Every society and every culture has to deal with the problem of suicide. Taking one’s life is, in general, a phenomenon that most societies have rejected, and yet, the reality of suicide is present in every society, past and present.
Since suicide happens every day, people have taken different views about suicide and the eternal consequences for people who take their own lives. Ethicists and theologians differ on their views about suicide because neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament explicitly condemns suicide.
Most Christians are highly influenced by the views of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas on their view of suicide. Although the early Church Fathers allowed the taking of one’s life under certain circumstances, Augustine believed that suicide was not allowed in any circumstance. He believed that anyone who took his or her own life was beyond repentance because that person had violated the sixth commandment which clearly states “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13).
Thomas Aquinas believed that suicide was an unnatural act, one that denied Jesus’ command that one should love oneself (Mark 12:31). Aquinas also believed that taking one’s life was against God’s will because only God has the right to take life.
The views of Augustine and Aquinas have influenced the theology of the Catholic Church and the views of many Christians today. However, society today is becoming more lenient toward suicide. Today people talk about “Death-with-Dignity,” and “Aid in Dying” as options for people who are terminally ill. In these cases the terminally ill person receives medicine to shorten the dying process.
The Hemlock Society is a national right-to-die organization which promotes euthanasia. Other organizations have promoted physician assisted suicide as an end-of-life option.
The recent suicide of four pastors calls for a thorough study of what the Bible has to say about suicide and how suicide in the Bible influences a Christian perspective on suicide and the end-of-life options being promoted today.
What motivated me to study suicide in the Bible was the suicide of the four pastors I mentioned in my post below. After reviewing the six cases of suicide in the Old Testament, I will look at three cases of suicide in the Apocrypha and the suicide of Judas in the New Testament.
Once these studies are complete, I will use the lessons learned to formulate a Christian approach to suicide and the end-of-life options being promoted today. The posts will appear regularly over the next few weeks. Once they are published, I will add a link to each post listed below.
These are the posts to be published on this series on suicide:
1. When Pastors Kill Themselves
2. Abimelech’s Suicide (Judges 9:54)
3. Samson’s Suicide (Judges 16:25-31)
4. Saul’s Suicide (1 Samuel 31:3-4; 1 Chronicles 10:3-4)
5. Saul’s Armor Bearer’s Suicide (1 Samuel 31:5; 1 Chronicles 10:5)
6. Ahithophel’s Suicide (2 Samuel 17:23)
7. Zimri’s Suicide (1 Kings 16:18-19)
8. Suicide in the Apocrypha
9. Judas’ Suicide (Matthew 27:5; Acts 1:18)
10. Toward a Christian View of Suicide
I welcome your comments on these studies on suicide in the Bible.
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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If you are looking for other series of studies on the Old Testament, visit the Archive section and you will find many studies that deal with a variety of topics.
I’m looking forward to this study. I have thoughts on what the Biblical position on suicide should be, but will withhold them for now. I look with anticipation to see the direction you go in this study.
Thank you for your words. I also have my views on this issue. I want to do an in-depth study of this topic so that readers my come to their own conclusion on what the Bible teaches about suicide.
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Reblogged this on Myriad Shades of Gray and commented:
Given the number of cases of suicide that have made the rounds in social media of late I will be following this series with interest. I have often found Dr. Mariottini’s insight of benefit and share this article for others who may have a similar burden for the suffering on their hearts.
Thank you for your nice words. I hope this series of studies will not be disappointing to you or to all who read my blog.
Really looking forward to following you through this study, Dr. M.
Thank you for your interest on this topic. I want to look closely at what the Bible has to say on this important, but controversial topic.
I am also looking forward to these posts. Thanks for sharing ahead of time who you will be researching. I will do the same so that I might learn along side you!
Thank you for your interest on these forthcoming posts. I hope these studies will challenge us to look at what the Bible has to say on this controversial topic.
I gave most of my initial response in the first article: When Pastors Kill Themselves.
There are no easy answers, and again, one cannot be to quick to form a definitive opinion. This is a much needed topic, one that I hope will be embraced with serious consideration as well as discussion.
Thank you for your comment. I hope my studies on suicide will help people gain a better understanding of what the Bible says about this difficult subject.
In the 4th paragraph you state that “Thomas Aquinas believed that … taking one’s life was against God’s will because only God has the power to take life.” Anyone with a weapon can take a life or lives as US history as shown even recently. I think a better wording would be “… only God has the right to take life”.
Thank you for your suggestion. Even though I believe what I wrote was also correct, I think your suggestion is much better than what I wrote. Therefore, I have edited the post and changed the post by adopting your suggestion.
Thank you for being such an attentive reader.
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