There are so many buzz about death penalty especially that the incoming president Rodrigo Duterte and some senators are already pushing to put it back into effect. However, the Catholic Church, Commission on Human Rights (CHR), and some other religious and humanitarian sectors are against it.
Religious sectors cry “do not murder” or “thou shalt not kill” quoting the 6th Commandment of God to Israelites, Exodus 20:13.
“Thou Shalt Not Kill” as a Law and what it pertains to.
The 6th Commandment “Thou shalt not kill” is a major law. Comparing it to our laws, it is like one of the Articles of our very own Philippine Constitution. Under each article, different issues arises inside it and thus, deal on case to case basis. Violation to such laws have its own defined penalties.
This tells us that “Thou Shalt Not Kill” in the Bible is a general law applicable to all people. But this pertains “only” to a cold blooded murder. Meaning, it is prohibited to kill a person out of your personal decision and likeness. It is prohibited to kill someone just because you don’t like that person.
However, since humans are humans and with its sinful nature, murder came into being. Cain is the first to commit murder against his brother Abel out of envy (Genesis 4).
What about soldiers killing people in times of war?
When a nation is at war, killing an enemy is not considered as murder. In fact, we can see in the Bible several times when God ordered to wage war against other countries like that of the conquest of Canaan. Going back, “Thou shalt not kill” is a law to be abided by the general public (Israelites). War is different, and is not within the context of this law.
Death Penalty as Part of the Law of Moses
When we talk about the Law in the Bible, we are referring first to the 10 Commandments and then to the subsidiary or supplementary laws which is often called the “Law of Moses”. When you look at the Bible, the books Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy tackles about the Law of Moses. There you will see the results of obedience and disobedience of the law.
Death penalty is a part of the Law of Moses. ChristianBibleReference.org gives us a list of crimes in the Bible which results to death penalty or “capital punishment”:
- Murder (Exodus 21:12-14; Leviticus 24:17,21)
- Attacking or cursing a parent (Exodus 21:15,17)
- Disobedience to parents (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)
- Kidnapping (Exodus 21:16)
- Failure to confine a dangerous animal, resulting in death (Exodus 21:28-29)
- Witchcraft and sorcery (Exodus 22:18, Leviticus 20:27, Deuteronomy 13:5, 1 Samuel 28:9)
- Human sacrifice (Leviticus 20:2-5)
- Sex with an animal (Exodus 22:19, Leviticus 20:16)
- Doing work on the Sabbath (Exodus 31:14, 35:2, Numbers 15:32-36)
- Incest (Leviticus 18:6-18, 20:11-12,14,17,19-21)
- Adultery (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22)
- Homosexual acts (Leviticus 20:13)
- Prostitution by a priest’s daughter (Leviticus 21:9)
- Blasphemy (Leviticus 24:14,16, 23)
- False prophecy (Deuteronomy 18:20)
- Perjury in capital cases (Deuteronomy 19:16-19)
- Refusing to obey a decision of a judge or priest (Deuteronomy 17:12)
- False claim of a woman’s virginity at time of marriage (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)
- Sex between a woman pledged to be married and a man other than her betrothed (Deuteronomy 22:23-24)
Not only that, God has put to death even the Israelites his people who are disobedient. In fact, for all the people who went out of Egypt, only 2 were able to step in the land of Canaan. The rest were the next generation after their fathers. All of these because of disobedience.
The New Testament also tells us of Capital Punishment
The New Testament does not tackle capital punishment like that of the Pentateuch. However, we can see several instances that the Jews still implement capital punishments. We can see the story of Mary Magdalene who is to be put to death by committing adultery (John 8). We can also see Jesus himself was crucified a picture of a capital punishment. Jesus’ “alleged” crime are: blasphemy (for the Jews), and a rebellion (for the Romans).
However, it is important to note that the New Testament focuses on Grace and Repentance and not on the imposition of the Law of Moses. This is why when you read the NT, it talks about love, mercy, grace, blessings, and obedience.
Death Penalty is not murder but a result of disobedience
So understanding this, we can conclude that Death Penalty is Biblical. It is not against the Bible and it is not murdering someone especially if it is about imposing justice or payment for disobedience or heinous crime. However, we must also understand that just like any other laws, it has its own flaws, and can also be a source of irrevocable injustices.
It can be useful and it can also be harmful. If used properly, death penalty is a useful tool for any government. It may not stop the crimes 100%, but it does make the criminals think twice. At the same time, it gives justice to real victims.
In the end, Death penalty is a result of violating a law, it is not murder. It only becomes a murder when someone was intentionally put to it without fair trial and justice.