Skip to comments.Paul 12:14-19 & Capital Punishment
Posted on 01/15/2005 8:47:00 AM PST by Conservative Coulter Fan
Paul advice to all Gods 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, Gods 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 Israels history from the point of view of relationship with God (32:7). Despite Gods 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 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 God. (On vengeance as a mistranslation, see Mendenhall.)
This does not touch upon the matter of whether dress of legitimate grievance should be sought, as a last resort, in the courts. (Note Pauls 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.
(Source: Bailey, Lloyd R. Capital Punishment: What the Bible Says. Abingdon Press, 1987. pp. 77-78.)
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is Gods servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience.
"Rebellion against tyranny is obedience to God."
There is a huge difference between murder and execution. Murder is forbidden and punishable by mandatory execution!
There was no "insanity defense" or "crimes of passion" excuse.
Now bad is good and good is bad; prisoners have rights and get off on technicalities and for "good behavior" after serving sentences that are an order of magnitude too light.
Amen to that, and there seems to be more compassion for cold-blooded murderers than there is for their victims while justice seems to be a discarded concept in exchange for rehabilitation.
This is the doctrine that supported the "Divine Right of Kings". The Catholic, Stewart Kings of England used this as an excuse to persecute Protestants and the Protestant, "Lord Protector" Oliver Cromwell, used the same "authority from God" doctrine to persecute Catholics and just about everybody else. It's bad government.
In the US, the "authority" from God is expressed by the will of the common people. God's authority flows from the bottom up, not the top down and is one of the major differences between Europe and the United States.
I'm not taking issue with your point and the usage was more centered on "But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer" (v. 4) showing that execution was sanctioned in the New Testament as well as the Old Testament.
"But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain!
The Bible has many opportunities to be used for mischief by quotes in and out of context.
In Isaiah 2:4, people are commended to "beat their swords into plowshares", while in Joel 3:10, the plowshares are beaten back into swords. The pacifists's have used the former as Biblical command to not defend their country, but never the latter to take up arms in defense.
As well, the Hebrew word used in the Sixth Commandment, "Thou shalt not murder" has been corrupted by pacifists into "Thou Shalt not Kill" in order to proscribe capital punishment, when it was not meant to do so. After all, it was the Jewish Pharisee's, keepers the Ten Commandments, that condemned Christ to the cross. Christ did not condemn the use of the cross, but he did question the process that led Him there. That process used the same "authority" that is mentioned above.
My concern is that man has a tendency to attempt to rule others claiming such authority from the Bible. The Bible should be our guide and our conscience, but not our authority. That belongs to God. Here, in the USA, power and authority are declared and limited in the Constitution of the United States. That document is our "earthly" scripture and our only authority, or we will become like the Middle East.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.