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

By Valerie Tarico | 23 April 2009
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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

Witches
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

Blasphemers
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

Adulterers
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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17 COMMENTS

  1. " If the Bible Were Law, Would You Qualify for the Death Penalty?" Oh yes. I'm an atheist and that's the one sin that can't be forgiven. You can repent and atone for everything else- rape, murder, genocide- you see it all the time on death row or just before parole hearings. But atheism cannot and will not be forgiven.

  2. These old laws still apply according to the New Testament. Matthew 5:18, quoting the King James Version: “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

  3. .
    The Bible 'book' is a compendium of fire side tales and fables,

    recounted orally for generations by goat herders and primitive tribes from the stone age, until writing was invented,

    and then again, many different sources, transliterations, and versions were copied and written down.

    ''The Bible was created during a time where stories were orally passed down over thousands of years.
    Stories constantly morphed and changed over time, and the Bible is a collection of these.
    This is why it has the nearly identical flood story from Gilgamesh, and why Jesus has the same characteristics as Dionysus, Osiris, Horus, Mithra, and Krishna.
    The contradictions and immorality in the stories are not evidence that God is flawed or evil,
    but rather that humans invented him, just like the thousands of other gods that we used to but no longer believe in.''

    …and to answer the questions of the many fears and mysteries of our universe, like 'thunder' and earthquakes, since there was no science yet.

    This is the old Testament.

    The �new� Testes is also hearsay since these letters, �gospels� and stories were written by the loyal faithful, the camp followers,
    not by objective historians at that particular time,
    or by any contemporary writers,
    and these tales were written many years after the supposed events of this mythical Jesus.

    Thus, there is no verifiable evidence of a Jesus in real documented history.

    Then, many of these stories, but not all, as many were not chosen,
    [ There are more than just four Gospels but only these four were agreed on ],
    were compiled for one self-absorbed converted Roman Emperor in his Nicean Council,
    for his expressed purpose of conquest and
    control of the people of Europe for his Holy Roman Empire.
    He recognised that this was the perfect religion/mythology for the future domination of the populaces.

    Half of the stories were ignored by the Nicean Bishops and none have been proven to be based on fact.

    This �Bable� book is backed up by absolutely no facts and no evidence.
    It is not proof for any god(s) ….(or of any jesus as a god…)

    It is a historical novel……

    Only!

    The Bible is proof of a book ONLY (certainly not evidence of any gods…)

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