What Does the Bible Say About Capital Punishment?

The Kansas City Star in Saturday’s weekly column, Voices of Faith, led with the headline and question “Most religions say killing is wrong so is the death penalty also wrong?”

Answers were given by two area religious leaders: Chuck Stanford from the Rime Buddhist Center & Monastery and R.L. Baynham, at Metropolitan Baptist Church.  Both writers believed capital punishment was wrong.

Sanford argued, “Nearly all religions consider killing to be wrong. So if killing is wrong, then all killing is wrong.” Baynham wrote, “The death penalty is huge, and it is difficult to really get a handle on it. Society changes its mind so many times that it becomes hard to put a proper understanding in place….A great number of people vacillate between their religious beliefs and society’s desires to do what is right. Baynhman’s conclusion? “We believe that it is immoral to take a life of any person who causes violence to his or her neighbor.

But a bigger question is what does the Bible say?  Has God spoken on this subject?

During the patriarchal age when God spoke directly to the fathers, He authorized capital punishment.  Genesis 9:6 says, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed,  for God made man in his own image.” This text teaches four important things.

(1) Human life is sacred.

(2) Human life is not the same as animal life.

(3) People bear the imprint of God

(4) To take a human life is to take away that which was created to the glory of God.

The 6th commandment says, “You shall not murder” (Ex 20:13). The Mosaic law specified 18 crimes that carried the death penalty, including murder.  God said, “Whoever kills another person, the murderer shall be put to death on the testimony of witnesses; but one witness is not sufficient testimony against a person for the death penalty” (Num 35:30)

In today’s Christian age the government is identified as God’s minister and authorized to exercise capital punishment.

“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he 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 13:1-4).

Columnist Cal Thomas was correct when he wrote: “In self-defense, most see nothing wrong with taking a life if another person is about to take theirs. It is only if the killer succeeds that some strange notion kicks in that the killer’s life suddenly inherits value and comes under constitutional protection.”

Then he ironically observes, “Conversely, the unborn child… only has a right to live if the woman carrying it gives it that right. Should she decide not to give birth, any method, including drug cocktails, is allowed. It mocks life when anti-death penalty people advocate for the guilty, while caring nothing for the unborn.”

While there are emotional arguments against capital punishment, even from religious leaders, the Bible has authorised the death penalty in every dispensation.  Does the execution of a murderer deter crime? I don’t know.  But it guarantees he will never commit another murder.

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman

6 Comments

Filed under Culture, Uncategorized

6 responses to “What Does the Bible Say About Capital Punishment?

  1. Ken:
    It amazes me how so many folks ignore the plaon truths of scripture. You have rightly presented the biblical position on murder. The bible (God’s word) commands the death penalty for murder.

    There is a difference between killing another and committing murder, Killing is when one defends the life of self or another against an attacker. Murder is when one deliberately takes the life of an innocent person. Justice demands life for life in such cases.

    When the murderer is allowed to live, justice is denied and the blood of the innocent one is diminished. Also, when the murderer is justly executed, a deterrent is accomplished. He serves as an example to others (who MAY think twice knowing such punishment will be theirs as well) and the executed murdered will be absolutely deterred from ever again committing such a crime.

    But what about innocent people being executed for a crime they didn’t commit? The answer is that no system is perfect and we admit that such things do happen, but such is extremely rare. The answer is not to deny justice, but rather to make the judicial system as just as possible without sacrificing the ADMINISTRATION of justice.

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  2. Betty Rhodes

    Ken, I appreciate your thoughts on this and I agree. The criminal receives something that the murder victim never had. Time to consider his deeds and repent. And yes, there are no doubt mistakes made at times but such is the human condition and we have legal rights in place for appeal after appeal. Why is it right for someone to take a life, or worse, and then be supported by tax payers money the rest of their own lives? Makes no sense to me. Thank you for the willingness to stand up and be heard on all things biblical.

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  3. David McKee

    Ken,
    Cap, punish.is authorized but must be applied to all ,poor & rich/black&white
    alike.Now it would seem that those who can afford expensive lawyers
    escape with lesser sentences.Israel&Judah both were condemned for un-equal justice ,as we will be.
    Keep up the good work.
    David McKee

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