Anti-death penalty and Christ.

So most of my life I was staunchly in favor of the death penalty. Through mellowing with age, my reconnecting with my Catholic faith and the realization of my own hypocrisy in light of being pro-life I’m now against the death penalty. However, I’m always playing Devil’s Advocate with myself. So here’s the question.

Christ was given the death penalty, thus fulfilling Scripture and allowing salvation for believers. If TPTB were against the death penalty, the crucifixion never happens. Then where are we? IOW, for Christians, the death penalty was a good thing. I know that in my faith it would be considered a mystery of faith. But given the kind of people we are I’m looking forward to some great thoughts on this.

If possible I’d prefer to avoid arguments on wrongful convictions, demographic disparities, etc. I’m interested in the subject only as it applies to Christ and faith/morality/etc.

Would Christ be in favor of the death penalty? I doubt it.

What scripture was “fulfilled” by Christ’s death? You can’t fulfill a post facto scripture, btw.

As John says, he couldn’t possibly have fulfilled the scriptures, since they were written after his death. I don’t believe he fulfilled any of the OT prophesies either, though someone like DtC would probably be able to give you a more definitive answer to this. I think they basically tried to work his death into some sort of prophesy event after the fact, since (assuming you believe he was a real person) they had to do something once the Romans whacked him.


Saved or not, as God chooses, regardless of whether or not there’s a crucifixion. This entire portion of Christian dogma makes even less sense than usual; God can’t provide salvation without the sacrifice of his son? Come on, who’s going to stop him? And God would have liked humanity less if the Romans were nicer?

This is correct. There was no Scriptural expectation that the Messiah would be killed (or that he would be God orm that he would be a redeemer of sins). The Messiah of the Hebrew Bible (and of Judaism still) is just a human king, the heir to the throne of David (via direct, patrilineal descendancy, so sons of virgins are disqualfied from being the Jewish Messiah) with a much different set of expectations from how Christians conceptualize the Messiah. Jesus died without fulfilling any of the Scriptural expecations of the Messiah. Under Jewish traditional and scriptural rules, this meant he could not have been the Messiah, so the whole concept had to be re-imagined and re-formatted to explain it. Bits and pieces of OT scripture were cherry-picked, cut from context and re-pasted into “prophesies” that don’t actually exist in the original contexts of those verses. A lot of Christian theology will basically say that these passages had double-meanings, and that the Christian friendly meanings weren’t intended to be understood until after the crucifixion. This has to be taken on faith, because it’s not in the Hebrew Bible.

In any case, there was never a scriptural prophesy that the Messiah would be put to death.

To actually answer the OP’s question in a way that will reconcile the cricifixion with opposition the death penalty, since Jesus’ death is essentially conceptualized as the ultimate Pascal sacrifice - the “unblemished lamb” to end all unblemished lambs - the actual manner of death is not important. What was essential was that he sacrifice himself in some way. It didn’t have to be the Roman death penalty, that’s just what Jesus chose.

I don’t need Christ telling me that killing a person is wrong whether by ¡murder, death, kill!- capital judgement or warring logic. They are all begat from the Hate that fills the world. Christ was the anti-hate in a world of pain. I don’t think he was an innocent lamb… however. He was intentional lamb.

Did Jesus choose to die? I know he accepted that he was to die, but I don’t remember anything about Him choosing it. When I mentioned Scriptures I meant in the sense of the prophets foretelling the sacrificial lamb of God or whatever the hell else you want to call it. The point is Jesus knew He was to die, knew He was the son of God, preached He was the Messiah sent to redeem Man of sin. The redemption came through the sacrifice of His life. Crucifixion was just the method used, it isn’t a factor in my intent. Focus. I’ll go out on a limb and say Jesus is against the death penalty. However, according to the evidence I’ve seen, the death was neccessary. I’m not asking anyone to convert or believe as I that it was all set up by God. For the sake of argument God sent His Son to Earth to die for the salvation of mankind. You don’t have to believe it, just take it as the context of the issue. I knew this was gonna be work. I need an editor.

There really aren’t any prophecies saying that in the Old Testament.

Right, that is the Christian belief, and the New Testament interpretation of Hebrew scripture, but even the Christian belief system does not specify that Jesus had to die by the death penalty. Even accepting Christianity at face value, the method of sacrifice is not important.

For the moment I’m gonna pretend that I believe in a god, and what the hell, I’ll go all in and pretend to believe in the Christian God.

By this question are you suggesting that Christ might not have had the power to avoid his death? Surely God would have the power, and if he died simply chose not to exercise it.

But to me, another question would be “Did Christ die at all?” If you buy into the whole soul concept, no one ever really dies. Their soul is somehow detached from their body and it’s the body that dies. We can argue (with no evidence on either side) whether Christ would have the same soul/body linkage as everyone else.

Apparently God wanted Jesus to be visibly and unjustifiably murdered by human authority for… well, whatever, I don’t get it, because as far as I can tell the human race didn’t learn anything from it.

And then Jesus arose 3 days later to demonstrate… he was actually a God? I’m not really sure what lesson humanity was supposed to draw from that either. Don’t kill a God? Don’t kill the guy who can make loaves and fishes go a long way?

Seriously, my head is starting to spin. There is no way to seriously address these issues without getting into endless inconsistencies and absurdities.

According to Genesis the penalty for sin was death, no mention of a soul or eternal suffering , so it makes me wonder why a Loving Father or All Knowing Being would choose to kill, or have anyone die for the sins of others. This same all knowing being should have known before their creation that men would sin and then they would have to die. I also wonder why he regretted creating men and used a flood to kill all of them except a very few, Then He chose a Murderer(Moses) and a murderer and adulterer(David) to lead His people. Then sent them out to kill people in entire towns ,( like Jericho ) if He created all people then the one’s he had killed were also His children so it doesn’t speak well of His being a Loving father, except for a favored few.
Also according to the psalmist all men are gods and Jesus seemed to use this Idea when he was accused of blasphmey so it just doesn’t add up to me.

If God was a good father as portrayed in the scriptures His actions seem to dispute that!

It would seem Jesus chose to die; there was a time when the crowd was looking for him and He hid, because He said His time hadn’t come. So in away it was a suicide because He could have prevented it and didn’t!

Honest question, would Jesus dying of old age, or getting run down by a random centurion on a horse, or what have you, have not satisfied the ‘dying for our sins’ requirement? I’m not that familiar with Christian theology, but is a particularly cruel, lingering death required for Jesus’ death to have counted for salvation? If, say, instead of old age he’d died of cancer, would that have worked?

How exactly was his death able to convert sinners into saved?

Again, I’m honestly curious, and GD seems a good place to ask since it’s tangential to this topic.

Hi, duffer.

There are very few people in the Bible who were guaranteed to go to heaven. One of them is the thief on the cross next to Jesus.


Note that the thief is making a distinction between himself and Jesus. The thief deserves to die, but Jesus doesn’t. Jesus’ death was innocent; that’s the point.

But Jesus does not respond to the thief by telling him that the DP is wrong. Jesus tacitly agrees that the thief is correct in his assertions - the thief does deserve to die. But repentance means that the thief has been accepted into heaven.

Granted, Jesus is in no position to discuss the death penalty at any length. And it is certainly possible to over-apply the principle and say that thieves deserve to be crucified.

Jesus while on earth seems to have taken the legal structure of His day pretty much for granted. He spoke (a lot) against the over-emphasis on legalism vs. genuine devotion to God and the service of God. But He never states or implies that the civil or criminal laws of His day are wrong. He mostly addressed Himself to the issues of people living in a society where the prevailing structures were like they were under Jewish or Roman law. He seems mostly to have been speaking on how individuals should conduct themselves, and sometimes how the church should conduct itself, but very little on how society as a whole ought to be set up.

We can speculate a good deal on the reasons, but FWIW Jesus seems to have accepted the death penalty as part of the society in which He taught and lived.


Jesus being killed as a result of his ministry was arguably necessary in Christian theology, but I for one do not see any neccessity of him being legally killed.

If you’re going to use Jesus’s crucifixion as an argument that the death penalty itself is a good thing, wouldn’t you, by that logic, have to conclude that it’s a good thing for innocent people to be executed? As Shodan points out,

Jesus was actually guility of what the Romans ostensibly crucified him for, just for the record. Claiming to be the Messiah (i.e the “King of the Jews”) was an act of sedition against the Roman state. He wasn’t innocent. Legally, he had committed the crime he was condemned for.

Also, nobody was crucified for being a thief. The Greek word for the “thieves” referred to in the Gospels is lestes, which means armed robbers, plunderers, pirates, highwaymen … violent robbers and bandits, not just thieves.

Quoth duffer:

The scene in the garden of Gethsemane makes it pretty clear that He would have preferred not to die, if it could be avoided. He was willing to die, certainly, but not eager for it.

But (also just for the record) did Christ actually claim to be the King of the Jews? As I recall, when Pilate asked him if he was such, Christ answered, “So you say,” or something like that.

Claiming to be “the Messiah” is a more interesting question. If Christ meant “Messiah” as redefined in what we now call Christian theology, then he wasn’t actually claiming thereby to be King of the Jews in the way that Roman law would have understood and considered treason. However, if Christ reasonably should have expected that people hearing him describe himself as “the Messiah” would have ascribed a treasonous meaning to it, was he actionably inciting treason despite his own idiosyncratic understanding of the term?

The New Testament would have been so much more airtight if Jesus had been allowed to have counsel.

As a Christian myself, though not Catholic, who is both pro-death penalty and morally pro-life (ie, I cannot morally justify an abortion in any circumstance, but law necessarily gets a lot more complicated), I can give you my thoughts on it.

In short, I view life as the most sacred of all things, it is a gift from God that, without which, all other gifts are meaningless. Even if one isn’t a Christian, I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to hold life as the most meaningful of all values. As such, it’s easy to go from there to pro-life.

The part that I think confuses people is how someone who holds life so sacred would be willing to end it with the death penalty, but I think it actually follows pretty closely. Quite simply, if life is the most sacred of all, that without which no other rights have meaning, then the only sensible punishment for unjustly ending the life of another is the forfeiture of one’s own life.

That is, obviously one cannot recieve more punishment than the death penalty, but to receive less would go against my understanding of both the concept of “an eye for an eye” and, particularly as noted in the OP, the theological concepts behind the crucifixion.

What about Isaiah 53?