Does The Bible Allow Capital Punishment?

Capitalpunishment, or what is commonly known as the death penalty, is the execution carried out by the state of those guilty of certain crimes. God allows for capital punishment to be exercised by the state. Prior to the establishment of His covenant with Israel God said in Genesis 9:6, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man." Since humans are created in God's image and all life is sacred, it justifies a penalty of death for murder.

 When God established His covenant with the children of Israel, there were a number of affairs that required the penalty of death. As long as the nation of Israel existed as an entity, that was to be their law.

 The New Testament does not specify the offenses where capital punishment could be used. However, in Romans 13 Paul tells Christians to be subject to the governing authorities for there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. In verse 4 of this chapter, Paul goes on to say, "...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." Please note that in Romans 12:19 Paul tells Christians, "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." God forbids personal revenge and assures Christians in 13:4 that the government is the avenger that carries out God's wrath on the wrong doer and not individuals. Paul even notes the government's right to administer capital punishment when He tells Festus while being tried in 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."

 As we can see in Romans 13:1-7, the scriptures authorize the state to punish those who break the law while God forbids us to take vengeance, because He promises us that He will take vengeance. As noted in Romans 13:4, rulers are God's ministers who serve as an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil; up to and including capital punishment.

 Charles Royal, Decatur, AL