Welcome message

Dear friends,

Welcome to my blog. I am honored to have you visit. I hope you'll find my articles a blessing. I welcome your input and especially comments and questions.

I write as a Christian from Jerusalem, Israel about Biblical subjects.

I am particularly interested in the subjects of children, families, women's issues, corporal punishment, science and nature as these subjects relate to the Holy Scriptures.

For more information, see my website: www.biblechild.com

With every good wish - Samuel Martin

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

English language proverbial statements and New Testament theological teachings relating to corporal punishment/smacking/spanking

Growing up, I think most of us who experienced corporal punishment/smacking/spanking mainly at the hand of our parents are familiar with the phrase:

"This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you."

(Note: The origins of this phrase needs further study as I have yet to determine where it comes from. No doubt it is not that old.)

I think that children who start to get a bit older and who start to be introduced to philosophical concepts of life hear this statement at least once in their youth normally told to them by their dads.

At least this was my experience. I was not a too regular recipient of the paddle, but I guess I got paddled when my parents felt that I had engaged in something which in their minds merited corporal punishment/smacking/spanking.

The Biblical roots of this idea

When we consider the potential roots for this phrase from Scripture (as it is used not only by Christian parents, but generally speaking Christian parents today remain the most ardent supporters of corporal punishment), I think we have one main text which is fairly obviously linked to this idea. Note it below:

Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying. (Proverbs 19:18 KJV)

This text teaches clearly that the "chastening" is going to hurt. Here is how a couple of the leading proponents of corporal punishment understand it.

For example, one pastor in his book on child rearing points out that: “The spanking should be administered firmly. It should be painful and it should last until the child’s will is broken. It should last until the child is crying, not tears of anger but tears of a broken will.[1] Another author follows the same line of thinking: “After correction, a parent needs to allow a child to cry for a reasonably short amount of time. Then a child should be told to stop crying and be brought under control.”[2]

I think we also have to look at the section of Hebrews 12 (verses 3-11) where Proverbs 3:11,12 is quoted saying:

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

Now, it should be fairly clear that these texts mainly quoting the book of Proverbs are the main sources for this idea that says:

"This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you."

Now, if we are going remain oriented to a legalistic, theological approach which does not focus on the teachings of grace or move us hermeneutically towards redemption (as Prof. William Webb has so eloquently outlined in much of his work - www.redemptivechristianity.com) and the main theological points found in the New Testament, one might have some a strong impetus for retaining these ancient ideas which were linked to a culture where the Law of Moses was the theological point of reference and the overall law of the land in the culture which saw these texts from the book of Proverbs implemented in daily life.

Clark's commentary mentions the following concerning the teaching which we are here referencing found in Exodus 21:24: "Eye for eye - This is the earliest account we have of the lex talionis, or law of like for like, which afterwards prevailed among the Greeks and Romans. Among the latter, it constituted a part of the twelve tables, so famous in antiquity; but the punishment was afterwards changed to a pecuniary fine, to be levied at the discretion of the praetor. It prevails less or more in most civilized countries, and is fully acted upon in the canon law, in reference to all calumniators: Calumniator, si in accusatione defecerit, talionem recipiat. "If the calumniator fall in the proof of his accusation, let him suffer the same punishment which he wished to have inflicted upon the man whom he falsely accused." - http://bible.cc/exodus/21-24.htm

However, we have to admit that there are some new ways of looking at things found in the New Testament that directly challenge this orientation of the need to "hurt." Note what Jesus said in this regard:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic,[h] let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you." - http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew%205&version=ESV

In this article, we are going to look at a very fundamental text which I am going to assert precludes totally this approach for the need for anyone to hurt anyone else. It is one of the most powerful texts found in the whole of the New Testament, but in parenting circles it is almost wholly unknown, not applied and basically ignored.

For me, it is a very important text and one I try in my own life to constantly remember. In fact, it is so important to me that I put it in all of my books as a kind of reminder of how important it is to me personally and especially theologically. Here it is from the ESV from the very beginning of St. Paul's thought:

"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21, ESV)

This is said earlier by Jesus in much of the same language:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." - http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew%205&version=ESV

Now, when you review these texts, I think one has to admit that we can note a totally different tone and in fact an orientation which is quite different from the teachings found in the Proverbial texts.

I personally do not see how one could create a systematic theology which included these texts and say, for example, Hebrews 12. I really think one has to interpret Hebrews 12 in light of these texts and really try to understand the theological message of Hebrews 12 in a way which allows us to understand it, but to do so knowing whatever our understanding of it is, that understanding must be congruent with the clear teachings found in these texts.

Here you will find no inkling of hurting you while hurting me! No! It is just not here. What is here is: genuine love!

1. Out do one another in showing honor
2. Live in harmony with one another
3. Repay no one evil for evil
4. Overcome evil with good

What we see here is also a very strong illustration which parents could very well take as a clue in their parenting journeys. It is one which says that I am going to try to infuse goodness into something which is not good by my being good, which God can use to touch the consciousness of that being who is not good.

This to me seems like a very solid formula for engendering that righteousness that we are all seeking to plant and build in ourselves first and secondarily in our children.

I'd be very interested in your view.

[1] Jack Hyles, How to Rear Children (Hammond, Ind.: Hyles-Anderson Publishers, 1972), pp.99-100
[2] Roy Lessin, Smacking: Why When How? (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1979), pg.79

Download Samuel Martin's free ebook - Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy here - http://whynottrainachild.com/2013/06/22/download-martins-book/

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Who said, We said, You said, They said, He said, She said, God said, man said, I said, No one said

Who said, We said, You said, They said, He said, She said, God said, man said, I said, No one said

by Samuel Martin

One of the more unfortunate aspects of the whole corporal punishment/smacking/spanking debate is the diversity of opinions surrounding the same basic information found in the Bible.

Yes, the Biblical texts in fact have not changed in 2,000 or more years, but what people have been saying about them - now the changes there are significant and varied.

This is often because of the issue of what someone said about the Biblical texts, hence the title of this post.

Who said, We said, You said, They said, He said, She said, God said, man said, I said, No one said

Most people advocating corporal punishment are lightning quick to quote the book of Proverbs as the general authoritative source (even before the New Testament) and the Biblical authority for corporal punishment/spanking/smacking.

Yet, when it comes to how people interpret those verses, it often becomes a question of what someone else said about the texts themselves that animates the opinions many people hold concerning this issue.


It will come as no surprise to anyone who has studied this issue even superficially that such a wide range of opinions and views exists on this issue that it is in fact quite hard for anyone to come to any unanimity of belief.

Let's start with the most extreme example and one which, in fact, is so widespread and a part of Western culture of the English speaking world since it first appeared in the "raunchy satirical poem" 'Hudibras' by Samuel Butler in the late 17th century. Yes, that ubiquitous phrase:

"Spare the rod, spoil the child"

Anyone who has anything to do with my FB page (www.facebook.com/byblechyld) will note that numerous times people have quoted this as if it comes from the Holy Bible. Some confidently assert the same to their own major shock when they discover the Bible never mentions this phrase. But some people just continue to perpetuate error unknowingly.

This example really helps us understand how much work there is to do because people have just identified cultural ideas which exist in 17th century literature and now these phrases have been put in God's mouth as Holy Writ. How unfortunate, but true.

Pass the story and what do you get?

I think most of us recognize how things can get jumbled as they pass from person to person. I remember growing up in grade school how one time my class got in a circle and the teacher told one person a very specific group of sentences. Then that person is supposed to tell the person next to them and so on. And what comes out the other end? A jumbled hodgepodge of unintelligible mumbo-jumbo that has almost no relevance to the original story at all.

Let us not misunderstand the fact that this is happening not only concerning innocents stories told in grade school, but, in fact, we have things which are traditional teachings passed down from previous generations as if they came directly from Christ Himself!

We are all familiar with some fairy tales which we have inherited from our previous generations. Many of these stories represent in some cases a Bible for the unlearned. Access to Biblical texts for the laity has only in the last five hundred years been more the norm. For the first 1,500 years of the history of the Christian Church, generally speaking, the Bible and its message was left in the hands of religious leaders. The laity had very little access to the Biblical material.

It is for this reason that stories started to develop. I remember my late father writing about fairy tales in a paper called "Fairy Tales and the Biblical Revelation" in 1981. He talked about the example of Jack and the Beanstalk. When we review this story, we notice numerous parallels with the story of another 'Jack' but this time it is someone from the Holy Scriptures. The "Jack" in question here is Jacob.

Instead of Jacob seeing a vision of a ladder going up to heaven, the beanstalk enters the picture due to cultural differences. And God in heaven is replaced with the giant. And what does the giant say? 'Fe Fi Fo Fum.' This is a symbolic phrase that refers to the name of God 'Yahweh' (eiou).

Many of these fairy tales were previously biblical stories which have just been jumbled and mixed up because people did not have access to the Biblical texts as dad talked about.

Could this be at work in some of these texts dealing with corporal punishment/smacking/spanking?

This could very well be the case. Much more research is needed into this material from the Middle Ages and the Early Church in particular, but I have noted in other posts that we have evidence of early Christian texts from the third century which interpret the texts in Proverbs as the words used by a father to control a child rather than referring to a literal rod. See the following for more information in this regard. http://samuelmartin.blogspot.co.il/2011/10/i-was-wrong-and-how-i-intend-to-make-it.html

Finally, there are prevailing beliefs among many English speaking Christians that corporal punishment is a teaching which is just common sense and conventional wisdom which is timeless and goes right back to the time Jesus with no interruption, but those who hold this view often have not studied the matter carefully and hold this view often based on their own erroneous suppositions.


In conclusion, many who hold those views are often so steeped in traditional views and so inflexible when it comes to anything dealing with the Bible, the spirit of learning new things is often something that they are afraid of. These dear people often forget the following texts (quoting here KJV):

"But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (Il Peter 3:18).

"That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God." (Colossians 1:10).

"The path of the just is as a shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18).

This is what I think Prof. William Webb is talking about in his work dealing with corporal punishment and how his approach moves us more towards the redemptive spirit of Scripture: To grow in grace and knowledge, but also to grow in love. (See www.redemptivechristianity.com)

Let us not fear the truth. Because "your Word is truth'. (John 17:17)

Download Samuel Martin's free ebook - Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy here - http://whynottrainachild.com/2013/06/22/download-martins-book/