Passages in the Christian Scriptures
(New Testament) that discuss suicide
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
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.
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.
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
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:
||An individual defiling his own body:|
Some 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.
One 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
5 & 6. 1
Another 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
Willmington'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
||Individuals attacking the body of believers:|
The 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."
The 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."
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary translates "holy
temple" as referring to "The [Christian]
community...destroyed by lack of sanctity." 4
||Individuals committing suicide: |
However, 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.
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
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
Charles M. Laymon, "The Interpreter's one-volume
commentary on the Bible," Abingdon Press, (1971). Page 798.
J.D. Douglas et al., "New commentary on the whole
Bible: New Testament Volume," Tyndale House, (190), Page 423.
Harold L. Willmington, "Willmington's Bible Handbook," Tyndale House, (1997), Page 680.
Raymond E. Brown, et al., "The New Jerome Biblical
Commentary," Geoffrey Chapman, (1990), Page 802.
C.M. Laymon, Ed., "The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on
the Bible," Abingdon, Nashville TN, (1991), Page 848.
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Last updated on 2009-SEP-11
Author: B.A. Robinson