Death Penalty: Moral or Immoral?
By MARVIN G. AÑONUEVO
(January 20, 2004)
Death Penalty Law does not defy the fundamental commandment of God not to
take away man’s life..."
I keep on
asking to myself, why it is that some religious leaders are unaware of the
biblical views regarding “death penalty”. Last December 31, 2003, I
was reading a newspaper, the Philippine Star. While doing so, I came across
the news article of Ann Corvera on the issue of moral values of the
candidates we have today. Her news article highlighted statements of Manila
Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales, urging Filipinos to closely examine the values
of candidates in the May 2004 elections, particularly their stand on
population control and the death penalty law.
penalty law, the Archbishop convincingly said that re-imposing the death
penalty defies the fundamental commandment of God not to take away man’s
life. To resort to capital punishment in an effort to instill peace and
order in the country is a sign of failure of the community. “The very
fact that you impose (the death penalty) is an admission of failure. It is
an acceptance that our laws, our mores, our culture, our behavior could not
sustain peace,” he said.
statement, it is quite obvious that the Archbishop of Manila is against
death penalty law for the reason that according to him it defies the
fundamental commandment of God not to take away man’s life. The question is
this. Does death penalty really defy the fundamental commandment of God not
to take away man’s life?
Law is really one of the controversial issues in the country today. Some
groups agree, and some do not. In fact, some of those who really oppose go
in an open air just to object. But what I have observed, many of those who
disagree do not have substantial and sufficient reasons why they are against
Since God is
the source of life and Christianity is a religion built on scriptures, let
the Bible be the basis of our reasons. Reasons must be based on correct
understanding of biblical principles, and that is founded on the Old and New
Testament scriptures of the Bible. To the Christians who wish to take the
Bible seriously – which is the classical standpoint – it does not become
difficult to see the Bible’s message concerning the death penalty
While I was
writing this article, one of my friends shared to me her stand about this
issue. She told me that she is against the execution of this law as a
penalty for heinous crimes committed by somebody, for the reason that it
violates the divine law as stated in the ten commandments, “Thou shalt
not kill” (Exodus 20:13 KJV). Besides according to her, death penalty is
not the positive solution in order to prevent raging crimes in the country.
Well, I said, I am very much convinced, without shadow of doubts that
religious people must oppose abortion for it is absolutely prohibited. It is
always evil. No one can ever abort a ‘guilty’ baby, so the act can never be
right. But this is not the case, however, with capital punishment.
Then I asked
her: “What if a soldier kills an enemy during an encounter, does he violate
the law of God?” Remember, God’s word says that love your enemy. “Oh, that’s
another story. Soldiers are to protect the people from bad elements. I mean
that is in line with their duties being in authority,” she replied. Now, if
this is the argument, a person can be inconsistent in his stand that God
alone has the right to take away man’s life because even a person is in
authority for the reason that it’s still killing a person!
Let me share to you friends the biblical views regarding this issue. And
I am very much convinced based on the Word of God, that Death Penalty Law
does not defy the fundamental commandment of God not to take away man’s life for the grounds
that the defendant not only act illegally, willfully in causing the death,
but act deliberately, and does the evidence show, beyond a reasonable doubt.
"You shall not murder."
Laymen and those not
initiated sometimes get ahead of themselves and carelessly believe that the
Bible forbids the death penalty because of this commandment. But this is a
great mistake. Bible scholars are united in
interpretation that the commandment has nothing to do with the capital
punishment. To give three examples: (1) The Catholic commentary The New
Jerome Biblical Commentary 1993, writes as a comment on this verse:
"Only illegal killing is prohibited; Israel
had the death penalty". (2) “Thou shalt not kill.” Virtually all
religious scholars agree that the correctly translated commandment "Thou
shalt not murder" is a prohibition against individual cases of murder… (Dr.
Charles Ryrie, Biblical Answers to Contemporary Issues & The Ryrie Study
Bible, Exodus 20:13). (3) The protestant Study Bible New Geneva Study
Bible, 1995, writes: "The verb here is never applied to Israel at war,
and capital punishment was already authorized. (Gen. 9:6, Lev. 24:17, Num.
There is no biblical prohibition against the
government imposition of the death penalty in deserving cases instead the
Bible clearly asserts, from beginning to end, without any reservation, that
righteous judgments include the execution of a murderer. In fact, after
saying ‘Thou shalt not kill’, the Law says, ‘He that smites a man so that
he may die, shall be surely put to death’ (Ex 21:12). The two appear in
the same context, exactly 25 verses " See also Leviticus 24:17 and Numbers
PURPOSE OF THIS LAW
(1) Justice - Opponents of capital
punishment reflect social positions that have questionable biblical
foundation and, often, they reflect positions which selectively only discuss
the mercy of God and improperly avoid the justice of God. One of the
purposes of capital punishment is justice. A person who takes a human
life, without proper sanction, forfeits any right to life - no alternative
is allowed and the community must not be swayed by values to the contrary.
"Do not accept a ransom for the life of a murderer, who
deserves to die. He must surely be put to death."
In other words, no one should be able to buy himself free from
the death penalty. Money should not be able to save the life of a murderer.
George W. Bush, the president of the USA:
“I support the death penalty because I believe, if administered swiftly
and justly, capital punishment is a deterrent against future violence and
will save other innocent lives.”
questionable biblical foundations are usually found within the following
categories: (a) Confusing the obligations of individuals with those of the
government. Example: Matthew 5:38-39: "You have heard that it was said,
‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not
resist who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him
the other also." Strangely, opponents cite this as proof of Jesus’
abandonment of capital punishment. If one were to assume that this text
refers to the actions of the governing authority and not individual
obligations, then one would clearly find that government could not enforce
any law which sought to protect the lives and property of its law abiding
citizens. There is no reference to capital punishment in the text.
Therefore, all wrongdoers, be that robbers, rapists or murderers could act
repeatedly, with impunity, if the text was an obligation on the governing
authority. This text is directed at individuals and has no application to
the governing authority or its right and duty to execute. (b) Believing
that Christ abandoned the Law of the Hebrew Testament and instituted a
new ethic in the New Testament, based solely on mercy. There are 20
chapters, within the 28 chapters of Matthew, which discuss destruction,
hell, unquenchable fire, and/or differing forms of punishment and exclusion
by God (see Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:22, 29-30; 8:12; 11:23-24; 12:30-32;
13:41-42, 49-50; 18:8-9; 22:2-14; 23:33, 25:40-46) and/or honor the Law of
the Hebrew Testament (see specific references Matthew 5 and 15). "For
this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person has an
inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God." Ephesians 5:5. "When
the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels in
flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to
those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the
penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from
the glory of His power." 2 Thessalonians 1:7b-9. And so it is throughout
the New Testament. See also Mark 3:29; Luke 13:24-28; John 5:24-29, 15:6; 2
Peter 2:4-9; Jude 1:5-15: Revelation 13:10.
(2) Peace and Order - St. Thomas Aquinas, states, “The civil
rulers execute, justly and sinlessly, pestiferous men in order to protect
the peace of the state." (Summa Contra Gentiles, III, 146.) "If a
man is a danger to the community, threatening it with disintegration by some
wrongdoing of his, then his execution for the healing and preservation of
the common good is to be commended. Only the public authority, not private
persons, may licitly execute malefactors by public judgment. Men shall be
sentenced to death for crimes of irreparable harm or which are particularly
perverted." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 11; 65-2; 66-6).
(3) Obedience - Capital punishment was not only allowed but
mandated in the Old Testament. In the New Law (New Testament), St. Paul
recognizes the legitimacy of capital punishment; it is not without purpose
that the ruler carries the sword. He is God’s servant, to inflict his
avenging wrath upon the wrongdoer. “For he is God’s servant to do you
good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for
nothing” (Romans 13:4).
One of the most respected of all popes, Pope Pius V, reaffirmed, in the
Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566) that execution is an act of
paramount obedience to the (fifth/sixth) commandment. "The just use of
(executions), far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of
paramount obedience to this (Fifth) Commandment which prohibits murder."
Referring to that Catechism, Catholic scholar Father James Reilly, M.S.
notes that "From the time of St. Paul until today this
has always been the official teaching of the Catholic Church and only the
Holy See or a General Counsel has the authority to change it. The curious
thing is that those Catholics who have repeatedly condemned capital
punishment and have, often, apparently at least, declared it immoral, never
refer to that passage from the Roman Catechism. It may be that they are
unaware of it, but such ignorance is, in my opinion, inexcusable." (Haven
Bradford Gow, "Religious Views Support The Death Penalty", The Death
Penalty: Opposing Viewpoints, Greenhaven Press, 1986, p. 82 ).
(4) Punishment - If
no crime deserves punishment by death, and then it is hard to see why
it was fitting that Christ be put to death for our sins and crucified among
thieves. Matthew 27: “As Christ became accursed of the cross for us, for our
salvation He was crucified as a guilty one among the guilty.” That Christ be
put to death as a guilty person, presupposes that death is a fitting
punishment for those who are guilty. Of course we understood that Christ was
not a sinner, but he became sin for us. But one of the malefactors (thief)
that was on the other cross, admitted that because he was a sinner, he was
worthy of death. “We (the criminals) are punished justly, for we are
getting what our deeds deserve. But this man (Jesus) has done nothing
wrong,” (Luke 23:41). As Jesus described in the Sermon on the Mount,
"Obedience will be rewarded with life; disobedience will be punished with
destruction. A God who rewards with life and punishes with death is One
whose laws provide for death as a judicial punishment.
that deserved death penalty
according to the Bible are
1. Murder (Gen 9:6, Ex
21:12, Numb 35:16-21).
2. Abuse of
father or mother (Ex 21:15).
3. Speaking a curse over
parents (Ex 21:17).
4. Blasphemy against God
5. Breaking the Sabbath (Ex 31:14, Numb 15:32-36).
Practicing magic (Ex 22:18).
telling and practicing sorcery (Lev. 20:27).
Religious people who mislead others to fall away (Deut 13:1-5, 18:20)
and fornication (Lev 20:10-12, Deut 22:22).
10. If a woman has intercourse before marriage (Deut 22:20-21).
11. If two
people have intercourse when one of them is engaged. (Deut 22:23-24).
12. The daughter of a priest practicing prostitution (Lev 21:9).
13. Rape of
someone who is engaged (Deut 22:25).
intercourse with animals (Ex 22:19).
15. Worshipping idols (Ex 22:20, Lev 20:1-5, Deut
(Lev 20:11-12, 14, 19-21).
Homosexuality (Lev 20:13).
Kidnapping (Ex 21:16).
19. To bear
false testimony at a trial (Deut 19:16, 19).
of court (Deut 17:8-13).
The manner of execution in the Old Testament could be stoning, burning,
using a sword, spear or arrow (Lev 20:27, 21:9, Ex 19:13, 32:27, Numb
(5) Warning - Regarding the deterrent affect of the death penalty,
poet Hyam Barshay made the following observation; "The death penalty is a
warning, just like a lighthouse throwing beams out to sea. We hear about
shipwrecks, but we do not hear about the ships the lighthouse guides safely
on their way. We do not have proof of the number of ships it saves, but we
do not tear the lighthouse down." Prof. Ernest van den Haag, "On
Deterrence and The Death Penalty", Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology and
Police Science, vol. 60, no.2 (1969).
Prevention - "If we execute murderers and there is in fact no
deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers. If we fail to execute
murderers, and doing so would in fact have deterred other murders, we have
allowed the killing of a bunch of innocent victims. I would much rather risk
the former. This, to me, is not a tough call." (John McAdams - Marquette
University/Department of Political Science, on deterrence.)
By executing murderers you
prevent them from murdering again and do, thereby, save innocent life. This
means those potential murderers would be prevented under specific
circumstances because of their fear of execution. There are many, perhaps
thousands, of such documented cases, representing many innocent lives saved
by the fear of execution. Circumstances dictate that the majority of these
cases will never be documented and that the number of innocent lives saved
by individual deterrence will be, and has been, much greater than we will
ever be able to calculate.
These are just few of so
many verses in the Bible that support death penalty. God’s command
concerning death penalty is an expression of God’s holiness and
righteousness. God has set certain orders. When the created man breaks
these, God imposes punishment. That God uses the death penalty for crimes
such as murder, assault, cursing and sexual sins, shows, not that God is
mean and vicious, but that God values mankind and the eternal moral
principles very highly. When a person violates or hurts a fellow man by
words or acts this is something very serious to the Creator. Such things
must sometimes be punished by death. Thus, it shows that God cares for us
ordinary people, that He wants to protect us and that He wants us all well.
Without order and without punishment we would only be creatures lacking
responsibility that could do whatever we wanted to each other without being
held responsible for anything. We would then live in a world that did not
have any morals or ethics.
Perhaps you might ask: “Can
we not give those criminals the opportunity to live and repent of their
sins? “The fact that the evil, as long as they live, can be corrected from
their errors does not prohibit the fact that they may be justly executed,
for the danger which threatens from their way of life is greater and more
certain than the good which may be expected from their improvement. They
also have at that critical point of death the opportunity to be converted to
God through repentance. And if they are so stubborn that even at the point
of death their heart does not draw back from evil, it is possible to make a
highly probable judgment that they would never come away from evil to the
right use of their powers." St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book
Finally, let me close this
article by these sayings: Our choice is to spare the lives of the murderers
and to, thereby, sacrifice the lives of the innocent or to execute those
murderers and to, thereby, spare the lives of the innocent. Which do you
God bless our Nation!
comment and reaction to e-mail address: email@example.com)
The Extortion Acts of
Capt CROMWELL I. DANGANAN (INF) PA
(January 16, 2004)
shameful act of extortion is one of the main causes of corruption and
irregularity in the government as the politicians are blackmailed into
giving-in to this misdeed.”
This year, the
CPP/NPA/NDF members will be tasked to collect more money, and stuff for the
movement. They will take advantage of the fear they are instilling to the
populace in order to add more funds for their cause.
Aside from the
Permit to Campaign (PTC) Fees they will get from politicians, business
establishments and small entrepreneurs are being monitored by the NPA
extortionists to strike at every opportunity and stash cash away from their
hands. They extort money as their primary means to sustain their hopeless
armed struggle. They consider themselves as modern heroes, capitalizing on
the underdog mentality of the Filipino people to justify their existence.
The people must
understand that this is merely a myth. The people must not cooperate and
refuse to be extorted. The CPP/NPA/NDF will have a heyday collecting
millions this year without thinking that all businesses are suffering the
economic slump. The main bulk of their extortion this year would come from
their imposition of PTC to candidates for this coming election.
This shameful act of extortion is one of the main causes of corruption and
irregularity in the government as the politicians are blackmailed into
giving-in to this misdeed. And not only rich owners of businesses are
spared. Even the lowly farmer or barrio folk is deprived of a decent meal.
Farm animals and tools are also targets of these extortionists. There have
been consistent reports of extortion from the IRA of local government units,
denying progress and development in the countryside.
would have marched to progress years ago. Our country lost 34 years of
economic progress, compliments of the communists. This year, these CPP
extortionists must have the conscience not to collect fees from candidates
as they are among the groups advocating for a corruption-free system of
government, and not to deprive a peasant farmer's family of five a kilo of
rice or two pieces of eggs for the survival of 20 NPA rebels too lazy to
work for a living and who would rather subsist like parasites on the produce
of the needy, suffering masses.
to these extortionists," is the advise of MGen Rabonza, 8ID Commanding
General. The people, he said have no obligation whatsoever to support
terrorists like the NPAs.