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Capital Punishment


Posted by Matt Postiff February 20, 2021 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Theology 

Another installment of literacy in the Bible:

We mentioned in the video about God’s role for government and the video about abortion that God did—and still does—permit society to exercise capital punishment. This is clear from Genesis 9:6. But does this run afoul of another well-known text of the Bible in the Ten Commandments? Look at Exodus 20:13, where the sixth commandment says “You shall not murder.” In saying this, does God contradict himself? Or does Moses contradict God when he wrote “You shall not murder”?

The key to resolving this question is the difference between murder and killing. The old King James version says “You shall not kill.” But that is a bad translation. Murder and killing are two different things. Granted, they have a similar outcome for the person who is dead, but morally they are entirely different. In a just war, for example, people are killed, but the soldiers are not guilty of murder. A policeman who kills a gun-wielding perpetrator at a crime scene is not guilty of murder either. When a home invasion ends in the death of the homeowner, this is murder. When the same home invasion ends with the death of the invader, that is justifiable homicide, meaning that the homeowner is not guilty of murder because he was simply defending himself and his family.

So, the answer to our question is NO—capital punishment is not murder. Instead, it is a justifiable penalty assigned for certain horrific crimes. Otherwise, God himself would be guilty of murder for allowing and even predetermining the death of certain individuals. Even Jesus himself was killed—was God at fault? No indeed. According to 1 Peter 3:18, Jesus died in the place of unjust people so that He might bring us to God. He voluntarily came to the earth to do that. Certain humans were guilty of putting Him on the cross, to be sure. But in effect it was our sins that killed him. So are we guilty of murder?


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