Capital Punishment With Regards to Christian Ethics Reaction Paper

Pages: 8 (2667 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice

Christianity and the Death Penalty

A Christian View of Capital Punishment

The issue of capital punishment is as old as the Bible itself. God himself was the first to issue an edict of capital punishment. In Genesis 6-8 God decided that all of humanity, except for Noah and his family were to receive the death penalty for their wrongs. In Genesis 18-19 God punishes Sodom and Gomorrah for the sins of the people. In Exodus 14, God destroyed the Egyptian army in the Red Sea. The Old Testament is filled with instances where God saw it necessary to destroy a single man, or humankind for their actions.

Many anti-capital punishment supporter claim that capital punishment is unethical, as it is not fair to trade one life for another. They claim that violence only promotes violence and does not resolve the issues. Christian groups differ as to whether they agree or disagree with the death penalty. While these positions would seem to be in line with prevailing modern thought, they are not necessarily in agreement with what the Bible tells us about capital punishment, both in verse and by way of context.

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Capital punishment is an old, Bible-based principle and if one is to use the Bible as the means to determine if capital punishment is allowed, or even promoted, the example that we are given would tell use that it is recommended in some cases. This research will support the thesis that Capital Punishment is ethical for the crime of murder from a Christian Viewpoint for the sins for which it was prescribed in Mosaic Law.


TOPIC: Reaction Paper on Capital Punishment With Regards to Christian Ethics Assignment

Laws regarding capital punishment predate the Bible, as we know it. The law as given by Moses clearly states that capital punishment is the prescribed punishment for premeditated murder. Exodus 21 states that premeditated (described as "lying in wait") was punishable by death. There has been some debate as to whether negligence counts as murder. The second offense punishable be death was involvement in the occult (Exodus. 22; Lev. 20; Deut 18-19). This included sorcery, divination, acting as a medium, or sacrificing to a false god. There is a third offense is named as a reason for the death penalty is sexual sins, such as rape, incest, or homosexual practice. However, references to the death penalty can be found in connection to other offenses as well. For instance, the death penalty is suggested for the sin of bestiality (Exodus 22:19), being a false prophet (Deut 13:5), and other crimes throughout the Old Testament.

One can find many instances where the death penalty is not only substantiated, but mandated. Our modern application of the death penalty is much stricter than that which existed in the Old Testament. A capital crime must involve the murder of another person, a sexual offense, or other crime that is considered to infringe up the rights of another person, including their right to life. Many of the crimes that were punishable be death in the Old Testament are no longer considered worthy of the death penalty, such as adultery or homosexual practice. To punish persons who committed those crimes in modern times would be considered heinous and frowned upon by the global and local community. Application of the death penalty has grown stricter since the time of the Old Testament. Now it is only used for crimes that involve loss of life.

Taken literally, Romans 6:23 could be interpreted to mean that every sin that we commit should result in death. penalty. The verse reads,"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans, 6:23). This verse has been interpreted many different ways. Many churches interpret this verse to mean that this verse refers to eternal death, as opposed to the eternal life offered through the belief in Jesus Christ. However, if one considers this verse in the context of the references to the death penalty to various sins, one could justify the argument that this verse is in reference to the idea that any sin is punishable by death. Any sin against man should be considered a sin against God, as man in made in his image. This is the reasoning behind the interpretation of Romans 6:23 as meaning that any sin could be punishable by death. However, God shows his mercy through not taking our life when we sin, instead, giving us the means to salvation through his son, Jesus Christ.

Not only does the Bible contain many instances of capital punishment, in many cases, it prescribes how the death penalty should be carried out. For instance, if a man sleeps with both his mother and his daughter, he is to be burned, as is the same with witches (Croucher et al.). By far, the most common means of carrying out the death penalty are by fire and by stoning. (Croucher et al.). However, this changed, as the Romans perfected the art of crucifixion.

Authority of Man to render Capital Punishment

The basis for a Biblical acceptance of the death penalty is rendered through our knowledge that man is created in the image of God and that to shed the blood of another man is to defile the likeness of God. The Bible specifically delegates the authority to determine when capital punishment is appropriate. In Genesis, we find the following passage.

"Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man." (Genesis 9:6).

In addition, the Bible provides for the need to submit to the authority of the state and provides that the states can determine to institute the death penalty, as it sees fit.

"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God

has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves," (Romans 13:1 -- 7


This passage goes on to explain that those who have committed no bad deed will not be afraid of the authorities, but those who have committed a bad deed will be judged by the authorities, as God will judge them. One must make a point in these passages that the state and authorities are not given free reign to pass out the death penalty for their personal reasons and they should not use it to coerce others into behavior that is no righteous. The responsibility that comes with the authority to utilize the death penalty is great and the decision should not be taken lightly, or the punisher could become the punished. Using this authority as a means of personal power is not in accordance with what was meant by the verse. The death penalty should always be dealt justly and after consideration of all of the evidence.

Does Capital Punishment Apply to the New Testament?

Thus far, we have examined capital punishment from the perspective of Mosaic Law. The law, as handed down in the Old Testament, clearly supports the use of capital punishment, using the position that as man was created in the image of God, a sin against man is a sin against God, therefore, capital punishment is warranted for the crimes that are listed as such in the Old Testament. However, there are still some Christians who adamantly oppose the death penalty. One has to wonder about their position, as capital punishment is directly mandated in the Old Testament. The answer to this lies in the story in the Sermon on Mount.

The story cited by those who claim that Jesus changed Mosaic Law is about a woman condemned to death for adultery by the Pharisees. One must remember that adultery was one of the sins for which death was the prescribed punishment in the Old Testament. The position that the woman should receive the death penalty was based solidly in Old Testament Law.

In John 8:5, the woman was brought before the group and Jesus was asked, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" (John 8:5). However, this question was a trap, set by the Pharisees to expose and snare Jesus. If Jesus told them that the woman should be stoned, then he was not the bringer of compassion and love that he claimed. If he ordered that she not be stoned, then he was breaking Mosaic Law and was not following Jewish tradition. Either way Jesus answered, he was condemned.

Jesus answered cleverly and said, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her" (John 8:7, NIV). After he said that, that crowd began to disperse one by one. In the end, it there was only the woman and Jesus standing there. Instead of continuing… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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