Capital Punishment by Douglas Jacoby

You can download the full audiobook recording on qobuz or amazon or itunes.

Thoughts on Capital Punishment (27 minutes),

EXECUTION

  • O.T. death penalties:
    • Adultery (Lev 20:11);
    • Attacking parents (Exod 21:15);
    • Bestiality (Exod 22:19, Lev 20:15)
    • Blasphemy (Lev 24:16)
    • Bull goring (Exod 21:29)
    • Contempt of court (Deut 17:12)
    • Cursing parents (Exod 21:17, Lev 20:9)
    • Disobedient son — drunkard etc (Deut 21:21)
    • Female promiscuity (Deut 22:21)
    • Idolatry (Exod 22:20, Deut 13:5, 17:2)
    • Incest (Lev 20:11+)
    • Kidnapping (Exod 21:16, Deut 24:7)
    • Malicious witness in capital case (Deut 19:16)
    • Manslaughter (Gen 9:6, Exod 21:12, Lev 24:17, Num 35:16+)
    • Priestly arrogation (Num 3:10, 18:7)
    • Sabbath breaking (Num 15:35)
    • Sodomy (Lev 20:13)
    • Sorcery (Exod 22:18, Lev 20:17
    • In most cases commuted to a financial penalty.
  • The changed situation under the New Covenant
    • The church executed no one.
    • What did the church of the New Testament teach about this?
      • Rom 13:4 – sword for citizens (Acts 12 – Herod, Mark 6 – John the Baptist, Rev 20:4 – martyrs). Crucifixion for slaves, traitors.
      • Romans 12:17-21. Where did Paul get this from? Jesus (Matthew 5:21-22, 39-48).
      • Early church rejected capital punishment (before Constantine – references from Ante-Nicene):
        • “When they know that we cannot endure even to see a man put to death, though justly, who of them can accuse us of murder?… We consider that to see a man put to death is much the same as killing him… So how can we put people to death?” – Athenagoras (c.175), 2.147
        • “Christians could not slay their enemies. Nor could they condemn those had had broken the Law to be burned or stoned, as Moses commands… However, in the case of the ancient Jews, who had a land and a form of government of their own, to take from them the right of making war against their enemies, of fighting for their country, of putting to death or otherwise punishing adulterers, murderers, or others who were guilt of similar crimes, who would have been subject to them to sudden and utter destruction whenever the enemy fell upon them.” – Origen (c.248), 4.6
        • “Christians do not attack their assailants in return, for it is not lawful for the innocent to kill even the guilty.” – Cyprian (c.250), 5.351.
        • “He who reckons it a pleasure that a man—though justly condemned—should be slain in his sight, pollutes his conscience as much as if he should become a spectator and a sharer of a murder that is secretly committed. Yet, they call these “sports,” in which human blood is shed!” – Lactantius (c.304-313), 7.186.
        • “When God forbids us to kill, He not only prohibits us from the open violence that is not even allowed by the public laws, but He also warns us against doing those things that are esteemed lawful among men. Thus it will not be lawful for a just man to engage in warfare, since his warfare is injustice itself. Nor is it lawful for him to accuse anyone of a capital crime. For it makes no difference whether you put a man to death by word or by the sword. For it is the act of putting to death itself that is prohibited. Therefore, with regard to the commandment of God, there should be no exception at all. Rather, it is always unlawful to put a man to death, whom God willed to be a sacred creature.” – Lactantius, 7.187.

CONCLUSION

  • Justifiable violence? Exodus 22:2 – attempts to defend Jesus (at night)? Genesis 34? In the O.T. violence was permitted in certain situations. In the N.T., however, there appear to be no exceptions. Thus failure to distinguish between the testaments is at heart of this interpretive crux.
  • There is a strong biblical emphasis on mercy (Micah 6:8, Matthew 5:7, Numbers 32:23, 1 Timothy 5:24, etc).
  • Bible urges us to follow the laws of the land, except where they violate the laws of God.
  • The early church believed strongly in justice yet adamantly opposed the death penalty.
    • Not that they refused to suffer death (Paul – Acts 25:11).
    • But they would have no part in killing. (Even watching executions was deplorable to many of them.)
  • Thought questions: Am I living more by an Old Testament morality, or a New Testament morality?

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One Response to Capital Punishment by Douglas Jacoby

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