Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Killing, Murder, 5th Commandment, & Biblical Teaching: Continuing a Discussion

Is all killing wrong? Is any deliberate killing ever justified? Can a Christian or even a Jewish believer justifiably hold to the fifth commandment (or sixth for Jews) and also support any type of killing? What does the fifth commandment really say?

I have been involved in a good exchange over at Against the Grain. Though the original post is titled "Fr. Sirico, The Zwicks, and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church," the dialogue in the comments section has turned to all sorts of somewhat--or perhaps I should say "somehow"--related issues.

You can read the comments here and continue the discussion on this blog in the comment section below.


Chris Sullivan said...

Hi W.

Thanks for hsoting the continuation of our discussion here.

Thanks for posting the 3 articles. The first one http://www.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/Shokel/001102_ThouShaltNotMurder.html seems to address the Hebrew issues in most depth. It says :-

the Vulgate (as that translation is designated) employs the Latin verb occidere which has the sense of "kill" rather than "murder.".

As this originates in St Jerome's original translation of the bible into the Latin vulgate, it does appear to establish a meaning of "kill" as in the Catholic Tradition.

The article continues :-

The fact remains, however, that even the Jewish translators were not unanimous in maintaining a consistent distinctions between the various Hebrew roots.

Don Isaac Abravanel and others noted that ratsah is employed in Numbers 35:27-30 both when dealing with an authorized case of blood vengeance, and with capital punishment--neither of which falls under the legal category of murder.

The use of ratsah in Numbers 35:27-30 appears pretty conclusive - establishing that the Herbew uses the same word ratsah for the fifth commandment as in its law allowing the death penalty - both are refered to as ratsah.

In fact, some distinguished Jewish philosophers believed that "thou shalt not kill" is a perfectly accurate rendering of the sixth commandment. Maimonides, for example, wrote that all cases of killing human beings involve violations of the command, even if the violation happens to be overridden by other mitigating factors. It has been suggested that this tradition underlies the virtual elimination of capital punishment in Rabbinic law.

Viewed from this perspective, we may appreciate that the translation "thou shalt not kill" was not the result of simple ignorance on the side of Jerome or the King James English translators. Rather, it reflects their legitimate determination to reflect accurately the broader range of meanings of the Hebrew root.

God Bless
Chris Sullivan

W. said...

Sorry, Chris, I have not had the time I was hoping for. I am getting married this Saturday and have been swamped with so many of the details and just social and prep things going on. I do plan to respond.

It is interesting, though, the takes on the Hebrew. i just did a Google search and linked to the ones that discussed the Hebrew. I still stick to what I said, but I am relying upon those who know Hebrew viscerally as well as Biblical sholars to base my claim that the fifth commandment is more literally "You shall not murder."

There are many instances where killing is allowed of commanded so God could not have forbidden all killing. However, I think we are stuck in a circle with that argument. I still stand by Gen 9.6 as being a command for men to kill those who murder another. The text does not seem to lend itself to any other reading.

What am I doing? I was going to respond later. Ok, off to bed. Just had rehearsal and dinner. Need some rest and have a lot to get ready for.

Pray for us. I will post something about the wedding either Friday or Saturday morning.

In Christ,

Chris Sullivan said...


Best wishes for your wedding.

I'll keep you and your bride in my prayers.

There are many instances where killing is allowed

Polygamy and divorce were also allowed but that doesn't make them licit.

God Bless