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Capital Punishment #6

The Misused Passages!

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

by Lloyd Bailey


CHAPTER NINE

Some Misused Texts, Pro and Con


     A discussion of the New Testament perspective on capital
punishment is likely to feature a small number of standard texts,
interpreted in ways that are highly questionable. In some cases,
the arguments are advanced by laypersons who have no formal
training in the interpretation of Scripture, but in other cases
by theologians who teach in institutions of higher learning.

Matthew 7:1.

     Jesus is sometimes quoted as having said, "Judge not!" The
implication would be that this is an absolute prohibition. Well,
not quite! I have mentioned previously that there is a common
tendency to read the sixth commandment in isolation from the
larger context of the Pentateuch. In the present case, the
tendency is carried even farther, when only part of a verse is
considered authoritative. The full verse reads, "Judge not, that
you be not judged." Even so, one still gets the impression from
modern conversation that the entire verse was meant to be a
condemnation of reaching a negative evaluation of anyone for
anything: "If you don't want to be judged, then don't judge," or
perhaps even, "God doesn't recommend that people make judgments."
Hence even the dean of a theological seminary (Methodist) has
stated, on the basis of this text, that the Christian "is warned
that it is not for him to ... judge the moral deserts of other
persons."
     The wider context makes the true meaning dear: "For with the
judgment that you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure
you give will be the measure you get" (v.2). That is, one should
not expect to be judged by God by a different standard than one
customarily uses to judge others. Clear enough, and fair enough!
This has no bearing, however, upon the undeniable necessity to
judge others. Indeed, such judgment is something which the Bible
repeatedly commands and which Moses, Jesus, and Paul regularly
do. Nonetheless, the Bible stresses that judicial decrees within
Israel must be fair and equitable. For example, "You shall
appoint judges ... and they shall judge the people with righteous
judgment" (Deut.16:18).
     Does "righteous judgment" include the execution of a
murderer? The Bible asserts this from beginning to end, without a
single demur. The sentence is set by God's torah, and a judge
cannot have discretion in the matter.
     Jesus' words, in the text under discussion, concern
interpersonal relationships between his disciples. They do not
have the judicial system of the larger society in mind and thus
should not be brought into a discussion of capital punishment.

Romans 1:26-32

     Paul, having just listed a series of "unnatural" and
"wicked" practices which characterize the pagan world, remarks,
"Though they know God's decree that those who do such things
deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who
practice them." This has been taken to mean that Paul sanctioned
the execution of such persons.
     The larger context is more complicated in this case, but it
is no less helpful for correcting this erroneous interpretation.
     Paul's preface to a discussion of God's offer of salvation
begins with an analysis of the human situation (1:18-9:20).
     Following an indictment of pagan Hellenism (1:18-92), he
suggests that the "unnatural" and "wicked" practices which he
lists are symptoms of Hellenists' refusal to acknowledge the true
God. Such persons could justifiably be left in the realm of death
("deserve to die") rather than be invited into the kingdom of
God. The situation is not hopeless, however, because God has
acted "in Jesus Christ" (9:21 f.).
     The understanding of death in this text is consistent with
the apostle's use of the term throughout his writings (Bailey,
Biblical Perspectives, pp.87-91). Thus, there this should not be
understood in the sense of execution such that the text supports
capital punishment.

John 8:3-11

     Jesus' attitude toward the "woman taken in adultery" (as the
episode from John 8:9 KJV is commonly known) is likely the most
frequently cited biblical evidence in the capital punishment
debate. Perhaps the full text (8:3-11) is worth quoting.

     The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been
caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to
Him:

"Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now
in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say
about her?" This they said to test him, that they might have some
charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his
finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood
up and said to them, "Let him who is without in among you be the
first to throw a stone at her." . . . But when they heard it,
they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus
was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus looked
up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned
you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I
condemn you; go, and do not sin again."

     Jesus, so the reasoning goes, here manifests his mission to
save the lost, to offer God's forgiveness rather than
condemnation. His followers should use this text as a model for
their own attitudes in the present, including setting aside
demands for the death penalty. "Be like Jesus" would be the
operative rule of interpretation.

     Such an approach, however attractive it may be, should take
into consideration at least the following cautions and
obstacles....


     That there are differing opinions about what this account
"means" thus illustrates the value of a basic rabbinic rule for
the interpretation of Scripture: One should not deduce "halakah"
(ethical guidelines) from "haggadah" (scriptural narrative).
     Rather, ethical guidelines are to be sought in formal
teachings, whose purpose is instruction in ethical behavior. One
trusts in that which is clear and intentional, rather than that
which is obscure and debatable....

     My point of view is that interpreters ought to listen to the
Bible's own agenda, rather than to squeeze from it implications
for their own agenda!
     The thrust of the story concerns the motives from which the
accusers have brought the woman to Jesus. Had it merely been
obedience to the historical norms of the community, they would
have proceeded with her sentence. Rather, they have used her,
with the collusion of her husband, for the purpose of entrapping
a religious leader, an entrapment that could have very serious
consequences. It is a shameful situation, far removed from the
torah's call for justice and righteousness, as the accusers
quickly realized. Many rabbis at the time, had they been present
and grasped the reality of the situation, would have joined Jesus
in His assessment. There is, therefore, nothing uniquely
"Christian" about His response. Rather, Jesus has listened to the
Bible (the "Old Testament") with an intensity that His followers
in the present would do well to begin to imitate.
     It may be instructive to note, in view of the overall agenda
of the account, that the particular prescribed punishment is
entirely beside the point. Jesus' response would still be
instructive (nothing crucial would have changed) if the charge
had been that the husband had lain with his wife during her
menstrual period (regulated by Lev.15:19-24; 20:18), for which
only corporal punishment was prescribed (Mishnah Makkot, 8.1).
Should one argue, in that case, that Jesus implies that corporal
punishment is wrong? Suppose that the crime were one for which
only a fine was mandated? Should one then argue, on the basis of
Jesus' response, that compensation is un-Christian?
6. May one indulge in substitution, as far as the woman's crime
is concerned? May modern interpreters, in seeking a precedent for
opposing capital punishment in the present, substitute murder
(the modern issue) for adultery? Would Jesus' response have been
the same? To be precise about it, we cannot know for sure.
Doubtless his observation of the accusers' motives would have
been the same, with an attendant dissatisfaction on his part.
     Nonetheless, not all capital offenses were regarded as
equally grave. Murder is singled out in the Bible as a crime for
which monetary compensation was strictly forbidden (Num.35:31),
in apparent contrast to adultery (Prov.6:32-35, where it is
stated that the husband is unlikely to accept it). Insofar as the
prophet Hosea's plea may be taken to reflect personal experience
(as opposed to a depiction of the relationship between God and
Israel), then whether or not to put his adulterous spouse to
death was his decision to make rather than a mandatory one by
society (Hos.2:1-5; see also Num.5:11-31 for such discretion, in
contrast to Deut.22:22). Murder is one of the few offenses
concerning which Israel was enjoined, "Your eye shall not pity,
but you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from Israel"
(Deut.19:13). Whereas murder was understood to be an attack upon
God (Gen. 9:5-6), adultery was initially understood only as an
attack upon the husband's property (i.e., it must always involve
a married female). One may wonder, therefore, if Jesus would have
said to a murderer, "I do not condemn you!" (So also Ryrie, p.
214.) Thus, those who seek to use this text in the debate about
execution of murderers have indulged in a bit of verbal
slight-of-hand, possibly in all innocence. (Nonetheless, during
the Hadrianic persecutions of the second century C.E., the rabbis
seem to have linked adultery with incest as one of the three
cardinal sins which could not be excused even to save a human
life, along with murder and idolatry. (See Babylonian Talmud,
Sanhedrin, 74a; Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin, 21b; Sifra on Lev.
16:16. Even so, in some cases a prior warning was necessary for
conviction: Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin, 41a.)

     May one take Jesus' response as a norm for all judicial
behavior? What would be the consequences if, in every case, the
jurors were told, "Let him [or her] who is without sin . . . "?
Presumably, Paul was right when he observed that "all have
sinned" (Rom.8:25; compare 5:12). Since we do not stone criminals
any more, would we then be forced to remark, "Let the person
without sin send this person to prison ... demand compensation
... or require rehabilitation and service in the community"? The
result would be that no one could condemn anyone for anything!
Thus the argument, when pursued to its logical conclusion, leads
to an absurdity.

(Now that is using some common sense logic. As the writer states,
if we were to answer ANY criminal, ALL the time, in the way Jesus
answered this woman caught in the act of adultery, then there
would be no need of lawyers, courts, judges, even prisons, etc.
and etc. for it would be "We have all sinned, let him who is
without sin judge and execute this person. As there is none
without sin, so be free and go sin no more." Indeed that would be
the "pat answer" for all crimes. You can bet your shirt or house,
VERY FEW law breakers would "go and sin no more." This account
cannot support the "no capital punishment" stance - Keith Hunt)


     In conclusion, whatever Jesus' attitude toward capital
punishment was, it cannot be detected from this passage. 
     The oft-repeated claim that it can rests upon many
questionable assumptions, one heaped upon the other: The text is
a genuine report of Jesus' attitude; ethical directives can be
derived from narrative, unambiguously; either the ethical
directive of this story concerns the appropriateness of capital
punishment, or one may ignore its point and propose one's own;
what Jesus once did, he would do in every instance of the
offense; Jesus' attitude in case of one offense would be the same
for all offenses.
     Surely Brown, a foremost interpreter of John, is right when
he concludes, without stating his reasoning, "One should beware
of attempts to make it [v.7] a generalized norm forbidding
enactments of capital punishment" (p.338).

(What this text and account does show is that God has the right
[of course so, who tells God what He can or cannot do?] to lay
aside the death penalty for crimes that carry the death sentence,
WHEN and FOR WHATEVER REASONS He finds fitting in any specific
context and situation. He has the right to look at the whole and
see also the hearts of people. It is also like the "State
Governor" or the "President" of the USA, has the right to
"commute" a death sentence on an individual, for specific reasons
in a specific case - Keith Hunt)

Matthew 5:43-48

     If "the woman taken in adultery" is the most commonly cited
biblical episode thought to bear on capital punishment, then
surely Jesus' words at Matthew 5:48-48 are the most commonly
quoted teaching: "Love your enemies and pray for those who
persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in
heaven.... You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly
Father is perfect." Since this advice is contrasted with an
earlier (prevailing?) attitude ("You have heard that it was
said,'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy'"), and
that attitude presumably included execution, might not Jesus'
attitude demand clemency toward those accused of capital crimes?

     It should be realized, first of all, that Jesus' contrast is
not with the Hebrew Bible (which does not advise hating one's
enemies), but with this ordinary tendency of human behavior: to
disdain one's enemies and to favor one's friends. Rather, those
who would be "sons" of Cod must pattern their behavior after that
of the Deity "who makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good,
and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (v.45). The call,
therefore, is for mature action in the day-to-day events of
ordinary life: to be without prejudice and devoid of
self-interested motives. Thus, this is in keeping with the
context of verses 17-42, where there are applications of torah
that go beyond normal expectations: not merely slaying with
weapons, but with words (vv.21-26); not merely overt sexual
activity, but inner intention (vv.27-80).

     To assume, in this context, that Jesus suddenly starts
rejecting the moral regulations of torah concerning murder is
little short of astonishing, especially in view of how the
section begins ("Think not that I have come to abolish the
law.... Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these
commandments. . ."vv.17-18).
     The intended application of Jesus' ethical teaching
concerning love of enemies must be studied within the political
context of His times. He instructs His followers (and all who
would be "sons" of God) as an aberrant rabbi within a larger
society that is under foreign (Roman) domination. He has no
authority to judge criminal cases under either Jewish (the
"small" bet-din) or Roman (the sunedrion) regulations. He has no
designated authority even to interpret torah in relation to
trials (i.e., he is not a member of the "great" bet-din). It is
not surprising, therefore, that He has nothing directly to say
about these matters.

     The Pharisaic leaders, it would seem, came to an uneasy
accommodation with their Roman masters. Taxes would be paid,
troops could be stationed, the peace would be maintained for them
by the "sunedrion," if nothing essential to Jewish life and
worship would be encroached upon by the Romans. (To be sure, this
accommodation had not come about without a certain number of
confrontations, documented by the contemporaries Philo and
Josephus. Nor did all Jewish groups accept it, foremost among
them the Sicarii who precipitate the fatal revolt in 70 C.E.).
     
     Echoes of the accommodation, and of the tension, may be
heard in the episode about taxation (Matt.22:15-22). When asked,
"Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" Jesus pointed to
the surface of a Roman coin and replied, "Whose likeness and
inscription is this?" When the questioners identified it as the
Caesar's, he said, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that
are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." In this
regard He sounds like the quietistic faction of the Pharisees who
turned from involvement in political affairs to the study and
actualization of torah in their personal lives. For them,
"governmental" problems were those of interpretation and
application of torah, for which the bet-din ("great" and "small")
was the instrument. The nitty-gritty of "secular" government
(including control of the lawless and of revolutionaries against
the Roman state) they left to others.

     While the real reasons for accommodation may have been
necessity (making the best of a bad situation) or personal gain
(in the case of some members of the sunedrion), it was possible
to give it a theological justification as well. 
     Thus Paul, as a Roman citizen and perhaps as one influenced
by his Pharisaic background, argues that "governing authorities"
were instituted by God and continue to exist by the divine will.
Thus, one ought to obey their laws and pay one's taxes to them.
To do otherwise is to resist the will of God (Romans 13).

(Again, we are back to a context, those governments that God
could say were decent and upright in a basic overall, their laws
being many that would not be against God [and we have many such
laws in our western nations that are good, proper, just, and do
serve the best interests of its citizens, i.e. the 'traffic
laws'] but in fact agree with God, then they are executing the
will of God, they are in "the spirit of the law" with God.
Remember the Bible is not a text book on "laying out ALL the laws
a nation should have for its people, under all ages and all
situations." But such passages as Paul in Romans 13, CANNOT be
applied to people and governments like that of Adolf Hitler - all
decent logic and the mind of God would NOT APPROVE of such a man
and government being in power, and God's children having to
respect and honoring it. No, God would expect His children to
DISAPPROVE of such a man and government, and if they had too, to
MOVE OUT from it, as MANY Germans did during 1939 to 1945. Some
even lost their life over ABHORRING Hitler and his goons. Some
worked quietly to save hundreds and thousands of Jews for prison
camps and the gas chambers - Keith Hunt)

     It is hardly surprising, then, that Jesus confines his
ethical concerns to in-group attitudes and activities, as the
"sons of God" await the culmination of the kingdom of Cod which
is even now beginning to manifest itself. 

     What to do with criminals, be they religious or secular, is
hardly His concern. The power to deal with them resides with the
"bet-din" or has been surrendered to the Romans. Those
judiciaries do, in fact, deal with criminals, and both of them
are sanctioned to do so by Scripture. (At least, the state could
find ample precedent in the Davidic monarchy, which claimed
divine sanction for its existence.) Jesus' circumstance and
agenda may perhaps be compared with that of the "quad preachers"
who appear from time to time on the university campus. They
appear without invitation, gather a crowd by their excited
rhetoric and overt appeal to hear, and exhort the resultant crowd
(complete with hecklers) to live a strict religious life amidst
the temptations of their environment. They warn of drink, sex,
and drugs, while urging prayer, worship, and charity. They do not
deal with the civil and criminal codes of the state, which (as
I'm sure the local district attorney would be happy to point out
to them) are none of their concern.

     There is possibly an additional circumstantial factor which
contributed to a lack of teaching concerning capital punishment.

     During the trial of Jesus, His accusers remind the Roman
procurator that "it is not lawful for us to put any man to death"
(John 18:81), and there is a late rabbinic tradition to this
effect (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 15a; Sanhedrin 41a; Jerusalem
Talmud, Sanhedrin 1.1). Nonetheless, a number of persons were put
to death. Is John in error? Were the various killings not legal
executions? Does John mean that Jesus is charged with a political
crime, and thus falls outside the jurisdiction of His accusers?
     No certain answer is possible, although the last option
seems most likely. If, however, John's statement is taken at face
value (all execution is to be sanctioned by the Roman official),
then it is interesting that there is no protest against this
policy in the pages of the New Testament. The policy would touch
at the heart of obedience to torah: The blackest crimes could not
be punished by those who were commanded to do so. All right to
execute would have been surrendered to the state, perhaps with
some such theological justification as was offered by Paul
(Rom.13). Jesus, then, would all the more have nothing to say on
the matter. As a rabbi of Pharisaic leanings on the matter of
response to Rome, He will have given assent to the theological
position that "the secular power" may condemn to death those
within its realm who violate certain of its laws.

Romans 12:14-19

     Paul's advice to "all God's beloved in Rome" might also
appear to address our topic: "Bless those who persecute you;
bless and do not curse them.... Repay no one evil for evil....
never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it
is written,'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord'"
(Rom.12:14-19). 
     Those who would use this perspective to address the issue of
capital punishment might well bear the following considerations
in mind.

1. The quotation written in this scripture is from Deuteronomy
32:35 (see also Lev.19:18). Since both Deuteronomy and Leviticus
openly and repeatedly sanction execution, God's statement that
"vengeance is mine" was in no wise understood by the teachers of
ancient Israel to bear on the matter (to say nothing of
contradicting the sanction to execute).

2. The context of the quote from Deuteronomy is a review of
Israel's history from the point of view of relationship with God
(32:7). Despite God's graciousness (vv.8-14), Israel rebelled
(vv.15-18) and incurred divine displeasure in the form of enemies
from without (vv.19-25). But then God decided to relent, in view
of the wickedness of those who had been called to act as
instruments against Israel (vv.26-34). Israel needed to do
nothing at this point, since "vengeance is mine ... and their
doom comes swiftly" (v.35). The basic assertion is that God will
act against the foreign nation. It has nothing to do with
individual ethics, and least of all to do with the issue of
execution.

3. Paul quotes this text as part of a general exhortation
concerning the daily life of the Christian (Rom.12:1-13:14). How
are they to act when they are mistreated, apparently by their
fellow Christians (Kasemann, p.349)) They are not to take justice
into their own hands, as if they had legitimate power to act.
Sovereignty (RSV, "vengeance") has not been delegated to them,
but rightly belongs to Cod. (On "vengeance" as a mistranslation,
see Mendenhall.)
     This does not touch upon the matter of whether redress of
legitimate grievance should be sought, as a last resort, in the
courts. (Note Paul's recognition of limitations: "If possible, so
far as it depends upon you," at v.18.) Courts have been
established by divine authority and are sanctioned throughout
Scripture (the Pentateuch). Nor does it touch upon the matter of
appeal to the Roman courts, which in fact Paul himself does (Acts
25:8-12). Generally, however, he advises that disputes be solved
inside the community (I Cor.6:1-7). It would be astonishing to
suppose that Paul, were he rejecting what Scripture has ordained
for Israel, would appeal to Scripture as a basis for doing so
(note his citation of Deuteronomy).

     Least of all does his advice touch upon the duties of those
who administer torah through established judiciaries. That
Christians ought, "so far as depends upon you, [to] live
peaceably with all" (v.18) is one thing; it is quite another to
decide what those in positions of authority (be they Christians
or not) should do with those who are a danger to individuals or
to society as a whole, in violation of the values of God and
humanity.

"Redemption and Reconciliation"

     Item 10 of a policy statement of the National Council of the
Churches of Christ in the United States of America, entitled
"Abolition of the Death Penalty," opposes capital punishment
because of "our Christian commitment to seek the redemption and
reconciliation of the wrong-doer, which are FRUSTRATED BY HIS
EXECUTION" (emphasis mine).

     The policy statement consists only of brief items with no
supporting rationale and thus evaluation of it becomes
precarious. What is meant by "reconciliation"? Is it the murderer
and the family of the victim? Society at large? The Deity? Does
it mean that the murderer comes to realize that such activity is
inappropriate? That the murderer is safe to re-enter society?
That the murderer has a "saving" religious experience? Not all
such goals would necessarily be "frustrated" by execution,
although the time in which to accomplish them would be shortened.
While it is true that redemption and reconciliation are major
themes in the Bible, its near-total emphasis is upon the
reconciliation of humans to God as the result of divine
initiative (Blackman). It is God alone who can assume the role of
redeemer. 
(AMEN to that last sentence. It is God who CALLS and REMOVED
spiritual blindness and brings to repentance and conversion. He
may use human instruments to teach His word, but the bottom line
is still that it is who CALLS - Keith Hunt) 

     Nowhere does the Bible itself sense a tension between those
processes and its uniform desire that a murderer not be allowed
to live. Thus, either the Deity's desires are at cross-purposes
with the Bible, or part of the Bible is an outmoded human
opinion, or the framers of the policy statement have
misunderstood the Bible and created a tension which they then
resolved in accordance with their preference. It is doubtful if
anyone would opt for the first of these three possibilities. As
for the second option, it is but another manifestation of the
belief that the Hebrew Bible ("Old" Testament) is not fully
Scripture and has been replaced by the New Testament (see chapter
5). This option also fails to realize that the relevant New
Testament texts, when studied in their context, do not depart
from the perspective of the Hebrew Bible.


"The Mind of Christ Jesus"

     Some contemporary theologians, uneasy about the use of
proof-texts to support capital punishment, propose a more
comprehensive beginning point for the discussion: "It is not what
the Bible says in a specific verse, but what it says to us
through its total message, interpreted in terms of our own
conditions, that is relevant" (Milligan, pp.117-78).
     Although this is defensible advice of long standing, it is
not without its problems. For example, what if one speaks of
verses, rather than of "a specific verse"? Or of various biblical
writers who agree with each other? Is there always, on every
topic, an undeniable "total message"? If the biblical witness is
divided (as it sometimes is), how many verses or perspectives can
be ignored? It could be (and indeed has been) argued that some
"minority" positions in the Bible are closer to our present
context than "majority" ones.
     In any case, where might this approach lead one in search of
the Bible's "total message" as regards capital punishment? Often
it is to the conclusion that we must "strive for that mind which
was in Christ Jesus ... to find the ways and means to love God
with our whole being and our neighbor as ourselves" (Milligan, p.
177).
     However admirable that may be, it should be noticed that
the entire New Testament constitutes approximately 20 percent of
Scripture, and that its reports of Jesus' words and deeds
comprise but a fraction of that. Jesus' mind, on a specific
topic, or as a whole, can hardly be proposed to be the "total
message" of the Bible.

(When you understand that the God of the Old Testament was the
ONE who became the Jesus Christ of the New Testament, then Jesus'
words and mind are HUGE, but HUGE on the issues and matters
pertaining to Bible topics - Keith Hunt)

     Furthermore, how is one to know "that mind" apart from the
careful study of specific biblical accounts of what Jesus said
and did? (THAT IS VERY TRUE - You must have the mind of Christ by
reading what He inspired to be written from Genesis to Revelation
- Keith Hunt)
     How is one to guard against the natural tendency of modern
readers to identify their own minds with that of Jesus? In the
previous chapter, I sought to assemble just such necessary
information on our topic: Jesus' acceptance of God's unchanging
torah (Matt.5:17-19), a torah wherein God's unambiguous attitude
toward murder is beyond debate; Jesus' repeated encouragement of
others to obey the guidelines of torah (Matt.5:1-4; 28:1-8),
especially if they would enter eternal life (Matt.19:16-17); and
Jesus' quotation from torah specifically about the death penalty
(Matt.15:4). It should not be overlooked, in seeking to discover
"the mind of Christ Jesus" on the issue of murder and its
punishment, that He goes beyond torah to the statement that even
verbal abuse makes one deserving of "the hell of fire" (Matt.
5:21-22).
     If one seeks to go beyond even these New Testament
proof-texts, then presumably one would need to deal with such
advice as "Judge not," "Neither do I condemn you," and "Love your
enemies." Does this suggest that Jesus' mind contradicts His
mouth (sayings)? Is this not also a form of proof-texting? In any
case, such general advice and approaches to life in the Christian
community have been examined above and found wanting (chapter 9,
"Some Misused Texts").

     In seeking for "the mind of Christ Jesus," modern
theologians are often highly selective in the materials which
they regard as an indication of that mind. Such texts as the
following are likely to be ruled out-of-court, since they may
not "fit" a preconceived mold: physically beating those with whom
he disagreed (John 2:13-15); berating those religious leaders who
disagreed with him by calling them children "of hell" (Matt.
23:15) who deserve to be sentenced to that place (Matt.
23:29-33); designated the Jews (of which He was a part) carte
blanche as children of "the devil" (John 8:44); announcing that
any place which will not receive His disciples will fare worse
than Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt.10:14-15); responding to a mother's
plea for her sick child by telling her that "it is not right to
take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs" (i.e., to
foreigners; Mark 7:24-27); constantly berating His disciples
(e.g., Mark 8:17-18), and even those in need of His help (Mark
9:19); etcetera.

     All such possible aberrations in the mind of Jesus to the
contrary, what is that mind as it relates to capital punishment?

     It can be deduced, we are told, by "not approaching these
issues by asking what this or that verse says, but by bringing an
enlightened and compassionate conscience to the issues.... the
Christian asks: What can be done, if anything, to redeem this man
and to restore his maimed or brutalized humanity?" (Milligan, pp.
177, 180),
     While it is certainly allowable for a Christian to bring
such conscience to the issue, this must not be confused with
bringing a careful and devoted study to the Bible, or with acting
in accordance with the Bible's agenda. Unfortunately, nowhere
does the Bible even hint at ones obligation to restore a
murderer's "maimed and brutalized humanity." The very concept
(explanation) runs counter to the total message of the Bible:
     Scripture does not attribute a murderer's status to societal
factors, but rather to a deliberate act of rebellion against God.

     What may be said by way of summary about "the mind of Christ
Jesus" and the issue of capital punishment? 

(1) There is no way to discover Jesus'"mind" apart from careful
study of the reports of His sayings and actions. 

(And that includes ALL the Old Testament, for Jesus was THE WORD
made flesh. He was the God of Israel, the God of the Old
Testament. He was the "I AM" speaking to Moses. All this is
proved in various studies on this Website - Keith Hunt)

(2) There is no tension between the teachings of torah on capital
punishment and the teachings of Jesus on love and forgiveness,
when the latter texts are considered in their societal and
literary contexts. Modern assertions to the contrary tell us more
about the minds of the interpreters than they do about the mind
of Jesus.

                            ..................

To be continued with "Summary, Conclusion, Queries, and
Observations."

NOTE:

When we look at ALL the Bible, which is the WORD of Jesus, as He
was ONE with the Father, and as He was the ONE that did the work
of creating, and was the God of the Old Testament, it is clear
and obvious that a nation under God would still have the law on
its books of capital punishment for certain crimes.
It BLOWS ME AWAY, blows my mind to a million bits of blubber,
that a SERIAL KILLER, a CHILD KILLER, a POLICEMAN killer, people
who PLAN murder like those in various "gangs" in the nation of
CANADA where I live, DO NOT GET CAPITAL PUNISHMENT!! Capital
punishment has been FULLY AND COMPLETELY DONE AWAY WITH, TAKEN
OFF THE LAW BOOKS, AND JUST NOT ALLOWED. WE CITIZENS CANNOT EVEN
HAVE A NATIONAL VOTE ON THE ISSUE!

FOR THOSE TYPES OF KILLERS MENTIONED ABOVE, IT IS JUST SIMPLE
JUSTICE OF GOD, THAT THEY BE EXECUTED. THEIR WORKS DESERVE THEIR
REWARD OF EXECUTION!

Keith Hunt 

Entered on this Website November 2007

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