Drinking Deeply

Thursday, December 15, 2005 at 6:51 PM

Death Penalty (2)

The Death Penalty in the Old Testament:

This point is pretty much uncontested, but I am making it merely to shift the burden of proof onto those who don't believe the death penalty is biblical.

Christ said, (Matthew 5:17-19) that "17"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

The establishment of the capital punishment in the Old Testament thus naturally implies (barring other revelation) a continuation of capital punishment in the New Testament and onto today.

I went through the creation argument last time, this time it's Exodus 21)

12"Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death. 13But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee. 14But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him by cunning, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die.

15"Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death.

16"Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.

17"Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death.

(The last one is scary isn't it?)

What's the context of Exodus 21?

v.1) These are the laws you are to set before them:

They are laws given to the nation of Israel, right after the 10 commandments (ch. 20). What does the 10 commandments begin with? "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." These laws are given to the people of God.

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Blogger Michelle said...

I'm curious as to why you think that merely citing a law from the Torah proves its contemporary application. Do you mean that we as Christians ought to keep the entire Levitical law? You seem familiar with Scripture, and you must be aware that to keep the Torah (even eliminating the laws specifically altered in the New Testament, such as dietary laws) would mean, among other things, not shaving one's beard (Lev. 19:27), not wearing a cotton-poly blend (Lev. 19:19).

I'm not trying to devalue or ridicule the Mosaic Law. But I do wonder whether you think that all of it should be kept by Christians today, or only some of it, and if so, which parts. Would you care to elaborate?  

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Blogger mxu said...

Hello Michelle,

I believe citing a law from the Torah proves its contemporary application because of Christ's promise that I quoted first, namely that the Law is not abolished. We cannot relax a single one of the commandments.

Now, as to some of the applications of the Mosaic law that we no longer observe, some of it has been fulfilled in the NT and canceled:

Namely the dietary, cleanliness, priesthood, ceremonial, and similar ones. Some of it is explicit (Peter, kill and eat), some of it is implicit (Christ's fulfilling sacrifice in Heb. 10:8-9).

I do believe we should have a much higher view of the OT Law, if just to understand what was abolished and what is still in effect, but I don't believe that the OT Law should be completely ignored.

The point of this post was to lay the burden on the opposing argument. We need an argument that teaches us that the death penalty is no longer in effect (an argument that teaches the mosaic law is no longer effect would be valid as well) in order to say that the death penalty is not biblical.

In essence I am saying that I do not need to prove that the death penalty is still biblical in the NT, rather it should be assumed until proven otherwise.

As to the beard shaving, and the cotton poly blend, I can address those specifically if you really are concerned about them, but I believe that they fall under the laws that are fulfilled.  

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Blogger Michelle said...

I see your point.

What I'm unsure about is how we are to tell which parts of the Mosaic Law are no longer to be carried out. As far as I know (please correct me, though, if I'm wrong) some laws, such as mixing fabrics and crops and whatnot, are not specifically addressed in the NT as being abolished. It seems to me that the death penalty would be also be one such case. In such cases, how do we tell?

I think the death penalty in our society today is a bad idea for other practical reasons, but I understand that's not what you're addressing here.  

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Blogger mxu said...

You are absolutely correct that some cases are difficult to tell, and that is a question that scholars have wrestled with.

I think I agree with Third Millenium Ministries and their answer to this question.

Now, I would disagree with you that the death penalty is one of those laws that is abolished but is not specifically addressed, I think my first post (grounding the death penalty in created order) addresses that. Genesis 9:6 transcends culture, transcends the cross, transcends the Old Testament and is before the Law (10 Commandments and on) is given.

I also believe that my treatment of Romans 13 answers the question sufficiently for me, but I understand if other people are unconvinced.

I think I agree with you that there may be practical reasons for not using the death penalty, and thank you for understanding that that was not what I was arguing.  

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Anonymous Puritan Belief said...

Before the Law was given before Moses was even a twinkle in his mothers eye God made it clear where he stood on the death penalty.

"Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed"

But it doesn't stop there he gives a reason why he says this.

"for in the image of God has God made man."

People use all sorts of arguments like "But the death penalty isn't even a deterrent"

But if the death penalty isn't a deterrent then I bet prison in life isn't and either would be a fine.

or they might say
"But innocent people die from the death penalty because they get convicted incorrectly"

Yes but for every person that a country does not kill for commiting murder you will be indirectly responsible for the murders of at least another 2 people.

The courts these days have corrupt judges because they let the wicked go free and lock up and fine the innocent. Whatever happened to the 2 or 3 witnesses with reports that do not conflict?  

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