Is Capital Punishment Biblical?Capital punishment has always been an arguable issue and for good reason. The Old Testament clearly calls for the death penalty on many occasions,whereas; many of the teachings of Jesus and others in the New testament readilydenounce it. Therefore, both advocates ands opponents of capital punishmenthave Biblical references to support their beliefs.
Opponents use the creation story to show that all are created in God’simage. Genesis 1:27a states that God created man in his image. 1 God, thus,has the power to give and take away life as he chooses. All men are to preservelife to the best of their ability. M.
Margaret Falls says that we cannot treatpeople as mere instruments to personal survival, success or fulfillment. 2Advocates will also utilize Genesis 1:27 to prove that because man iscreated in God’s image, man must preserve as many lives as possible, Therefore,the death of one, who has murdered many, will spare the useless and countlessdeaths of others. God’s command to preserve life seems much more important herethan the preservation of criminals. Capital punishment is never used legitimately in the New Testament.
Jesus’ constant preaching of love and forgiveness shows his contempt for theharming of others. One example of love is found in John 15:17 This is mycommand: Love each other. An example of forgiveness is Matthew 6:14 For ifyou forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will alsoforgive you. Jesus practiced what he preached by not condemning guilty persons. InJohn 8:1-11, Jesus did not let the people stone a woman that is caught inadultery.
Jesus is known for giving people second chances. Opponents of thedeath penalty think that everyone should learn from Jesus and give others asecond chance, because the execution of a criminal cannot be justified by thegood which their death may do for the rest of society. As stated before, capital punishment was commanded by God of the peoplein the Old Testament. Exodus 21:14 states that if a man schemes and killsanother man deliberately, take him away from my altar and put him to death.
Levitical 24:17 and 24b essentially say the same thing to the effect that whoever kills a man must be put to death. And lastly, Exodus 21:23 commandsthat if there is a serious injury, you are to take life for life. Genesis 9:5b-6 is the simplest statement mandating society to punishtheir fellow beings for murder3: And from each man, too, I will demand anaccounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, byman shall his blood be shed for in the image of God has God made man. Advocates stress that these verses are not a suggestion, but instead a commandthat is not to be questioned – God demands, therfore, one should obey.
Themurderer must suffer for his actions because murder is denying the image of Godin the harmed individual. To murder a man is equivalent to murdering God sinceman is created by him and in his image. The murderer, thus, did violence to Godhimself. Jesus, in a sense, rewrites the Old Testament by his lesson found inMatthew 5:38-44:”You have heard that it was said, `Eye for eye,and tooth for tooth. ‘ But I tell you, Do not resist anEvil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek,turn him the other also.
And if someone wants to sueyou and take you tunic, let him have you cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him twomiles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turnaway from the one who wants to borrow from you. “”You have heard that it was said, `Love yourneighbor and hate your enemy. ‘ But I tell you: Loveyour enemies and pray for those who persecute you. “These are commands, set forth by Jesus, to be taken literally and obeyed.
Again, M. Margaret Falls argues against capital punishment. Shebelieves that man must value in each individual his distinctively human capacityfor moral understanding – the ability to assess situations rationally, to makejudgments. She thinks that by isolating the criminal from the community,society makes it clear that the person’s behavior will not be tolerated andinsists that the wrong doer assess his action.
Punishment of this kinddemonstrates a respect for the individual.4Incarceration and rehabilitationare also two