4/22/2009                                                                                       View Comments

If the Bible Were Law, Would You Qualify for the Death Penalty?

By Valerie Tarico

Casting an axe in the bronze ageBronze Age casting of a bronze axe. smiling_da_vinci via Flickr

This week the Supreme Court declined to review a Texas murder case in which a juror brought a Bible into the sentencing process – showing that the Bible recommends death for anyone who kills another person with an iron rod (Numbers 35:16).

Let me say for the record that I’m not against the death penalty, and in this case it sounds like the defendant fit my criteria, too. I know I'm ruining my liberal credentials here, but I frankly don’t have any moral problem with the jury condemning him to death. However, to do so based on the sanctification of a Bronze Age legal code is somewhat horrifying—especially given the list of other "crimes" that are recommended for capital punishment in the Bible.

Yes, yes, the court assures us that even though bringing the Bible into the sentencing was improper, there is no evidence that it swayed the jury. Rest assured that when the Bible and other authorities (like our judicial system ) are at odds, we can trust Texas jurors to ignore the Bible and do what is right. Even though half the country believes that God made humans in their present form because the Bible says so—we can count on Texans (school boards excepted) to follow the evidence and the constitution.

All the same, just in case an issue like this should come up in your state, thirty six different offenses in the Bible qualified for capital punishment. Do any of these apply to you?

Cursing Parents
For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him. Leviticus 20:9

Working on the Sabbath
Whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Exodus 31:15

Premarital Sex (girls only)
. . .If, however, this charge is true, that evidence of the young woman's virginity was not found, then they shall bring the young woman out to the entrance of her father's house and the men of her town shall stone her to death, Deuteronomy 22:20

Disobedience (boys only)
If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the gate of that place. They shall say to the elders of his town, "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard." Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death. Deuteronomy 21:18

Worshipping any god but Yahweh
If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the LORD thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that . . . hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded; . . .Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die. Deuteronomy 17:2-5

Witches
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Exodus 22: 18

Wizards (epileptics? migraine sufferers? schizophrenics?)
A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them. Leviticus 20:27

Loose Daughters of Clergy
And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire. Leviticus 21:9

Girls who are Raped within the City Limits
If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city . . . But if in the field the man finds the girl who is engaged, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lies with her shall die. Deuteronomy 22:23-25

Blasphemers
And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death. Leviticus 24:16

Anyone Who Tries to Deconvert Yahweh Worshipers
If anyone secretly entices you--even if it is your brother, your father's son or your mother's son, or your own son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your most intimate friend--saying, "Let us go worship other gods," . . . you shall surely kill them; your own hand shall be first against them to execute them. Deuteronomy 12:6

Men who Lie With Men
If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. Leviticus 20:13

Adulterers
And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. And the man that lieth with his father's wife hath uncovered his father's nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them. Leviticus 20: 10-12

Men who Lie with Beasts and Beasts who Lie with Men
And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast. Leviticus 20:15

So. Are you up for the death penalty?

Just so you know, it could be worse. As I am reminded by people who want me to make nice, this list represents an advancement from mob justice. They are right, and the Levitical Code would a fascinating window into human moral history were it not for the fact that juries in Texas, politicians in Colorado, and clergy in Africa all advocate the death penalty for one person or another on the basis of these texts (murderers, homosexuals, and child witches respectively).

When people put God’s name on Bronze Age documents, and then make those documents a golden calf, they get stuck with Bronze Age moral thinking. Maybe it’s time to take the Bible down off of its pedestal, and acknowledge the obvious human handprints on the texts. Maybe it's even time to do again what Thomas Jefferson did: cut the book apart, keep the parts that are worth keeping, and leave the rest on the cutting floor of history.





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9 comments:

webmdave said...

Unfortunately, many times the issue with the Bible is that the reader must understand the context of what they are reading. All scripture mentioned here is under the old covenant, believers are now under a new covenant through the cross, hence the term the "New Testament." The Law or old covenant was meant as a tutor to show Jews what the penalty of sin (justice) was in God's eyes so that they understand how much they needed a savior (Jesus Christ). Under the new covenant (after the cross), the church has been given The Ministry of Reconciliation.

The Bible is very clear that mercy triumphs over judgment and what measure of judgment we use against others will be used against us. I cannot speak for the man who used the OT to justify the death penalty but I can say this clear misunderstanding of the Bible, even amongst some believers.

As a Christian I apologize for anytime my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has been misrepresented to you through poor teaching or by poor conduct of fellow believers. We are not perfect, we are sinners that have been saved by the grace of a loving God. I pray that the Father would pour His love all over you and reveal Himself to you as He really is and bring you any clarity in scripture as you need it in Jesus' name!

"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

webmdave said...

"As a Christian I apologize for anytime my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has been misrepresented to you through poor teaching or by poor conduct of fellow believers."

Stop. Just stop. While your apologies my seem noble in your own eyes, they really are quite worthless -- just as quoting from your book of fairytales is worthless.

Do you actually think we woke up one morning and just 'decided' not to be a christian any longer? Before preaching at us, it would behoove you to learn about your audience. Spend days, weeks reading our stories before jumping to your conclusions. (And don't miss the site disclaimer either.)

In a nutshell, our apostasy has little-to-nothing to do with our feelings. It has to do with studying the bible and its history. To quote another poster here:

" I could no longer believe with my heart in a god who no longer made sense in my head."

Happy Reading.

webmdave said...

If mercy triumphs over judgment then why is there even a hell?

I am not going to try to reconcile with a pretend god. I tried that shit for several years before I finally gave up on it and dropped my faith like the bad habit it was. If god is real, he had PLENTY of chances to prove it to me AND to all of my Ex-Christian family members. Yet, here we are, reading your apologetic blathering.

I've been kicked enough by religion. I would be the worst sort of fool to invite that sort of mental abuse back into my life.

Thanks, but no thanks

webmdave said...

If mercy triumphs over judgment then why is there even a hell?

I am not going to try to reconcile with a pretend god. I tried that shit for several years before I finally gave up on it and dropped my faith like the bad habit it was. If god is real, he had PLENTY of chances to prove it to me AND to all of my Ex-Christian family members. Yet, here we are, reading your apologetic blathering.

I've been kicked enough by religion. I would be the worst sort of fool to invite that sort of mental abuse back into my life.

Thanks, but no thanks

webmdave said...

Hey, Ambassador for Christ, didn't you notice the blurb that says that there is no prosyletizng. This site is for encouraging exChristians.

Nothing merciful about a God who is sending most of humanity to Hell.

For Evil Biblegod so loved the world that he condoned the rape of women and the concept of women as property. Condoned salvery. Cursed first man and woman and all of mankind. Sent a great flood that killed untold numbers. Wrote a book that is so confusing that nobody can figure out what god is and what he really means. I could go on but I will stop there.

I will do without Evil Biblegod and I have had much peace of mind since studying the issues and rejecting this horrible version of god.

webmdave said...

As a human, I do not accept an apology from you for something you have not done to me.

Being a myth, christ can never be misrepresented, as all claims for and about him have exactly the same level of truth - NONE!

We are not perfect - this much is true, but we are not sinners. Sin is a concept invented by the abrahamic religious shamans to exercise control over the sheeple, and it has no referent outside that particular milieu. Please refrain from using that meaningless term here.

Peace,

David

webmdave said...

Apparently God modelled the bible after those trick tests:

The Good Book Test:
1. Read all the instructions first
2. Stone any adulterers among you to death.
3. Make a burnt offering of fine flour and oil.
4. Cut the last half inch of skin off the hoohahs of any male children
5. Don't eat pork.
6. If your daughters get raped, make them marry the rapist.
7. Burn the witch!
8. Kill all the unruly children.
9. Be kind to one another.
10. Write your name in the book of life. Underline it twice.
11. Yours is the one true religion, persecute anyone who says different.
12. Ignore all the previous instructions except 9... and sometimes 11.

Gee, what a joker God is. I can't imagine why people don't want to hang with him. :-/

webmdave said...

Heresy is also punishable by death, which would land a lot of us in hot water.

webmdave said...

A Believer: "As a Christian I apologize for anytime my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has been misrepresented to you through poor teaching or by poor conduct of fellow believers."

If you feel compelled to apologize, personally I think you should be apologizing for the Bible. That's what made Me a non-believer.