Revisiting the Christian and State Relationship.

The sixth commandment is one of the shortest:

Thou shalt not kill (Exodus 20:13).

The translation, “not murder” has been preferred more than three to one during the past century—notably a century dominated by democratic republics, and by vast wars involving never before seen savagery and the killing of tens of millions. “Thou shalt not murder” obviously is less restrictive than “not kill”; the state doubtless prefers it as it leaves considerable room to wage war. Killing is fine, only murder is prohibited.

Seventh-day Adventist scholar Dr. Ron du Preez has reviewed this matter. A survey of translations made over more than four centuries by Christians and Jews reveals that of 48 translations, only 14 use “not kill.” du Preez conducted a careful review of the uses of the Hebrew word RASAH used in Exodus 20:13. There are 47 uses of the term in the Old Testament. Of these, five lack sufficient context to be helpful in determining which translation is most correct. This leaves 42 uses. An exhaustive consideration of all 42 results in 18 times when RASAH should be translated as “murder” and 24 times where it should be translated as “kill.”

du Preez concludes:

Contrary to the declarations of Bible commentators and the statements of “most Bible scholars,” a comprehensive interpretation of the actual Scriptural passages definitively demonstrates that the Hebrew verb RASAH, as used in Exodus 20:13, refers to both accidental killing as well as premeditated murder. An examination of the Septuagint translation, together with the use of the Greek verb phoneuo, validates the finding that the most reliable manner of translating the sixth commandment is as the 2001 New English Translation has rendered it: “You shall not kill” (Ron du Preez, writing the chapter “Thou Shalt Not Kill” in Keith Phillips and Karl Tsatalbasidis’ I Pledge Allegiance: The Role of Seventh-day Adventists in the Military, 2007, p. 100).

(Note: The practice of Seventh-day Adventists historically has been as noncombatants/concientious objector status. Unfortunately, recent decades have seen a weakening of this practice and some Adventist young people enlisting as combat soldiers. The book I Pledge Allegiance urges Seventh-day Adventists to reject participation in military service, but does not sustain a Christian anarchist position such as that espoused here on Christian and State.)

If the Ten Commandments, as indicated above, actually teaches “Thou shalt not kill,” it becomes very hard to sustain a statist position of frequent war-making. God puts too high a price on human life. He has given it, and He would prefer that other humans not take it away.

And what cost the “Christian” support of war? None know how many potential converts to Christianity have been led to not pursue the possibility of the claims of Christ. How many have rejected even considering the possibility of entering into a restorative, life-changing, saving relationship with Christ, because of the terrific moral blur effected by gun-toting “Christian” American soldiers traveling overseas to shoot and kill?

“Thou shalt not kill” should be a Christian watchword. Everyone has a property right in their own person. But when men are sure of their “rightness,” they justify their actions, and even that which is profoundly unjust is blithely counted as right.

Men, women, and children are maimed and die. In the past two thousand years, the only enabling mechanism behind substantial wars has always been the state. There is nothing redeeming in the state. A closer look behind its mask of legitimacy reveals the smiling visage of Satan. He loves it. After all, the state is his primary promotor of the violation of God’s law. To disobedience he grants the state’s stamp of approval. And even Christians eat it up.

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Comments on: "Ten Commandments and the Christian anarchist 6" (2)

  1. Hi Christopher,
    I am glad that you are finding the material here on the site interesting. I am a
    Seventh-day Adventist mixed with anarcho-capitalism and Christian anarchism, so my personal position is not going to be a straight pacifist position. It would be great to hear from some Mennonites here on this question. In any case, I do not own a gun and am not looking for a biblical mandate for owning one. Even so, owning a gun does not equal a desire to use deadly force against other humans. One might need one (depending on where one lives) to deal with very real risks involving bears, etc.

    I have recently discovered certain parallels between anarcho-capitalist views on the history of the United States are shared by unsavory groups in the “white supremacist” / militia camp. I may write in future some short posts clarifying the differences there. Nothing is more impeding to the gospel than the distortion offered in unbiblical beliefs of racist stripe!

    My present personal understanding is that in certain cases, the use of deadly force in self-defense would be legitimate. However, we should remember that if the option exists it need not be used. For example, in the Bible, adultery is a legitimate basis for divorce, however, it remains the decision of the aggrieved spouse whether to exercise this option.

    Most anarchists and libertarians would agree with the principle that you never initiate the use of force. You would think that most Christians would! I did just read this which may be of interest: “It [the New Testament] does not demand subjection to evil and injury when legitimate physical escape is morally possible” (Archie Penner, p. 120). Penner was a Mennonite of more or less minarchist stripe (advocating a minimal state).

    One thing you do not want to do is confuse the idea that Christian anarchism sees the most just possibility for present society to be an anarchistic one, with the idea that we are advocating revolution. Vernard Eller would say that all that would be is the replacement of one human arky with another human arky.

    So called “good” arkys” are still problematic. The United State is supposedly a good arky, and yet it does not live by its own laws or Constitution. Some examples: refusal to allow states to secede, invasions of Canada and other imperial land acquisitions, theft of Hawaii, violation of Indian treaties, placement of Japanese in concentration camps 1942, nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki when Japanese were trying to surrender, fire-bombing of Dresden and Tokyo, etc.

    So while one can hardly endorse even the “good” arkys, that does not mean one should join an attempted revolution. The Christian anarchist position is aloof from all human arkys. Hope this helps!

  2. Christopher said:

    I’m not sure how I happened onto your site, but I’ve been reading your posts on the Decalogue. I consider myself a Christian pacifist (with the likes of Stanley Hauerwas and John Howard Yoder)and, after reading Jaques Ellul, somewhat of a Christian anarchist. I haven’t read much Christian libertarian literature, as such, but what I have seems bent on using the US Constitution, as much as the bible, to support its claims. I understand that libertarians and anarchists are not always the same, but you include several links to libertarian blogs while writing from, I take it, an anarchist perspective.

    Anyhoo, my question with the 6th Commandment is this: do you, as others I have read, (and I may be confusing libertarianism with anarchism or the other way around) find any support for the idea toting guns for “self defense.”

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