Author Topic: Stoning and Other Executions in OT  (Read 3904 times)

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Offline aleksod

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Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« on: June 24, 2011, 04:39:00 PM »
Hello, everybody.

I would like to read some genuine Orthodox commentary on stoning and other types of executions in the Old Testament. Today I stumbled upon Numbers 15:35 but not sure how to approach the passage and the topic itself. Since the Bible specifically says "Lord said unto Moses" I am assuming the stoning command came from God directly. How should I understand this?

Thank you!

Alexei
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Offline PoorFoolNicholas

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Re: Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2011, 05:52:16 PM »
As God, the Creator of the Universe, He has every right to order the death of someone He has created. What is the problem with this?

Offline Alveus Lacuna

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Re: Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2011, 05:56:12 PM »
As God, the Creator of the Universe, He has every right to order the death of someone He has created. What is the problem with this?

The problem is that we are supposed to believe that death comes by sin and corruption, and that God brings redemption and life. If God brings death, then in a sense that makes Him evil, because death is the product of evil.

Offline aleksod

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Re: Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2011, 12:22:23 AM »
As God, the Creator of the Universe, He has every right to order the death of someone He has created. What is the problem with this?

The problem is that we are supposed to believe that death comes by sin and corruption, and that God brings redemption and life. If God brings death, then in a sense that makes Him evil, because death is the product of evil.

Thank you both for your replies. This is exactly my point - I think I will understand the passage better if I could find some of the commentaries from the Church Fathers or other Orthodox sources.
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Offline JamesRottnek

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Re: Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2011, 04:22:19 PM »
This is just my idea on the matter, and I don't claim to have ever read anything directly related to it in Orthodox works.  However, I would guess that God ordered such executions in order to prevent further sin from infecting the community.  To take the 'sin as disease' metaphor (sp?), it would be equivalent to quarantine of a diseased person.  As well, even though sin is the cause of death, Mary herself was (if I'm not mistaken) bound to die and so therefore needed the Savior, even though she was without any sin of her own, because Adam and Eve brought sin and death into the world through their fall.  As well, in a much more direct way, anyone who commited those crimes that lead to death are killed precisely because of their own, personal sins.  This is much the same as how Ananias and his wife were struck down by the Holy Spirit for lying to God and His Body.  As well, it is no different than Aaron's sons who got drunk (IIRC) and engaged in inappropriate activities at the Altar of God.
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Offline Gunnarr

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Re: Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2011, 07:07:55 PM »
And this is yet another reason why I should put sticky notes in my many translations of the Holy Fathers... and I guess not give them away after I read them to a Roman Catholic friend who is interested in the books... hehe

I remember specifically instances of the Holy Fathers talking a lot about the Old Law, but my terrible memory is so so terrible...

I hope someone here can explain it like the Fathers!
« Last Edit: June 25, 2011, 07:08:59 PM by Gunnarr »
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Offline Iconodule

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Re: Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2011, 07:08:56 PM »
As a wise man once said, "Everybody must get stoned."
Quote
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Offline Gunnarr

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Re: Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2011, 07:12:09 PM »
As a wise man once said, "Everybody must get stoned."

Are you sure that person was wise? hahaha

I hope he did not mean it in the modern sense...

or im calling the cops!!

 :police: :police: :police:

... i had to put that last part in for fun :P
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Offline scamandrius

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Re: Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2011, 07:41:55 PM »
As God, the Creator of the Universe, He has every right to order the death of someone He has created. What is the problem with this?

The problem is that we are supposed to believe that death comes by sin and corruption, and that God brings redemption and life. If God brings death, then in a sense that makes Him evil, because death is the product of evil.

Death may be a product of sin and transgressions, but it is also a mercy from God in that man should not persist in sin.  Still, it is imperative that we must also remember that God may bring evils up on someone without being evil Himself.  Even in the prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian, we pray that God would not give us (the translation of "take" is not accurate) the spirits of sloth, despair, faintheartedness and idle talk.  AS God is both God of the living and the dead, so he is the God of both good and evil without being evil himself nor the source thereof.
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Offline yeshuaisiam

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Re: Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2011, 09:55:15 PM »
I am not really considered Eastern Orthodox by many here, but I think I can help you.

The book of Numbers is part of the first 5 books of the bible (considered the Torah books), and yes, stoning was commanded by God. 
 
However, the NT or (2nd covenant) this stuff does not commanded.

Hebrews 8:6
But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.

John 8:2-11
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.   But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.   9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”   11 “No one, sir,” she said.  “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

According to Torah Law, the woman would be executed.  According to the New Testament, we must look within our own sins first before we condemn others.  (Also noted in other places such as the speck/splinter vs. the plank in our own eye).
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Offline SakranMM

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Re: Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2011, 08:50:38 AM »
Let's remember that, while the Old Testament is indeed the inspired word of God, and we can certainly never exhaust its theological depths, neither can we forget that it is also the product of human culture -  a particular culture in ancient Palestine.  They had their own way of doing things, their own morals, and their own way of meting out justice; we cannot impose 21st century western morals onto their culture as it is presented through the lens of Scripture. God was working with the specific culture, and while we might consider stoning and such primitive and barbaric by our standards, it wasn't by their standards.
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Offline aleksod

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Re: Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2011, 09:58:02 AM »
Let's remember that, while the Old Testament is indeed the inspired word of God, and we can certainly never exhaust its theological depths, neither can we forget that it is also the product of human culture -  a particular culture in ancient Palestine.  They had their own way of doing things, their own morals, and their own way of meting out justice; we cannot impose 21st century western morals onto their culture as it is presented through the lens of Scripture. God was working with the specific culture, and while we might consider stoning and such primitive and barbaric by our standards, it wasn't by their standards.
Thank you for your reply, this was comforting :)

However, does this mean that God's laws are also temporal? Does this mean that, for example, prohibition of homosexuality or women priests is also temporal? How do you separate cultural and temporal bias and a genuine God's law? How far can you go with such distinction before annulling all of God's teachings?
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Offline SakranMM

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Re: Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2011, 10:27:25 AM »
Yes, you bring up good points.

Regarding the temporality of law, St. Paul does a magnificent job of dealing with this topic in Romans.  The Law gives way to and is fulfilled by the grace of Christ.  As Christ says, "not one jot or tittle will be blotted out."  He came to fulfill the law, not to get rid of it.

However, regarding this specific case of stoning, the people in the Ancient Near East dealt with the problem through stoning and executions.  If you look at the other cultures that surrounded the people of nascent Judaism, you'll see the same thing.  It was just the law of the day that the people had, and they tied their experience of God within this law.  So drawing a distinction isn't always the easiest thing to do, since God's grace worked through and within the people of ancient Israel. I don't even know if attempting to draw a distinction is the right way to look at it, because that's not the question the Jews were concerned with.  For them (as well as for us), they were the people to whom the one true God revealed Himself, and their laws and cultural expressions become interpreted through that experience. We can't imagine that before Moses came, they didn't have any experience of law or justice; sure they did.  They stoned transgressors before Moses gave them the law, and they continued to do so afterwards as well; but we need to look at these narratives as just that - narratives, stories through which truth is transmitted to us, as opposed to viewing them simply as legal documents or even as theological dissertations; they contain law, they contain history, they contain theology, and more, and that's why I believe Biblical literature is in a class by itself.  What this passage in Numbers is concerned with is not so much in regards to God and His character, but about the way these people, to whom we believe God revealed Himself, dealt with matters of justice and how they interpreted those matters based on their experience with God.



« Last Edit: June 27, 2011, 10:31:08 AM by SakranMM »
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Offline aleksod

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Re: Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2011, 11:12:46 AM »
Yes, you bring up good points.

Regarding the temporality of law, St. Paul does a magnificent job of dealing with this topic in Romans.  The Law gives way to and is fulfilled by the grace of Christ.  As Christ says, "not one jot or tittle will be blotted out."  He came to fulfill the law, not to get rid of it.

However, regarding this specific case of stoning, the people in the Ancient Near East dealt with the problem through stoning and executions.  If you look at the other cultures that surrounded the people of nascent Judaism, you'll see the same thing.  It was just the law of the day that the people had, and they tied their experience of God within this law.  So drawing a distinction isn't always the easiest thing to do, since God's grace worked through and within the people of ancient Israel. I don't even know if attempting to draw a distinction is the right way to look at it, because that's not the question the Jews were concerned with.  For them (as well as for us), they were the people to whom the one true God revealed Himself, and their laws and cultural expressions become interpreted through that experience. We can't imagine that before Moses came, they didn't have any experience of law or justice; sure they did.  They stoned transgressors before Moses gave them the law, and they continued to do so afterwards as well; but we need to look at these narratives as just that - narratives, stories through which truth is transmitted to us, as opposed to viewing them simply as legal documents or even as theological dissertations; they contain law, they contain history, they contain theology, and more, and that's why I believe Biblical literature is in a class by itself.  What this passage in Numbers is concerned with is not so much in regards to God and His character, but about the way these people, to whom we believe God revealed Himself, dealt with matters of justice and how they interpreted those matters based on their experience with God.

Indeed so. However, if we look, for example, at early Christian culture, they also had slavery and prohibition of homosexual relations. While slavery was abolished at some point, gays still have to remain celibate in order to follow Christ. Can we then say that in the NT culture, God worked with the people through what they knew, just like in the OT culture, and so everything is relevant to the culture you are in? This does not sound right to me.
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Offline SakranMM

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Re: Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« Reply #14 on: June 27, 2011, 12:15:32 PM »
I think we can say that God worked with the people through what they knew.  Even St. Paul discusses this - the purpose of the Law was as a pedagogue; a pedagogue, as you probably know, was in the ancient world a slave which supervised the children of the master as they went to and from school; he had power over the children while they were under age, but once they came of age, they became his masters.  The Israelites where in this position until grace came through Jesus Christ.  If God would have sent Christ at the outset, the Jews would not have been prepared for Him.  They were like children; they simply weren't ready, and God knew this, and that's why He was so patient with them, taking thousands of years to help bring His people to the point where they were ready to receive Christ, "in the fullness of time," as St. Paul puts it.  Still today, God works with people based on what they know; look at the stories of converts to Christianity (not just Orthodoxy) - it was generally a slow process that took time, and included wrestling with a lot of questions and doubts before the conversion became solid.  God meets us where we are at, and brings us up to heaven one step at a time.  The Jews are no exception to this rule.  God starts with what He he has to work with, and molds it from there into His likeness.  That why the whole spiritual life is compared to a marathon in many cases; it's a slow, steady progression, with the individual as well as with the whole people of God.

So I'm not really sure what the issue is here -  Does the fact that the ancient Jews stoned lawbreakers somehow make God less merciful or good or just than we think He is?  I don't think so.

Or are we trying to answer the question whether this command really came from God or not?  That question itself isn't really relevant when we look at the big picture of Scripture.  We either accept the proposition of the whole Scripture, or we don't.  We simply cannot divinize Scripture to the point of eliminating human references to culture and local law (just like we cannot humanize it to the point of saying that there is no divine inspiration behind it); the Bible is a product of God and man working together.  What we need to do is look at the whole Scripture through the lens of Christ crucified if we are to call ourselves Christian; otherwise, we're simply engaging in textual criticism for the sake of itself.

When it comes down to it, here are the facts:  For whatever reason, stoning was the penalty back then.  Homosexuality and slavery were condemned.  Slavery was later abolished in most countries (it still exists in some places, though, so be aware of it); I don't think the early christians were too concerned with abolishing slavery, since they were simply concerned with survival; imagine if they had tried to abolish slavery in the first couple centuries; Rome would have wiped the Church out completely.  On the other note,  homosexuality continued to be seem as missing the mark in the New Testament (on that note, it's not just homosexuals who are asked to remain celibate in order to follow Christ, but indeed all unmarried people, gay or straight - the issue is really one of fornication.)

So anyway, sorry for going on; I'm just not sure what your contention is with this matter.
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Offline CBGardner

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Re: Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« Reply #15 on: June 27, 2011, 12:51:08 PM »
I'm not sure barbaric equals sinful. Yes stoning is more primitive than lethal injection but that doesn't make it worse. Someone who kills with stoning murders in the same way as if they "humanely" killed them. Today people consider it "wrong" to not bath regularly but that doesn't make it a sin. I think this is a case of man's law going a bit further than God's law. We get so proud and act like things are "below" us when really we're doing the same thing in a different way. Its a way to make society feel better about themselves.
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Offline aleksod

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Re: Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« Reply #16 on: June 27, 2011, 02:35:14 PM »
So anyway, sorry for going on; I'm just not sure what your contention is with this matter.
Thank you so much! I enjoyed reading your answer. I think now I finally can put this and other "cruel god" issues to rest now :)
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Offline aleksod

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Re: Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« Reply #17 on: June 27, 2011, 02:35:48 PM »
I'm not sure barbaric equals sinful. Yes stoning is more primitive than lethal injection but that doesn't make it worse. Someone who kills with stoning murders in the same way as if they "humanely" killed them. Today people consider it "wrong" to not bath regularly but that doesn't make it a sin. I think this is a case of man's law going a bit further than God's law. We get so proud and act like things are "below" us when really we're doing the same thing in a different way. Its a way to make society feel better about themselves.
Yup, agreed  :D
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Offline orthonorm

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Re: Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« Reply #18 on: June 27, 2011, 02:38:51 PM »
As a wise man once said, "Everybody must get stoned."

Nice!

Offline orthonorm

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Re: Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« Reply #19 on: June 27, 2011, 02:39:55 PM »
As a wise man once said, "Everybody must get stoned."

Are you sure that person was wise? hahaha

I hope he did not mean it in the modern sense...

or im calling the cops!!

 :police: :police: :police:

... i had to put that last part in for fun :P

Funny thing is that many people don't realize Dylan ain't talking about getting high . . .

Offline aleksod

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Re: Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« Reply #20 on: June 27, 2011, 02:41:24 PM »
Funny thing is that many people don't realize Dylan ain't talking about getting high . . .
Sorry, I am not familiar with what you are referring to. Can you post a link to lyrics or something?
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Offline orthonorm

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Re: Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« Reply #21 on: June 27, 2011, 02:47:13 PM »
Funny thing is that many people don't realize Dylan ain't talking about getting high . . .
Sorry, I am not familiar with what you are referring to. Can you post a link to lyrics or something?

For a brief history and analysis:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainy_Day_Women_No._12_%26_35

lyrics:

http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/rainy-day-women-12-35

Ain't gonna youtube around ATM, but there are a lot of versions of Dylan performing it on youtube.

Ain't a fan of the guy, but always got a chuckle when folks think of it as a "drug song".

Offline aleksod

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Re: Stoning and Other Executions in OT
« Reply #22 on: June 28, 2011, 12:30:55 AM »
Funny thing is that many people don't realize Dylan ain't talking about getting high . . .
Sorry, I am not familiar with what you are referring to. Can you post a link to lyrics or something?

For a brief history and analysis:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainy_Day_Women_No._12_%26_35

lyrics:

http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/rainy-day-women-12-35

Ain't gonna youtube around ATM, but there are a lot of versions of Dylan performing it on youtube.

Ain't a fan of the guy, but always got a chuckle when folks think of it as a "drug song".

Thanks! I feel that I am finally enlightened :-P
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