Bishop to Pacquiao: Don’t use Bible to justify death penalty

BISHOP DAVID

‘The Bible has been used much too often to justify even the most inhuman and ungodly things,”(Bishop David to Pacquiao)

MANILA, Philippines – One of the Catholic Church’s leading Bible scholars, Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, criticized Senator Manny Pacquiao for using the Bible to justify the death penalty during his first privilege speech.

“If Senator Pacquiao is convinced that the death penalty is a useful deterrent for criminality, he is entitled to his personal opinion. His right to express it will be protected in a democracy. But I just wish he didn’t have to justify it using the Bible,” David said in a statement prepared for Church-run Radyo Veritas on Tuesday, August 9.

In his statement, which he sent to Rappler on Tuesday evening, David stressed the need to interpret Scriptures in the proper context, with Jesus as “our criterion and standard for reading the Bible as Word of God.”

The bishop explained, “If we use the Bible as a mere justification for our personal opinions (such as on death penalty) then we might as well return to the morality of slavery, misogyny, death penalty for homosexuals, and the ancient laws of purity and impurity, just because we also have them in the Bible.”

“The Bible has been used much too often to justify even the most inhuman and ungodly things,” he said.

A priest for more than 30 years, David chaired the Commission on Biblical Apostolate of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines from 2009 to 2015.

David, a graduate of the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines, also holds a doctorate in sacred theology from the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium.

Born in Betis, Guagua, Pampanga, the 57-year-old David served as auxiliary bishop of San Fernando, Pampanga, from 2006 until Pope Francis named him Caloocan bishop in 2015.

Pacquiao: God ‘is a God of justice’

David issued his statement after Pacquiao on Monday, August 8, cited Bible passages to justify the death penalty.

The senator said Genesis 9: 6, for instance, states: “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God, has God made mankind.”

Pacquiao said, “Having read the Bible on a regular basis, I am convinced that God is not just a God of mercy, but he is also a God of justice.”

Pacquiao is a former Catholic whom David, in 2012, eyed as a potential partner “in promoting the reading of the Bible among Catholics.”

The boxer is now a first-time senator who, as Sarangani representative, was known for his habitual absences in Congress.

Reacting to Pacquiao’s statements on the death penalty, David said that “it is difficult to discuss the Bible with fundamentalists,” or those “who would quote a verse or two from the Scriptures, and not mind the other passages that may not be supportive of their opinion.”

David said: “The Word of God was gradually revealed to us from the Old Testament to the New Testament, culminating with the incarnation of God’s Word in Jesus Christ. We were like children who matured in stages. In Jesus, we’re supposed to see the highest level of maturity of our humanity. He is our criterion and standard for reading the Bible as Word of God.”

Jesus vs stoning to death

David also cited a Bible passage: John 8: 1-11. Here, Jesus said something that stopped scribes and Pharisees from imposing the death penalty on a woman caught in adultery.

Jesus told them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” In response, the scribes and Pharisees “went away one by one,” the Bible said.

David said: “If Christ were in favor of death penalty, perhaps he would have been the first to cast a stone at the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11. Instead of dying for sinners, he would have just killed them all instead.”

He then cited another Bible passage, the popular John 3: 16, and the verse that immediately followed it: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”

David said, “I am willing to have a discussion with the good senator about the Bible if he is willing and sincere in his effort to understand the Bible as Word of God.”

Read the full Tagalog and English versions of David’s statement below.

Bishop David’s statement in Tagalog:

Mahirap makipag-usap tungkol sa Bibliya sa mga fundamentalista, ‘yung tipong kukuha ng isang linya sa Bibliya pero hindi na papansinin ang ibang linya na salungat sa binanggit.

Ang Salita ng Diyos ay unti-unting nabunyag sa atin mula sa Lumang Tipan hanggang sa Bagong Tipan, hanggang sa magkatawang-tao ang mismong salita ng Diyos kay Kristo. Para tayong mga bata na unti-unting nag-mature. Kay Hesus natin dapat makita ang pinakamataas na antas ng maturity ng ating pagkatao. Siya ang pamantayan natin sa pagbasa sa Bibliya bilang salita ng Diyos.

Kung gagamitin lang natin ang Bibliya bilang depensa o para lang igiit ang mga pansarili nating opinyon, e ‘di ibalik na rin natin ang pang-aalipin (slavery), ang mababang pagtingin sa mga babae, ang death penalty para sa mga bakla, ang mga sinaunang batas tungkol sa malinis at maduming pagkatao? Kasi nasa Bibliya din ang mga iyan? Marami nang gumamit ng Bibliya para sa hindi makataong mga layunin.

Kung sa personal na opinyon ni Senador Pacquiao, ang death penalty ay makatutulong sa pagsugpo ng kriminalidad, karapatan niyang ipahayag ang personal niyang opinyon. Sa demokrasya, irerespeto naman talaga natin ang personal na opinyon ng isa’t isa. Pero sana huwag na lang niyang gamitin ang Bibliya bilang justification.

Kung sang-ayon sa death penalty si Kristo, e ‘di sana binato na rin niya ang babaeng nahuling nakikiapid? E ‘di sana imbes na mamatay para sa mga makasalanan e pinagpapatay na lang niya ang mga makasalanan? ‘Di ba favorite passage ng mga Evangelicals ang John 3:16: “For God so loved the world…? God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save it!”

Willing akong makipag-discuss na personal sa butihing senador tungkol sa Bibliya kung willing din siya at sincere sa pagsusumikap na unawain ang Bibliya bilang salita ng Diyos.

Bishop David’s statement in English:

It is difficult to discuss the Bible with fundamentalists, the type who would quote a verse or two from the Scriptures and not mind the other passages that may not be supportive of their opinion.

The Word of God was gradually revealed to us from the Old Testament to the New Testament, culminating with the incarnation of God’s Word in Jesus Christ. We were like children who matured in stages. In Jesus we’re supposed to see the highest level of maturity of our humanity. He is our criterion and standard for reading the Bible as Word of God.

If we use the Bible as a mere justification for our personal opinions (such as on death penalty) then we might as well return to the morality of slavery, misogyny, death penalty for homosexuals and the ancient laws of purity and impurity, just because we also have them in the Bible. The Bible has been used much too often to justify even the most inhuman and ungodly things.

If Senator Pacquiao is convinced that the death penalty is a useful deterrent for criminality, he is entitled to his personal opinion. His right to express it will be protected in a democracy. But I just wish he didn’t have to justify it using the Bible.

If Christ were in favor of death penalty, perhaps he would have been the first to cast a stone at the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11. Instead of dying for sinners, he would have just killed them all instead.

But isn’t John 3:16 a favorite of Evangelicals? “For God so loved the world he gave us his only Son so that all who believe might not perish but might have eternal life. God did not send his Son to the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him.”

I am willing to have a discussion with the good senator about the Bible if he is willing and sincere in his effort to understand the Bible as Word of God.

Source: Rappler.com

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