Elon, North Carolina
An updated and revised version of this teaching can be found at the following link – http://www.elonsmallgroup.com/the-sixth-commandment-2/. The Sixth Commandment is a very short verse. It is only four words in some Bibles (“You shall not murder” (ESV, NASB), three words in others (“Do not murder”) but only two words in the Hebrew. It is a very important verse. This is a very controversial commandment. Christians have some very different ideas as to what this commandment means.
We want to look at what this commandment means, what other Christians have said about this commandment, what Jesus said about the Sixth Commandment, what skeptics have said about this commandment and how it applies to us today. I want to look at the text theologically, as well as practically. What exactly does this commandment forbid?
History of the Translation
How should the Sixth Commandment be translated? Some bibles read, “You shall not kill”. Others read, “You shall not murder”. I spent the last week looking at the history of the translation of this verse from the beginning to the present day. It is fascinating. The very earliest translations of the Bible said “Thou shalt not kill.”
John Wycliff (1395) was the first one to ever translate the Bible into English. He translated Exodus 20:13, “Thou schalt not sle (slay)”. To slay means to kill. Slay was later changed to “kyll” in the 1500s. “Thou shalt not kyll” was the reading of the Tyndale Bible (1534), the Coverdale Bible (1535), the Taverner’s Bible (1539) and the Bishop’s Bible (1568).
That was the Old English word for kill. A few years later, the word “kyll” was spelled kill. ”Thou shalt not kill” was the reading of the Geneva Bible (1587), King James Bible (1611). “Thou shalt not kill” was the universal reading of the passage for three to four hundred years.
The first bible translation which reads “You shall not murder” was in 1746. The earliest English translation of the modern rendering which I have been able to find is in 1746. In the 1800s and 1900s, other Bibles also gave the same translation “you shall not murder”. That took place in the middle of the 1800s. This trend has continued up to the present day.
Today, nearly all modern translations read “You shall not murder,” including the New King James Version. There was no conspiracy. It was done by everyone, Jewish translators and Christian translators, liberals and conservatives. Today, very few Bibles keep the old rendering “You shall not kill”.
Difference between Murder and Killing
Some have said, “Why don’t we kill people to kill people to show that killing is wrong”. What’s the problem with that philosophy? It confuses killing with murder. Killing is NOT the same as murder. Someone dies in both cases but the two words are not interchangeable. While it is true that all murder is killing, all killing is NOT murder. There a big difference between killing and murder?
|Intentional and planned||Can be accidental|
|Always wrong||Not always wrong|
|Never Justified||May be Justified|
|A Crime||Not a Crime|
|Expressly forbidden by God||At times prescribed by God|
|Motivated by hate||Motivated by justice|
|Bad motives (motivated by anger)||May have good motives (protect yourself or family)|
If the KJV is right and the Sixth Commandment says, “Thou shalt not kill”, then all killing would be wrong. If you believe that all killing is wrong, then the following would be true.
1) It would mean that it is wrong to hunt.
Some people believe that it is even wrong to kill so much as a fly or a mosquito. Insects have rights.
2) It would mean that it is wrong to wear a fur coat.
If it is wrong to kill animals, it is wrong to wear fur coats because that represents suffering and injustice to animals?
3) It would mean that it is wrong to own a gun.
It would mean that we cannot be a member of the NRA.
4) It would mean that it is wrong to eat meat.
We all have to be vegetarians and stop eating those nice juicy steaks.
5) It would mean that it is wrong to defend yourself when attacked.
Self-defense would be wrong. Studying martial arts would be unchristian. Jesus said, “If anyone slaps you on the face, turn the other check”. Some say that it is unchristian to defend your family if someone breaks into your home.
6) It would mean that it is wrong to fight in war.
They believe that was is mass murder. It would be wrong to join the army. That would be an unchristian profession.
7) It would mean that it is wrong to put people to death.
If all killing is wrong, then capital punishment is wrong.
Which Translation is Correct?
What does the original language say? The Hebrew is not very helpful here. The Hebrew word ratsach is used about 47 times in the OT. It can mean kill or it can mean murder. Both translations are possible. The word ratsach can mean premeditated murder (I Kings 21:19; II Kings 6:32; Judges 20:4; Job 24:14). It is used of a lion killing its prey which certainly is not accidental (Proverbs 22:13).
Does ratsach always means murder? No. Sometimes it means accidental killing (Deuteronomy 4:41-42; 19:4-5; Numbers 35:6-31; Joshua 20:3-5). The word has several different meanings, like most words in English. You cannot tell from the word itself. You have to look at the context. This commandment is NOT an absolute prohibition against killing. It doesn’t mean that killing is always wrong.
In the context of the Mosaic Law, the KJV translation is impossible. The verse CANNOT mean “Thou shalt not kill” because certain kinds of killing were allowed in the Mosaic Law. It was not only allowed, it was prescribed. That would contradict the rest of the Mosaic Law.
a) The killing of animals was allowed in the Mosaic Law.
There were many different types of animal sacrifices in the Law of Moses (sin offerings, burn offerings, trespass offerings, peace offerings). In the OT, you were allowed to kill animals for food (Genesis 9:1-3). Hunting of animals was allowed (Proverbs 12:27). In fact, in the Law of Moses, there were animal sacrifices. None of this was considered a violation of the Sixth Commandment.
b) Going to war was allowed in the Mosaic Law
God commanded people to go to war in the OT (Numbers 31:3-7; Deuteronomy 20:1-4; Judges 3:10).
c) The death penalty was allowed in the Mosaic Law.
The penalty for breaking the Sixth Commandment was death. Exodus 21:14 says, “if anyone schemes and kills someone deliberately, that person is to be taken from my altar and put to death” (NIV). Leviticus 24:17, 21 says, “Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death… Whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a human being is to be put to death.”
Numbers 35:16-18 says, “‘If anyone strikes someone a fatal blow with an iron object, that person is a murderer; the murderer is to be put to death. Or if anyone is holding a stone and strikes someone a fatal blow with it, that person is a murderer; the murderer is to be put to death. Or if anyone is holding a wooden object and strikes someone a fatal blow with it, that person is a murderer; the murderer is to be put to death.”
In order to convict someone of murder, you had to have more than one witness to the crime (Deuteronomy 17:6-7; 19:15). That makes conviction harder because when will there be two witnesses to the crime. How often would two people see a murder take place? It also made it easy to frame someone for murder. That is one difference between the American and Jewish legal system. We have something better than witnesses. It is called DNA. Witnesses might lie or think they saw something that they didn’t. DNA does not lie but it also was not discovered until 1950.
d) Killing in self-defense was allowed in the Mosaic Law
Exodus 22:2-3. This is a case of breaking and entering. Here we have a home invasion that takes place at night by a thief. Keep in mind that when this was written, there was no electricity. You couldn’t turn the light on to see who it was. In this case, a fight breaks out between the homeowner and the intruder. Deadly force is used and the intruder dies. God says the homeowner is not guilty of murder (22:2).
There is no punishment. You don’t even have to flee to a city of refuge. God says you have the right to protect and defend yourself and your family from intruders at night. Jesus said something similar in the NT (cf. Luke 12:39). God also said in Exodus that if the homeowner killed the person the next day, it was considered murder (22:3). In that case, it would no longer be self-defense but revenge. This is the biblical basis for what is called in the law today “the castle doctrine” (the right of homeowners to use deadly force to repel an invader).
Did Jesus Prohibit Self-Defense?
There are some Christians who believe that it is wrong to defend yourself. They believe that this is what Jesus taught. He said, “But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:39-42).
This is one of the most radical sayings of Jesus. Many people have completely misunderstood it. Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi responded to injustice with civil disobedience. They advocated peaceful resistance to evil, nonviolent resistance. That is not what Jesus said. He did not say, “Resist evil people but do it nonviolently and passively”. He said, “Don’t resist evil people” (Matthew 5:39).
What does this mean? Are we never to stand up for ourselves? Is Jesus asking us all to be doormats? Does it mean that we have to submit to abuse? Is it wrong to defend yourself? Are we just supposed to turn the other cheek when someone hits us? Does that mean that we are to turn the cheek to terrorists as well? Jesus said that we are not to resist evil men? What does that mean? Does it mean that we are not to resist Hitler? There are several things that you should know about this passage.
1. This is hyperbole
This is exaggeration. Jesus often used exaggeration to make a point. Jesus said, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20-21). Can we move literal mountains as we are driving down the road with our faith? Jesus said we don’t even need much faith to do that. We only need faith as small as a mustard seed to do that. It is hyperbole. Matthew 5:39 is hyperbole as well.
How do we know? Let’s let Jesus interpret his own words. Jesus did interpret this literally. Right after Jesus was arrested; he was handcuffed and taken to the high priest. The high priest asked him a question. He answered the question. When one of the officers of the high priest didn’t like his answer, he slapped Jesus in the face (see John 18:19-23).
Jesus was not silent. He did not just turn the other cheek. He protested and objected to the abuse. He said, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?”” Jesus did not turn the check literally when he was slapped and the Apostle Paul did not either (Acts 23:2-5).
2. This is dealing with individuals, not the state
He is not dealing with how the state functions. He is talking about individuals. “YOU have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’But I tell YOU, do not resist an evil person. If ANYONE slaps YOU on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also”. Why is this important? Jesus told individuals not to resist evil but he did not tell nations or to the state to do that.
In fact, the Apostle Paul said that one of the jobs of the state is to punish evil-doers or criminals (Romans 13:1-4). The state is to resist evil men. They have the power of the sword. It is to do the exact opposite of what Jesus said in Matthew 5. It is the job of the state to resist evil. If a police officer sees a murder taking place, they will not reason with the perpetrator and quote Gandhi. He will pull out his revolver and administer justice to protect people. In the same way, Hitler was not defeated by love. He was defeated by force.
3. This is not dealing with a self-defense situation
Jesus says, “If anyone SLAPS YOU on the right cheek”. We are dealing here with a slap on the face with an open hand, not a punch in the face with a closed fist. A slap was an insult done by someone in authority. The goal of a slap on the cheek was not so much to injure someone but to insult and humiliate that person.
If I face someone and punch or slap them, it would land on their left cheek. The only conceivable blow that would land on the right cheek would be a slap with the back of the right hand, assuming that I am right handed (as the majority of people in the world are). We are talking about a back handed slap. It was painful. It was humiliating. It was insulting. It was demeaning. It is like someone spitting on you but it was NOT a life or death situation.
It had nothing to do with self-defense. It had to do with a slap, not a punch. It has nothing to do with defending yourself when someone attacks you. Jesus is not saying here that you can’t defend yourself or your family. Jesus told his Apostles to buy a sword to defend themselves. Luke 22:35-36 says, “Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.”
That is very strange. Before his death, Jesus commanded his Apostles to buy a sword. That is not the Jesus we normally think of. The one who said, “turn the other cheek” here says, “Go buy a weapon”. He did not tell them to go overboard. He said that two was enough but He did tell them to buy a weapon. The Greek word used here (μάχαιρα) means, not a big sword (like a bayonet or a samurai sword), but a short sword (more like a dagger) that travelers would use against robbers.
Jesus wouldn’t tell his Apostles to buy a weapon, would he? Many do not like this passage and so they say that the sword must be symbolic. The problem is that all of the other things in the verse are literal (purse, bag, sandals), so this must be as well. If it is symbolic, it would be symbolic of protection from danger, since that was the purpose of a sword. If you are going to be in a dangerous situation, you might need to get something for protection (e.g., pepper spray).
If Matthew 5:39 us not talking about self-defense, what is it talking about? It is talking about revenge. In the Bible, there is a difference between self-defense and revenge. In self-defense, your life is in danger. The goal with self-defense is to stay alive. The goal of revenge is to hurt someone else. You want to get even with someone and get back at them for something they did to you.
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’” (Matthew 5:38). Who said that? The OT said that. Moses said that three times (Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:17-20; Deuteronomy 19:21). The Code of Hammurabi (196, 200, 230) said it as well in 1772 BC. That is the Babylonian Law Code of ancient Iraq (1772 BC). It is one of the oldest law codes in history. It existed even before the Law of Moses. There is a common myth about these laws called lex taliones. Many think that these types of laws are primitive and barbaric. That is simply not true.
These laws were good (an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a life for a life). They were to be used by judges in a court setting. It is a principle of fairness. The punishment should fit the crime. The original law was actually used to limit violence, not encourage it. An eye for an eye, not two. It was used to break the cycle of violence. If someone took you eye, you could not take their life and the life of their whole family.
The problem is that in Jesus day “an eye for an eye” was used to encourage violence and revenge. It was used to justify personal vendettas. That is the way we use the term today. It is no longer used in a court setting. It is now used in a personal setting. It is used of taking the law into your and getting even with someone. It is the theme of many movies. If you hadn’t notices, men and women do not like the same kind of movies. Many men like action movies.
How many action movies today have a common theme? The first ten minutes or so, the villain in the movie slaughters a bunch of people. The rest of the movie, the main character slaughters everyone else and gets revenge. The actors are different but the theme is the same: Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Chuck Norris in martial arts movies; Sylvester Stallone in “Rambo” movies, Charles Bronson in the “Death Wish” movies and John Wayne in the old Westerns.
We like revenge movies. If someone slaps you on the face, your natural reaction is to slap him back and hit the person harder. That is our natural inclination. Yasser Arafat, former head of the PLO, once said, “We don’t believe in turning the other cheek. If someone hits us in the cheek, we hit back twice as hard”. We say, “Don’t get mad, get even”. The Bible says something else.
“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written: “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:9). Many think that that is NT teaching and that the God of the OT was violent and bloody. Actually Paul is just quoting the OT. Romans 12 is just a quotation from Deuteronomy 32. Vengeance was wrong in the OT and it is wrong in the NT. We don’t have to do that because God promises to do that for us and He can do a much better job than we can. We are not to return evil for evil.
You say, “Paul has some great teaching on vengeance but did he practice it?” II Timothy 4:14 says, “Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm or ‘did me much evil’ (KJV). The Lord will repay him for what he has done.” He did evil to Paul. We don’t know what he did but in some way he did something bad to Paul. Instead of Alexander the metalworker, we could fill in the name of someone else in who did evil to us. Paul did not take matters into his own hands. He said that God is going to repay him.
Relevance of the Sixth Commandment Today
Murder is found in every culture and people. It is as old as the first child born on the planet was a murderer. The first child that Adam and Eve had was named Cain and Cain, not only committed murder, he murdered a sibling. He murdered his own brother. That explain why mankind is so violent. We have violence in our blood. Murder goes all the way back to the first baby ever born. Moses himself was guilty of this crime. He killed an Egyptian taskmaster before he hid the body and fled to the land of Midian and stayed there for forty years.
This is a command that is very relevant to us today. We live in an extremely violent world. We live in a culture of violence. Before the Flood the earth was filled with violence (Genesis 6:11) and it is filled with violence today. We have people chopping heads off in other countries and posting it online.
We see so many violent images that we have become desensitized to it. We like violent movies. To many of us, it makes great entertainment. Many of us like violent video games where people kill for fun. Many kids listen to music with violent lyrics about killing cops. I teach kids in school who think that violence is cool. They think that running around and shooting people is cool.
Why the Problem is so Serious Today
1) We have people that kill complete strangers or the most innocent of victims.
We kill the unborn which are completely helpless and defenseless. Others walk into an elementary school and kill a bunch of kindergartners. It is one thing if you hate someone and you kill him. Today, people often kill people that they don’t hate. They kill people that they do not even know.
2) We not only kill strangers, we kill family members.
We have had mothers who drowned all of their kids in a bathtub or in a river. We kill our children, sometimes before they are born through abortion and sometimes after they are born.
3) We have not only people who kill but people who kill repeatedly.
It is a habit. They just love to kill people. They kill for fun. They are called serial killers. They get a rise out of killing people.
4) We have other people that love to kill large groups of people at once.
We call them mass murderers. They will use planes or explosives to kill as many people as possible and to cause maximum damage. We have people who have tried to kill entire races of people, like Hitler who tried to wipe out all of the Jews.
5) We commit barbaric acts of atrocity without any remorse whatsoever.
We justify abortion and say that it is not really a baby and a woman has the right to do what she wants with her own body. We kill large groups of people who did nothing to us at all and think that, not only did we not do anything wrong, but that we did a good deed and that God is going to reward us for our actions. Radical Muslims believe they will be rewarded in heaven for committing acts of atrocity. They call evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20). Jesus predicted that the time would come when anyone who killed Christians would think that they were doing God a service (John 16:2).
Reasons Murder is Wrong
The Sixth Commandment says that we are not to murder people. Why not? There are several reasons. We should not murder because life is sacred. No human life is worthless. It all has value in God’s eyes. We should not murder because God is the one who gives life and He is the only one who has a right to take life unless he gives permission for others to take it. Finally, we should not murder because when we commit murder, we are killing someone who has the image of God stamped on them (cf. Genesis 9:1-6).
Genesis 9:6 teaches. “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.” Murder is not just a crime against society; it is a crime against God. The Bible teaches that everyone is created in the image of God. When we kill someone, we kill that image. An attack on man is an attack on God. God says in Genesis that animals could be slaughtered for food (as long as the blood is drained out) but innocent human blood must not be shed by man or animal.
Difficult Questions from Skeptics
Question 1: Can you be pro-life and support the death penalty?
That seems like a contradiction. It seems illogical. How would you answer this question? There are two problems with this question.
1) Pro-lifers do NOT believe that all killing is wrong.
All pro-lifers are not vegetarians. They believe it is okay to kill animals for food. They believe it is right to kill in self-defense. They do not believe that killing is never justified. If they did, it would be an inconsistency. They oppose wrongful death. They only oppose the taking of an innocent human life. That is really a straw man argument.
2) There is no moral equivalence in the two cases
There is no comparison at all between an abortion and the execution of John Wayne Gacy. In both cases a death occurs but, one involves the destruction of innocent baby, while the other the punishment of a mass murderer. One kills an innocent person. One kills a guilty person.
Killing a murderer actually upholds the value of life. It says that the crime is so serious that it warrants the ultimate penalty that society can impose and protects society from deadly predators.
Question 2: Does this commandment apply to God?
One objection that atheists and skeptics raise is whether this commandment applies to God. If it is immoral for us to murder or kill people, why is it okay for God to kill people? Atheists and skeptics talk about all of the God murders in the Bible. Bill Maher called the God of the Bible a psychotic mass murder who drowns babies, kills people and gets away with it. Does he have a valid point? If not, how would you answer that objection?
1) It confuses the creature with the Creator.
It is a category error. It puts God on our level. God is the Creator. He is the one who gave life. He can take it at any point. Murder is wrong, according to Scripture because we are created in God’s image and when you kill someone, you destroy God’s property. Can God destroy God’s property? Yes. He created it and it belongs to Him from the beginning.
As Greg Koukl points out, God can do what He wants with His universe. If He chooses to give life, He can give it. If He chooses to take life, He can take it. I could take my car apart and put it in a million pieces but it would not be right for someone else to do that to your car without your permission. Why? It is not their car. If you make something or invent something, you have certain rights to it. You have certain patent rights. We can do what we want with our property. God can do what He wants with his property. It’s not immoral for God to take the life of His own property.
2) It confuses killing with murder.
Killing and murder are not the same thing. There is a big difference. One is legal and one is not. One kills innocent people (murder) and one kills guilty people. When God takes the life of someone or a group of people in judgment, it is not murder. God never takes the life of an innocent person. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death. Everyone one on the planet is a sinner. We all deserve death. God allows most of us to live a long time but he has the right to take our life at any time.
Modern Applications to the Sixth Commandment
Suicide is Common
Did you know that statistically more people die by suicide in America than by homicide? Suicide is a greater danger than murder. These days doctors can even help you commit suicide. It is called physician-assisted suicide (PAS). It provides a patient with the medical means and knowledge to commit suicide. In some states, patients who are in great pain due to an incurable illness like cancer. PAS is currently legal in three states: Oregon (1994), Montana (2009), and Washington (2008). Thirty nine states have laws against it. North Carolina is not one of them.
Suicide is Old
It happened in biblical times. There are six recoded suicides in Scripture. One of the Apostles committed suicide. Everyone says that there are seven but there are really only six suicides in the Bible. Samson did not commit suicide. He laid down his life. He sacrificed his life. He died killing the Philistines. There are really six suicides in Scripture.
Of the six suicides, five are found in the OT and one is found in the NT. Three involved kings (Abimeleck, Saul & Zimri). Two involved people who worked for kings (Ahithophel, an advisor to King David and Saul’s armor-bearer). One involved an Apostle. Three died by the sword. One died by fire and two by hanging.
Suicide is Murder
What does God think of suicide? Many argue that the Bible does not directly prohibit suicide. That is true but suicide is murder. It is intentional killing on oneself and it is forbidden by the Sixth Commandment. Suicide is self-murder. The Sixth Commandment does not say, “You shall not murder your neighbor”. It says, “You shall not murder” period and that includes the murder of yourself.
Suicide is wrong because it violates a clear command of Scripture (one of God’s top ten). It is a sin against God. God is the one who gave us life and He is the only one who has the right to take our life. It is a sin against our body. It is a sin against our family. It is selfish.
When Paul and Silas were in prison, an earthquake took place. All of the prison doors were opened and everyone’s chain fell off. When the Philippian jailer saw what happened, he pulled out his sword and was ready to kill himself, Paul cried with a LOUD VOICE “Do yourself no harm” (Acts 16:25-28). God’s word to anyone thinking about suicide is “Do yourself no harm”.
Look at the case of job. He did not do anything wrong and he suffered greatly. God took his family away. God took his money away. God took his health away. He was in pain. He had no reason to live. He wanted to die and prayed to die (Job 8:8-9) but he never took his own life. Can a true believer commit suicide? Yes. Once you get saved, you do not stop sinning. Believers can commit the same sins that unbelievers commit. David committed adultery and murder. You can commit suicide and go to heaven.
Some wonder how a suicide could go to heaven, because it is a sin that by definition excludes repentance. That is true. It is not a sin that you can confess before you die but everyone goes to heaven with some unconfessed sin (even believers who do not commit suicide) and the blood of Jesus covers all sin, not just some of them. He died for all of our sins, including the sin of suicide.
Of course, you can also commit suicide and go to hell. Most of the people who commit suicide are unsaved. They kill themselves because they are depressed and have no hope. None of the people in the Bible who committed suicide (as far as we know) involved genuine believers. People should never think suicide is okay because they will just go to heaven because most people who commit suicide are not saved in the first place.
What is euthanasia? Euthanasia is a combination of two Greek words – the Greek word θάνατος (which means death) and the Greek prefix εύ (which means good as in euphonic, euphoria, eulogy, euphemism). Together they mean “good death”.
Euthanasia occurs when someone is in a comma and a family member has the person put to death (Terri Schiavo). It is called “mercy killing”. Why is it done? It is done to relieve suffering, although in many cases the person is not consulted on the matter because you cannot ask them what they want.
What is the problem with it from a biblical perspective? It violates the Sixth Commandment. It is medical murder. The Bible teaches that life is sacred. It teaches that God is the one who gives life. He is the one who takes life. He is the one who determines how long we live. It is based on the ends justifies the means (unbiblical philosophy). We do not deliberately violate a clear command of Scripture for good reason.
The Bible does not specifically mention abortion. That seems strange. It was practiced in the ancient world. It was done in ancient Greece and ancient Rome. Many use Exodus 21:22-23 as a verse for or against abortion but that verse is not even talking about abortion.
It is talking about two men fighting and one accidentally injures a pregnant woman in some way. The damage in that case was accidental. With abortion, it is the intentional destruction of the unborn. Critics point out that the Bible does not prohibit abortion but it does prohibit murder. God HATES the shedding of innocent blood (Proverbs 6:16-17).
Abortion has been legal in the US since 1973. I can’t imagine what will happen when Justice Harry Blackmun who wrote the opinion for the Supreme Court in Roe v Wade stands before God with the blood of five-six million babies on your head. That is how many babies have been aborted in America since Roe v Wade. He killed ten times as many people as Hitler did in the Holocaust by that one ruling. Blackmun was one of the most liberal justices on the court and was replaced by Stephen Breyer. He died in 1999.
Answering Pro-Abortion Arguments
1. Abortion is legal.
There is a difference between God’s laws and man’s laws. Legal does not necessarily mean moral. That doesn’t mean that it is right. Slavery was legal at one time. That does not mean that we should have slavery today.
The Supreme Court has been wrong before. The Supreme Court said that blacks were not inferior beings who had no rights and were not citizens as defined by the Constitution. The Supreme Court decided this in a 7-2 ruling. It was the Dred Scott decision (1856).
Just because the Supreme Court says something does not mean that it is true. The Supreme Court has been wrong before and in some cases had to later admit that they were wrong. It simply means that it is the law of the land but what is legal is not necessarily moral.
2. A woman has the right to choose.
Right to choose is not an issue. A woman has the right to choose what she wants to eat, who she wants to marry, what she wants to do for a living, where she wants to go to school or where she wants to go to church. They have the right to choose, just not the right to kill.
3. A woman has the right to her own body.
Is this a valid argument? There are two problems with this argument. First, it is not an absolute right. You cannot do anything you want with your body. You can’t put certain drugs in your body. It’s illegal, so you can’t do whatever you want with your body. You can’t drink and drive.
If you have a right to your body, then you could become a prostitute. You could use your body for prostitution but that is illegal in most states. If you can do anything with your body, then you should not have to wear a seat belt but we have seat belt laws. If I could do anything I want with my body, I could punch someone in the nose with impunity.
Second, Abortion does not involve the woman’s body but the baby’s body. That is a different body. It is IN the woman’s body but it is NOT her body. The baby’s body has a separate DNA from the mother (it is genetically distinct), separate heartbeat, separate fingers and toes, separate blood type in some cases, separate sexual organs from the mother. The child may die and the mother may live or the mother may live and the child may die, proving that the two are separate individuals.
The issue is NOT what a woman can and cannot do with her own body. The issue is what a woman can and cannot do with someone else’s body. The woman has the right to her own body. She does NOT have the right to kill another body.
4. No one knows when life begins.
That is an argument AGAINST abortion, not for it. As Ronald Reagan said, “If you are not sure, then don’t shoot”. Better to be safe than sorry. Pro-choice advocates admit that it is possible that life begins at conception. Genetically, we are human at conception. That is when we get 46 chromosomes (23 from the male sperm and 23 from the female ovum), as opposed to a dog (78) or a cat (38). We have those 46 chromosomes the rest of our life.
5. We cannot legislate morality
The argument is that you have no right to impose your morality on others. All laws impose morality on someone (e.g., laws that forbid stealing, child abuse). Many say, “I am personally against abortion but I cannot impose my beliefs on others”. That would be like saying, “I am personally against killing blacks and Jews but everyone has to decide for himself”.
It would be like saying, “I personally do not advocate wife beating but each husband has to make up his own mind”. This view would say, “I think slavery is wrong but I want not want to impose my views on other people”.
It would be like saying, “I think rape is wrong but I would not dare pass judgment on anyone else for what they do” or “I personally would not shoot the person sitting right next to me but it would be okay for someone else to kill them”.
Jesus and the Sixth Commandment?
Jesus talks about the Sixth Commandment in the Sermon on the Mount. It is the longest recorded sermon of Jesus. It was a controversial sermon. Six times in the sermon he says the words “You have heard…but I say to you”. Jesus made a deliberate contrast between what others had said and he said. He did not agree with many teachers in his day and He would not agree with many preachers today. The first time he said the words “You have heard…but I say to you” had to do with the Sixth Commandment.
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Matthew 5:21-22).
Why did Jesus say this? Apparently, some people had heard some things about the Sixth Commandment that were not true. The Pharisees focused on the letter of the law. Most of us focus on the letter of the law. Let’s be honest. When we come to the Sixth Commandment, many of us breathe a sigh of relief. We check that one of the list, because we didn’t try to assassinate anyone this week.
We haven’t strangled anyone to death this past week or bashed anyone’s head in or shot anyone or stabbed anyone with a knife. We have not tried to use explosives to blow anyone up. We become like the Pharisee in Luke 18 who said, “God I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, murderers”.
It is true that most of us have not broken the letter of the law. The Pharisees were just concerned about the letter of the law. They were just concerned about breaking the commandment on the outside. God looks on the inside, as well as the outside. The Pharisees were great on the outside and terrible on the inside.
Jesus said that murder comes out of the heart (Matthew 15:19). Murder is just an outward manifestation of an inward problem. What is the inward problem? Anger! Anger kills. Anger is serious and can be deadly. Murder often stems from anger. One reason people commit murder is they lose their temper, go into an uncontrollable rage, become violent and kill someone.
Anger is often the root cause of murder. It all starts with anger. People often do not plan to commit murder. They just got angry and did something stupid. How many times have people killed other people over something very stupid (e.g., video games, remote control, pair of shoes).
When we get angry, it comes out in our words. Many times we say things that we shouldn’t out of anger, words that we later regret and wish we could take back. Jesus mentioned calling someone “raca” and “you fool”. Raca doesn’t mean anything to us. It is an Aramaic word. Jesus spoke Aramaic.
If you wanted to insult someone in Aramaic you would call him “raca”. It just means stupid. In fact, we get our word “moron” from the word “fool” in Greek. The Greek word for “fool” is μωρός. We have all kinds of insulting language that we use today.
What did Jesus Mean?
This is a strange passage. Is it a sin to call someone a fool? Is Jesus saying that you will go to Hell for calling someone a fool? What about people who call people fools in jest? I have four boys. That is how they communicate. Jesus is not saying that you will go to hell just for calling someone a fool.
If that were the case, then He would be in Hell. Jesus called people fools. Later in this same Gospel, He called people fools (23:17). He called some of his own followers fools (Luke 24:25). The Bible calls people fools (Psalm 14:1). It is not wrong to call people fools if it is true.
Is anger always a sin? Is Jesus saying that it is always wrong to be angry? No. He got angry himself (Mark 3:5). God gets angry (Psalm 7:11). Jesus got angry because people were trying to rip people off in church and commercializing the house of God. In fact, Jesus got so angry that He did not just file a formal complaint against the money changers. He took matters into his own hands. He made a whip, knocked over some tables, started yelling and chased some people out of the Temple.
Anger is not always wrong. Anger is neutral. It is just an emotion. All of our emotions are God-given. Everyone gets angry. The Bible does not tell us not to get angry. It does tell us to be “slow to anger” (James 1:19) and “in your anger, do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26) but anger can be serious and must always be controlled. You have to control anger before it controls you. The majority text says, “Whoever gets angry with his brother WITHOUT A CAUSE will be in danger of the judgment” (not “whoever is angry with his brother” but “whoever is angry with his brother without a cause”).
What are some signs that you have an anger problem? You can’t control your anger. You are hotheaded. You blow up over the smallest problems. You are always losing your job. You are always yelling. You slap or hit people when you are upset. You punch or break things during an argument. People are afraid of you. They do not like to be around you.
The Book of Common Prayer translated it “Thou shalt do no murder” in 1549 but no English translation of the Bible gave that rendering (as far as I can tell) until Anthony Purver’s A New and Literal Translation of all of the Books of the Old and New Testament; with Notes, Critical and Explanatory (1746).
Abraham Benisch(1851), Farrar Fenton Bible (1853), Charles Wellbeloved, George Vance Smith, and John Scott Porter (1859), Robert Young (1862), English Revised Version (1881), the NASB (1971), old JPS (1917) NIV (1978), NEB (1970), ESV (2001), RSV (1952), NRSV (1989), ESV (2001), NLT (1996), MLB (1958), CEV (1995) NCV (1991), GNT (1976), NKJV (1982), LB (1971), JSB, Goodspeed, Moffatt (1926), new JPS (1962). The Thomson Translation (1808) uses the word “murder” much earlier but that translation is based on the LXX, not the Hebrew.
Only a few traditional Catholic Bibles have kept it (e.g., JB, NAB)
Critics say that it is part of the Law of Moses which we are no longer under but the death penalty actually existed before Moses’ time (cf. Genesis 9:6) and is supported in the NT as well (Romans 13:1-4). God authorizes the state to use physical force to punish evil. When it does so, it acts as God’s servant. Paul said that “rulers do not carry the sword in vain” and the sword is a symbol of capital, not corporeal punishment. Many believe that Jesus abolished the death penalty in John 8 but that would contradict his statement in Matthew 5:17.