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View Full Version : Where does Christian opposition to Euthansia come from?


coremelt
11-25-2014, 01:11 AM
Specifically is there any actual scripture in the bible forbidding euthanasia? Even the case for forbidding Suicide from the Bible is weak, there is nothing directly forbidding it and yet it is universally condemned. The Catholic church is adamant in opposition to Euthanasia. Am I right in thinking this opposition is based on later Catechism that was adopted and not on original biblical sources?

Trying to keep this out of great debates by only focusing on the relevant basis of the theological argument rather than the pro or con of Euthansia itself.

mod: please correct title to Euthanasia

Nametag
11-25-2014, 01:29 AM
Uh, "thou shalt not kill"?

coremelt
11-25-2014, 03:49 AM
Sigh. "The Jewish sages note that the word “ratsakh” applies only to illegal killing (e.g., premeditated murder or manslaughter) — and is never used in the administration of justice or for killing in war. Hence the KJV translation as “thou shalt not kill” is too broad."

From here:
http://www.levitt.com/hebrew/commandments.html

So no, "thou shalt not kill" does not apply to either suicide or euthanasia.

Captain Amazing
11-25-2014, 07:11 AM
But Judaism thinks that suicide is sinful too. So maybe the one belief has roots in the other?

Northern Piper
11-25-2014, 07:51 AM
Besides, the question is where Christian opposition comes from. The KJV has been extremely influential, so even if "Thou shalt not kill" is not an accurate interpretation, it has been an influential one in Christian thinking, which is the question posed by the OP.

coremelt
11-25-2014, 08:22 AM
Yes but I am hoping for a deeper answer than that. Why was the KJV translated as thou shalt not kill rather than thou shalt not murder ?

I am guessing somewhere in the early church is commentary which addresses this and that's what I am hoping to track down.

njtt
11-25-2014, 08:30 AM
Catholics are very firmly opposed to suicide and (I think) also euthanasia, probably more so than most other Christian denominations, and Catholic doctrine is most certainly not influenced by the King James Version, a Protestant translation.

Anyway, the OP makes the now common, but quite false assumption that all Christian doctrine is ultimately derived from The Bible (or even that Christians, in general, believe that all doctrine ought to be derived from the Bible). This has never been the case, and is especially not the case for Catholics, who hold that the Pope has a special direct insight into theological truth, due to the papacy descending in a direct line from Peter. Even apart from that, however, much of Christian doctrine is based on traditions established during the several centuries of Christian development that happened before the current biblical canon was (more or less) established (in the 5th century AD).

Ethilrist
11-25-2014, 08:34 AM
Sigh. "The Jewish sages note that the word “ratsakh” applies only to illegal killing (e.g., premeditated murder or manslaughter) — and is never used in the administration of justice or for killing in war. Hence the KJV translation as “thou shalt not kill” is too broad."

From here:
http://www.levitt.com/hebrew/commandments.html

So no, "thou shalt not kill" does not apply to either suicide or euthanasia.

Was suicide illegal at the time this determination was made, and if so, how does this apply? Or did they mean illegal within the context of the laws expressed in the Old Testament?

Francis Vaughan
11-25-2014, 08:36 AM
As a child I was taught that a significant part of the issue was the attitude that life itself was a gift from god/creator and that only said god/creator had the right to take it. This seemed to fit with a Christian notion holy grace and miracles - so that even the desperately ill should await the possibility of divine intervention into their lives. This also seems to be coupled to an idea of "the cowards way out".

Like many things in religions, received truth is often modified by the mores and traditions of the society into which the religion is transported.

Wars of course were typically justified with some form of religious component - so clearly waging it was doing god's work, and thus implicitly OK, as would the implementation of any holy law. So executions could get a pass too.

Northern Piper
11-25-2014, 09:35 AM
Catholic doctrine is most certainly not influenced by the King James Version, a Protestant translation.


The OP did not restrict his inquiry to Catholicism, but to Christianity in general, so a discussion of the influence of the KJV is relevant to his inquiry.

RivkahChaya
11-25-2014, 09:36 AM
In Judaism, it's wrong to interfere with a natural process, so DNRs are OK, but active euthanasia is not. Removing feeding tubes from people who are vegetative is more controversial, and usually a case-by-case basis thing, but Orthodox Jews tend to be more conservative about "heroic" measures in the first place, because the rule usually is that they are "interfering" if they are put in place when there is little hope of recovery, but once they are in place, it is "interfering" to remove them.

It's been my observation that Catholics tend to be "life at all costs"-minded, and describe people alive but in vegetative states as "miracles" if they survived serious car accidents, or something. Some Catholic woman paraded her brain dead daughter, Audrey Santo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audrey_Santo), around as a healer, who was suffering for the sake of other, for like two decades, until the poor kid finally died.

Abortion of very damaged fetus carried no weight with Catholic authorities, because of this "life at all costs." So the suffering of someone who wishes to go out a little early when they have a terminal disease anyway, carries no weight. On top of that, Catholics (at least by doctrine; I cannot read the minds of individual Catholics) believe that suffering is good, because it is Jesus-like.

I think there are elements of all those things: non-interference, life at all costs, suffering is good; and when you put them all together, there is no place for euthanasia.

RivkahChaya
11-25-2014, 09:50 AM
I see now that the title of the OP is "Christian" not "Catholic," even though only Catholicism is mentioned in the post.

I don't think euthanasia is universally opposed among all Christians. I think some protestant denominations are perfectly OK with the withdrawal of feeding tubes from people in chronic vegetative states, and do not condemn suicides. However, the position of churches in the US on physician-assisted death is trickier. It is legal by statute in three states, and legal by court precedent in one. It is expressly illegal by statute is 39 other states, so the position of some churches is not to condemn the practice outright, but at the same time, not to support breaking the law either. A lot of churches take the same stance on same sex marriage, and perform ceremonies where it is legal, but not where it is not.

I believe the Episcopal church takes this stance, but IANA Episcopalian, so don't quote me. Probably several of the more liberal protestant churches take this view-- the ELCA (the liberal Lutherans), the Methodists, First Presbyterians, and members of the UU church who consider themselves Christians. Possibly even UCC and American Baptists (not to be confused with Southern Baptists).

So, I think that Christians who are against euthanasia probably start from a point of condemning it for extra-biblical reasons, and if they happen to be a bible centered faith, like the Pentecostals, then they go looking for their proof text. What their extra-biblical reason is, I don't know, but I think the OP's premise is faulty.

jtur88
11-25-2014, 09:53 AM
Historically, as soon as emperors began to embrace the Christian faith, they had the power to interpret the scriptures any way they pleased. Hence, the distinction between "legal" killing (war, execution, burning heretics, etc.) which served the needs of the emperor, and "murder". There is no practical limitation on what can be arguably declared to be "God's will", and emperors had the authority to surround themselves with priests and theologians who agreed with them. One emperor, King James, wrote his own version of the bible, which is widely and literally quoted as the authority to this day. . Such doctrinaire edits, once set in place, have considerable inertia.

njtt
11-25-2014, 09:55 AM
The OP did not restrict his inquiry to Catholicism, but to Christianity in general, so a discussion of the influence of the KJV is relevant to his inquiry.

And did you pay any attention to the rest of my post?

Anyway, given that all Western Christianity was, in effect, Catholic until the 16th century (and much still is) Catholic tradition probably has far more influence on what most Christians, of all stripes, believe, than does the precise wording of one particular translation of the Bible from the early 17th century. Just because the KJV is held in unreasonable esteem amongst a small, if vocal, proportion of Protestants, it does not by any means follow that it is the source of the very widespread Christian objections to euthanasia and suicide. Indeed, clearly it is not the source, since the objections are particularly strong amongst Catholics, who hold the KJV in no esteem at all. (See RivkahChaya's post #12.)

RivkahChaya
11-25-2014, 09:58 AM
One emperor, King James, wrote his own version of the bible, which is widely and literally quoted as the authority to this day.What?

Smapti
11-25-2014, 10:04 AM
Via Wiki, I found this 1980 statement from the Catholic Church (http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19800505_euthanasia_en.html) on the topic, which cites specific verses from the NT as well as Vatican II;

Intentionally causing one's own death, or suicide, is therefore equally as wrong as murder; such an action on the part of a person is to be considered as a rejection of God's sovereignty and loving plan. Furthermore, suicide is also often a refusal of love for self, the denial of a natural instinct to live, a flight from the duties of justice and charity owed to one's neighbor, to various communities or to the whole of society - although, as is generally recognized, at times there are psychological factors present that can diminish responsibility or even completely remove it...

It is necessary to state firmly once more that nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action. For it is a question of the violation of the divine law, an offense against the dignity of the human person, a crime against life, and an attack on humanity. It may happen that, by reason of prolonged and barely tolerable pain, for deeply personal or other reasons, people may be led to believe that they can legitimately ask for death or obtain it for others. Although in these cases the guilt of the individual may be reduced or completely absent, nevertheless the error of judgment into which the conscience falls, perhaps in good faith, does not change the nature of this act of killing, which will always be in itself something to be rejected.

In brief, the argument is that euthanasia is wrong because killing an innocent is wrong, even if the innocent in question is yourself. The document goes on to discuss the use of painkillers (which is OK) and refusing extraordinary measures to save a life (which is also OK and does not constitute suicide).

jtur88
11-25-2014, 12:32 PM
What?

Which part did you not understgand? I'll let wikipedia restate it for me.

"[King]James [IV] gave the translators instructions intended to guarantee that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology and reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and its belief in an ordained clergy."

Skald the Rhymer
11-25-2014, 12:40 PM
What?

Please turn on your spell-checker. I believe you misspelled, "The assertion that King James personally wrote the King James Version of the Bible rather than hiring it done is so incredibly off-base that it is difficult t believe anyone could seriously assert it without being under the influence of lysergic acid diethylamide."

njtt
11-25-2014, 12:42 PM
Which part did you not understgand? I'll let wikipedia restate it for me.

"[King]James [IV] gave the translators instructions intended to guarantee that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology and reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and its belief in an ordained clergy."

And what does any of that have to do with the question at issue?

Anyway, the verse in the KJV that some people in this thread think is relevant, very poorly serves the interests of Kings and Emperors, who are routinely responsible for people's deaths, in wars, via executions, etc.. If the King had been looking out for his interests, in the way you imply, he would surely have insisted that "his" version of the Bible said "Though shalt not murder," rather than "Though shalt not kill."

Really Not All That Bright
11-25-2014, 01:30 PM
Which part did you not understgand? I'll let wikipedia restate it for me.

"[King]James [IV] gave the translators instructions intended to guarantee that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology and reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and its belief in an ordained clergy."
James VI (and I), not IV. And he wasn't emperor of anything.

Canadjun
11-25-2014, 05:22 PM
One emperor, King James, wrote his own version of the bible, which is widely and literally quoted as the authority to this day. . Such doctrinaire edits, once set in place, have considerable inertia.

Which part did you not understgand? I'll let wikipedia restate it for me.

"[King]James [IV] gave the translators instructions intended to guarantee that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology and reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and its belief in an ordained clergy."

The second quote does not say that King James actually wrote that version of the bible.

Really Not All That Bright
11-25-2014, 05:54 PM
I don't think "wrote his own version" necessarily means that he wrote it out in his own hand.

dracoi
11-25-2014, 07:33 PM
Euthanasia only makes sense if you think that pain is bad for you.

However, the Christian/Catholic tradition holds that suffering is valuable. We wouldn't be suffering if we weren't either being taught something or being punished for something. The suffering on Earth will produce rewards in Heaven. Euthanasia or suicide would then be avoiding God's lesson, avoiding God's punishment, and/or giving up eternal rewards for a temporary reprieve. All this is exemplified by Christ's sacrifice and the early martyrs.

Protestant Christians don't hold this view in quite the same way, but all of them would basically agree that pain is not inherently bad and that any eternal reward would outweigh any amount of temporal suffering.

coremelt
11-25-2014, 07:55 PM
I don't think euthanasia is universally opposed among all Christians. I think some protestant denominations are perfectly OK with the withdrawal of feeding tubes from people in chronic vegetative states, and do not condemn suicides. However, the position of churches in the US on physician-assisted death is trickier. It is legal by statute in three states, and legal by court precedent in one. It is expressly illegal by statute is 39 other states, so the position of some churches is not to condemn the practice outright, but at the same time, not to support breaking the law either.

Are you sure about this? Is there denominations that actually say its ok for a ternimally ill person to drink barbituates as is legal in Oregon or at Dignitas in Switzerland? I've never heard of any.

Thanks to Smapti for the 1980 Vatican statement but there must be something earlier than that? Euthanasia was practiced in the 1890's using opium for people with Cancer, I'm sure the Church had something to say about that. To be honest I was expecting to hear about some relevant writings from the early church fathers in 500 AD or so.

Thudlow Boink
11-25-2014, 07:56 PM
I went looking for sites purporting to present the Christian perspective on euthanasia. There are quite a few of them out there, but one of the best I found was this one from the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/christianethics/euthanasia_1.shtml), of all places. (There's also a short Wikipedia article on Christian views on euthanasia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_on_euthanasia#Christianity).)

coremelt
11-25-2014, 08:15 PM
Aha, I found something, this is what I was looking for. Looks like we can blame church father Tertullian for this one:

In considering the word in the New Testament, the church father Tertullian believed “kill” there had a wider meaning. Referring to the Creator, Tertullian wrote: “He puts His interdict on every sort of man-killing by that one summary precept ‘Thou shalt not kill.’” (De Spectaculis 2 ANF 3.80).

from here: http://pemptousia.com/2011/11/original-christian-voices-against-euthanasia/

So Tertullian was responsible for the shift from the narrow "thou shalt not murder (illegal killing)" of the original Hebrew to the broader meaning that eventually became the KJV "Thou shalt not kill".

Theres lots more good stuff in the link above.

DingoelGringo
11-25-2014, 08:26 PM
I don't think "wrote his own version" necessarily means that he wrote it out in his own hand.

I have heard any number of people say they built their house when in actuality they hired it done, by me or others.

coremelt
11-25-2014, 09:46 PM
Can we drop this? Its not relevant to my OP. Clearly no one thinks the King James actually wrote the KJV himself personally.

Chronos
11-25-2014, 09:55 PM
Catholics also have the principle of double effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_double_effect), which is often relevant in euthanasia cases. The principle applies to cases where an act is, in itself, either morally good or morally neutral, and can have effects which are both good and bad. In such a case, the act is permissible so long as the good effect is the intended one, everything possible is done to minimize the harm, and the good outweighs the harm.

For instance, suppose that someone is in the late stages of cancer, and is thus in a great deal of pain. It is acceptable to give that person painkillers: Administering painkillers is not in itself an evil act. It is possible that, if the pain is severe enough, it can only be relieved via extremely large doses of painkillers. Extremely large doses of painkillers have a secondary effect: They sometimes kill the patient through overdose. But it can still be permissible to give the extremely large doses with the goal of relieving the pain, even though this might kill the patient. It is not, however, permissible to give the extremely large doses of painkillers for the purpose of killing the patient. If there are multiple painkillers available, and one of them is less likely to kill than another, for the same amount of pain relief, then one must choose that one.

Flyer
11-25-2014, 10:32 PM
Point one--life is a gift from God.
"Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb." (Isaiah 44:2a).
"And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7).

Point two--God has a plan for every life.
"Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." (Jeremiah 1:4, 5).

Suicide is, in the plainest sense, murder. It is also taking something that we have no right to take--thus distinguishing suicide from the voluntary giving of one's life in order to save somebody else.

Somebody who commits suicide is saying that they know better than God does how their life should end. Thus it is not only murder, but also sinful presumption.

Euthanasia is in many cases both suicide and "regular" murder merely dressed up in a medical pretext.

Hector_St_Clare
11-26-2014, 02:17 AM
Catholics are very firmly opposed to suicide and (I think) also euthanasia, probably more so than most other Christian denominations, and Catholic doctrine is most certainly not influenced by the King James Version, a Protestant translation.

Anyway, the OP makes the now common, but quite false assumption that all Christian doctrine is ultimately derived from The Bible (or even that Christians, in general, believe that all doctrine ought to be derived from the Bible). This has never been the case, and is especially not the case for Catholics, who hold that the Pope has a special direct insight into theological truth, due to the papacy descending in a direct line from Peter. Even apart from that, however, much of Christian doctrine is based on traditions established during the several centuries of Christian development that happened before the current biblical canon was (more or less) established (in the 5th century AD).

This is more or less right. I'd add that Christians, in general, from the very earliest days have generally viewed the commandment as, at the least, a prima facie statement that killing is bad- not just unlawful killing, but killing in general. This would be consistent with, for example, Jesus' remarks against the death penalty in John 8, and the early Christian opposition to abortion and suicide. While there may be exceptions (capital punishment, for example), those are just that, exceptions. Many if not most of the early Christians (i.e. pre-5th century) were opposed to war and the death penalty, which is why people like St. Augustine had to argue for a change in the teaching once Christianity became the dominant religion of the empire.

In addition to the King James version, Luther's German translation and Jerome's definitive Latin translation appear to have used synonyms for 'kill' as well. I don't know what the Septuagint said, but if it used the Greek for 'kill' rather than 'murder', that would explain why the early Christians followed suit.

Hector_St_Clare
11-26-2014, 02:20 AM
Are you sure about this? Is there denominations that actually say its ok for a ternimally ill person to drink barbituates as is legal in Oregon or at Dignitas in Switzerland? I've never heard of any.

Thanks to Smapti for the 1980 Vatican statement but there must be something earlier than that? Euthanasia was practiced in the 1890's using opium for people with Cancer, I'm sure the Church had something to say about that. To be honest I was expecting to hear about some relevant writings from the early church fathers in 500 AD or so.

Augustine is the earliest I know of to write extensively on suicide (in a strongly negative vein, in The City of God). He was responding to a particular situation around his time: when Rome fell to the Goths in 410 AD, a lot of Christian women committed suicide to avoid being raped by the Goths, and there subsequently grew up around them a cult of veneration. Augustine was careful not to pronounce on the fate of their souls, specifically, but went into some extensive argument about why suicide was a sin, and was specifically a violation of 'thou shalt not kill'.

RivkahChaya
11-26-2014, 03:14 AM
Point two--God has a plan for every life.
"Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." (Jeremiah 1:4, 5).Actually, G-d had a plan for Jeremiah. There is absolutely nothing in this text that suggest HaShem has a special plan for every person.

UDS
11-26-2014, 03:29 AM
In addition to the King James version, Luther's German translation and Jerome's definitive Latin translation appear to have used synonyms for 'kill' as well. I don't know what the Septuagint said, but if it used the Greek for 'kill' rather than 'murder', that would explain why the early Christians followed suit.
The notion that “thou shalt not kill” is a mistranslation and that the original Hebrew text used a word here meaning “murder” rather than “kill” is one of these factoids that gets trotted out in internet discussion on a regular basis. But I suspect it could stand to be subjected to a bit more scrutiny than it usually gets.

It relies on the assumption that biblical Hebrew had a word whose meaning corresponds to the modern English word “murder”. And when you think about it, it’s not a slam-dunk that this will be so. Even in English, we argue about the borders of “murder”, and in different countries the area covered by it is different. Some people distinguish between murder and manslaughter, for instance. And we also have the term “homicide”, often used to embrace both murder and manslaughter. Are we expected to believe that the Hebrew text did not forbid manslaughter, or other homicides which we consider culpable, but not amounting to murder? Would it in fact be closer to the truth to suggest that the Hebrew word should be translated as “homicide”? Or perhaps as something else? If “murder” means “a killing forbidden by law”, then what law do the ten commandments appeal to to determine the scope of this particular commandment?

English translations of the Bible aren’t unique in using “kill” here. French translations use tuer rather than meurtre. The Luther translation into German makes a similar choice. And so forth. Perhaps they are influenced by the Vulgate, which uses occidere (to cut down) rather than caedere (to slaughter) or necare, to kill or jugulare, to slay. Occidere steers something of a middle course.

The Septuagint uses ou phoneuseis which, I’m told, can refer either to killing or to murder, depending on context. It steers a middle course, like occidere.

I wouldn’t be amazed to discover that the Hebrew word is less univocal that is implied in the claim that “it means ‘murder’, not ‘kill’”. I’d also be interested to know how closely the Israelite concept that we label “murder” corresponds to our own understanding of what is murder and what is mere killing. And I’d ask questions like, is this Hebrew word used anywhere else in the Hebrew scriptures? And does this cast any light on what it embraces, and how closely it corresponds to “murder”? It’s entirely possible that the “middle course” translations favoured in the Septuagint and the Vulgate in fact reflect a certain vagueness or ambiguity in the Hebrew text.

RivkahChaya
11-26-2014, 05:17 AM
The word is תִרְצָח, which is a form of לרצח, and it definitely means murder. You don't have to have an established penal code to have a concept of murder. It would be an inappropriate word to use for slaughtering an animal for food, killing someone in battle, or executing someone according to law, or even accidentally killing someone.

The same word is used in the repetition in Deuteronomy.

coremelt
11-26-2014, 11:06 AM
Thanks again for all the really fascinating and well researched discussion. But does anyone have an answer to the question of whether any Christian Domination says that Physician Assisted Active Euthanasia as practised by Dignitas is ok or not?

coremelt
11-26-2014, 11:21 AM
The notion that “thou shalt not kill” is a mistranslation and that the original Hebrew text used a word here meaning “murder” rather than “kill” is one of these factoids that gets trotted out in internet discussion on a regular basis. But I suspect it could stand to be subjected to a bit more scrutiny than it usually gets.


Ive already established above that the early church father Tertullian (e.g. the father of western latin theology) is probably responsible for the shift from "murder" to "kill". See my post #26.

RivkahChaya
11-26-2014, 01:05 PM
The word is תִרְצָח, which is a form of לרצח, and it definitely means murder. You don't have to have an established penal code to have a concept of murder. It would be an inappropriate word to use for slaughtering an animal for food, killing someone in battle, or executing someone according to law, or even accidentally killing someone.
Rabbinical commentary on the word רְצָח, and why it means "murder," and not simply "kill." (http://jpfo.org/rabbi/6th-commandment.htm) Short version: the word is sometimes modified by "accidental" to describe a crime that is punishable by banishment, rather than death, the implication being that the word alone means willful murder. The word is not the word used to describe killing someone as a form of punishment; it is not the word used to describe Cain killing Abel, because up until then, no one had killed anyone else, and Cain didn't know what he was doing (beating Abel) would lead to his death. It is not used to describe death in battle.

Caveat: the rabbi who wrote this is a member of "Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership," not a group I'm especially fond of myself. He's also a member and advocate of the NRA. However, he is a rabbi, and as it happens, he does articulate the differences among various Hebrew words for willful murder, unintentional homicide, and death in other contexts, pretty well, and he has all the Torah citations in this brief article, so the reader can check them.

Here is a Hebrew/English bible online (http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0.htm). It translates תִרְצָח as "murder."

md2000
11-26-2014, 01:51 PM
Can we drop this? Its not relevant to my OP. Clearly no one thinks the King James actually wrote the KJV himself personally.

In fact, one bit I read said that James never got around to fully paying some of the translators - so technically, it isn't really his bible, there may be workman's liens on it.


Augustine is the earliest I know of to write extensively on suicide (in a strongly negative vein, in The City of God). He was responding to a particular situation around his time: when Rome fell to the Goths in 410 AD, a lot of Christian women committed suicide to avoid being raped by the Goths, and there subsequently grew up around them a cult of veneration. Augustine was careful not to pronounce on the fate of their souls, specifically, but went into some extensive argument about why suicide was a sin, and was specifically a violation of 'thou shalt not kill'.

Ive already established above that the early church father Tertullian (e.g. the father of western latin theology) is probably responsible for the shift from "murder" to "kill". See my post #26.

This is the thing. The bit about "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" may have been sarcasm, but the middle ages church intelligentsia (using the term loosely) spent a lot of time discussing and analyzing the scriptures to clarify all sorts of different details of doctrine.

Just as there is no explicit rule about priestly celibacy, for example (except perhaps Matthew's "no man can serve two masters") there does not have to be an explicit prohibition in the bible for the church to condemn suicide. The concept was deduced from basic dogma by monks with too much time on their hands.

Inigo Montoya
11-26-2014, 03:13 PM
Somebody who commits suicide is saying that they know better than God does how their life should end. Thus it is not only murder, but also sinful presumption.But the drive to off oneself can be very strong--greater than the drive to feed when hungry, or to swim while drowning. Such a drive is greater than mere temptation. So much so that denying it feels wrong. So who is to say that obeying the suicidal urge is wrong, as opposed to obedience to God's not-so-subtle command to do so? In his faith, Abraham was willing to slaughter his own son. Would not slaughtering one's self, under the influence of a similiarly internally-received compulsion, demonstrate even greater obedience? Perhap's God's plan for the suicide is to broadcast a clear message, either of obedience, or of protest and desire to further a cause of greater good? For example, in the wake of elevated suicide rates, a society might focus its efforts on recognizing and relieving misery.

Ulfreida
11-26-2014, 03:21 PM
Catholics are very firmly opposed to suicide and (I think) also euthanasia, probably more so than most other Christian denominations, and Catholic doctrine is most certainly not influenced by the King James Version, a Protestant translation.

Anyway, the OP makes the now common, but quite false assumption that all Christian doctrine is ultimately derived from The Bible (or even that Christians, in general, believe that all doctrine ought to be derived from the Bible). This has never been the case, and is especially not the case for Catholics, who hold that the Pope has a special direct insight into theological truth, due to the papacy descending in a direct line from Peter. Even apart from that, however, much of Christian doctrine is based on traditions established during the several centuries of Christian development that happened before the current biblical canon was (more or less) established (in the 5th century AD).

The Pope, today, is mainly seen as a spiritual leader. I find that wrong ideas of the Pope's role are one of the most common ways non-Catholics find to misunderstand Catholicism. He's not the CEO of an international corporation, he doesn't own the Church's assets, he is not infallible, does not create doctrine, and he does not have any special direct insight into theological truth.

Sorry, this is a tangent. Just bugs me.

Ulfreida
11-26-2014, 03:33 PM
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church published in 1994:
2280 "Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of."

This is in the section on suicide and euthanasia. The Catechism makes special note that (unlike what was previously taught), we can't know the ultimate fate of suicides and may not judge them. It also notes that palliative care, and withdrawal of 'overzealous' care of the terminally ill are or may be acts of charity and are not euthanasia.

Ulfreida
11-26-2014, 03:43 PM
In Judaism, it's wrong to interfere with a natural process, so DNRs are OK, but active euthanasia is not. Removing feeding tubes from people who are vegetative is more controversial, and usually a case-by-case basis thing, but Orthodox Jews tend to be more conservative about "heroic" measures in the first place, because the rule usually is that they are "interfering" if they are put in place when there is little hope of recovery, but once they are in place, it is "interfering" to remove them.

It's been my observation that Catholics tend to be "life at all costs"-minded, and describe people alive but in vegetative states as "miracles" if they survived serious car accidents, or something. Some Catholic woman paraded her brain dead daughter, Audrey Santo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audrey_Santo), around as a healer, who was suffering for the sake of other, for like two decades, until the poor kid finally died.

Abortion of very damaged fetus carried no weight with Catholic authorities, because of this "life at all costs." So the suffering of someone who wishes to go out a little early when they have a terminal disease anyway, carries no weight. On top of that, Catholics (at least by doctrine; I cannot read the minds of individual Catholics) believe that suffering is good, because it is Jesus-like.

I think there are elements of all those things: non-interference, life at all costs, suffering is good; and when you put them all together, there is no place for euthanasia.

Catholic doctrine does NOT say suffering is good. Sorry. Not in the Catechism anywhere.
I can't speak to what individual Catholics believe to be miracles and typically the official Church does not make any comment on these either way. Abortion is really another topic, although obviously it is connected.

Smapti
11-26-2014, 03:57 PM
Catholic doctrine does NOT say suffering is good. Sorry. Not in the Catechism anywhere.


The document I posted above actually does contain some statement about the Church's position on suffering;

Physical suffering is certainly an unavoidable element of the human condition; on the biological level, it constitutes a warning of which no one denies the usefulness; but, since it affects the human psychological makeup, it often exceeds its own biological usefulness and so can become so severe as to cause the desire to remove it at any cost. According to Christian teaching, however, suffering, especially suffering during the last moments of life, has a special place in God's saving plan; it is in fact a sharing in Christ's passion and a union with the redeeming sacrifice which He offered in obedience to the Father's will.

I am not Catholic and was not raised as Catholic, so I can't speak as to what is taught to young Catholics, but via Wiki I find that the catechism says this (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P1O.HTM) on the subject of "redemptive suffering (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redemptive_suffering)";

The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the "one mediator between God and men". But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, "the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery" is offered to all men. He calls his disciples to "take up [their] cross and follow (him)", for "Christ also suffered for (us), leaving (us) an example so that (we) should follow in his steps." In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries.

The intimation here, as far as I understand it, appears to be that while Jesus' sacrifice was unique and tantamount, that it is possible through experiencing physical suffering that His followers can also, in a lesser but not insignificant way, participate in redeeming their own souls or the souls of others.

Again, this isn't stuff I personally subscribe to and I defer to our resident experts on Catholic doctrine (paging Bricker, would Bricker please pick up the white courtesy phone?), but from what I'm seeing here, Catholic doctrine on the virtue of suffering follows something along the lines of Jesus' statement in Matthew 19:12 about people who choose to become eunuchs for the sake of salvation; "He who is able to accept this, let him accept it."

runningdude
11-26-2014, 05:43 PM
Specifically is there any actual scripture in the bible forbidding euthanasia?
"Thou shalt not kill", comes to mind.

Being sick is not a crime, so the death penalty exceptions do not apply. Being sick is not an act of war, so the soldier's exceptions do not apply.
Even the case for forbidding Suicide from the Bible is weak, there is nothing directly forbidding it and yet it is universally condemned.Again, thou shalt not kill; it applies to oneself, too.

Being mentally ill is not a crime, therefore there is no justification for killing oneself. Biblically, this is pretty straight forward.

The Catholic church is adamant in opposition to Euthanasia. Am I right in thinking this opposition is based on later Catechism that was adopted and not on original biblical sources?

You have it backwards. The church came first, and early Christians wrote the scriptures to clarify what the church taught.

The Scriptures, such as the letters of Saint Paul, only addressed theological issues that were controversial in the early church. No early Christian sect believed suicide or euthanasia were morally acceptable, therefore Saints Paul, Matthew, Luke, etc, had no need to specifically address these practices.

Contemporary documents address related topics. The mid 1st century document known as the Didache (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Didache) specifically condemns abortion for instance, even though the topic was not addressed documents that became scripture. While even the Didache may not specifically address euthanasia, it gives no hint that the practice would be accepted, either.

Basically, Scripture and other Christian documents served a specific teaching purpose. The mere absence of a condemnation should not imply acceptance. Humans are uniquely talented at creating vice; if scripture attempted to condemn every possible evil that humans might commit, it would be a thousand volumes long, and still incomplete.

Ulfreida
11-26-2014, 05:48 PM
Bearing one's burdens in imitatio Christi is not the same as "suffering is good". I didn't find anything in doctrine to support seeking out suffering or enduring suffering that could be evaded without harm to oneself or others.

Like many other religions, Christianity acknowledges that suffering is a condition of life, and offers spiritual guidance as to how to deal with it.

wolfpup
11-26-2014, 06:26 PM
While the discussion about the theological history of some of these beliefs is interesting, I'm not sure it's particularly relevant as an explanation for the beliefs of many of our contemporaries. I think there's a socially relevant question about why it is that those beliefs have been so strongly politicized by evangelicals and the like who couldn't quote the relevant scripture or theological history if their lives depended on it. I suspect they couldn't care less about the theological origins of what they simply "know" is right. I'm astounded to this day by how many of them came out in strong and active opposition to ending life support in the Terri Schiavo case, for example, a position that they could not have justified on either theological or factual grounds, a position that was medically flat-out wrong, and a position that they were prepared to support with figurative pitchforks and flaming torches.

Take for instance these points from Flyer in post #30 -- I don't know whether s/he believes this or not, but the point is that many do:
Point one--life is a gift from God.
Point two--God has a plan for every life.

For many, the explanation for their beliefs about euthanasia, abortion, stem cell research, and other such issues need not be any more complicated than that. For them, it's a matter of simple faith, immune to facts or logic, cobbled together from vague recollections of Biblical precepts and nothing more.

coremelt
11-26-2014, 07:30 PM
"Thou shalt not kill", comes to mind.


Read the thread before you post. The original hebrew word was "murder" not "kill".

Hector_St_Clare
11-26-2014, 08:27 PM
The notion that “thou shalt not kill” is a mistranslation and that the original Hebrew text used a word here meaning “murder” rather than “kill” is one of these factoids that gets trotted out in internet discussion on a regular basis. But I suspect it could stand to be subjected to a bit more scrutiny than it usually gets.

It relies on the assumption that biblical Hebrew had a word whose meaning corresponds to the modern English word “murder”. And when you think about it, it’s not a slam-dunk that this will be so. Even in English, we argue about the borders of “murder”, and in different countries the area covered by it is different. Some people distinguish between murder and manslaughter, for instance. And we also have the term “homicide”, often used to embrace both murder and manslaughter. Are we expected to believe that the Hebrew text did not forbid manslaughter, or other homicides which we consider culpable, but not amounting to murder? Would it in fact be closer to the truth to suggest that the Hebrew word should be translated as “homicide”? Or perhaps as something else? If “murder” means “a killing forbidden by law”, then what law do the ten commandments appeal to to determine the scope of this particular commandment?

English translations of the Bible aren’t unique in using “kill” here. French translations use tuer rather than meurtre. The Luther translation into German makes a similar choice. And so forth. Perhaps they are influenced by the Vulgate, which uses occidere (to cut down) rather than caedere (to slaughter) or necare, to kill or jugulare, to slay. Occidere steers something of a middle course.

The Septuagint uses ou phoneuseis which, I’m told, can refer either to killing or to murder, depending on context. It steers a middle course, like occidere.

I wouldn’t be amazed to discover that the Hebrew word is less univocal that is implied in the claim that “it means ‘murder’, not ‘kill’”. I’d also be interested to know how closely the Israelite concept that we label “murder” corresponds to our own understanding of what is murder and what is mere killing. And I’d ask questions like, is this Hebrew word used anywhere else in the Hebrew scriptures? And does this cast any light on what it embraces, and how closely it corresponds to “murder”? It’s entirely possible that the “middle course” translations favoured in the Septuagint and the Vulgate in fact reflect a certain vagueness or ambiguity in the Hebrew text.

UDS, thanks for your summary.

The OT that the early Christians considered most authoritative was of course the Septuagint, so while the discussion on what the Hebrew text says is interesting, it's probably less relevant here than the Greek text.

Hector_St_Clare
11-26-2014, 08:33 PM
"Thou shalt not kill", comes to mind.

Being sick is not a crime, so the death penalty exceptions do not apply. Being sick is not an act of war, so the soldier's exceptions do not apply.
Again, thou shalt not kill; it applies to oneself, too.

Being mentally ill is not a crime, therefore there is no justification for killing oneself. Biblically, this is pretty straight forward.


You have it backwards. The church came first, and early Christians wrote the scriptures to clarify what the church taught.

The Scriptures, such as the letters of Saint Paul, only addressed theological issues that were controversial in the early church. No early Christian sect believed suicide or euthanasia were morally acceptable, therefore Saints Paul, Matthew, Luke, etc, had no need to specifically address these practices.

Contemporary documents address related topics. The mid 1st century document known as the Didache (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Didache) specifically condemns abortion for instance, even though the topic was not addressed documents that became scripture. While even the Didache may not specifically address euthanasia, it gives no hint that the practice would be accepted, either.

Basically, Scripture and other Christian documents served a specific teaching purpose. The mere absence of a condemnation should not imply acceptance. Humans are uniquely talented at creating vice; if scripture attempted to condemn every possible evil that humans might commit, it would be a thousand volumes long, and still incomplete.

This is an excellent summary. I'd just add that while there were apparently no early Christians making the case for suicide, those controversies did arise later (in the 5th century re: the virgin martyrs issue, and again with the Bogomils and Cathars in the Middle Ages) and it was at that time the Catholic Church put forth strong explicit statements of what had been implicit before. Augustine in the aforementioned 'City of God' passage makes the case that thou shalt not kill applies to oneself.

Hector_St_Clare
11-26-2014, 08:35 PM
Sigh. "The Jewish sages note that the word “ratsakh” applies only to illegal killing (e.g., premeditated murder or manslaughter) — and is never used in the administration of justice or for killing in war. Hence the KJV translation as “thou shalt not kill” is too broad."

From here:
http://www.levitt.com/hebrew/commandments.html

So no, "thou shalt not kill" does not apply to either suicide or euthanasia.

If one believed that God only guided the original authors, rather then subsequent translators, interpreters, editors etc. then maybe that might be relevant.

UDS
11-26-2014, 08:37 PM
The word is תִרְצָח, which is a form of לרצח, and it definitely means murder. You don't have to have an established penal code to have a concept of murder. It would be an inappropriate word to use for slaughtering an animal for food, killing someone in battle, or executing someone according to law, or even accidentally killing someone . . .
Thank you for this, and for post #38. It still leaves me a bit puzzled, though. You say that “you don't have to have an established penal code to have a concept of murder”, but I think the concept of “murder” does presume some societal moral standard according to which a killing can be judged to be murder, or not-murder. Most dictionary definitions of “murder” will feature the word “unlawful” at an early point, and it seems to me that if this commandment can be expressed as “do not kill unlawfully” or “do not kill criminally” or similar then if we are to understand what the commandment forbids and what it doesn’t forbid there’s an obvious gap that needs to be filled by an appeal to something outside the commandment itself.

This presents a practical problem. On a strict reading, if euthanasia is socially/legally sanctioned, then euthanizing somebody is not a breach of the commandment. But, then, if killing people in a pogrom is socially/legally sanctioned, then that’s not a breach of the commandment either. If the community chooses not to criminalise, say, the exposure of unwanted infants or the painless killing of those with a learning disability or a hereditary disease, does this commandment offer any basis for objecting to that choice?

There’s also a theological problem. If we assume that the commandments derive their authority from their author, G-d, if this commandment is appealing to some external authority, what external authority can possibly be higher than the will of G-d? Or is the appeal taken to be to some other commandment or revelation of God which illuminates which killings are murder and which are not? And if so, does the interpretive tradition identify that commandment or revelation?

MsKaren
11-26-2014, 09:13 PM
This is I think all tied the very Catholic idea that the state of the soul is more important than the state of the body or mind salvation-and-eternity-wise. Often suicide comes when the mind or body is in despair, a sad way to face eternity. If you can survive and 'pass through' despair then a peace and acceptance will accompany your death. This is an outcome greatly to be desired. Cutting the process short deprives you of closure, and is kind of presumptuous.

The Catholic idea of the Sacrament of Healing (used to be Extreme Unction or Last Rites) is not 'Give me a miracle cure' but a prayer that you find peace and acceptance whatever happens including your healing, your death or your continued suffering. [URL="The chief Biblical text concerning anointing of the sick is James 5:14–15: "Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the Church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. And their prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make them well. And if they have committed sins, these will be forgiven." Matthew 10:8, Luke 10:8–9 and Mark 6:13 are also quoted in this regard."/URL]

This is hard to explain clearly but Catholics pray 'now and at the hour of our death' every day. [URL="in 1493, a third part is added to the Hail Mary, which is repeated in Pynson's English translation a few years later in the form: "Holy Mary moder of God praye for us synners. Amen.". The official recognition of the Ave Maria in its complete form, though foreshadowed in the words of the Catechism of the Council of Trent, as quoted at the beginning of this article, was finally given in the Roman Breviary of 1568."/URL]

MsKaren
11-26-2014, 09:23 PM
Well, apparently my ability to cite URL's is deficient. I would try to edit but I do not expect to do better. :( Perhaps another day. Both were just Wikipedia. Now I'll mess up again for double-posting. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

coremelt
11-26-2014, 11:09 PM
If one believed that God only guided the original authors, rather then subsequent translators, interpreters, editors etc. then maybe that might be relevant.

Well no, my original question is "where did the opposition to Euthanasia come from? It's not explicit in the original scripture." So how and when the meaning of the word changed is precisely relevant to my OP. Its apparent to me now that first Tertullian and then later Augustine are basically responsible for the broadening of "Thou Shalt not kill" to include Suicide and Euthanasia, thats precisely the information I wanted to get from this thread.

Earl Snake-Hips Tucker
11-26-2014, 11:18 PM
And to play Devil's Advocate (no pun intended). . .

From my limited understanding on Judaism, the Talmud and Torah are murky at best on the concept of an afterlife, although there apparently are some rabbinical tradtions that say there's an afterlife. So, even if suicide, or any other proscription, is a sin, then. . . so what? What's the penalty? There's no Revelation, Rapture, or anything similar in the Old Testament, right? The writings tell you how you should live your life, not what you need to do make sure you end up in Heaven when you die.

Help a clueless goy out.

coremelt
11-27-2014, 01:47 AM
I don't believe Judaism believes in eternal damnation anyway. Its similar to Buddhism in believing that eventually everyone get saved, you just might have to go through a very very long purgatory period to get there.

At least thats my understanding as a non-jew but I believe its very much a grey area in Judaism where multiple theories are accepted.

Hector_St_Clare
11-27-2014, 02:42 AM
Well no, my original question is "where did the opposition to Euthanasia come from? It's not explicit in the original scripture." So how and when the meaning of the word changed is precisely relevant to my OP. Its apparent to me now that first Tertullian and then later Augustine are basically responsible for the broadening of "Thou Shalt not kill" to include Suicide and Euthanasia, thats precisely the information I wanted to get from this thread.

I think it's earlier than Tertullian. As far as we can tell, Christians condemned suicide (in general) from the beginning of Christianity .

Whether that was rooted in their reading of the Septuagint, in the teachings of Jesus or something else , is a separate question.

In any case, it's irrelevant to say 'the Hebrew text says murder, not kill ' because most Christians then and now aren't going off the Hebrew text. the earliest Christians used the Septuagint, which apparently has a term that's intermediate between 'kill' and 'murder'.

UDS
11-27-2014, 03:42 AM
I think it's earlier than Tertullian. As far as we can tell, Christians condemned suicide (in general) from the beginning of Christianity .

Whether that was rooted in their reading of the Septuagint, in the teachings of Jesus or something else , is a separate question.

In any case, it's irrelevant to say 'the Hebrew text says murder, not kill ' because most Christians then and now aren't going off the Hebrew text. the earliest Christians used the Septuagint, which apparently has a term that's intermediate between 'kill' and 'murder'.
Opposition to suicide, abortion, infant exposure, etc are all things that characterised Christianity pretty much from the beginning, as far as we can tell.

And SFAIK these were all part of their inheritance from Judaism. Whether these positions in Judaism were grounded in a reading of the fifth/sixth commandment, I can't say.

But I think it's a mistake to assume that either Christian or Jewish moral thinking runs along the lines of "this passage of scripture forbids X; therefore X is wrong". I suspect both traditions more usually run the other way - "X is wrong, which explains why this passage of scripture forbids it". Consequently looking for a specific text which deals explicitly with suicide or euthanasia is an absurdly reductive way of trying to understand a Jewish or Christian perspective on those issues. A more holistic reading of scripture and other sources may yield values and standards which, when brought to bear on a question relating to suicide or euthenasia, may point to a certain answer.

Hector_St_Clare
11-27-2014, 02:42 PM
Opposition to suicide, abortion, infant exposure, etc are all things that characterised Christianity pretty much from the beginning, as far as we can tell.

And SFAIK these were all part of their inheritance from Judaism. Whether these positions in Judaism were grounded in a reading of the fifth/sixth commandment, I can't say.

But I think it's a mistake to assume that either Christian or Jewish moral thinking runs along the lines of "this passage of scripture forbids X; therefore X is wrong". I suspect both traditions more usually run the other way - "X is wrong, which explains why this passage of scripture forbids it". Consequently looking for a specific text which deals explicitly with suicide or euthanasia is an absurdly reductive way of trying to understand a Jewish or Christian perspective on those issues. A more holistic reading of scripture and other sources may yield values and standards which, when brought to bear on a question relating to suicide or euthenasia, may point to a certain answer.

Right, exactly,

runningdude
11-28-2014, 11:31 AM
Read the thread before you post. The original hebrew word was "murder" not "kill".

Read my post before you comment; I addressed the exceptions that can justify "killing", making the act not one of "murder".

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