What Does the Bible Say About the Death Penalty?

The Scriptures appear to be quite stern about capital punishment. But in practice, what was Jesus’ attitude? And for that matter, what did Almighty God really say … and do?

Does the Bible really demand death for a wide variety of offenses? Well, yes and no.

The classic artwork

The classic artwork “Cast the First Stone”

“Old Testament law commanded the death penalty for various acts,” note the theologians at Got Questions?

God was the first to set up the death penalty, agrees the conservative website Creation Tips.

However, most people are convinced that Jesus opposed capital punishment, notes author David Reagan. “In the eyes of both proponents and opponents of the death penalty, the case is closed. Jesus would be against it. But, I must protest. Most theologians, as usual, are wrong. Jesus did support the death penalty and He left a hearty biblical record proving the point. Jesus has been so remade by the modern world into a mix of Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Tiny Tim that they cannot see the Jesus clearly portrayed in the Bible. Let us look at the record.”

Indeed, the scriptures list quite a number of capital offenses, concede the Got Questions? Theologians: “murder (Exodus 21:12), kidnapping (Exodus 21:16), bestiality (Exodus 22:19), adultery (Leviticus 20:10), homosexuality (Leviticus 20:13), being a false prophet (Deuteronomy 13:5), prostitution and rape (Deuteronomy 22:24), and several other crimes. However, God often showed mercy when the death penalty was due. David committed adultery and murder, yet God did not demand his life be taken (2 Samuel 11:1-5,14-17;2 Samuel 12:13). Ultimately, every sin we commit should result in the death penalty because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Thankfully, God demonstrates His love for us in not condemning us (Romans 5:8).”


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