But the bible says “Thou shall not kill!” …Right?

Not Exactly…

In reading the bible you can find a number of contradictory statements, but there is no other topic with as many as the topic of violence and self-defense.  I believe that some of the contradictions are due to his changing views/strategies, some are an attempt to encourage peaceable living and some are the fault of the authors/translators.

To illustrate these idea’s let consider the following passages…

Changing Strategies – Luke 22:35-38

35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered.  36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’b; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” 38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That is enough,” he replied.

Peaceable Living – Mathew 5:38-42

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Translation Mistake - Exodus 20:13

13 “Thou shall not kill”

Likely the most troubling for believers is Exodus 20:13 because it is supposed to be the word of God directly, however most scholars now believe that it should have been translated as “Thou shall not murder.”

This is a major distinction because the Bible does allow for killing in self-defense. Specifically there are passages that allow for personal self-defense, self-defense of the society and national self-defense (war). In all of these cases, the taking of another human life is allowed for by God.

The bible even goes so far as to explain the self-defense concept a second in Exodus 22:2…

2 “If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; 3 but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed.

But I think the strongest biblical argument for self-defense the idea that God will provide for your protection! As illustrated by this modern biblical fable…

A man heard on the news that there was a large hurricane set to make landfall near his coastal home.

Conflicted about his fate, he rushed to his local church and prayed on what to do. To his amazement, he was illuminated by a beam of sunshine and God spoke to him directly saying “Do not worry my son I will save you!”

Feeling confident he would not be harmed the man returned home to ride out the storm.

Just before the hurricane made landfall, a police officer knocked on the door and told him there was a mandatory evacuation and that he needed to leave with him.  The man replied “God will save me” and refused to leave.

As the tidal surge entered his home, a fireman approached in a boat and knocked on the door, told him there was a mandatory evacuation and asked him to get in the boat.  The man replied “God will save me” and refused to leave.

As the water continued to rise the man climbed on his roof and was spotted by a coast guard helicopter.  The pilot sent down a rescue basket, told him there was a mandatory evacuation and asked him to get in the basket.  The man replied “God will save me” and refused to leave.

By the time the storm had passed the man had died and stood at the gates of heaven.  He was furious and asked God why he did not save him.  God replied… “I sent you a police man in a car, a fireman in a boat and a serviceman in a helicopter.  What more do you want from me?”

The moral of this story is that God provides you with the tools you need to take care of yourself and it is up to you to take advantage of them.  Today reliable tools and quality self-defense training are readily available. If you choose to rely on God to provide for the safety and security of you and your family based on your faith, you are testing your God.

Matthew 4:7 says…

Jesus answered him, It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’

If you would like to read more about this topic there is an excellent article on what the Bible says about self-defense at http://www.biblicalselfdefense.com/

What to do you think about the Bible’s (or any other religious text’s) teachings on the topic of self-defense?





  1. Marty Callan says

    I know the Bible pretty well. I have looked up original Greek and Hebrew words to help with clearing up some issues. I feel confident that using whatever tools I have to defend my family or my own life is justifiable. I have several levels of tools to choose from, some less lethal. I would rather lead a wayward soul to Christ rather than shoot him/her, but I can see that there may be a day where I might have to use my G19 rather than my “Gospel” gun. I keep both loaded…


    Ephesians 3:14-21

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