SPECIAL TOPIC: SUICIDE

 This subject has taken on theological significance not found in the Bible. Catholic theology treats Judas Iscariot's suicide (cf. Matt. 27:5; Acts 1:18-19) as the pivotal text for asserting that all who commit suicide are separated from God.  However, I assume Judas was estranged because of his conscious acts of betrayal, not the manner of his grief-stricken death.

There are several people in the OT that take their own life

1. Samson – Jdgs. 16:29-30

2. Saul – 1 Sam. 31:4; 1 Chr. 10:4

3. Saul's armor-bearer – 1 Sam. 31:5; 1 Chr. 10:5

4. Ahithophel – 2 Sam. 17:23

5. Zimri – 1 Kgs. 16:18

 

In these contexts nothing negative is expressed about their acts.  However, there are several texts that should impact the decision to end one's life:

1. human life is precious to God

a. Gen. 1:26-27

b. Gen. 9:5-6

c. Exod. 20:13; 21:12

2. life is a gift from God to serve Him

a. Rom. 12:1-2; 14:7-9

b. 2 Cor. 5:14-15

c. Phil. 1:20-24

 

In Judaism, the rabbis condemned suicide (i.e., Gen. Rabbah 34.21b).  The Jewish historian of the first century a.d., Flavius Josephus, also condemned it (i.e., Wars 3.8.5) but seemed to approve of the mass suicide by the defenders of Masada against the Roman Legions (Wars 7.8.6-7).

Many Christians in the early church saw martyrdom as a spiritually beneficial event (i.e., Tertullian) and did things to cause this action (i.e., Roman government).  Also, in the early church a splinter group called "Donatists" praised suicide.  Martyrdom and suicide were often merged (cf. Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas).

Suicide is an act of rejecting God's control.  It is a selfish act that has no regard for the pain it causes others.  I do realize that some people suffer from severe depression and other mental health issues that could impair their rational thinking and behavior.  The most important thing to remember is that it is not an act of unbelief or rejection of Christ, which are the only grounds for separation from God (cf. Rom. 8:31-39)!

 

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