Evangelicals Discover Moral Ambiguity on the Death Penalty

Last week "the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE)—the umbrella group founded in 1942 to give conservative white-evangelical Protestants an amplified voice—voted to soften its longstanding position supporting capital punishment."

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Bert Perry's picture

It is worth noting that most of the NAE's statement really concentrates on the violations of process that the Scripture already addresses--punishment for perjurers, the right to confront evidence, etc..  It would be welcome if they admitted as much instead of making it about the death penalty.  Can we say "bait and switch"?

One especially egregious mistake on the part of those writing the document is that the Hebrew word they translate as "eyewitness" simply means "witness"--Strong's 5707,  'eyd.  (pardon my bad transliteration)  The key issue here is that the usage of the word makes clear that circumstantial evidence does count as a witness--for example, in Exodus 22:13, a torn animal served as a witness.  In the same way, Jewish law admitted marital sheets as a witness of the bride's virginity, and the like.

The big problem with this is that if a conviction--any conviction according to the Torah, not just a capital conviction--requires two eye-witnesses, you will not be able to get a conviction in most cases because criminals not surprisingly don't do their crimes before an audience if they can avoid it.  So the very premiss--that a monosyllabic word is in fact a compound word that refers specifically to a person who has seen the acts in question--is nonsensical both on the usage of the word, and in terms of justice.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.