Capital Punishment in the Bible

I’ve been following the debate over capital punishment, and Christian perspectives therein, for a while, but I have never heard anyone cite the scripture that the evangelical outpost uses: God’s covenant with Noah from Genesis 9:

5 And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.

6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.

[emphasis mine – j]

I can’t believe I’ve never heard a death penalty advocate make reference to these verses before. That’s a pretty solid quote, and goes right along with Paul’s statement in Romans 13 (also noted by an evangelical outpost commenter):

3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.

4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

I tentatively support the death penalty, by which I mean I’m in favor of it, but I’m willing to listen to reasonable arguments against it. But I don’t think that anyone can make the argument that the scriptures demand that Christians must oppose capital punishment. There are just too many examples like those above.

And by the way, speaking of death penalty decisions, be sure to read this excerpt from the Supreme Court’s recent decision in the Kentucky death penalty case, wherein Justice Scalia delivers a rhetorical pimp slap to Justice Stevens. Luv that Scalia.


  1. Kristen

    A few problems I have with the Christian argument for Capital Punishment:

    POINT ONE: I understand that time and time again in the Bible there are references to death being the penalty for crimes committed.
    (another example-Deuteronomy 19:11-13…ouch)God made it clear that if people tolerated murder, the whole community would suffer the consequences. But there are also Old Testament recounts of capital punishment being used for crimes such as rebellious children, adultery, and families being executed for sins of their father. Why do we use only the verses that refer to murder when arguing for the death penalty?

    POINT TWO: There are countless New Testament teaching on forgiveness. Jesus himself demonstrated this in the story of the adulteress women (John 8:3-11). “Then neither do I condemn you, Jesus declared, Go and sin no more.” By the laws of that day the consequence to this crime was death. (God himself even protected Cain from death after he murdered his brother-Genesis 4:10-16)

    POINT THREE: What if Moses or Paul were held to this standard. Wow, both were murderers and both Great men of the Bible.

    POINT FOUR: Our justice system is not perfect. How about when we have the wrong man? It happens…

    That being said, I think if my family were ever affected by murder, I may have a different attitude. But for now I have a hard time with Capital Punishment. Both sides of the argument have good points. To this day, I’m not even sure how I feel about it. I only know, I would not want to be the one to hit the switch…

  2. The Church’s position on capital punishment is quite clear. It’s not strictly prohibited but its use is to be reserved to when there is NO OTHER way to protect innocents in our society. The Catechism states this clearly in 2265-2267. It’s not that the Church’s position is hard to discover. But people are prone to read into this what they want to see.

    JPII lays it out most effectively in his encyclical ‘The Gospel of Life’, with a deeper discussion. He states that considering modern penal systems there is hardly any situation in which Capital Punishment is justifiable today. JPII thoroughly lays to waste all the common objections to restaint from capital punishment.

    Granted the thirst for blood and revenge is great when a crime has been commited against a loved one. I remember someone asking my elderly mother what she would ‘want’ if someone killed her only child (me). She responded, “I would probably want them to be killed too…but I truly hope that someone around me would stop me from thinking like that.”

    Finally, I’ve said regarding ProLife in America…it’s like driving with your foot on the gas and the brake at the same time. Consistancy of positions do matter.

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