The sixth commandment states, “thou shall not murder” (Exod 20:14). This commandment forbids the malicious taking of a life, not accidental killing or killing in wartime. Man is created in the image of God (Gen 1:27). Therefore, when a person kills someone, they are desecrating the image of God. Capital punishment does not constitute murder, and therefore does not violate the Bible.
God said that whoever sheds man’s blood would have his blood shed (Gen 9:6). The Old Testament outlined the death penalty for many crimes including murder, bestiality, kidnapping and false prophecy (Exod 21:12; Exod 22:19; Exod 21:16; Deut 13:5). In the New Testament, Jesus let the woman caught in adultery free (John 8:7). This verse should not be applied to say that Jesus rejected the capital punishment in all circumstances.
The New Testament does not speak directly to the issue of capital punishment. Jesus and Paul reject the concept of outright revenge for a transgression (Luke 9:54-55). Ultimately, Christians should practice prudence in their view on capital punishment. If one believes someone to deserve capital punishment, there should be irrefutable evidence that the person is guilty of the crime. The utmost caution must be employed to ensure that someone is not punished unjustly. The Bible affirms a society where the capital punishment is appropriate, but rare.
The New Testament upholds a governments right to institute capital punishment (Rom 13:1-7). A Christian must remember that governments must be subject to God’s authority. The Bible includes instances of capital punishment, and therefore it is a legitimate practice. Jesus showed that society should be careful about the implementation of the death penalty and not rush to judgment. One would be amiss to say that God is against capital punishment. The thoughtful and jurisprudent implementation of the death penalty is biblically appropriate.