If the Bible Were Law, Would You Qualify for the Death Penalty?

By Valerie Tarico | 23 April 2009

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey by the French Romantic painter, Paul Delaroche, 1833. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Public Policy)

Thirty-six different offenses in the Bible qualified for capital punishment. How many of these apply to you?

Cursing Parents
For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him. Leviticus 20:9

Working on the Sabbath
Whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Exodus 31:15

Premarital Sex (girls only)
… If, however, this charge is true, that evidence of the young woman’s virginity was not found, then they shall bring the young woman out to the entrance of her father’s house and the men of her town shall stone her to death. Deuteronomy 22:20

Disobedience (boys only)
If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the gate of that place. They shall say to the elders of his town, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death. Deuteronomy 21:18

Worshipping any god but Yahweh
If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the LORD thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that … hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded; … Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die. Deuteronomy 17:2-5

Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Exodus 22: 18

Wizards (epileptics? migraine sufferers? schizophrenics?)
A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them. Leviticus 20:27

Loose Daughters of Clergy
And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire. Leviticus 21:9

Girls who are Raped within the City Limits
If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city … But if in the field the man finds the girl who is engaged, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lies with her shall die. Deuteronomy 22:23-25

And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death. Leviticus 24:16

Anyone Who Tries to Deconvert Yahweh Worshipers
If anyone secretly entices you–even if it is your brother, your father’s son or your mother’s son, or your own son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your most intimate friend–saying, “Let us go worship other gods,” … you shall surely kill them; your own hand shall be first against them to execute them. Deuteronomy 12:6

Men who Lie With Men
If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. Leviticus 20:13

And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. And the man that lieth with his father’s wife hath uncovered his father’s nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them. Leviticus 20: 10-12

Men who Lie with Beasts and Beasts who Lie with Men
And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast. Leviticus 20:15

So. Are you up for the death penalty?

Just so you know, it could be worse. As I am reminded by people who want me to make nice, this list represents an advancement from mob justice. They are right, and the Levitical Code would a fascinating window into human moral history were it not for the fact that juries in Texas, politicians in Colorado, and clergy in Africa all advocate the death penalty for one person or another on the basis of these texts (murderers, homosexuals, and child witches respectively).

When people put God’s name on Iron Age documents, and then make those documents a golden calf, they get stuck with Iron Age moral thinking. Maybe it’s time to take the Bible down off of its pedestal, and acknowledge the obvious human handprints on the texts. Maybe it’s even time to do again what Thomas Jefferson did: cut the book apart, keep the parts that are worth keeping, and leave the rest on the floor in the cutting room of history.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org. Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel. Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.

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  1. "Girls who are raped within the city limits."

    I hate the Bible too, but this is either a complete misunderstanding of the scripture, or a downright lie. As ridiculous as it is to claim that a woman that doesn't cry out is not being raped, it specifically states that if she was raped and she does cry out, the man is to be killed, not the woman. At least give credit where credit is due.

    • Wrong

      Deuteronomy 22:23-25 "If within the city a man comes upon a maiden who is betrothed, and has relations with her, you shall bring them both out of the gate of the city and there stone them to death: the girl because she did not cry out for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbors wife."

      But moving on to

      Deuteronomy 22:28-29 "If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her."

      Notice the difference – if the maiden is betrothed she is some other man's property while if she isn't she belongs to her father.

    • Read the passages again. It is assumed the female WILL cry out AND be heard because it is within the city where people are closer. If she is gagged, she can't scream. So, how did a woman back then PROVE she screamed but everyone close by said no one heard her?? A lot of innocent women then were murdered and not the rapist!! Also, others could hear her yet be convinced to lie about it, again, condemning her to death!! When you examine the Bible closely, and most do not, and you do it with really strong critical thinking, you will see lots of things are geared against the woman to keep her under control. You also need to look and compare the customs of the time, the way of life in the lands around and many times the laws in the Bible were geared around what they thought was needed in their own societies, not a ruling for everyone forever. Women then were used for breeding. The male line was the most important. The ONLY way they had back then to tell if the child was the mans…for sure…was that the woman had no sex with anyone else but her husband. There was no real birth control practiced then. So, in order to know a male child was a man's legitimate son, was to completely control all the life of a woman from childhood up. So, should those same rules apply today when we have DNA to prove the parentage? Things change over time. The same laws humans had in history even outside the Bible, that make sense in one time frame, make no sense later and new laws are created for new time frames. However, if you insist upon one or two of the laws still in effect today, than as this article shows, you must practice them all!!

  2. BTW, I just thought of a new game. Everyone picks up a copy of the bible, opens it at random and does exactly what it says there. Last one in jail wins.

  3. Check out the list in the article. Three fourths of this country would have to die right now if Christianity and the laws from the Old Testament were enforced!!

    Yeah, this is the problem with Christianity….if it was enforced with the Bible as law, as the Quran is with Muslims, most Christians today would be killed.

    Are you so sure Christianity is not just as bad as Islam Sharia law??

    BTW the term Sharia law means "way" or "path". Did you know that the word "way" is also what Jesus taught for Christians to follow?? Look it up!! Jesus taught what he called the "way" for people to live and to follow.

    The only difference between the two faiths, is that the extremist Muslims enforce their holy book's laws from God today, whereas _most_ Christian denominations do not enforce the laws from the Bible. Many do in other countries though and war against the Muslims massacring whole towns in the name of the same God the Muslims worship.

    And many here in the USA would love to kill off ones they deem not following the same kind of laws in the Bible! Some people are actually killed right here in the USA by Christians who hate them, like gays and supporters of abortions!! Are Christians today really all that different than their Muslim brothers worshiping the same God with the same basic rules? Not really.

    Both are just as awful when it comes to what should happen to the ones _they_ deem "sinners" and most of the sins are the same in both faiths!! Both want to make their faith the faith of the whole world and kill off any who refuse to conform as God did in the Bible!!

    After all, they are both from the same Abrahamic belief system and their God, believe it or not, is the same God, along with the Jews, too!!

  4. Before you cherry pick from someone else’s book, read your own: Galatians 5:4 – Those of you (speaking to Christians of the new covenant) who try to be put right in God’s view by obeying the Law (which is the Torah/old covenant/Moses law) have cut yourselves off from Christ. You are outside God’s grace.”
    Torah law concerrns no one but the Jews. It is old covenant law and Christians are under a new covenant.

    • “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest part or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” (Matthew 5:17)

      Which only goes to show: anybody (including you, obviously) can cherry-pick from the bible. It is obviously not the word of god, but of men.

  5. Nobody is covered under The Law.Jews who are still stubborn to Gods were are because they choose to be.The Law has nothing to do with Christianity.Nothing at all.Once again this proves that non christians do not have the capacity to interpret GODS WORD.

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