13:3-4).||Jesus also told Israelites to "go the second mile" when ordered to carry a soldier's backpack for one mile. Jesus did not tell Roman occupation forces to leave Israelites alone. So if the government of China or the government of Iran invades Israel and subjects Israelis to military occupation, those governments should do so "without mercy."|
|The Other Laws Remain|
|With the following words, did Jesus repeal God's law that He referred to:|
|"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you... whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also" (Mat. 5:38-39).||Jesus said in verse 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’” Their interpretation of "love your enemy" was humanistic. They even went so far as to add to scripture. Their interpretation of "eye for an eye" was also humanistic, but Jesus doesn't quote their additions, or Matthew doesn't quote Jesus quoting their addition, or they didn't have an addition, just an entrenched humanistic understanding of "Love your enemy.|
|If Christ here repealed "An eye for an eye," as some suppose, did He at the same time repeal the other Mosaic laws that He mentioned in the exact same manner? Few would even begin to argue that He did. Jesus used the words "You have heard... But I say unto you..." to show the personal application of the laws on murder and adultery. He said:||Jesus repealed "hate your enemy" and their understanding of "love your neighbor." Jesus repealed their understanding of "eye for an eye."|
|"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder...' But I say to you..." Mat. 5:21-22|
|"You have heard that it was said to those of old, `You shall not commit adultery...' But I say to you..." Mat. 5:27-28|
|The punishment side of God's criminal justice system in the Mosaic law is directed to governments who were commanded to execute the criminals, it was not directed to individuals. Thus, individuals who used these laws to justify their own lack of forgiveness were misapplying the law. Jesus here repealed neither the prohibitions against murder and adultery nor the command to love your neighbor. Rather, He was correcting misinterpretations. Thus, in the same way Christ was not repealing "an eye for an eye" but explaining the right heart attitude of a believer.||There is no such thing as a "punishment side" of the Mosaic law. There is an "atonement side." God never commanded "governments" to execute criminals in Israel. Atonement was made by the Church (priests and elders), not "the State."|
|An Unusual Formulation|
|Old Testament quotes are typically introduced with the phrases "It is written," or "That which was spoken by the prophet," or "Moses said." The formulation used in the Sermon on the Mount indicates that Jesus was not directly addressing what was written, but rather, what was said about what was written. "You have heard that it was said."|
|Jesus was not criticizing God's law, but the misinterpretation of the law. This becomes obvious when it is realized that at one point, He corrects a command that does not even appear in the law:|
|"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love you neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies..." Mat. 5:43-44|
|"Hate your enemy," does not appear in the Mosaic law. Jesus is not adjusting the law! He is correcting the misapplication of the law.|
|"You have made the Word of God of no effect by the traditions of men." Throughout this sermon Jesus is rebuking men for misinterpreting the law. And what do men do, they completely misinterpret this sermon.||So Jesus isn't really telling us to "love your enemy?" If an invading terrorist orders us to go with him one mile, we're not really commanded to go two? If we're misinterpreting the passage, what is the correct interpretation?|
|Pacifists Only Go So Far|
|Many churches claim to literally "turn the other cheek" (Mat. 5:39). After losing a lawsuit, however, not many churches would give double the judgment amount to their opponent (Mat. 5:40). Further, in the context of evil requests from evil people, Jesus said to "Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away (Mat. 5:42). The members of a church which publicly claimed such a policy would end up poorer than church mice, and with less shelter. Wicked people would take everything they own.|| 40
If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your
What is the "non-literal" (and allegedly correct) interpretation of this commandment? Too bad the Hebrews didn't have Enyart's correct interpretation:
|No Contradictions Here|
|If Jesus in Matthew 5:39 revoked part of the law, He would have severely contradicted His own statement made just 20 verses earlier:|
|"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets... Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great..." Mat. 5:17-19|
|Hence Jesus command to turn the other cheek is not a repeal of God's command to governments to apprehend and punish criminals but a command to individuals to love one another.||Jesus came to end the shedding of blood required by the Old Testament.|
|But Who Can Forgive Whom?|
|Some argue that we are to forgive murderers. These same people insist that we incarcerate murderers and make thieves pay restitution. They say "forgive," but actually demand punishment. These objectors do not sincerely believe in forgiveness, they only want to decide on the penalty themselves while rejecting the penalty God has commanded.|
|You can forgive a debt owed to you, but not one owed to your neighbor. If your friend owes you $100 dollars, you can cancel that debt if you like; however, if your friend owes me $100, you have no such authority to cancel that debt. You can forgive a sin against you, but not a sin against your neighbor. Only God has authority to forgive a murderer and even He will not forgive the unrepentant murderer.|
|A murderer has also assaulted the community, the law and God Himself. You can only forgive the wrong done against you, not that done against God or your community.||But a thief has not assaulted "the community?" Does everyone in "the community" get to demand restitution from the thief?|
|When Jesus spoke of forgiveness, He did not confuse this simple truth. He taught clearly that you must forgive those who sinned against you, not those who sinned against your neighbor. For as He taught Israel to pray:|
|"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" Mat. 6:12|
|Jesus forgave sins and the scribes reasoned in their hearts, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Mark 2:7). Thus Jesus realized that men would want evidence for His claim to be able to forgive sins:|
|"But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins" - He said to the man who was paralyzed, "I say to you, arise..." Luke 5:24; Mark 2:10-11|
|So parents of a murder victim should forgive to the extent that they have been hurt, which requires a tremendous amount of forgiveness to cover a tremendous amount of hurt. In America, sadly, their sorrow is agitated and increased by a government that mocks their grief through mercy to the murderer. How does a mother's broken heart heal when the wound is reopened each time her daughter's murderer is up for appeal, or sues the jail, or gets a photo in the newspaper.||Why should parents "forgive" the murderer of their child? Isn't that a denial of God's requirement for "the State" to shed the murderer's blood? Shouldn't the parents demand that his blood be shed?|
|Do Not Judge?|
|But does the New Testament teach believers to not judge? Jesus did say: "Judge not, that you be not judged" (Mat. 7:1)? Jesus gave that teaching to hypocrites (Mat. 7:5) however. For He specifically commands His followers to judge:||"Judge not" is no argument against capital punishment.|
|"Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." John 7:24|
|"Judge not" is the Hypocrites Golden Rule. For "judge not" (Mat. 7:1-5) is simply a hypocrites application of do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Mat. 7:12). "For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged" (Mat. 7:2). Judge others as you would have them do unto you inverted is Judge not if you do not want to be judged. Therefore the hypocrite does not judge. As Jesus said, "Judge not... you hypocrite" (Mat. 7:1, 5 KJV; Ezek. 16:52).|
|Jesus warned against judging falsely or with hypocrisy. For immediately after saying "judge not," Jesus taught just how to judge correctly:|
|"And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?... Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye." Mat. 7:3, 5|
|Christ kept this theme throughout His ministry. "Hypocrites," Jesus said, "why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right?" (Luke 12:56-57). Still, His own followers have mostly ignored the Lord's harsh rebuke: "Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye" (Mat. 7:5). "Judge Not" is the Hypocritical Oath and hypocrite haven. He who lives in a glass house should not throw stones. Such Christians, though, should relocate. Move into "the temple of the great God, which is being built with heavy stones" (Ezra 5:8).|
|Jesus paid a compliment to Simon [not Peter] when He said:|
|"You have rightly judged." Luke 7:43|
|Paul commands Christians to judge:|
|Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judge by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? 1 Cor. 6:2-5|
|Paul elsewhere teaches:|
|...he who is spiritual judges all things... 1 Cor. 2:15|
|Moses and the law of God condemns and judges sinners, as Christ said:|
|"Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you 'Moses..." John 5:45|
|Paul teaches this also:|
|Whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world [is] guilty before God. Rom 3:19|
|God has always approved of giving warning to those who commit crimes:|
|...those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them. Prov. 24:25|
Why Is the Death Penalty
Not a Deterrent in America?
|God promises that the death penalty is a reliable deterrent:|
|"So you shall put away the evil from Israel. And all the people shall hear and fear, and no longer act presumptuously." Deut. 17:12-13||Is fearing God and not acting presumptuously a passive by-product of the State shedding the blood of capital criminals, or is it an additional command after "putting away evil" from Israel?|
|Yet, the death penalty as executed through American courts is not much of a deterrent. Wise King Solomon 2,900 years ago explained why this is so:|
|Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Eccl. 8:11|
|When a murderer is executed, three appeals and 12 years after his crime, society has largely forgotten about him. His death has almost no deterrent effect on crime. Further, a life sentence cannot be executed speedily. The swift death penalty deters crime and aids evangelism. Thus Christians, in obedience to God, should support the death penalty.|
|If you would like to comment or debate the content of this article please CLICK HERE.|
|"But if he strikes him with an iron implement, so that he dies, he is a murderer (ratsach as in Ex.20:13); the murderer shall surely be put to death." Num.35:16|
|Criminals, that is, robbers not from the Greek kleptes for a typical thief, but kakourgos (Luke 21:39) and lestes (Mat.27:38; Mark15:27), for a thief who steals openly (Mat.21:13). This is the same word lestes used for the thieves who attacked the man helped by the good Samaritan. These robbers "stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead" (Luke 10:30), that is, attempted murder.|
|Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, speaks of many robbers, one of whom was Judas, son of Ezekias, who, in the aftermath of Herod's death, assaulted the palace in Sepphoris in Galilee, stole its weapons, and was purposely vicious with everyone to build a reputation for himself. Robbers, were also murderers. Elsewhere, Josephus speaks of the Judean Procurator Felix, in AD 52 hiring robbers to kill the High Priest. After that accomplishment, the robbers returned again and again to murder others in the city and in the temple itself. Josephus claims that this is likely the reason God rejected Jerusalem and its impure temple and brought the Romans upon the Jews (AD 70).|
|The prohibition of personal vengeance has precedence in the Old Testament. "`You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge but you shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lev.19:18). No one could successfully argue that the prohibition of vengeance in the Old Testament negated the death penalty then. And no one can successfully argue the same today.|