Thursday, May 26, 2011

Capital Punishment: Put Someone To Death. If You Think You Have Cause. What?

Capital Punishment.
Go Ahead.
Rewrite Commandments for the Gullible.

Text authorization?
No. But the gullible will not know the difference.

And the result puts people at risk.
The age-old Biblical prohibition against Murder,
has been flipped to justify capital punishment.  

Meet the Bible in Basic English and its permission slip.
You shall not kill, Exodus 20:13, becomes "Do Not Put Anyone to Death Without Cause"

Second Amendment Remedies Now In the Pew.

Is that the same as Do Not Murder?

The Basic English Bible makes two pivotal changes to the traditional Commandment, Thou Shalt Not Kill, or Thou Shalt Not Murder.

The Basic English Bible says only, "Do Not Put Anyone To Death Without Cause." See its version of Exodus 20:13 at

The new prohibition uses wording applicable to an execution: Even everyday definitions are clear. Using the same straightforward site for the elements of an execution, start with definitions and context.

I.  Object to it.

Here, we object to the wording in three ways.  First, by examining the risk of imprecise wording taken literally by persons choosing to take the law into their own hands; second, by deconstructing the wording to show how the meaning changes; and, third, by text criticism. The wording is not in reasonable parameters for translating or transliterating, "Thou shalt not murder." The "execution" idea in the Bible in Basic English does not follow anything like it in the Bible Commandments.  The Bible in Basic English goes on a frolic of its own, an unauthorized deviation.

How did this happen?  Understandable. The Bible in Basic English intentionally limits itself to 850 words, plus some other "Bible" words.  The function of this "Bible" is to simplify so that non-English speaker can more easily understand as they learn English at the same time. See What is the Bible in Basic English.

With so few words, little nuance is possible; so the words chosen must convey the religious message intended, or else the message is distorted.

Using this text as a "Bible" distorts the Bible.  What will "Christianity" mean to those in other lands; or even modern societies' religions who are given this as their main resource?  Christianity will mean what their translator or priest says it means, with the text even more distorted than we are used to.

Second amendment remedies in the pew. Make room.

This is an era where that wording, "Do not put anyone to death without cause," puts others at risk. The Second Amendment hops on board and becomes code for the seemingly-justified killing of others, by persons convinced that they have "cause" and therefore it is their acceptable duty to put others to death. Ayn Rand's self-interest uber alles.  All these who may have occasion to read or study this version, can find justification that is not otherwise there.
  • vigilantes, 
  • war criminals,
  • the unbalanced, 
  • lone wolves, 
  • militias, 
  • wild conspiracy theorists, conclusions not rooted in logic or evidence, feeding fear of loss of "one's own" in charge, fear of loss of social and economic status and other loss, assassins taking the law into their own hands,
  • religious self-help followers, convinced their interpretation of abortion or other issues entitled them to impose that view on others who may be also of faith, but with a different implementation,
  • gunworshippers, more self-help ultimata, disregard of others,
  • politicians exploiting all of the above
The permissive version would allow such a vigilante-oriented person to think along these lines:  "I have cause, in my mind.  The Bible only prohibits putting someone to death without cause. Therefore, I can put this person to death because I have cause." Even of no specific example of that is found, as may be, change it anyway.  The risk is there.

Murder has specific meanings, against interpersonal killing, lying in wait sometimes, taking law into your own hands, killing other than as the State or Religion requires in its laws or warfare. Here: go ahead. Put homosexuals, for example, feminists, women who get out of role, people who conduct abortions, people who have abortions, undesirables, other ethnic groups, undocumented immigrants in your face, all in the removable category.  Without the individual responsibility of a legally authorized cause, you can do what you like. The Bible tells you so.

Substituting a phrase of art -- official putting to death -- for interpersonal murder and kill, is confusing, misleading, and false. This "translation" or, more accurately, this "paraphrase", has been in the public domain since 1965.  How to measure its impact? It is included up there with the major works, see the Parallel Hebrew Old Testament, here at Exodus 20:13. And nobody else agrees with it.

II.  Deconstruct the wording.

"Do not put anyone to death without cause".

So just pick your cause.

This results in a prohibition against official persons, acting pursuant to lawful authority to kill, to do so if there is not legal cause.  That wording technically, and at its worst, leaves wide open any Biblical prohibition against an individual killing for his or her own reasons.  At the least, that wording can mislead people who read it as authority to take the law into their own hands.  An execution by me because I have my own cause?  Looks fine. 

A.  Who has authority to Put To Death. An institutional, official concept.
  • Putting someone to death is an execution. To put to death is an idiom for "to execute."  See  
  • Putting someone to death is a killing pursuant to formal proceedings:  state criminal or religious law in effect officially in the place, and carried out by officially authorized persons or means, within that authority, after an official proceeding establishing guilt according to the law of that place, requiring death. See 
  • Accordingly, so far, the new Commandment language reads, in effect, Do Not Execute Anyone Without Cause
B. What Cause is sufficient. Legally authorized cause.

The adequacy of Cause gets ambiguous, because of its various meanings depending on the context. Bt when but the issue is a death penalty, the cause must be legally authorized in order to justify a putting to death. Cause out of context can mean a range:

a) the producer of some consequence,
b) a reason for the action,
c) a goal or principle zealously pursued, or adopted by people in the context of a struggle, or
d) legal Cause: ground for legal action, such as sentencing, enforcement, execution.

Legal cause justifying a putting to death is thus a formal, adjudicated or authorized Cause; not a personally determined cause. See

That new wording, Do not execute without cause, changes the subject matter, the action, and the object.  It downplays the legal nature of the cause required before someone can be executed.

C.  Who is addressed? 

Who is the "you," as in "you do not," don't do that. Who is that understood to be? What actor is addressed in the Biblical Commandment now?

 1. Not ordinary people.  Ordinary people are left out here.  If "putting to death" is an authorized function, then the authority is being addressed. If you are not an authority, this Biblical section does not speak to you.  

So if you, an ordinary person, or part of ordinary group without official state permission to kill, want to wipe somebody else out, go ahead, is the strictly Biblical implication of this re-write.  Only officialdom's "putting to death" requires cause.  If you just want to kill, your cause is your cause.
  • The Bible in Basic English version omits any reference to "you" as an individual, acting completely on your own, or with others, and all without legal authority. The individual acting on his own is not addressed at all.  
  • There is no longer a prohibition about murder, or interpersonal killing out of pique or anger or resentment, etc. Common sense would suggest that that is not meant; but that is what is said. 
2.  Authorized people.  Authorized people are addressed, because only authorized people can  "put to death."  Who, then, is authorized? Only those acting within that authorization, and when the authorization it itself legally authorized.
  • Authorized people acting outside their authority are not authorized.  
    • Soldiers and others acting outside their authority are not protected -- Soldiers are held to the standard of their particular role at the time.  A soldier can be accused of murder if he or she acts outside the immediate authority to kill pursuant to a war directive.  See My Lai, here at PBS
    • In a trial pipeline for alleged war crimes is Ratko Mladic, fair use thumbnail of him here from   
    • Based on current news coverage, we believe that our poster photos are Mladic, the officer we saw on posters in Bosnia. The resemblance is stronger than for Karadzic, we now think.  For either, the issues would be the same:  what is the line between warfare according to warfare's "rules," and genocide, murder. Do not "execute" without "cause" -- and the cause must be a legally authorized one. See the setting for the posters at  Bosnia posters, fugitive or recently apprehended war leaders
3.  Authorized people but the authorization is illegal, are not authorized. See the Nuremberg trials.  People just following orders are not protected where those orders are criminal, and where the force over them was not absolute, and they could have chosen to leave or refuse somehow, difficult and risky as that choice might have been.  See

The different wording (Do not put anyone to death without cause) spreads hunting season wide open. Anybody can now be hunted.  The wording suggests that

a) a person
b) may indeed be the executioner of another (put another to death),
c) without state criminal authorization, and
d) without state civil authorization permitting religious criminal trials that can result in execution (Fatwa, for example),
e) so long as the acting person believes in his own mind that he has cause.

On what ground does the Bible in Basic English do that?  Single-handedly change a previously unquestioned Biblical wording?

4.  The Ruthless Individualist, the Rational Selfish are Well Served

Ayn Rand .  Ayn rand would be proud of this translation because it does not impinge on the individual. Individual uber alles, even uber law.  Some cultures do permit an individual to follow the personal directive of a religious leader and enforce an official fatwa, to kill.  Some (most?) cultures permit an individual to kill on the directive of its military, to defend, etc.  But what lands permit an individual to kill based on the individual's "belief" that killing is the recourse. Religious and secular law taken in their own hands, Bible in hand, the Bible in Basic English, BBE.  

This unjustified alteration puts Second Amendment Remedies in the Pew. If offers tools for "Christians" here and in foreign lands to enforce their own view of who should live, what lifestyle shall exist, what beliefs, even if sincerely held. Look at the breadth of the permission.  If you think you have "cause," go ahead.  Put the person to death. The Morality Procrustean Be.  Thou shalt fit my personal-mold view, or I will hack you short or stretch you long until you do. Procrustean Bed. 

III.  What translation or transliteration reasoning supports the "put to death" and "cause" idea.  Nothing.

1.  KILL

What was the original, or close to it:

 1.1 Thou shalt not kill, murder. See old Paleo-Hebrew -- .

1.2  Go to plain, recognizable Hebrew, and find 
לא תרצח׃  Remember to go left to right. At least we can see two groupings.

 1.3 Transliteration:  the Hebrew as it could be spoken, the phonetic:  There were no vowels in Hebrew, so any vowels are inserted according to likely sound, by scholars
L'a ThUrTShCh.

1.4 St. Jerome's Latin:  non occides.  Literally, "You do not kill"  or "You do not murder." Not even a "shall" is really there, in Young's transliteration at that site.  It is present tense, now.

You.  Second person singular. You. You.  And You. Pointing finger arcs around.

This is a handy site for starting on translations.  Parallel Hebrew Old Testament  Do not stop there.  Go to another transliteration, to check Young's Literal, the last one given at Parallel Hebrew Old Testament.

1.5  Not you shall murder.

See Interlinear Hebrew Old Testament at  Scripture4all, Exodus 20:13  The Hebrew looks the same, a little hard to tell, but the phonetic is very close to 1.3 above, how it would sound if spoken

la thrtzch


What does murder mean? There are many resources

2.1  Blue Letter Bible, Murder
Slayer, manslayer, death, kill, destroy, "out of hand",

2.2  Find all the places that "murder" is used
Blue Letter Bible, Murder Uses
Find numbers corresponding to each use of "murder" -- These are Strong's Lexicon numbers.
For murder:

Some of this is addressed in abortion topic sites, as the ideas of killing, murder, are used there. BBE. Doctrinally  Improved Ten Commandments.  This wording becomes a Second Amendment permission slip to kill those who ideologically conclude differently from you.


Studying the impact of this translation on other countries who then espouse Christianity will be difficult.  What other kind of "Christianity" were they exposed to?  Perhaps none.  So, if this is the Commandment, that you do not execute people without cause, is the one in hearts and minds, can we be surprised at genocide? hate acts?  not really.  Without damage to the good translation areas of the Bible in Basic English, that may comport with Biblical intent through language and scholarship, this is to request that the current purveyors re-look at the Commandments. Put to death means an execution.  That leaves other behaviors open. Distortion translation.

Do not kill would be good.

Or, Do not murder.

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