Corporal Punishment


Here are some statements made about corporal punishment in Watchtower publications:

"It shows real love on the part of a parent to do whatever he can to correct his child, including spanking him." Watchtower 1973 Sep 15 pp.556-557

"A spanking may be a lifesaver to a child, for God’s Word says: “Do not hold back discipline from the mere boy. In case you beat him with the rod, he will not die. With the rod you yourself should beat him, that you may deliver his very soul from Sheol [the grave] itself.” Again, “Foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy; the rod of discipline is what will remove it far from him.” Making Your Family Life Happy (1978) p.132

The Bible is clear that discipline includes good teaching and example, but does it exclude spanking? No, for Proverbs 23:13 says: “Do not hold back discipline from the mere boy. In case you beat him with the rod [or hand], he will not die.”” Watchtower 1979 May 1 p.30

Here is some of the testimony of Geoffrey Jackson when questioned at the Australian Royal Commission hearings:

Q. Which imposes the obligation on fathers to bring their children up in the discipline and admonition of Jehovah.
A. Your Honour, the original language, discipline, indicates a process of teaching, educating, making a disciple.

Q. Well, from that reference in Ephesians, your Bible takes us back to Proverbs chapter 13, verse 34?
A. Yes.

Q. And the exact quote is: Whoever holds back his rod hates his son. What does that mean?
A. So, your Honour, you will notice there is an asterisk there on the term "rod", and you see the footnote.

Q. Yes.
A. "Discipline or punishment". So in the application of this, the term "rod" is used as a symbol or a metaphor to indicate the authority to give some punishment. For example, in a modern‐day setting, my father could say to me I don't go to the movies because I had broken some of the rules of the home.

Q. So it's not about inflicting corporal punishment, then?
A. It absolutely is not about inflicting corporal punishment.

Q. It would have been when first written, wouldn't it?
A. How people applied it back then, at that time, of course is open to question.

Q. Well, what you are telling me, as I understand it, is that your religion, your church, is prepared to interpret the Bible having regard to contemporary social attitudes and standards; is that right?
A. Obviously, your Honour, we need to take that into consideration, but the primary responsibility we have is to think what does Jehovah God mean by this, and we look at other scriptures. One of the problems that many folk have when they read the Bible is they take one verse and they assume it means something out of context or not in reference to other scriptures. So for our understanding, Jehovah has said that children should be raised in a loving environment. Jesus was raised in such an environment.

Q. Well, I have taken you to the way your own church constructs the biblical references, which, as we have noticed, takes us back to Proverbs; correct?
A. That is correct.

Q. But what you have given us is the understanding which your church now has about how that is to apply in contemporary society; is that right?
A. That's a good question. Obviously, I can only speak about what we understand this to mean now, but I would argue the case that even back in ancient times God did not have in mind for children to be beaten up in a bad way.

Q. Does your church accept corporal punishment of children?
A. Our church accepts the family arrangement and expects that parents have the responsibility to discipline and raise their children.

Q. That doesn't answer my question. Do you accept corporal punishment?
A. I see. In our literature, I think you will see time and time again we've endeavoured to explain that here "discipline" is referring to more a mental point of view, not corporal punishment.

Q. I am going to tell you, you are still not answering my question.
A. Oh, sorry.

Q. Do you accept corporal punishment?
A. No.

Q. You don't?
A. Not ‐ not personally, no, and not as an organisation ‐ we don't encourage it.

Q. But do you prohibit it?
A. Our literature has pointed out that the true way to discipline children is by educating them, not giving corporal punishment. Your Honour, I can only tell you the spirit behind our writings.