Thursday, October 23, 2008

Is Spanking MANDATED By The Bible?

This is neither an anti- nor prospanking article. My oldest son was diagnosed as ADHD and yes, we did spank him. With each successive child, we have used spanking less and less as a form of discipline. All four of my kids are equally well behaved, despite the lack of spanking that two younger girls received. In fact, I've been humbled by the example of some nonspanking families who still manage to produce kind, well spoken, respectful children.

It would seem to be common sense-at least now that I am older-that because family temperaments and backgrounds differ that no single child rearing method will work for everyone. So imagine my surprise when I began to read on some Christian sites that the Bible mandates spanking. Even more startling are the claims that there is only one "Biblical" way to raise children.

Granted most of these sites are not Catholic but are fundamentalists. But people react to confidence, even if it is misplaced. I worry that the fundamentalist certainty that there is one way for Christians to raise children will spread and become "The Christian way to parent." Also, I am concerned that some of these parenting methods will produce either passive adults who will be ripe for a charismatic leader or that these kids, because of their upbringing, will grow up to hate Christianity and seek to undermine our faith.

Let me say, I am not a permissive parent and I don't have a strong opinion on spanking. My goal is only to prove that there isn't a Biblical rule that Christians have to spank. I am not arguing for or against corporal punishment.

There are about six verses in the Bible that deal with striking a child. These are mainly found in Proverbs. In most of these instances the Hebrew word for child used is na'ar. Na'ar is a masculine word for a male child of any age. Although there are a few instances of na'ar being used for a infant, in the Old Testament, na'ar is mainly used for older adolescent males.

Proverbs is a book of wise sayings. There is an entire section of Proverbs in which unrelated sayings follow one another. There is no way to tell if na'ar means a young boy, a male infant or an adult man still living at home. Certainly if you strike your college age son with a rod you run the risk of serving jail time for assault. So, I would not advise anyone to decide that corporal punishment can be used on their adult sons.

The word na'ar does not mean a female child. So, technically to follow these verses literally a parent can strike their male children but not their daughters. I do not read that certain extreme fundamentalist sites differentiate between male and female children.

The Old Testament has many laws that Christians no longer follow. For example, modern Orthodox Jews use salting or broiling to ensure that meat is free of blood. Some Orthodox Jews consider rare meat unkosher. Lev 19:19 seems to indicate that we should not have the different varieties of cattle that farmers have available today(no interbreeding of cattle), use two kinds of seed in our fields or wear a garment that is a mix to two different materials. Who decided that the book of Proverbs is more applicable to modern Christians then any other book in the Bible? I didn't get the notice that I could ignore Leviticus but had to uphold Proverbs. On what grounds has this been decided?

If we are going to use the Old Testament as a guide shouldn't we read it as the ancient Jewish people did? I came across an interesting article on The Jewish Virtual LIbrary. It states that:

The Oral Law is a legal commentary on the Torah, explaining how its commandments are to be carried out. Common sense suggests that some sort of oral tradition was always needed to accompany the Written Law, because the Torah alone, even with its 613 commandments, is an insufficient guide to Jewish life.


Strangely enough, the Oral Law today is a written law, codified in the Mishna and Talmud. Orthodox Judaism believes that most of the oral traditions recorded in these books dates back to God's revelation to Moses on Mount Sinai. When God gave Moses the Torah, Orthodoxy teaches, He simultaneously provided him all the details found in the Oral Law

Apparently ancient Jews were not Bible Alone believers. They translated the meaning of scriptures through their oral traditions. In order to know what God meant by certain Old Testament scriptures shouldn't Christians study both the Mishna and Talmud or at least ask a Orthodox Rabbi for his opinion?

Please understand that I am not putting down any one who spanks. My concern is not with corporal punishment. I am worried at the fact that some fundamentalists sites are using scare tactics and a distorted view of the Bible to push parents into following their methods. It bothers me that some parents claim to be following the "Biblical " method for child raising, which means that anyone who chooses to parent differently is ignoring the Bible. I don't want parents to be guilted into following a method that might be bad for their families.


Anonymous said...

I have had conversations with my daughter who is confused by her church's teaching of spanking. She has many questions that I could not answer. Thank you for posting this!

deb said...

I am so glad that my article was helpful to you. There are some in the Christian community that put a lot of pressure and guilt onto young families who choose not to spank.

Anonymous said...

Many think that spanking is mandated. They also go along with the oppresion of women, those of other races, cultures and religions. Essentailly, no religious "fundie" has ever had an original thought .

deb said...

annoymous, I don't remember seeing racism in the particular fundamentalist church that I used to attend. I do think that there is a spirit of fear among extreme fundamentalists that could lead, at its extreme, to isolationism. Many fundamentalists tend to view the world in a 'us' versus 'them" window. I could see that in some people this thinking could be used to justify racisim.

deb said...

Whoops. I meant to say "Many fundamentalists tend to view the world THROUGH a 'us' versus 'them" window.

Samuel Martin said...


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Samuel Martin

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