The reasons for the firm Jewish religious opposition to both assisted suicide and mercy killing are sprinkled throughout the Jewish scriptures, which constitute the Christian Old Testament. On multiple occasions in the Old Testament, God is acknowledged to exercise an absolute sovereignty over life and death. Death was the penalty for sin, and life was a gift from God that his people were meant to choose so they could continue to love, honour, and obey him. Choosing death was an affront to God that demonstrated contempt for the gift of life: “No man has authority…over the day of death” (Ecclesiastes 8:8). The scriptures contain some examples of Jews willingly dying as martyrs or choosing suicide, but they do so because they prefer death to violating Judaic law. And none of these examples occurs in conditions remotely resembling the circumstances surrounding modern-day medical euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide. Throughout the Old Testament, there is no instance of Jews either killing themselves or arranging for someone else to help them die due to the physical anguish of illness…
The emergence of Christianity in the first century AD was the other momentous factor that shaped the new era in the history of euthanasia. Basic Christian values about death and dying are similar to the Judaic moral code, although explicit condemnations of suicide are missing from the New Testament. It was in later centuries that the church fathers inferred from the Gospels that suicide was against God’s law. A major [spokesman] for this theory was Saint Augustine (354-430 AD), who in his City of God (428) argued that suicide was simply another form of homicide, and thus was both a crime and a sin prohibited by the six of the Ten Commandments. In Augustine’s eyes, even those who opted for suicide in order to avoid a sin (such as a virgin seeking to protect her virtue) were actually committing a greater sin and forfeited the possibility of repentance. The fact that the word “suicide” was coined later in history (the seventeenth century) to replace the phrase “self-murder” signifies that for centuries Christians followed Augustine’s thinking and regarded the taking of one’s own life as a form of murder, and thus an abhorrent crime that required no formal condemnation…
By the onset of the sixteenth century, church, state, society, and medicine had forged an alliance that decisively rejected the taking of a life either by suicide or with medical assistance.
My two cents
Every now and then, the issue of euthanasia crops up, and I have been needing to find a definitive Christian position on it—away from the modern-day revisionism that’s tainted by a (baptised) humanistic mindset.
Now I have found it in this quote—its sentiments confirmed my gut feeling.
And to think that an aunt of mine (who is Christian) happens to support euthanasia but has apparently no idea of the historical Christian position. If the idea is to force the point, then it’s another example of salt losing its savour—not that she would care.
I also think of the lobby group called Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Euthanasia, when they were demonstrating in front of Parliament House. It’s frustrating to see them use non-Christian premises like appealing to “choice”, and “majority of Aussie Christians support voluntary euthanasia”—as though that makes it OK with God.
I really need to counter their placards by using this quote on a placard of my own—but it’s too many words to fit on a placard unfortunately.
Thank you Ian Dowbiggin for laying down the truth so plainly—and for separating the rock of historical Christianity from the sands of a modern-day (socially) evolutionary political lobby.
Dowbiggin, I (2007). A Concise History of Euthanasia: Life, Death, God, and Medicine. Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 12-13, 19.