What Does the Bible Say About the Death Penalty?

The Scriptures appear to be quite stern about capital punishment. But in practice, what was Jesus’ attitude? And for that matter, what did Almighty God really say … and do?

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But then there’s the matter of “what did Jesus do?”

“When the Pharisees brought a woman who was caught in the act of adultery to Jesus,” continues Got Questions? “and asked Him if she should be stoned, Jesus replied, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). This should not be used to indicate that Jesus rejected capital punishment in all instances. Jesus was simply exposing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. The Pharisees wanted to trick Jesus into breaking the Old Testament law; they did not truly care about the woman being stoned (where was the man who was caught in adultery?) God is the One who instituted capital punishment: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6).

“Jesus would support capital punishment in some instances. Jesus also demonstrated grace when capital punishment was due (John 8:1-11). The apostle Paul definitely recognized the power of the government to institute capital punishment where appropriate (Romans 13:1-7).


“Consider this,” argues Reagan: “The Mosaic Law very strongly supported the death penalty and Jesus never once disobeyed the law or taught against it. He said, ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil’ (Matthew 5:17). The law made numerous provisions for the death penalty. Jesus

did not come to destroy these provisions but to fulfill them. As such, He would have supported the death penalty.

“Noah and His Ark” by Charles Wilson Peale

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