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Passages in the Christian Scriptures
(New Testament) that discuss suicide

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Suicide in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament):

There are many stories of individuals who either pleaded with God to end their life, or who killed themselves, or who sought the assistance of another to kill them:

Matthew 27:5

After Judas had betrayed Jesus in return for 30 pieces of silver, he hanged himself. Acts 1:18 is in apparent contradiction to this passage; it relates how he fell. He "burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out." It is likely that he did not simply fall down, but rather fell from a height great enough to split his body open.

Most religious liberals would assume that these two very different accounts of the death were simply the result of different traditional stories related independently by the anonymous authors of Matthew and Acts.

Some conservative Christians have attempted to harmonize the two stories by concluding that Judas hanged himself from a tree which hung over a ravine. The rope broke and he fell to the rocks below, splitting open his body.

1 Corinthians 3:17:

"If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are." This is an interesting passage because of its ambiguity. It has been interpreted in different ways by various Bible commentators and translators:
 

bulletAn individual defiling his own body:
bulletSome Bible translations, like the King James Version, and New King James, render the second word in this passages as "defile." Rheims New Testament uses "violate." This would seem to refer to an individual engaging in various damaging acts such as illegal drug usage, committing adultery, incest, smoking, engaging in sexual acts that are against their nature, etc.
 
bulletOne commentary suggests that Paul might have been "thinking ahead to those Cor[inthian] Christians who desecrate god's temple by the sexual immoralities which he severely censures in" [1 Corinthians] Chapters 5 & 6. 1
 
bulletAnother commentary notes that the two words "defiles" and "destroy" in the above passage are actually the same word in the original Greek. It carries the meaning "desecrate." 2
bulletWillmington's Bible Handbook refers to Verses 16 & 17 as implying that "Many of those in Corinth should be seriously concerned about the condition of their spiritual building." i.e. they should be certain that their lifestyle are not desecrating their bodies. 3
 
bulletIndividuals attacking the body of believers:
bulletThe New Living Translation translates verse 16 and 17 as: "Don't you realize that all of your together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you. God will bring ruin upon anyone who ruins this temple. For God's temple is holy and you Christians are that temple."
 
bulletThe same commentary as is mentioned above states that the "temple" here refers to the body of believers: "The destroyers seek to to subvert the temple itself and will themselves be destroyed." 2
bulletThe New Jerome Biblical Commentary translates "holy temple" as referring to "The [Christian] community...destroyed by lack of sanctity." 4
bulletIndividuals committing suicide:
bulletHowever, other Bible translations may put an entirely different slant on this passage. The American Standard Version, New American Bible, New American Standard Bible, New International Version, and New Revised Standard Version render the word as "destroy." That might imply the act of a person committing suicide. Yet a reference to suicide seems out of place in a chapter which is called "On Divisions in the Church" in the New International Version. This may be instances of translators' personal theology interfering with their choice of English words.

Philippians 1:20-26:

Paul is contemplating whether it is better to live or die.  He is hard pressed to decide between the two, "having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you...yet what I shall choose I cannot tell." One commentator writes of this passage that Paul "does not know whether he prefers life with labor or death with gain...in a life-and-death situation, he scarcely knows which alternative is to be preferred." He chooses life. 5

Revelation 9:1-10

An angel is described as opening the bottomless pit to release clouds of locusts. These insects had a body like a horse, hair like a woman's, a face of a man, and teeth like a lion. They were instructed to attack those people who "did not have the seal of God on their foreheads." The locusts were to torment people for five months but not to kill them. They had stingers in their tails like those of scorpions. Verse 6 says: "In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them." i.e. they will attempt to commit suicide to end the torment, but for some reason, will be unable to achieve it.

References used:

  1. Charles M. Laymon, "The Interpreter's one-volume commentary on the Bible," Abingdon Press, (1971). Page 798.

  2. J.D. Douglas et al., "New commentary on the whole Bible: New Testament Volume," Tyndale House, (190), Page 423.

  3. Harold L. Willmington, "Willmington's Bible Handbook," Tyndale House, (1997), Page 680.

  4. Raymond E. Brown, et al., "The New Jerome Biblical Commentary," Geoffrey Chapman, (1990), Page 802.

  5. C.M. Laymon, Ed., "The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible," Abingdon, Nashville TN, (1991), Page 848.

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Copyright © 1997 to 2009, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last updated on 2009-SEP-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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