Biblical Use of Capital Punishment: Unconditional, Limited and Relevant Today?

C_M_C_M_ Posts: 3,173
edited February 3 in Apologetics

Coming Soon... CM

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  • reformedreformed Posts: 2,527

    It is definitely relevant today.

  • C_M_C_M_ Posts: 3,173

    Offenses Punishable by Death in Old Testament Times. Named offenses which carried the death sentence under theocracy:

    1. He that smiteth a man till he dies. Exodus 21:12.
    2. Cursing father or mother. Exodus 21:18.
    3. Owner of an ox who knows his ox to be dangerous but does not keep him in and the ox kills a person. Exodus 21:30.
    4. One with a familiar spirit: a wizard, a witch. Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 20:30.
    5. Sacrificing unto any god but the Lord. Exodus 22:21.
    6. Whoever offered children to Molech. Leviticus 20:1-10.
    7. Adultery. Leviticus 20:11.
    8. Worshiping other gods. Deuteronomy 17:1-12.
    9. A stubborn and rebellious son, a glutton and a drunkard. Deuteronomy 21:18-22.
    10. Stealing a man and selling him. Deuteronomy 24:16.

    Which of these are practical and necessary today? Is the state the life giver? Is the state under God's rule? CM

  • reformedreformed Posts: 2,527
    1. Because it is a universal principle going back to Genesis and was not specifically for the nation of Israel in the OT.
  • JanJan Posts: 269

    I've looked at all relevant passages for a research paper recently. I'll attach the final draft.

    In short, none of the commands about acpital punishment carry over to the New Testament. It is not mandatory or prescribed for the church age, and the government may not claim biblical authority for it. However, God has given all authority to the government, including that of administering the death sentence.



  • C_M_C_M_ Posts: 3,173

    When it comes to Capital Punishment, in the Bible in a Prior thread, Bill_Coley asked Reformed in the tread "Military Deployed #STOPTHECARAVAN":

    **@Bill_Coley said: ** To my reading, Scripture "demands" the death penalty for several offenses, including "murder, adultery, bestiality, rape of a betrothed virgin, male-male sexual intercourse, doing work on the Sabbath, a woman who is found not to have been a virgin on the night of her wedding, worshiping other gods, witchcraft, taking the LORD's name in vain, cursing a parent, kidnapping, rebellion against parents, having a spirit of divination."

    Bill's questions, although, not supplied with Scriptures, still demands a current answer for today. @Bill_Coley said:

    Do you believe Scripture STILL "demands" capital punishment for all of those offenses? If not, what are the specific verses that rescind the death penalty for each of the offenses for which, in your view, Scripture no longer "demands" it?

    I, too, want to know what are "the specific verses that rescind the death penalty for each of the offenses"?

    Set the records straight. CM

  • reformedreformed Posts: 2,527

    No. Bill is using a typical tactic to argue against certain universal truths by bringing in the law that was applicable to the Nation of Israel in the OT.

  • C_M_C_M_ Posts: 3,173

    Regardless, are there "...specific verses that rescind the death penalty for each of the offenses"? See above. CM

  • JanJan Posts: 269

    Ezekiel 18 rescinds the death penalty for every case in which the offender is repentant.

    There's also a precedence in 2 Sam. 12.

    The NT makes it clear that we're not under the law, for example Rom. 3:24, Rom. 6:14, Col. 2:14. Jesus already took the punishment for our sin, no matter whether the sin is a capital crime or not.

  • Bill_ColeyBill_Coley Posts: 1,736

    @Jan posted:

    Ezekiel 18 rescinds the death penalty for every case in which the offender is repentant.

    Jan, I'm not convinced of the applicability of Ezekiel 18 in the discussion about capital punishment.

    As I read the chapter, at issue is something other than a socially/theologically/administratively imposed act of justice or retribution such as the death penalty. In Ezekiel 18, sinners die (Ezekiel 18.4) and righteous people live (Ezekiel 18.9) but they aren't executed or "put to death" by the community (cf. Deuteronomy 13.9, for idolatry; Leviticus 24.6, for blasphemy; Numbers 15.32-36, for working on the Sabbath; Deuteronomy 21.18-21, for rebellion against parental authority; Joshua 20.2-3, where relatives seek revenge on their family member's killer; Leviticus 20.9, for dishonoring parents; Leviticus 20.10, for adultery). In Ezekiel 18, repentant sinners will "live" (Ezekiel 18.21) and people who turn from righteousness will die (Ezekiel 18.24) but I see nothing in the chapter that indicates the reprieve earned by repentance is from community-enforced statutory penalties such as the executions established in the Pentateuch for murder, adultery, etc.

    To my reading, the life/death rhetoric of Ezekiel 18 is much more akin to God's advisory to Adam and Eve against eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2.17) where God tells the couple they will die, but not that they will be "put to death." And of course, we know from the rest of the story that Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree without dying. Hence, it seems to me death there must mean something other than the result of authorized execution. The language of Ezekiel 18 - where sinners will "die," but aren't "put to death" - sounds to me much more in keeping with the Garden story's view of death as the ultimate consequence of unrighteous conduct than it does with the Pentateuch's vision of community-enforced real-time punishment for specific actions.

    The upshot of all this is I don't think Ezekiel 18 is applicable in the discussion of capital punishment. Or at least that's my rough cut exegesis of the chapter. I'd welcome yours.

  • JanJan Posts: 269

    Here are my reasons why I believe Ezekiel amended the Law of Moses:

    1. Ezekiel uses the same legal language and the same phrases as in the Pentateuch: "if a man", "he will die", "he will live" etc.
    2. The reason for the death penalty given in the Law of Moses is that evil is purged from Israel. Once the offender has repented, this reason is void.
    3. The reason given for mercy by Ezekiel is that the Lord has no delight in the death of the wicked. If the Lord doesn't delight in it, why do it.
    4. There's still the precedent in 2 Samuel.
    5. The Jews included these restrictions in the Mishnah and Talmud after the exile, and clearly understood them as amendmend right from the beginning.

    For a more thorough treatment, and verses and references see my paper posted above.

  • Bill_ColeyBill_Coley Posts: 1,736

    I appreciate the exchange, Jan.


    @Jan posted:

    Ezekiel uses the same legal language and the same phrases as in the Pentateuch: "if a man", "he will die", "he will live" etc.

    I contend the legal language that matters in the Pentateuch is not "if a man" or "he will die," but rather phrases such as "put to death" and "stoned to death" accompanied, as they are in all of the examples I cited, by identification of those who will carry out the sentence. Ezekiel 18 carries no direction for the community as to the method of execution for unrighteous people, or who will implement the sentences; the Pentateuch clearly does. In my view, therefore, the "legal" language is in the Pentateuch.


    The reason for the death penalty given in the Law of Moses is that evil is purged from Israel. Once the offender has repented, this reason is void.

    I agree with your reading of the death penalty's purpose in the law of Moses. My contention, however, is that there is no textual reason to conclude that the death predicted in Ezekiel 18 will result from capital punishment. The pentateuchal examples I cited in my previous post clearly command the community's involvement in offenders' deaths. There is no indication in Ezekiel 18 of the community's role in the deaths of the unrighteous.


    The reason given for mercy by Ezekiel is that the Lord has no delight in the death of the wicked. If the Lord doesn't delight in it, why do it.

    But the God who in Ezekiel 18 takes no delight in the death of the wicked, in the Pentateuch DOES command both their deaths AND the community's active participation in those punishments. It is also true, I think significantly, that the pentateuchal material provides NO clemency or pardon for guilty parties, a fact which I think speaks to its more legalistic - aka, theologically-rooted criminal justice - framework.


    There's still the precedent in 2 Samuel 12.

    God's word to David in 2 Samuel 12 is another text reminiscent of God's actions in the Eden story. In response to Adam's and Eve's disobedience, God informs the couple of consequences they will face, including painful pregnancies and struggles to produce from the land. In response to David's disobedience, God announces a forthcoming public rebellion among David's wives. Neither text makes any statutory provision for the community's role in the divine justice to be meted out as does the pentateuchal material I cited previouslsy.

    But the most challenging dimension of 2 Samuel 12 is its seemingly direct contradiction of God's announcement in Ezekiel 18.

    • In Ezekiel 18, God says "2 Why do you quote this proverb concerning the land of Israel: ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, but their children’s mouths pucker at the taste’? 3 As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, you will not quote this proverb anymore in Israel. 4 For all people are mine to judge—both parents and children alike. And this is my rule: The person who sins is the one who will die.
    • In 2 Samuel 12, Nathan tells David that among the consequences for his "utter contempt for the Lord" will be the death of his and Bathsheba's son. (2 Samuel 12.14) The person who died was NOT the one who sinned.


    The Jews included these restrictions in the Mishnah and Talmud after the exile, and clearly understood them as amendmend right from the beginning.

    It's not clear to me what you mean here. What "restrictions" are you referring to? And what specifically did they amend?

  • reformedreformed Posts: 2,527

    Wait a minute! Me and Bill agree on the exegesis of a specific passage?? HOLD THE PHONE!

  • JanJan Posts: 269

    I contend the legal language that matters in the Pentateuch is not "if a man" or "he will die,"

    But if a man schemes against his neighbor to kill him by treachery, you will take him from my altar to die. Ex 21:14.

    And if a man strikes his male slave or his female slave with the rod and he dies under his hand, he will surely be avenged. Ex 21:20

    Indeed, anyone who does any of these detestable things, even those persons who do so shall be cut off from the midst of their people. Lev 18:29

    However, the prophet that behaves presumptuously by speaking a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, and who speaks in the name of other gods, then that prophet shall die.’ Deut 18:20

    If a man is found lying with a married woman, then they shall both die. Deut 22:22

    If a man is caught kidnapping somebody from among his countrymen, the Israelites, and he treats him as a slave or he sells him, then that kidnapper shall die. Deut 24:7

    "if a man" has 31 search hits in the Pentateuch in total.

    In direct comparison:

    He oppresses the needy and the poor, and he commits robbery, and he does not return a pledge for a loan, and he lifts his eyes to the idols so he does a detestable thing. He charges interest and takes usury. Then, shall he live? He shall not live, for he did all of these detestable things. Surely he will die! His blood will be on him. Ez 18:12-13

    My contention, however, is that there is no textual reason to conclude that the death predicted in Ezekiel 18 will result from capital punishment. The pentateuchal examples I cited in my previous post clearly command the community's involvement in offenders' deaths. There is no indication in Ezekiel 18 of the community's role in the deaths of the unrighteous.

    In that case, all the above examples from the Law of Moses would also not warrant capital punishment, because their wording does not imply that the community is involved. You're proving too much with your assumption.

    But the God who in Ezekiel 18 takes no delight in the death of the wicked, in the Pentateuch DOES command both their deaths AND the community's active participation in those punishments. 

    I agree that God did not delight in the death of the wicked at the time of Moses either. He is the same God and doesn't change.However, in his wisdom he gave different commands at different times. Some commands were specific to the time in the wilderness, other commands were specific to the taking of the land, and still other commands were specific to the return to the land after the exile, such as extending mercy to the repentant sinner.

    The Law of Moses forbids taking interest on loans. This is neither a food law nor a ceremonial law, but with absolute clarity a moral law. If it was immoral to charge interest at the time of Moses, why was this command not extended into the chrurch age? Did moral standards change? (Hint: not the moral standards changed, but the circumstances changed. Same with extending mercy to the sinner.)

    But the most challenging dimension of 2 Samuel 12 is its seemingly direct contradiction of God's announcement in Ezekiel 18.

    In 2 Samuel 12, Nathan tells David that among the consequences for his "utter contempt for the Lord" will be the death of his and Bathsheba's son. (2 Samuel 12.14) The person who died was NOT the one who sinned.

    You've already named it. It's the consequence, not punishment on the son. If, in fact, babies who die are saved by default, this was consequence not even has eternal implications.

    It's not clear to me what you mean here. What "restrictions" are you referring to? And what specifically did they amend?

    Here a quote from Darrin Belousek, "Capital Punishment, Covenant Justice and the Cross of Christ: The Death Penalty in the Life and Death of Jesus", Mennonite Quarterly Review 83, July 2009. He gives plenty of scholarly sources for this claim.

    In the Mishnah, the Jewish rabbinical authorities sought to balance the Torah’s profound respect for the value of human life and the Torah’s clear instruction that certain crimes were to be punished by death.23 They did so by retaining the death penalty in principle but restricting it in practice even further than did the Torah, establishing stringent criteria and instituting elaborate procedures that erected barriers to the legal execution of a death penalty.24 The death penalty is never abolished in Jewish law, but rather is so qualified “as to make execution a virtual impossibility,” as Gerald Blidstein, a professor of Jewish law, comments: “Jewish law abolished capital punishment in fact not by denying its conceptual moral validity but rather by allowing it only this conceptual validity.”25

  • Bill_ColeyBill_Coley Posts: 1,736

    The broader context of the verses you cited in your most recent post matters, Jan:


    But if a man schemes against his neighbor to kill him by treachery, you will take him from my altar to die. Ex 21:14.

    Notice the "but" at the beginning of this verse, a conjunction that raises curiosity about what came before the verse. In Exodus 21.12 the command is that those who assault and kill other people "must be put to death." That verse signals the manner of the "death" reported in Exodus 21.14: The community will execute violators. (In fact, the NLT acknowledges that meaning in its translation of the verse: "However, if someone deliberately kills another person, then the slayer must be dragged even from my altar and be put to death.")


    And if a man strikes his male slave or his female slave with the rod and he dies under his hand, he will surely be avenged. Ex 21:20

    Clearly someone or group will act to avenge the deaths of slaves at their owners' hands. Again, the community or its representative(s) implements the punishment, something for which provision is not made in Ezekiel 18.


    Indeed, anyone who does any of these detestable things, even those persons who do so shall be cut off from the midst of their people. Lev 18:29

    Cutting people off from the community is an action that will include the community's participation. There is no indication of the community's role in the deaths commanded in Ezekiel 18.


    However, the prophet that behaves presumptuously by speaking a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, and who speaks in the name of other gods, then that prophet shall die.’ Deut 18:20

    I don't think it's clear whether the false prophet's death here comes as the result of community-enacted execution or direct divine action. (cf Deuteronomy 21.19) Still, what gets the prophet in trouble is not that he is a prophet, but that he prophecies when not commanded to, and in the names of other gods. The legal language here, then, describes the conduct and the punishment, not the actor.


    If a man is found lying with a married woman, then they shall both die. Deut 22:22

    You quoted only the first half of this verse. In the second half God says "In this way, you will purge Israel of such evil." Clearly, the deaths of the man and the woman commanded in the first half of the verse will come at the hands of the community.


    If a man is caught kidnapping somebody from among his countrymen, the Israelites, and he treats him as a slave or he sells him, then that kidnapper shall die. Deut 24:7

    Again you quoted only the first half of the verse. And again the second half of the verse reports the community's involvement in the prescribed executions: "In this way, you will purge the evil from among you."


    "if a man" has 31 search hits in the Pentateuch in total.

    I fail to see the significance of the phrase "if a man" other than as the identification of the person whose conduct is the subject of the forthcoming commentary and/or command. Prescribed punishments almost always refer to specific persons, which makes necessary phrases such as "if a man." But the necessary legal language in those verses does not identify perpetrators, but rather their offending conduct and that conduct's consequences/punishment, which is almost always carried out by the community in Exodus, but is NOT so prescribed in Ezekiel 18.


    In direct comparison:

    He oppresses the needy and the poor, and he commits robbery, and he does not return a pledge for a loan, and he lifts his eyes to the idols so he does a detestable thing. He charges interest and takes usury. Then, shall he live? He shall not live, for he did all of these detestable things. Surely he will die! His blood will be on him. Ez 18:12-13

    My point is that nowhere in the Ezekiel 18 narrative is there specific reference to the community's involvement in the deaths of those who commit proscribed acts. In the pentateuchal material, on the other hand, the community's involvement is almost always explicitly stated.



    In that case, all the above examples from the Law of Moses would also not warrant capital punishment, because their wording does not imply that the community is involved. You're proving too much with your assumption.

    I contend that the review of those verses' broader contexts which I just offered makes clear that their wording indeed DOES imply - frequently, basically declares - that the community is involved.



    I agree that God did not delight in the death of the wicked at the time of Moses either. He is the same God and doesn't change.However, in his wisdom he gave different commands at different times. Some commands were specific to the time in the wilderness, other commands were specific to the taking of the land, and still other commands were specific to the return to the land after the exile, such as extending mercy to the repentant sinner.

    The Law of Moses forbids taking interest on loans. This is neither a food law nor a ceremonial law, but with absolute clarity a moral law. If it was immoral to charge interest at the time of Moses, why was this command not extended into the chrurch age? Did moral standards change? (Hint: not the moral standards changed, but the circumstances changed. Same with extending mercy to the sinner.)

    Your argument here seems to be that God never changes, but the standards by which God distributes mercy do. In my view, mercy is so fundamental to God's character that if the requirements for it change, we have to say so does God.

    Your interest on loans example for me raises the question what changed in the church age - or before we got to it - in God's vision of right and wrong that changed interest to economically challenged people from being wrong in the time of Moses (Exodus 22.25) but not wrong in the church age?

    I ask the same question about most of the capital offenses cited in the OT. If God deemed working on the Sabbath to be worthy of death then, how is it not treated far more harshly today in the eyes of the faithful? God used to want people to die for that offense, but now, nothing? I don't understand such a dramatic transformation of the punishment's consequences.


    You've already named it. It's the consequence, not punishment on the son. If, in fact, babies who die are saved by default, this was consequence not even has eternal implications.

    I think "consequence" and "punishment" are functional synonyms in this instance. Here's Nathan's sentencing words to David:

    13 "Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan replied, “Yes, but the LORD has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin. 14 Nevertheless, because you have shown utter contempt for the word of the LORD by doing this, your child will die.”  (2 Samuel 12.13-14, NLT)


    Nathan's message is "God forgives you, David. In this case, that means you won't die, but it does not mean you're going to escape punishment. Your punishment is the death of your child."

    How can the death of his son NOT be seen as punishment for David's sin? Do you have any doubt that David saw the death as a punishment? In this instance, I contend "consequence" and "punishment" are synonyms.

  • JanJan Posts: 269

    Okay, for arguments sake let's assume you're right, and Ezekiel did not abrogate the death sentence for repentant sinners. Still, the Lord clearly proclaims that the repentant sinner will live.

    For practical purposes, please explain, assuming someone has committed a capital crime, and repents, shall that man die (i.e. be executed), or live (i.e. be pardoned)?

  • Bill_ColeyBill_Coley Posts: 1,736

    @Jan posted:

    Okay, for arguments sake let's assume you're right, and Ezekiel did not abrogate the death sentence for repentant sinners. Still, the Lord clearly proclaims that the repentant sinner will live.

    I may well have not made my point clearly, Jan. If not, I apologize.

    My point had nothing to do with the abrogation of the death penalty, whether in Ezekiel or any other Bible book. My point was simply that in my view, Ezekiel 18 is not applicable in discussions about capital punishment because there is no indication in the chapter that the death God predicts/commands there will come from community- or state sponsored action (i.e. executions). In the pentateuchal material, as I think I showed, punitive death clearly is the result of such community action.

    In short, I don't think Ezekiel is talking about the death penalty in Ezekiel 18, so its abrogration is not at issue. He's rather referring to death as the ultimate end of the unrighteous, in a way akin to the death God promised to Adam and Eve in the warning them against eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The couple didn't die when they ate the fruit, which to me means their predicted "death" was something other than a punitive sentence imposed circa their act of disobedience.

    Consider this section from Ezekiel 18:

    27 And if wicked people turn from their wickedness, obey the law, and do what is just and right, they will save their lives. 28 They will live because they thought it over and decided to turn from their sins. Such people will not die. 29 And yet the people of Israel keep saying, ‘The Lord isn’t doing what’s right!’ O people of Israel, it is you who are not doing what’s right, not I. 

    30 “Therefore, I will judge each of you, O people of Israel, according to your actions, says the Sovereign LORD. Repent, and turn from your sins. Don’t let them destroy you! 31 Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O people of Israel? 32 I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign LORD. Turn back and live! 

    Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Eze 18:27–32). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.


    Both the tone and content of that passage suggest to me that the objective of God's death threats is to lead people to repentance, to prompt them to "(think) it over and (decide) to turn from their sins." Repentance, not punishment, is the focus of Ezekiel 18. And what punishment is promised in the chapter is ultimate, not in real time.


    For practical purposes, please explain, assuming someone has committed a capital crime, and repents, shall that man die (i.e. be executed), or live (i.e. be pardoned)?

    [NOTE: In full disclosure, I am personally a VERY passionate opponent of capital punishment.]

    I know of no biblical abrogation of the death penalties imposed in the Pentateuch. @reformed argues that many of those punishments were meant exclusively for the nation of Israel, but I've never found textual support for that claim and he's never provided it. (Perhaps he will in response to this post?)

    My personal view is that a lengthy term in prison - usually life - IS appropriate accountability for a capital crime, and it is NOT a "pardon." I believe NO ONE should EVER be executed for his or her crimes, regardless of the existence of repentance.

  • JanJan Posts: 269

    When looking at the whole context of Ezekiel, the book does command community action against the unrepentant offender.

    When I say to the wicked, ‘Surely you will die,’ and you do not warn him and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way so that he may live, that wicked person will die because of his guilt, and from your hand I will seek his blood. Ez 3:18.

    Also, the alternatives make little sense. When the Lord said to Adam that he would surely die when eating the fruit, that implied that Adam would not die when being continously obedient. Had Adam not eaten the fruit, he would be living to this day. However, a repentant sinner of Ezekiels day would have died a natural death at some point, equally to an unrepentant sinner. They both die a natural death.

    So the other alternative is to interpret life/death in an allegorical sense (which I generally reject as it opens all possible doors to eisegesis, but for the sake of argument let's consider it). Life would mean eternal life in heaven, and death would mean eternal death in hell. However, this flatly contadicts both the Old Testament view of the afterlife, according to which every soul goes to Sheol after death, as well as New Testament taching that we gain eternal life through faith and not through obedience to the law. So unless you can provide passages to corroborate this kind of interpretation, I'll consider it eisegesis.

    I know of no biblical abrogation of the death penalties imposed in the Pentateuch. @reformed argues that many of those punishments were meant exclusively for the nation of Israel, but I've never found textual support for that claim and he's never provided it. (Perhaps he will in response to this post?)

    According to Colossians 2:14 not relevant for Christians.

    My personal view is that a lengthy term in prison - usually life - IS appropriate accountability for a capital crime, and it is NOT a "pardon." I believe NO ONE should EVER be executed for his or her crimes, regardless of the existence of repentance.

    I agree partly.

    Under the Noahic and Mosaic covenants, the death sentence was prescribed. Not carrying it out to the letter would have been disobedience against God. The instruments against miscarriage of justice were manifold (by the way, none of which are any longer observed by any authorities that execute guilty offenders), and God intervened to pardon repentant offenders, before the 400 silent years, he did it directly through a prophet (David/Nathan), but made it a general rule for the time during which there were no prophets in Israel (Ezekiel).

    As for today, I fully agree. A life sentence should be the maximum sentence for a capital crime. Capital punishment is not mandated in the New Testament.

  • Bill_ColeyBill_Coley Posts: 1,736

    @Jan posted:

    When I say to the wicked, ‘Surely you will die,’ and you do not warn him and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way so that he may live, that wicked person will die because of his guilt, and from your hand I will seek his blood.

    Some observations about this verse:

    1) As with the accountability predicted in Ezekiel 18, this verse does NOT define the community's role in the death of "the wicked." How could the community have known they were to execute those deemed to be "wicked" if, unlike in the law of Moses, they were not instructed as to what constituted wickedness? That is, in the pentateuchal material, the wickedness deserving death is defined in specific, statutory language; in this this verse, it's not.

    2) In Ezekiel 3.20, sentenced to die are righteous people who "turn away from their righteous behavior and ignore the obstacles" God puts in their way. In Ezekiel 3.21, the proscription seems to be against nothing more specific than "sin." How was the community to interpret their responsibility in such open-ended commands? That they should execute ANY unrighteousness or sin, especially from those previously deemed righteous? My point in our exchange has been and remains that in Ezekiel there is no administrative/judicial/structural component to the prescribed "death" as there is in the pentateuchal material, a fact which in my view means Ezekiel is not talking about capital punishment.



    Also, the alternatives make little sense. When the Lord said to Adam that he would surely die when eating the fruit, that implied that Adam would not die when being continously obedient. Had Adam not eaten the fruit, he would be living to this day. However, a repentant sinner of Ezekiels day would have died a natural death at some point, equally to an unrepentant sinner. They both die a natural death.

    I take your point, but think things are more complicated than your analysis suggests. In Genesis 3.22 - AFTER both the threat of death should they eat the forbidden fruit and the punishment meted out for their doing so - God says, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!”  What kind of death sentence from God was it if the couple's eating from a different tree in the garden could have overridden it?



    So the other alternative is to interpret life/death in an allegorical sense (which I generally reject as it opens all possible doors to eisegesis, but for the sake of argument let's consider it). Life would mean eternal life in heaven, and death would mean eternal death in hell. However, this flatly contadicts both the Old Testament view of the afterlife, according to which every soul goes to Sheol after death, as well as New Testament taching that we gain eternal life through faith and not through obedience to the law. So unless you can provide passages to corroborate this kind of interpretation, I'll consider it eisegesis.

    I think a strong case can be made - but in another post, at some other time! - that the Old Testament's view of afterlife changes over time. Early in OT history, clearly Sheol is the only end for all persons. Later, however, in some of the prophets, for example, that changes and we see hints of a belief in an afterlife other than Sheol.

    That said, I acknowledge my own confusion about the kind of death referenced in Ezekiel. It's not clear to me how we're supposed interpret God's words as the prophet presents them to us. What I am much more confident of, however, is my contention that Ezekiel does not couch death in terms of community-implemented justice - i.e. capital punishment.



    According to Colossians 2:14 not relevant for Christians.

    If you're contending that Colossians 2.14 renders the OT's capital offenses irrelevant, I disagree. The verse says Jesus canceled the "debt" of our sins that resulted from violation of the law, but it does not say Jesus canceled the judicial punishments associated with those violations.

    Such an argument, it seems to me, avoids a central question that I posed earlier: If working on the Sabbath was such a serious offense to God in the OT that God wanted people executed for it, how is it that in the church age there are NO judicial penalties at all associated with it? How did that action morph from a capital offense to no offense? People of good faith differ as to whether it should be a capital offense, but everyone agrees that murder is still a crime today. Was God wrong to demand the death of Sabbath workers? If God wasn't wrong, then what changed that there are basically no sanctions against them today?



    Under the Noahic and Mosaic covenants, the death sentence was prescribed. Not carrying it out to the letter would have been disobedience against God. The instruments against miscarriage of justice were manifold (by the way, none of which are any longer observed by any authorities that execute guilty offenders), and God intervened to pardon repentant offenders, before the 400 silent years, he did it directly through a prophet (David/Nathan), but made it a general rule for the time during which there were no prophets in Israel (Ezekiel).

    We'd strongly disagree about the OT's capital punishment regulations were I to post at length about them [In brief: I think the Pentateuch's writers misunderstood God, that God never wanted disobedient sons stoned to death, for example (Deuteronomy 21.18-21)]

    One of the great challenges of understanding the Bible, I contend, is that the God who intervened to pardon repentant offenders (King Hezekiah comes to mind) ALSO ordered the deaths of innocent men, women, and children in genocidal assaults. (Deuteronomy 2.32-34; Joshua 10.28-42; 1 Samuel 15.1-3, for example)



    As for today, I fully agree. A life sentence should be the maximum sentence for a capital crime. Capital punishment is not mandated in the New Testament.

    I value our common ground.

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