I was attempting to have a theological conversation with my mother a few years back. She demurred, “I just follow the Ten Commandments.” Yeah, I said, but what do they mean? Take that one that says, “Thou shalt not kill?” How does one interpret that in today’s world?

For instance, according to some sources, “the Hebrew word that was used in this case for ‘kill’ (or murder) was the somewhat rare term rasah… Although its exact meaning has defied explanation, in other contexts it could refer to killing that was inherently evil… However, the same term could also have applied to unintentional manslaughter…, blood vengeance…, the legal execution of a criminal …”

Indeed, most iterations of Scripture now use the word “murder” rather than “kill” in Exodus 20:13, which I interpret as a more legalistic term.

This study suggests five topics for discussion, so I thought I’d touch on the same, though there are plenty more.

Suicide: if killing anyone is considered sin against God, by its very nature, some consider suicide to be an irreparable sin. Yet in legal terms, one mitigates for “diminished capacity.” Would God do any less? The only suicide I can recall in the Bible was by Judas Iscariot, after turning Jesus over to the authorities.

Capital Punishment: “An eye for an eye,” the Old Testament says, but Jesus seems to modify that. Many, including me, feel quite uncomfortable with the state executing others in their name. Some even consider it murder by the state (rasah), and there are Biblical references to that being the case unless the guilt was absolutely certain.

Euthanasia: the miracle of medicine allow people to be kept alive much longer than we once thought possible. But what of the quality of that life? And certainly, one can distinguish between stopping doing everything possible to let go, and aiding the process, something most U.S. states would consider a form of murder.

War: certainly many wars were fought and recorded in Biblical times. How does that inform what WE should do? Some were expecting Jesus to be a great warrior in the military sense, and were disappointed by this “Prince of Peace” fellow. And are there just wars and unjust wars? This has been argued for millennia. Surely, self-defense is often raised as a defense of war, just as it would be for an individual under attack.

Abortion: when does life begin? One would be hard-pressed to argue against the notion that at least the potential for life commences when a zygote is created. But these can be formed fairly frequently and don’t usually attach to the womb to grow. This discussion also is addressed in the stem cell debate, and even some forms of birth control.

These are complicated issues. What do YOU think?

Unrighteous anger as murder?

ABC Wednesday – Round 7

43 Responses to “K is for Kill”

  • Denise says:

    Certainly some important issues Roger which indeed make us sit up and think! I remember attending a lecture once entitled “Whatever happened to the Human Race” by Frances Shaefar (excuse spelling) boy it made me think about abortion issue. People who had been encoraged to terminate births were present inthe audiance – and so were their children – all healthy! Yes – a thought provoking and informed post Roger.

    Denise

  • Uthaclena says:

    “Capital Punishment: “An eye for an eye,” the Old Testament says”
    A rabbi once told me that this was actually a LIMITATION on tribal warfare, proscribing wholesale slaughter for vengeance by saying, “The MOST you can exact is an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

    “Abortion: when does life begin? One would be hard-pressed to argue against the notion that at least the potential for life commences when a zygote is created.”
    Asking the wrong question can result in the wrong answer. Of COURSE a zygote is life, as surely as a leaf, an amoeba, a bird, or a 57-year olde human being. And medical statistics indicate that around a quarter of all zygotes/embryos spontaneously abort, called miscarriage. The real question is ‘When does it become a PERSON?” Calling a clump of cells, just because they contain human DNA, a “baby,” with all of the emotional charge “murdering unborn babies” carries, strikes me as an appallingly low bar for that definition.

  • A serious and very thought provoking post indeed for the K Day, Roger. Hope your week is going well.

    Sylvia

  • RuneE says:

    I’m pacifist, non-religious, and a firm believer in the woman’s right to rule her own body.

  • Carver says:

    Very thought provoking post for the letter K. I am totally against capital punishment so that’s one that I’m very clear about.

  • Ann says:

    There is just to much information to answer each and every issue you raised. However, I go to The Bible to find the answer to each and everyone of the issues you raised and the answers are there for each and everyone to read.

    Just an example: on the abortion issue Exodus 21: 22, 23, says: “And in case men should struggle with each other and they really hurt a pregnant woman and her children do come out but no fatal accident occurs, he is to have damages imposed upon him without fail according to what the owner of the woman may lay upon him; and he must give it through the justices. (23) But if a fatal accident should occur, then you must give soul for soul.” (Or life for life)

  • Bonjour dear Roger,
    This is an important theme, and it’s also a reflection. I think there is also “words”that can hurt so much someone and kill all love inside the heart.
    You are such a great writer, thanks for this post!
    Léia

  • photowannabe says:

    Thought provoking and perhaps volitile issues. I guess I’m not going to go there.

  • Amy B says:

    Roger, I clicked on your link, “Unrighteous anger as murder?” I’ll go back and read it as there is definitely much substance there. Speaking of substance, you covered quite a bit in this post. I do have strong opinions on some of the issues you covered but it’s impossible to describe them in “comment” form. I’m quite in line with RuneE and Carver for sure.

  • You raise some vitally important points here. I can’t see the subject ever being defined adequately.

  • Leslie says:

    Oh Roger! This would take years of discussion and thought to come up with anything reasonable or rational. However, one thing I must say is that my first husband committed suicide and left me and my 2 daughters devastated. It did not help AT ALL that some in our church left us stranded (emotionally) because they thought we might have been tainted by his “sin.” Thankfully, others were not so shallow-minded or bigoted and we eventually, albeit with deep scars, were able to carry on with our own lives. I truly believe that anyone who commits suicide IS suffering from diminished capacity and has no ability to think rationally about what he/she is doing. Whew! heavy post today. Have a good week and I look forward to next week’s contribution! 😀

  • MorningAJ says:

    I have strong views on most of that but I’ll keep them to myself because I don’t want to upset anyone. All very good points though!

  • Mara says:

    Yes to the right to abort or to euthanise and even to suicide in a lesser degree. No to capital punishment and murder.

  • Molokai Girl says:

    I think that these are indeed complicated issues to which I don’t think I have good answers for. Except that I know I do not have it within me to kill. Except for that occasional spider.

    http://pmondoy.blogspot.com/

  • It is unlikely the term “rasah” will ever be defined to everyone’s satisfaction, Roger. A very complicated issue to be discussing with your mother!

    Kay
    Alberta, Canada

  • robert says:

    wow – this made me pause for quiet a while after half past one in the morning. Guess that every life deserves to live. With a mind being a bit bleached, excuse these few words. Outstanding entry, once again.

    Please have a good Wednesday.

  • Lyn says:

    Definitely food for thought in this post, Roger. If I remember rightly suicide used to be illegal in Britain and if you failed you’d be prosecuted.

  • Tumblewords says:

    Provocative post. Life is increasingly complex. An excellent post, as always!

  • pagan sphinx says:

    Fascinating post. I’m with Bugliosi when it comes to Bush as a war criminal.

    My ABC Wednesday Post

  • Willa says:

    I guess in terms of any words from the bible, no one can really comprehend what it means. 🙂

  • Super! Not so surprising, my K is also for Kill…of a different kind.

  • Lily says:

    the comments left here are as interesting as your post.
    It’s such a complicated subject.I think it’s safe to assume most people are against killing, but you have touched on something very important – how is that defined? If it were easy to come to a meeting of the minds in respect to this topic, could that possibly solve the problem of having to define the commandments in general? Maybe then we wouldn’t need them if we could all agree on the meaning of such ideas.
    Thanks for the thoughtful post Roger.

  • vernz says:

    Ok, I will try not to get angry…. that’s quiet hard….

    thanks for this info.

  • LisaF says:

    What a sobering post today. Pretty much a Pandora’s box of controversy. My beliefs are such that while the ten commandments are God’s Law, Christians are not bound by “the law” anymore. The “sermon on the mount” in Matthew 5:17-48 is a much better guide to how we should strive to live. War? A necessary evil this side of heaven. Abortion? I’m all for a woman having the right to do whatever to her body…until it directly and adversely affects another life. Suicide? I’m leaving that one to God. He’ll know the true state of the person’s heart and mind. Capital Punishment? Hate the thought of an innocent being executed, but think it could be justified in some clear cut cases. Euthanasia? A very slippery slope for sure. Sorry, this is so long, but you asked!

  • Rajesh says:

    Terrific word.

  • Kero says:

    a very interesting post! i would love a copy of the book for Hubby come Christmas =)

    ABC entry here http://kcelebration.blogspot.com/2010/09/kayaking-in-venice.html

  • Gattina says:

    Kill or murder, the result is the same. The person(s) is or are dead.
    I am against the death sentence because I call that a murder
    I am against wars for the same reason (politicians should fight in a ring together)
    I am for abortion (accidents can happen) because it’s the women’s decision if she is able or not to raise a child. Otherwise the child pays the bill.
    I am for euthanasia because I can’t see somebody suffer or just keep alive on machines
    I have no opinion concerning suicide. If somebody comes to that he must have a lot of courage !

  • Reader Wil says:

    Great post! You are a debater and I like that. I am against any war, but not against demonstrations. I am against capital punishment: you force the hangman to commit murder. I am not against abortion in an early stage, for then we cannot speak of a baby at all. I am not against euthanasia either if the patient is terminally ill and suffers much or looses his dignity. In the Bible people were not kept alive with artificial means. It is difficult to draw the line. I believe that Jesus, Ghandi or Buddha would never kill, nor go to war.

  • ann says:

    Your mum and you, my son and I.
    Seems the Bible can be quite a discussion point.
    Yesterday, he (aged 14) started,” Mum, spare the rod, spoil the child, the rod does mean the stick that most people associate it with.”
    Then he went on to talk the rod or the staff the shepherd uses to guide the sheep.

    You and your mum, you had great discussion. Such good mum and son time.

  • Pie Jesu says:

    I haven’t much to say on this time but do you have twitter account, so I can follow your latest blog entries.

  • This must be the biggest subject I’ve seen on ABC Wednesday. The definition of kill is to put to death. Whether that be through murder, suicide, euthanasia, abortion, accident or war is to attempt to define the degree of right or wrongness and that will vary from place to place and moment in time.

    Thanks for giving everyone pause for thought.

  • jabblog uk says:

    A most thoughtful and provocative post, Roger, and one to raise blood pressure and anger in some and vociferous agreement in others. What it surely proves, however, is that there are no easy answers.

  • Cheryl says:

    Since these are some of my most privately held beliefs, I won’t share them here. I do like that you were willing to leap out there on a very long limb to embrace this neverending dilemma.

  • Roger you have greatly challenged us with your blog on Kill. I sometimes believe an absolute prohibition is necessary if we are to follow the teachings of the Prince of Peace or the Buddha. I admire the courage of the men and women through the ages who have stood up for that absolute prohibition against taking the life of another human. I do not believe in the death penalty as the right punishment or as a deterrent. I did not face the draft of the Vietnam years. Would I have gone to Canada as a very good friend did? War seems the very last solution we should choose. We have so many examples of the immensely evil consequences of even a “just” war. But I believe we needed to fight against Hitler.
    What I wish is that like you we would think long and very carefully about the choices we have before we make them.
    And, P.S., that soldier in the picture is right — meat is murder, but I continue to eat it.

  • Joy says:

    Seeing the first image I thought I was in for CSI, not a philosophical and moral conundrum. I think the commandment should be thou shall not kill and the rest is just trying to weasel out of the consequences of that edict. Much more straightforward in Buddhism for compassion must be shown to all living things and definitely those questions to a follower of Jainism whose belief that everything existing in the world has a soul would have no problem in taking the thou shall not kill to encompass everything.
    We all have to make our own decisions, what do I think? That The Smiths were a great band, and I miss Morrissey not having Johnny Marr’s guitar in the background, weaving in and out of the songs.

  • chrisj says:

    Touching on suicide concerns me because there are many people out there who have attempted it, thought about it or have friends or family who have done it. Most suicides occur “when the balance of the mind is disturbed”,as they say. But with all we have learned about mental illness in recent years, I would not consider it killing, or a sin against God, or murder, or unforgivable. To do so gives much more pain to those concerned in an already heartrending situation..

  • Bev Baird says:

    You have really given everyone a very contoversial topic to ponder!
    Thou shalt not kill – does that also include animals?
    You touched on some very important points. thanks for a very important post.

  • Jingle says:

    fantastic words.

  • I thought of the word for todays letter but could not find a picture of me killing a roach or a spider so I went the easy way. Kids and kiss, ha ha yep I took the easy way out. Good post. Thanks for the visit to my blog.

  • magiceye says:

    very complicated indeed!
    lovely take on the theme!

  • Barbara says:

    Very interesting, though-provoking post.

  • Rima Ventur says:

    I think you’ll may submit many more articles, me personally and our kids appreciate your site and feel we’re much better educated right after visiting.

  • Elly says:

    Great post with lots of imtaoprnt stuff.

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