Thou shalt not kill

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For more information, see the Skeptic's Annotated Bible article:
Ten Commandments
Protestant numbering
1st 6th
2nd 7th
3rd 8th
4th 9th
5th 10th
Catholic numbering
1st a b 6th
2nd 7th
3rd 8th
4th 9th
5th 10th
Painting of Cain slaying Abel

Thou shalt not kill is the 6th of the Ten Commandments in the Protestant tradition. It is considered the 5th commandment according to Catholic numbering.

Exodus 20:13 Bible-icon.png:

13 Thou shalt not kill.

Deuteronomy 5:17 Bible-icon.png:

17 Thou shalt not kill.

Some translations read: Thou shall not murder.

Killing is sanctioned elsewhere in the Bible[edit]

The Bible commands death for various sins, such as witchcraft, bestiality and being a unruly child. Apologists claim that the 6th commandment refers specially to murder, to kill without authority. [1] Killing sanctioned by God is not addressed by the 6th commandment.

Thou shalt not murder[edit]

"It is no good quoting "Thou shalt not kill." There are two Greek words: the ordinary word to kill and the word to murder. And when Christ quotes that commandment He uses the murder one in all three accounts, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And I am told there is the same distinction in Hebrew. All killing is not murder any more than all sexual intercourse is adultery."

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


  • This commandment is often cited as proof of the morality of the Bible or the necessity of the Ten Commandments. However almost every law code in the history of the world has included this rule. A society in which people were free to kill each other with no adverse consequences would almost certainly fall apart very quickly, or at least fail to thrive.
  • The Jewish people in the story traveled across the desert before finally being told that killing isn't acceptable?
  • Thou shalt not kill, unless thou be on Crusade, or if the other fellow be a heathen.
  • Does this mean that capital punishment is wrong? What about self-defense? What about war? What about euthanasia requested by the terminally ill? The drawback of this law is absoluteness—good laws make distinctions. Since the actions and commands of God burst with bloodthirstiness, this commandment seems to lose its import. Besides, prohibitions of murder existed long before the Ten Commandments or the Israelites appeared on the scene. It is not as if the human race never would have figured out that it is wrong to kill without some tablets coming down from a mountain. Laws against murder and manslaughter based on self-preservation and social stability have found their way into almost every culture before and after Moses, and it would be odd if the Israelites did not have a similar principle.

In United States law[edit]

  • This commandment is a part of U.S. law. Laws in the united states generally prohibit the killing of another individual. U.S. law goes beyond a simple "do not kill" statement. It makes exceptions in some cases for the killing of another individual (justifiable homicide, personal self defense, etc). U.S. law also goes further in that it defines tiers of severity for different types of killing. First Degree murder is considered more of an offense than less malicious killings (manslaughter, etc.). It is worth noting that this prohibition appears in some degree or form in virtually every society in the world, whether it is a Christian dominated society or not.
  • Many apologists (such as Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron) reference Matthew 5:21-22 Bible-icon.png as another form of "murder." In this passage, Jesus warns against being angry at your brother without cause, and seems to equate it with murder. This act, however, is not illegal in any part of the United States - in fact, most would consider it absurd to attempt to bring charges on anyone who was angry at another without just cause.

See also[edit]