Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Bible does not tell parents to spank

June 02, 2007
The Bible Does not Tell Parents to Spank
by flowermama
When I was younger, up until sometime in the first year of my first daughter's life (she is 11 now), I thought that Christian parents needed to spank their children in order to be godly parents. I'm a theologically conservative Christian, I grew up attending a fundamentalist school from kindergarten through four years of college, and I thought that, biblically, parents were supposed to spank their children. Of course I planned on spanking. There was no question in my mind about it.

When my firstborn was about eight months old (that was when we first got on the internet), I started really looking into attachement parenting. I found other Christians online who practiced attachment parenting, and I found out that many of them didn't spank their children. Choosing not to spank made sense to me -- when I was trying so hard to build a healthy attachment with my child and to build her trust in me by treating her gently, wearing her in a sling, breastfeeding her, sleeping with her, etc., why would I want to purposefully take my hand or an object and strike her?

I studied the issue and realized I felt that God had led me not to spank. Verses stood out to me which said, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance. . . " (Gal. 5:22, 23b), "Love is patient, love is kind" (see the rest of I Cor. 13 for more about what love is)", ". . . we proved to be gentle among you as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children" (I Thess. 2:7), "do to others what you would have them do to you" (Mat. 7:12), etc. It felt *right* not to spank, yet still part of me worried about those "rod" verses in the Bible. Part of me secretly wondered "what if I was wrong?"

These days I feel sure that the Bible does not command parents to spank. In fact, I've realized that the Bible says nothing about spanking. If your Bible uses the word "spank" that is because people translating that version of the Bible decided to translate it that way. It's a cultural interpretation of the Hebrew words from which it is translated.

What we do know without a doubt that God commands parents to discipline their children. However, discipline does not = spanking. God doesn't tell parents what specific discipline methods to use. The term "rod" means discipline in general, but it is not telling us what particular form of discipline to use.

In the so-called "spanking verses," the word "rod" is translated from the Hebrew word "shebet." A shebet is a shepherd's staff (see Psalm 23:4 where it says, ". . . thy rod and thy staff they comfort me") or a king's scepter (Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary explains that "the use of the sceptre originated in the idea that the ruler was as a shepherd of his people"), and it sybolizes authority. A shebet was used to guide sheep and to protect sheep and fight off predators. The Hebrew word "shebet" does not mean "hand," "switch," "paddle," "wooden spoon," or any type general type of implement. And we certainly wouldn't hit our children with a literal rod. Importantly, we see through use of the word "shebet" that God has given parents the authority and responsibility to discipline -- a word which means teach, to disciple -- their children.

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