“Can Christians Support the Death Penalty Biblically?”
Leviticus 20:9-10, 13
What about the Commandment -Exodus 20:13
רֶצַח = traditionally means “murder” vs. killing someone or taking a life under other circumstances, i.e. war, judicial punishment.
Clearly, the Death Penalty and Capital Punishment was instituted by God –
for assaulting one’s parents
for murdering someone else
for certain sexual sins
for participating in and leading idol/occultic worship
Does the Bible endorse the Authority of the State/Government to Execute the Death Penalty? (Romans 13:1-4)
“bear the sword”
The sword is a symbol of the power delegated to governing authorities to enforce acceptable social conduct. Here we have the biblical basis for the use of force by government for the maintenance of law and order. The power to punish has been delegated by God to those who rule.*
though “the sword” might possibly be understood as only the familiar symbol of power, yet the mention of it may be taken to imply the apostle’s recognition of the legitimacy of capital punishment, such as he also expressed distinctly,“**
So, it seems rather clear that the idea of capital punishment is sufficiently included in the phrase “bear the sword.” After all, the sword is most definitely an instrument of discipline, and in the Roman culture it killed.
But this is an important fact – The State was never intended to operate the Death Penalty out from under God’s direct supervision through his priesthood.
“Top 10 Pros and Cons”***
Cost of Death vs. Life in Prison +
Physicians at Execution
(** The Pulpit Commentary: Romans ( ed. H. D. M. Spence-Jones;Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004), 390.”Keep in mind that God ordained human government, including capital punishment,” Warren W. Wiersbe, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1997, c1992), 403.
(* Robert H. Mounce, vol. 27, Romans (electronic ed.;, Logos Library System; The New American Commentary Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1995), 244.)
PRO: “Common sense, lately bolstered by statistics, tells us that the death penalty will deter murder… People fear nothing more than death. Therefore, nothing will deter a criminal more than the fear of death… life in prison is less feared. Murderers clearly prefer it to execution — otherwise, they would not try to be sentenced to life in prison instead of death… Therefore, a life sentence must be less deterrent than a death sentence. And we must execute murderers as long as it is merely possible that their execution protects citizens from future murder.”
Ernest Van Den Haag, PhD
Late Professor of Jurisprudence at Fordham University”For the Death Penalty,” New York TimesOct. 17, 1983
CON: “[T]here is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than long terms of imprisonment. States that have death penalty laws do not have lower crime rates or murder rates than states without such laws. And states that have abolished capital punishment show no significant changes in either crime or murder rates. The death penalty has no deterrent effect. Claims that each execution deters a certain number of murders have been thoroughly discredited by social science research.”
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) ”The Death Penalty: Questions and Answers,” ACLU.orgApr. 9, 2007
Cost of Death vs. Life in Prison*
PRO: “Many opponents present, as fact, that the cost of the death penalty is so expensive (at least $2 million per case?), that we must choose life without parole (‘LWOP’) at a cost of $1 million for 50 years. Predictably, these pronouncements may be entirely false. JFA [Justice for All] estimates that LWOP cases will cost $1.2 million-$3.6 million more than equivalent death penalty cases. There is no question that the up front costs of the death penalty are significantly higher than for equivalent LWOP cases. There also appears to be no question that, over time, equivalent LWOP cases are much more expensive… than death penalty cases. Opponents ludicrously claim that the death penalty costs, over time, 3-10 times more than LWOP.”
Dudley Sharp Director of Death Penalty Resources at Justice for All”Death Penalty and Sentencing Information,” Justice for All websiteOct. 1, 1997
CON: “In the course of my work, I believe I have reviewed every state and federal study of the costs of the death penalty in the past 25 years. One element is common to all of these studies: They all concluded that the cost of the death penalty amounts to a net expense to the state and the taxpayers. Or to put it differently,the death penalty is clearly more expensive than a system handling similar cases with a lesser punishment. [It] combines the costliest parts of both punishments: lengthy and complicated death penalty trials, followed by incarceration for life… Everything that is needed for an ordinary trial is needed for a death penalty case, only more so:• More pre-trial time…• More experts…• Twice as many attorneys…• Two trials instead of one will be conducted: one for guilt and one for punishment.• And then will come a series of appeals during which the inmates are held in the high security of death row.”
Richard C. Dieter, MS, JD Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information CenterTestimony to the Judiciary Committee of the Colorado State House of Representatives regarding “House Bill 1094 – Costs of the Death Penalty and Related Issues”Feb. 7, 2007
Cost of Death vs. Life in Prison*
There are more than 50,000 people in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections system:
There are 1,323 prisoners in maximum security, including those on death row. It costs us $28,652 per person per year. That comes to $37,906,596.
Another 5,970 prisoners are under medium security at a cost of $14,212 per prisoner each year. That adds up to $84,845,640.
The majority of Oklahoma prisoners are in minimum security facilities: 8,243. It takes $13,647 to house each one. The price tag: $112,492,221.
There are thousands more prisoners in community or work centers, and on probation or parole.
Death Penalty = $267,763
Max Security = $28,652
Oklahoma Population (2012) estimate
OK – 3,815,780
White alone, percent, 2012 (OK) 75.5%
Black or African American alone, percent, 2012 (OK) 7.6%
American Indian and Alaska Native alone, percent, 2012 (OK) 9.0%
Asian alone, percent, 2012 (OK) 1.9%
Oklahoma Death Row Population
State Total Black White Latino Native Amer. Asian
OK 54 21 27 3 3 0
So, with all we have reviewed – “Can Christians support the Death Penalty biblically?”
………is that all there is to Christian support of the Death Penalty?
I don’t think so…..
It is clear that the Death Penalty is supported by the Bible but – But this is an important fact – The State was never intended to operate the Death Penalty out from under God’s direct supervision through his priesthood. This element impacts:
Fairness/Equality in application
Humaneness of application
““Is Heaven and Hell a Reality?”
What did Jesus say about Heaven? Hell?
Will God really sent people to Hell?
Sources for this last lesson:
M. Pearce, M. Hennessy-Fiske, and P. Dave, “Oklahoma halts double execution after one is botched,” Los Angeles Times, April 29, 2014.
Robert H. Mounce, vol. 27, Romans (electronic ed.;, Logos Library System; The New American Commentary Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1995), 244.
The Pulpit Commentary: Romans ( ed. H. D. M. Spence-Jones;Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004), 390.”Keep in mind that God ordained human government, including capital punishment,” Warren W. Wiersbe, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1997, c1992), 403.