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Don Stewart :: Does the Bible Endorse Capital Punishment?

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Don Stewart
In Genesis 9 we have God instituting the practice of capital punishment. He allowed the life of a human or an animal to be taken if they willfully took the life of a human being.

For your own lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning: from every animal I will require it and from human beings, each one for the blood of another, I will require a reckoning for human life. Whoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall that person's blood be shed; for in his own image God made humankind (Genesis 9:5,6).

Human life was sacred and had to be protected, therefore those who willfully took a human life must pay for it with their own life. The rationale for doing this is that God created humanity in His own image.

Should It Be Practiced Today?

As to whether capital punishment should still be in force today there are strong and emotional arguments on both sides of the issue.

Arguments Against Capital Punishment

Those that have argued against capital punishment bring up the following arguments.

1.Genesis 9 does not speak to the issue. There are some Bible students who argue that Genesis really has nothing to say with respect to capital punishment and that attempts to make it support capital punishment are misinterpretations. Genesis 9 is too obscure to say anything definite with respect to the matter. Though other passages in Scripture clearly teach that capital punishment is allowed under certain conditions this passage does not.

2.
It is inhumane. The taking of human life is always wrong including when the state does it. Love should prevail, not some desire for revenge. We must not punish one wrong by committing another wrong. The guilty person should be rehabilitated.

3.It does not deter crime. While capital punishment was practiced the murder rates actually increased rather than decreased.

4.It is too expensive. The money spent in determining the competency of the perpetrator could be better spent in rehabilitation.

5.Many methods of capital punishment are barbaric and revolting.

6.A civilized society should support the sanctity of life and not cheapen it.

7.A judicial decision can be wrong. Abolishing capital punishment would forever erase the risk of executing an innocent person.

8.A life sentence would sufficiently protect society from the guilty person again committing the crime.

9.It isn't carried out consistently. More minorities and poor are put to death rather than white or wealthy individuals.

Arguments In Favor

The arguments in favor of capital punishment include the following.

1.Scripture clearly teaches it. The authority of God's Word is at issue here. In addition the commandment was given before the Mosaic law and was never rescinded.

2.It does deter crime. It keeps this person from ever committing the crime again. It provides an example to the rest of society what will happen when a person commits murder. This may well keep others from doing the same crime.

3.It also protects the lives of others who may be endangered if the criminal went free. The state would create victims for a second time.

Summary

When we look at the issue of the Bible and capital punishment we find two opposing views. Though there are good Christians who hold each side of the issue it seems clear from Scripture that capital punishment was mandated by God and was never rescinded.
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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