Logos Resource Pages
Gateway to all our WebPages

"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
. . .  Acts 4:12  . . .

The Bible's Teaching on Capital Punishment

Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.

(This article has been published in booklet form. If you would like a copy send a $1.00 donation or A casette tape is available for a $5.00 donation to

Links to Topics:

Capital Punishment -- Part 1
    Do you recognize these names...
    What is Capital Punishment?
    Capital Punishment and the Ten Commandments
    What is the Biblical Penalty for Murder?
    A Further Explanation of Murder
    Capital Punishment and the Law Given to Moses
Capital Punishment -- Part 2
    Christ and Capital Punishment
    Paul and Capital Punishment
    Related Issues

Capital Punishment -- Part 1

Do you recognize these names...

Ed Gein
[2 were identified but investigators determined that 15 women met their end at his hands] (Arrested November 1957)
Albert DeSalvo
"The Boston Strangler" [Murdered 14 women] (Arrested 1964; stabbed to death in prison 1973)
Charles Manson
[Claims to have murdered 35 people] (Arrested 1969)
David Berkowitz
"The Son of Sam" [Convicted for 7 murders] (Arrested August 1977)
Ted Bundy
[11+ murders] (Arrested 1975; Electric chair 1- 24-89)
Angeli Buono & Kenneth Bianchi
"The Hillside Strangler" [Convicted of 14 murders] (Arrested January 1979)
John Wayne Gacy
[Confessed to torture and murder of over 30 victims] (Arrested December 1978)
Richard Ramirez
"The Night Stalker" [Credited with at least 14 murders] (Arrested 1985 & on death row in San Quentin, CA.) 
Adolfo De Jesus Constanzo
"El Padrion" [responsible for 15 murders] (Killed in a gun battle with police in 1989)
Jeffery Dahmer
[Confessed to 17 murders of males] (Arrested July of 1991 and beaten to death by another inmate while in prison.)

All of these are noted serial murderers. The first and the last, Ed Gein & Jeffery Dahmer are well known to Wisconsin residents for obvious reasons.

Why am I talking about serial murderers? Horrific multiple murders like the ones just cited spark talk about capital punishment. The recent conviction of Jeffery Dahmer is no exception. I heard discussion in the press room during the trial. It was the topic of discussion around supper tables. People gave their opinions at work and Wisconsin legislators were urged to reconsider bringing the death penalty back.

What about capital punishment. Should it be reinstituted? I am sure there is a variety of opinions among you folks. As with other topics, Christians need to know if the Bible sheds any light on the topic. For in reality, when the Bible speaks on a topic, it speaks authoritatively. So, in this study, I do not intend to address the diversity of opinions about the death penalty. My purpose is to spell out the Bible's teaching on capital punishment.

What is Capital Punishment?

The logical place to begin is by defining capital punishment. The 1983 edition of the American Heritage Dictionary defines capital punishment as the death penalty. Certainly this is a concise definition but I prefer the definition from my 1899 edition of Websters International Dictionary. It says that "capital punishment" is having reference to or involving the head or life hence punishable by death.

This definition gives us an idea of the origin "capital punishment? The word capital means head. Historically, a common means carrying out the death penalty was to sever the head from the body. John the Baptist life was ended in this way.

Capital Punishment and the Ten Commandments

One of the first things that anti-capital punishment supporters appeal to is the sixth commandment. The commandment says, "Thou shalt not kill" (Ex. 20:13). What does that mean? To answer that we have to look at the word "kill." The Hebrew word translated "kill" (Strong's #7523) in this verse is used 49 times in the Old Testament and in every relevant used means "to murder" especially with premeditation, according to biblical scholar Charles Ryrie. Further, when the sixth commandment is repeated in the New Testament a word is used that never means anything else than to murder (Strongs #5407).

The Sixth Commandment clearly is a prohibition against murder; not an injunction against capital punishment, the death penalty.

What is the Biblical Penalty for Murder?

That brings me to my next question -- What is the biblical penalty for murder? Let's look at Genesis 9:5-6. God says to Noah and his family,

"And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; and at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth a man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man."

These verses are simply saying, murder is forbidden. Man-killing animals are to be killed and any person who murders another is to be killed. Killing a man is an offense against almighty God for man is made in God's image.

The verses makes it clear. Capital punishment, the taking of the perpetrators life, is what God demands for the murder of a human being by man or beast. There are some other specifics that the Lord laid out relating to capital punishment.

  1. There must be two or more witnesses before one accused of murder can be put to death (Numbers 35:30)
  2. A person judged guilty of murder must die. Do not allow any kind of bargain or ransom for his life. (Num. 35:30)
  3. The blood of the victim murdered defiles the land. The only way it is cleansed is by administering capital punishment to the murderer. (Num. 35:33-34).

A Further Explanation of Murder

Naturally, the individual(s) who carries out the capital punishment for the lawful authority was not considered a murdered. Likewise, the killing of enemies in war is not considered murder. Additionally, killings judged accidental were not considered murder, though there may be other lesser penalties.

Capital Punishment and the Law Given to Moses

It should be noted that from Noah until the institution of the Law, the Bible only sanctioned capital punishment for murder. When God gave the law to Moses, additional things were considered capital crimes worthy of death. These include...

  • Hitting your parents -- Ex. 21:15
  • Kidnapping -- Ex 21:16
  • Cursing your father or mother -- Ex 21:17
  • Killing an unborn infant -- Ex 21:22-25 (There is some discussion about the interpretation of the passage. I believe it means if a woman has a miscarriage and the baby lives there can be lesser penalties. If the baby dies or the baby and the mother die the death penalty applies as the KJV & NIV translate the passage.
  • An animal that has the habit of injuring others and the owner does not destroy it -- Exodus 21:28-29
  • Witchcraft -- Ex. 22:18
  • Worship of other gods/goddesses -- Ex. 22:20
  • Working on the Sabbath -- Ex. 35:2
  • Adultery -- Lev. 20:10
  • Incest -- Lev. 20:11-12 & 14
  • Sodomy (homosexuality/lesbianism) -- Lev. 20:13
  • Bestiality -- Lev. 20:15-16
  • False prophesying -- Deut. 13:1-10
  • Rape under some circumstances -- Deut. 22:25

Their can be no doubt that the Old Testament teaches capital punishment. It began by demanding it for murder and expanded its application under the Law given to Moses. Therefore, the principle of capital punishment is well established.

Capital Punishment -- Part 2

In our last message we looked at the Old Testament scriptures relating to capital punishment. There can be no doubt that the Old Testament clearly teaches capital punishment. But what about the New Testament? Lets take a look.

Christ and Capital Punishment

First, Christ never condemned capital punishment. In fact capital punishment was unjustly carried out against him. If capital punishment were looked upon with disdain by Christ, he had ample opportunity to speak out on the topic. In Luke 23:41 the repentant thief said he and the other offender had justly receiving the death sentence but Christ was guiltless. "And we indeed [justly]; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss." Christ could have said to the repentant thief, "It does not matter what you have done, capital punishment is wrong. It should be done away with." But, he did not say that when he had a golden opportunity to say it.

That brings us to the second incident that can shed some light of Jesus Christs' view of capital punishment. We find this in John 8:1-11. This passage deals with the Pharisee's sting operation relating to the adulterous woman. It was designed to trap Christ and make him reject the Law God had given to Moses or the Roman Law of the day. Christ did neither, but in fact invited those without sin to throw the first stone. John 8:7 says, "So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." This is hardly a rejection of capital punishment. Christ did recognize a set-up when he saw one though.

Paul and Capital Punishment

Human government is ordained by God. If you have any doubt about that just look at Romans 13:1-7. But what powers does God sanction for government?

  1. THE POWER TO TAX -- (6-7)
  3. THE POWER OF PUNISHMENT FOR EVIL (even capital punishment)

Note 1 Peter 2:13 before you look at Romans 13:4.

"Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well."

Romans 13:4

"For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."

The sword is a symbol of the Governments power to use capital punishment. Dr Charles Ryrie says "it may be said that Romans 13:4 does teach the right of the government to take the life of a criminal, although what cases is not specified."

If Romans 13:4 is not clear enough for you, there is another incident that involves the apostle Paul that should make it clearer yet. Turn to Acts 25:1-12. The key verse in this section is Acts 25:11,

"For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar."

What Paul is saying certainly is clear enough is it not? He says, "if I have committed a crime deserving of the death penalty then I will not fight it. But I have not and so I appeal to Caesar."

The prerogative of capital punishment is established in Genesis 9:6, developed in the Mosaic law and reaffirmed in the New Testament. Capital punishment IS Biblical. It is for today.

Related Issues

Some claim that capital punishment does not deter crime. If that is true it is because the sentence is not carried out speedily. Ecclesiastes 8:11 warns,

"Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil."

Justice is to be swift. With the cumbersome court process we have today it can take up to ten years before a sentence is carried out.

J. Edger Hoover said, "The professional law enforcement officer is convinced from experience that the hardened criminal has been and is deterred from killing based on the prospect of the death penalty."

His words ring true in Great Britain. In the June 6, 1972 issue of The Wall Street Journal Felix Kessler said, "There has been a sharp rise in armed robberies and violent crime throughout Britain since 1965, when the death penalty was dropped, and more criminals seem to carry guns now."

I can tell you this. The criminal who receives capital punishment will commit no more crimes in the future. At the very least we should return to capital punishment for murder.

Please click here for the Most Important Message of the Bible Concerning You. "
Is any of the following a blessing to you today?
"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."
Matthew 24:3

"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
Acts 4:12

"But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."

1 Corinthians 2:9

Free Literature Packet
Click hear for a free literature packet about God's way to eternal life by providing your name and complete mailing address

How you can be Sure you are going to Heaven?

Logos Resource Pages

Logos Resource Pages is an Online Ministry of Logos Communication Consortium, Inc.

P.O. Box 173 - Oak Creek, WI 53154

E-Mail: Pastor David L. Brown

Copyright © 2012 - 2015 Logos Communication Consortium, Inc. - All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

WebSite PageViews
Online Coupons
Online Coupons