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The biblical Hebrew word for “taking an oath” is “shaba” (שָׁבַע) and it means “to swear, to take an oath, to curse, or to imprecate.” In the New Testament, the Greek word for “taking an oath” is “horkizo” (ὅρκιζω) which means “to swear, to take an oath, or to curse.” Another Greek word used in the New Testament is “omnyo” (ὀμνύω) which also means “to swear, to take an oath, or to affirm.”
Both Hebrew and Greek words used in the Bible to express taking an oath imply a formal and solemn declaration of one’s commitment to fulfilling the promise. It’s accompanied by an invocation of God’s name or other sacred things as a witness and guarantor of the promise. It was a way to add more weight to the commitment and to make it more binding.
Taking Oaths in the Old Testament
The Old Testament, specifically the book of Leviticus, states that one must not break an oath or vow made to God. In Leviticus 19:12 it says, “You shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the Lord.” Additionally, in Numbers 30:2 it states “When a man makes a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” So, the Old Testament emphasizes the importance of keeping one’s oaths and not falsely swearing in God’s name.
Taking Oaths in the New Testament
The New Testament, seems to be specifically saying that the teachings of Jesus Christ, teaches that one should not swear oaths at all. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says in Matthew 5:33-37, 33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool of his feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your word ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’; anything more than this is from the wicked one.”
Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:33-37 is often interpreted as a warning against taking oaths that are trivial or meaningless. He is not saying that all oaths are wrong, but rather that one’s word should be enough and that a person should be truthful and trustworthy without needing to swear an oath. The idea is that one’s word should carry weight and that a person should be true to their word without needing to make a formal oath. Additionally, it is believed that Jesus is emphasizing the importance of being honest and keeping one’s promises, rather than merely paying lip service to them through an oath. So the New Testament emphasizes the importance of speaking truthfully and not using oaths as a way to confirm the truth of one’s words.
Scriptural principles to consider when faced with the decision to take an oath include:
- Being honest and truthful in all things.
- Keeping one’s promises and being reliable.
- Acting in harmony with one’s conscience.
- Considering whether the oath is necessary and if it can be fulfilled.
In general, one should avoid taking an oath lightly, and carefully consider the oath and its implications before making any commitment. Additionally, Ecclesiastes 5:5 advises not to vow unless you can fulfill it, so it’s important to be sure that you can fulfill the oath before making it. It’s also important to understand that any oath that goes against God’s principles and teachings should be avoided.
What are Some Oaths that are Compatible with the Bible?
Some oaths that are compatible with the Bible include:
- Oaths to tell the truth, such as in a court of law.
- Oaths to uphold the law, such as those taken by government officials and law enforcement.
- Oaths of loyalty, such as those taken by members of the military or other organizations.
- Oaths of marriage, which are a commitment to remain faithful to one’s spouse.
- Oaths (vows) when being joined in marriage
It’s important to note that even these oaths must be made in good faith and with the intention of fulfilling the commitment made. Additionally, any oath that is made with the intention of deceiving or harming others would be incompatible with Bible teachings.
It’s also worth noting that the Bible, generally speaking, does not specifically endorse any oaths or ceremonies, rather it encourages to be truthful and faithful in all of our actions and interactions, this is the basic principle that should guide us when we are considering an oath.
What are Some Oaths that are Incompatible with the Bible?
- Oaths that involve the worship of false gods or idols, as this would violate the first commandment.
- Oaths that involve lying or deceit, as this would violate the ninth commandment.
- Oaths that involve harming or wishing harm upon others, as this would violate the commandment “Thou shall not kill”
- Oaths that involve breaking any other commandments.
Additionally, an oath that is made with the intention of deceiving or harming others would be incompatible with Bible teachings.
It’s also important to note that any oath that obligates one to violate their conscience or go against God’s teachings would be incompatible with the Bible. Additionally, any oath that is taken to engage in sinful or immoral behavior would be incompatible with the Bible’s teachings.
What are Some Oaths that are a Conscience Choice of the Christian?
- Oaths related to professional or civic organizations, such as those taken by doctors, lawyers, or politicians.
- Oaths related to joining or participating in a particular social or political group or movement.
- Oaths related to joining a particular organization or club.
- Oath to defend a country with arms or to renounce faith in God
It’s important to note that before taking such oaths, a Christian should consider the principles of the organization or group, and whether they align with their own Christian values and beliefs. They should also consider whether they can fulfill the oath without compromising their conscience or going against God’s teachings. Additionally, a Christian should also consider the consequences of breaking an oath, and how it may affect others and their relationship with God.
It’s a personal decision and depend on the individual’s reading and understanding of the Bible, their personal beliefs and their understanding of the oath and what it entails. They should also be guided by their conscience and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Bible Principles to Consider
- Matthew 5:33-37: “Let your word ‘Yes’ mean yes, your ‘No,’ no.” Do not make an oath lightly or for trivial matters. Speak truthfully and do not use oaths as a way to confirm the truth of your words.
John 15:19: “You are no part of the world.”
Deuteronomy 5:9: “Jehovah your God . . . requires exclusive devotion.”
Romans 13:1: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.”
Luke 20:25: “Pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar but God’s things to God.”
1 Peter 2:12: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”
- Leviticus. 19:12: “You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am Jehovah.” Do not swear falsely or profane the name of God.
- Ecclesiastes 5:5: “It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.” Only make an oath if you are sure you can fulfill it.
- Psalm 15:4: “In whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear Jehovah; who swears to his own hurt and does not change.” Keep your oaths and fulfill your promises.
- Act in harmony with your trained conscience and with Scriptural principles.
Taking an oath is a serious matter and should be considered carefully. Christians should always keep in mind that they are representing God and should strive to maintain their integrity and honor in all aspects of their lives, including when they are making an oath. Therefore, it is important to prayerfully consider any oath and to make sure that it aligns with one’s conscience and biblical principles.
It’s also important to remember that once an oath is taken, it should be kept and fulfilled. As the Bible states in 1 Peter 2:12, “keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” Keeping an oath and fulfilling one’s promises is a reflection of one’s integrity and honor, and it is essential in maintaining a positive witness for God and for building trust with others.