Skip to comments.Matthew 7:1 & Capital Punishment ("Judge not??)
Posted on 01/15/2005 8:55:23 AM PST by Conservative Coulter Fan
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 not be 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 dont want to be judged, then dont judge, or perhaps even, God doesnt 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 clear: 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 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 Gods torah, and a judge cannot have discretion in the matter.
Jesus words, in the text under discussion, concern interpersonal relationships between 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.
(Source: Bailey, Lloyd R. Capital Punishment: What the Bible Says. Abingdon Press, 1987. pp. 66-67.)
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