Vol.XIX No.II Pg.7
April 1982

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

Jesus said, "Swear not at all" and "whatsoever is more than these (Yea, yea; Nay, nay) cometh of evil" (Matt. 5:33-37). How does this apply to the oaths required in some state's court?


The O.T. taught "Thou shalt not swear falsely" (Lev. 19:12), and "perform unto the Lord thy vows" (Num. 30: 3-f). But, as "Expositors" puts it, "The scribes misplaced the emphasis. They had a great deal to say, in sophistical style, on the oaths that were binding and not binding, nothing about the fundamental requirement of truth in the inward parts." Jesus exposed their devious ways of getting around God's law — by showing all of their oaths (by heaven, earth, etc.) involved God, and were binding.

But primarily He attacked their reason for oaths, saying in effect, a repeated "yes" or "no" should be all the emphasis needed by honest people.

"Whatsoever is more cometh of evil" seems to say that were it not for the evil of untruthfulness and distrust in the world, nothing more would ever be needed.

I do not believe Jesus is laying down a law prohibiting calling God as our witness under any circumstance. Paul, Rom. 1:9, says, "For God is my witness..." (See Phil. 1:8; 1 Thes. 2:5; 2 Cor. 11:31.) In Gal. 1:20 he says, "Before God, I lie not." In 2 Cor. 1:23 he says, "I call God for a record upon my soul" ("for a witness" A.S.) or Marshall translates, "Now on my life I invoke God as witness."

I have testified in court but few times in my life. The first time I asked the Judge if I might "affirm" rather than "swear" — and he granted the request. That amounts to little more than a technicality of terms. On a later occasion I answered, without special permission, "I affirm..." but that fooled neither God, the Judge, nor me. It just made me feel better. If it would make you feel better you might try it — I think most courts will honor that statement.

In a very real sense, the "oath" on the Bible, in civil court, is a remnant from the days when reminding men that they stood before the God of Heaven as they gave testimony, would promote truthfulness. There is an incongruity in a court that discourages belief in God, yet asks witnesses to speak as "before God." Let us hope we will see a recognition of the need for God in all facets of life, before our Godless nation is destroyed.


Bro. Turner:

How could Paul justify his repeated use of God's name — in such expressions as "God forbid" Rom. 6:2?? LM


Let's not get so holy as to out Paul Paul, or out Jesus Jesus. The Greek of Rom. 6:2 and like places is often "me genoito" or "May it not be." The translators have apparently used the idiom "God forbid" because they felt Paul was calling upon God, in a sense, to check any such conclusion as some were drawing. Paul was not taking God's name in vain — in many cases was not even using the words assigned to him by translators.