Growing up in Evangelical, you’re often told humans are to follow a set of laws found in the Old Testament books. The ‘Law’ is often cited as an ongoing authority, especially as regards divorce and homosexuality.
In these laws, execution is called for. I wonder: are Christians suggesting divorced people, gays, etc., should be punished on these terms?
I ask Christians who cite Jewish law: Are you calling for people to die?
Judaism itself does not adjudicate capital crimes out of a belief that the Law requires the Temple, which was destroyed. Then rabbinic commentaries point to high standards of proof, as in adultery—two witnesses to the act.
But Christian tradition does not observe these requirements. No trials need be held for a finding that Jewish law has been broken by, and evidence need not be processed by biblical standards.
What happens, then, is that an accusation of breaking Jewish law creates a field of animosity. To identify a Christian (or non-Christian) as committing adultery or homosexuality as a crime, is to see this as permission to be mean to the offenders, and to exile them from gatherings.
A married couple who wishes to separate would, then, often find themselves being branded as adulterers, and Jesus’ words in Luke 16:18 might be cited:
“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
If this is read as pertaining to the marriages of Christian people today, then a divorced person is being evaluated as an adulterer.
The crime of adultery is punished by death (Deut 22:22; Lev 20:10). If divorce is adultery then the offenders must be executed?
With homosexuality, Christians do regularly call for the penalty of death. A police detective in Knox County, Tennessee named Grayson Fritts, was in the news for a June 2 sermon at All Scripture Baptist Church, wants “LGBT freaks . . . to be put to death.”
Or note Mark D. Smith, currently a professor at the College of Idaho, and author of a widely cited 1996 paper that says, yes, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 are “reaffirmed” for Christians.
I wrote him, asking: Is the death penalty also “reaffirmed”?
“I read a number of studies on the topic, but I don’t remember any of them grappling with the punishment issue,” he replies.
He declines to say Christians should not kill gay people. Rather, the subject has been . . . insufficiently studied.
And so we need some clarity? Are Christian people calling for executions? If not, why?
There are, of course, many more capital crimes in biblical law. Blasphemy, false evidence in capital cases, false prophesy, idolatry, and so on.
Breaking the Sabbath is a capital crime. Where a ban on homosexuality is found only once, a ban on Sabbath activity is issued on three stern occasions (Exo 31:14; 35:2; Num 15:32–36). But Christians regularly work on the Sabbath, and even features of typical church services could be read as crimes that require execution.
Children who strike or curse a parent, of course, must be executed. These are again repeated commands (Exo 21:15–17; Lev 20:9; Deut 21:18–21) and so Christian families who have children committing these crimes should presumably be executing them, if Jewish law is to be enforced by traditional Christian standards.
If Christians do not wish to execute their children, or themselves, then I think it might be nice if they stop suggesting that others are rule-breakers.
As I see the Christian scriptures, the ‘Law’ is not extended to Gentile Christians, and the ‘new commandment’ (singular) given by Jesus is: “Love one another” (John 13:34).
I am not sure what to do when that is broken. But with Christian people, I believe that does regularly occur.