Fear Of Whales

Tales of a reluctant minister

Thou Shalt Not Kill

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"The bible does not say ‘Thou Shalt not kill’" say many christian leaders "It says ‘thou shalt not murder’"

And those christian leaders are lying to you. (or at least they aren’t telling you the truth)

It’s easy enough to see how this line would get absorbed so readily into out unconscious. It doesn’t take a person very long to realize that the bible is full of killing, and much of it is done by biblical heroes, or by God himself. But the Ten Commandments contain a statement that seems to stand in direct opposition to this. So is the bible contradicting itself?

When a person first hears the explanation "It says murder, not kill" it makes so much sense and answers the question so well, they rarely bother to investigate it further before they start informing other people that that’s what’s going on.

And if you check many English translations in your bible, you’ll even find it translated that way: Exodus 20:13 "You shall not murder"

The Hebrew word here is " רצח ratsach" which is not the word you ordinarily see used in the old testament to indicate killing, it’s normally " נכה nakah " but the difference between the two words is not so specific as "ratsach" means "murder" while "nakah" means "kill"

"Ratsach" is used in the new testament exclusively to refer to killing humans, but not necessarily intentionally, so in that sense it might best be translated "Homocide" or "manslaughter" and it’s often used as a personal noun to mean "killer" "murderer" or "slayer"

"Nakah" on the other hand is much less specific. It’s used to refer to people and animals, in war and in peace, for good or bad reasons, and it does not always result in death. "nakah" is often used in conjunction with the Hebrew word "muwth" which means death (as in "kill to death") My favorite translation of this word is the old-timey term "smite"

So then the text doesn’t actually specify that David "killed" Goliath. so much as David "smote" Goliath, and we understand from context that he died from it.

What then is the teaching of the scripture on killing?

Numbers 35:30 Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to die.

The Hebrew there is "Nakah nephesh ratsach ratsach" so my direct translation would be "Anyone who smites a man is a slayer and must be slain"

the word here translated "killeth" is "Nakah" and when you "nakah" a man the bible says that you are a "murderer" (ratsach) and you should therefore be "put to death" (ratsach)

Clever word choices will not be our salvation from our difficulty about scripture and killing. Murder, and killing, and nakah, and ratsach are all heinous crimes according to the bible. They are also sometimes recorded, commended, and even commanded by God. Sorry pastor, there’s no easy shortcut out of this one!
Comment Me up and tell me how you resolve that conflict.

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Written by RyanGaffney

April 1, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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