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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/







1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed your article and your interpretation of the Bible in regard to parenting. Thank you for your insight.