1. Solemn appeal to God (Gn 21:23; Ex 22:11; 1 Sm 14:39, 44; 20:3; Mt 26:63, 64), a person (Gn 42:15; 2 Sm 11:11), or an object (Mt 5:34) as attestation of truth. Oaths of covenants were elaborate (Gn 21:2831). A proper oath by God's name shows allegiance to Him (Dt 6:13). Lifting hands (Gn 14:22), putting a hand under a thigh (Gn 24:2), passing bet. a divided sacrificial animal (Jer 34:18), standing before an altar (1 K 8:31) may be connected with an oath.
2. Oaths have been connected with vows, covenants, wagers, or ordeals from early times. Primitive peoples believed that evil spells, even harm and destruction, could be magically imposed on persons and things by oaths.
3. In the OT, oaths by false gods were forbidden (Jer 5:7; Am 8:14), oaths by the true God enjoined (Dt 6:13; 10:20; Nm 30:2; Is 65:16). Some formulas: as the Lord lives (Ju 8:19), as God lives (2 Sm 2:27), as thy soul lives (1 Sm 1:26). In adjuration an oath is laid on a person, or he is caused to swear (1 K 8:31; Eze 17:13).
4. In the NT, Mt 5:34, 36 and Ja 5:12 are misunderstood by some as forbidding all oaths; cf. Mt 26:6364; Ro 1:9; Ph 1:8; Gl 1:20; 2 Co 1:23; 1 Th 2:5; Heb 6:16. The ideal situation is pictured Mt 5:37.
6. AC XVI 2: Christians may take required oaths; Ap XVI 1: Christians may take an oath when the government requires it. FC Ep XII 15, SD XII 20 condemns Anabaps. for teaching that a Christian cannot take an oath in good conscience nor pay oath-bound feudal homage to his territorial sovereign or liege lord. M. Luther (LC, I, 6566): If it is so understood, you have easily solved the question that has tormented so many teachers: why swearing is forbidden in the Gospel, and yet Christ, St. Paul, and other saints took oaths. The explanation is briefly this: We are not to swear in support of evil (that is, to a falsehood) or unnecessarily; but in support of the good and for the advantage of our neighbor we are to swear. This is a truly good work by which God is praised, truth and justice are established, falsehood is refuted, people are reconciled, obedience is rendered, and quarrels are settled. For here God himself intervenes and separates right from wrong, good from evil.
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission
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