Taking an oath in court...

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by Artimaeus, Jan 10, 2003.

  1. Artimaeus

    Artimaeus
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    I am fairly new to this board so I can only guess that this has been discussed before.

    Matt 5:33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, thou shalt not forswear thyself, but perform unto the Lord thine oaths:
    34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:
    35 Nor by the earth; for it is his foorstool: neither by Jeruselem; for it is the city of the great King.
    36 Neither shat thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. 37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

    Question: Is it okay for a Christian to "swear" in court, "swear" before a notary, or swear in any other official manner?

    Please, stay on topic and talk about the ACT of swearing and not what is being sworn to. Also, please, do NOT bring up secret societies. Might tend to get people WAY off topic.

    I'll start off. I don't think the passage could be any clearer or more on the point. I have not "sworn" in court (I was called for jury duty) or "sworn" before a notary in over twenty years. It is neither required nor necessary for a Christian to do so or anyone else for that matter. Why would anyone WANT to swear. If it is not necessary, and you don't want to, and you have a clear Bible passage to cack you up, why would you swear to anything.
     
  2. Dr. Bob

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    I have testified and "affirmed my word as a truth-teller", rather than swear an oath. My choice in light of the scriptures you quoted.
     
  3. stubbornkelly

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    I also choose not to swear to God or make such oaths.

    That one would need to make a special statement about speaking the truth seems to imply something less than truthfulness on other occasions. Also, a person who will not believe your simple word will not believe it any more by your taking an oath. The oath is only as meaningful as the person making it. If you are asked to take an oath, I would wonder at why it is necessary. Either you're a liar or you aren't. And if you are a liar, why would the person asking you to take the oath think your doing so would compel you not to lie? If you're a liar, that is. And if you are not a liar, then what need for an oath to that effect?

    [ January 13, 2003, 01:06 PM: Message edited by: stubbornkelly ]
     
  4. Johnv

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    Having worked for a law office in college, I was regularly required to "solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God". I never had a problem with it.
     
  5. Artimaeus

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    In light of Jesus saying, "Swear no at all", you have no problem swearing at all. Seems kind of illogical to me. Also, itsn't it true that you weren't "required" to swear but merely had to make an affirmation subject to the same penalties of perjury?
     
  6. Johnv

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    Paul employed an oath when he wrote to the Corinthians: “But I call God for a witness upon my soul, that to spare you I forbare to come unto Corinth” (2 Cor. 1:23; cf. Rom. 1:9).

    Note also his statement in this passage: “Now concerning the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not” (Gal. 1:20).

    Note the context of Jesus’ discussion in the sermon on the mount. That all oaths of every kind were not forbidden is evident. In the context of condemning certain oaths, the Lord said, “but you shall perform unto the Lord your oaths” (Mt. 5:33).

    In the text of the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary, Prof. D. Edmond Hiebert says that the New Testament condemns the “indiscriminate, light, or evasive use of oaths”

    Guy N. Woods in the writing "Commentary on James" noted that oaths that are condemned involve the “flippant, frivolous and profane” use of God’s name. Woods pointed out that the prohibitions of Matthew 5:33-37 and James 5:12 have no reference to sincere judicial oaths.
     
  7. Artimaeus

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    With all due respect Johnv, Paul was not taking an oath. He was, indeed, taking God's name in defense of his statment to emphasize his truthfulness, but, that is not an oath. Also,, Paul is not our standard of behavior, Jesus is. Jesus quoted Lev 14:12 where they were told not to swear falsely. Jesus said "BUT, I say unto you, SWEAR NOT AT ALL" It seems to be poor logic to say what this means is that we are to not swear falsely.

    With less due respect to Prof. D. Edmond Heibert, the NT nowhere mentions, let alone condemns the “indiscriminate, light, or evasive use of oaths”
    The same for Guy N. Woods, James nowhere even hints that he is talking about, "flippant, frivolous and profane” use of God’s name. He states very straightforwardly, "swear not". Jesus and James both give what appears to be a complete list of just about everything when they say when we are NOT supposed to swear.
     
  8. Ransom

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    Jesus was placed under oath at his trial before the Sanhedrian, when Caiaphas demanded: "I adjure You by the living God that You tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God." Up to this point Jesus kept silent, but the solemnity of the high priest's demand bound him to answer lest he show contempt for God.

    And Paul, while writing sacred Scripture, frequently swears in God's name that he is being truthful:

    </font>
    • "For God is my witness" (Rom. 1:9)</font>
    • "I call God as witness against my soul" (2 Cor. 1:23)</font>
    • "For God is my witness" (Phil. 1:8)</font>
    • "God is witness" (2 Thess. 2:5)</font>
    • "You are witnesses, and God also" (2 Thess. 5:10)</font>
    The example of Christ and the Apostles is sufficient to qualify Jesus' teaching; he is not talking about oaths that bind one to tell the truth in court.
    Remember the context of the Sermon on the Mount: "nless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." Jesus was telling his hearers not to swear oaths in the way the Pharisees did.
     
  9. Ransom

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    Artimaeus said:

    With all due respect Johnv, Paul was not taking an oath. He was, indeed, taking God's name in defense of his statment to emphasize his truthfulness, but, that is not an oath.

    On the contrary, it is the very definition of an oath. The American Heritage Dictionary defines an "oath" as "[a] solemn, formal declaration or promise to fulfill a pledge, often calling on God, a god, or a sacred object as witness."

    Websters defines an "oath" as

    To say "God is my witness" - to dare to say that God will attest to the truth of your words - is to take an oath. That is undeniable.
     
  10. Jim1999

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    I swear, by God above, I agree totally with my dear Brother Ransom on this point.

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  11. Johnv

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    ...Paul is not our standard of behavior, Jesus is.

    I said the same thing about women being allowed to be preachers, and I got blasted. However, I do agree with you that the words of Jesua and the Father supercede the words of Paul. With that in mind, I still maintain that Matt 5:33 is an indication that these types of oaths are acceptible.
     
  12. tyndale1946

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    But when taking an oath in court... Where does the one taking the oath put their left hand?... On the Bible!... How many have put their left hand on the Bible... The written word of God and raised their right hand and lied to the Living Word Of God?... Only God knows!... Brother Glen :eek:
     
  13. Artimaeus

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    The entire purpose of the sermon on the mount was to teach people that the intent of the law was even stronger than they had been led to believe. It is filled with "Ye have heard that it was said...", followed by, "But, I say unto you..."
    ...murder...angry without a cause: Is it OK to be angry without a cause as long as you don't murder?
    ...adultery...lust: Is it OK to lust as long as you don't commit adultery?
    ...forswear...swear not at all: Is it OK to swear as long as you don't forswear?
    ...eye for an eye...turn the other cheek: Is it OK to NOT turn the other cheek but take an eye for an eye?
    ...hate thine enemy...love thine enemy: Is it OK to hate your enemy?
    Matt 5:48 "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
    Jesus was telling us the way we should be, as mature Christians, as the Father is. Now, not one of us is perfect or mature as we ought to be, but, we must have that as our goal and not rationalizing so that we can more easily comply with difficult situations. That is exactly what the Pharasees did in oder to comply. Be consistent with your analysis of this portion of scripture. If it is OK to swear then it is Ok to lust and hate.
     
  14. Artimaeus

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    To say "God is my witness" - to dare to say that God will attest to the truth of your words - is to take an oath. That is undeniable.</font>[/QUOTE]Ransom , I stand corrected. After further reflection on the matter (I hate arguing with people when they are right), Paul was indeed taking an oath. Somehow, that just seems different to me and for the life of me I cannot reconcile the plain teaching of Jesus to "swear not at all" with Paul's exclamations.
     
  15. Jim1999

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    If we agree that the Bible, in its entirety, is the very word of God, then each statement, whether by Jesus or by Paul, is equally true.

    When one statement appears at odds with the other, then we are to find the overall intent of the word, Scripture interprets scripture. Since Paul indeed makes oaths, we must seek another intention of Jesus' words,,,,,,swear not at all.

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  16. Ransom

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    Artimaeus said:

    Somehow, that just seems different to me and for the life of me I cannot reconcile the plain teaching of Jesus to "swear not at all" with Paul's exclamations.

    Well, as Jim said, if you can't reconcile the apparent sense with the rest of Scripture, the thing to do is seek the correct sense. Let's digest Jesus' teaching in Matt. 5:33ff and see what we come up with:

    Jesus starts by quoting the Law; specifically, Lev. 19:12: "You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the LORD." He conflates this with Numbers 30:2: "If a man makes a vow to the LORD . . . he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth."

    So it seems clear right from the start that what Jesus has in mind is not oaths sworn in court, but promissory oaths: vows that someone would do something, or give something, or what have you. The Law said that if a man made a promise in God's name, he was bound to keep it.

    For example, consider Jephthah, who made the rash vow to God that he would sacrifice whatever came out his front door to meet him if God would grant him victory over the Ammonites (Judg. 11:30ff). As a result he was bound to give up his only daughter. (The morality of fulfilling such an abhorrent oath aside, the point is that he took his vow before God quite seriously indeed.)

    Jesus continues:

    Here Jesus answers the casuistry of the Pharisees. It was apparently fashionable at the time to avoid swearing in God's name directly, but instead to swear "by heaven" or "by Jerusalem" or even by one's own head. By not using God's name explicitly, it was thought, one could make promises and break them without breaking the Law.

    But Jesus turns the tables on them and equates swearing by God's possessions with swearing by God himself. Heaven is God's abode. Jerusalem is his city. Your head is his head. He exposes their reasoning as nothing but sophistry and hypocrisy.

    And here is where the rubber meets the road: Why swear at all? A righteous man will simply be good to his word. And, as James says, even a man who says a simple "yes" or "no" will be subject to judgment if he reneges on it. A false oath simply compounds sin upon sin. Moreover, by trivializing oaths, false oaths undermine those occasions, such as marriages or trials, where taking the oath also serves to underscore the solemnity of the procedure.
     
  17. Artimaeus

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    I see your point, all scripture is true. Jesus's words are in context and on topic. I would therefore, rather seek another intention for Paul's words. It is true that Paul said those things. Inspiration does not require that Paul be right in everything that he did, only that he did indeed do them. Jesus, on the other hand, must be right in everything he said and did. I will take the plain scripture over the not so plain scripture every time. My mind isn't closed, but sometimes I am thick headed, so keep on pounding away at me, I am listening.
     
  18. Paul of Eugene

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    I seek to honor Christ's command here by removing all extra affirmations in my statements. In other words, during conversations, I don't say " I swear its true!" - I simply make my statements. On the other hand, if called to testify in court, I would see no problem with agreeing to call my consent to testify an "oath" instead of an "affirmation", knowing as I do that in both cases I would be equally liable for any perjury and equally responsible for telling the truth. Obviously the whole intent in the legal system of requiring an oath is to add every possible inducement to the witness to tell the truth. I have no quarrel with that goal in that setting.
     
  19. David A Bayliss

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    Actually this is very relevant to me as I'm going to be called upon to do this tomorrow (for the first time ever).

    My position had always been that I wouldn't do it based upon the Lord's apparantly plain teaching.

    I guess my problem is this: I am going to tell the truth, everyone in my company knows this, it is my reputation. We are defending a situation where we are innocent.

    I am concerned that by making a fuss I am actually going to reduce people's perception of my honesty. I don't really care what people think of me but I have a testimony here.

    Paul clearly did take an oath. We don't specifically know if he knew of the Lord's record but I assume he did. So I have to ask: what was the Lord actually teaching?
     
  20. Paul of Eugene

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    Long ago in our history the courts learned to offer the option to "swear or affirm" - due to the very issue we are discussing. You should have no problem whatever your decision.
     

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