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MANILA, Philippines – One of the Catholic Church’s leading Bible scholars, Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, criticized Senator Manny Pacquiao for using the Bible to justify the death penalty during his first privilege speech.

"If Senator Pacquiao is convinced that the death penalty is a useful deterrent for criminality, he is entitled to his personal opinion. His right to express it will be protected in a democracy. But I just wish he didn't have to justify it using the Bible," David said in a statement prepared for Church-run Radyo Veritas on Tuesday, August 9.

In his statement, which he sent to Rappler on Tuesday evening, David stressed the need to interpret Scriptures in the proper context, with Jesus as "our criterion and standard for reading the Bible as Word of God."
The bishop explained, "If we use the Bible as a mere justification for our personal opinions (such as on death penalty) then we might as well return to the morality of slavery, misogyny, death penalty for homosexuals, and the ancient laws of purity and impurity, just because we also have them in the Bible."

"The Bible has been used much too often to justify even the most inhuman and ungodly things," he said.

A priest for more than 30 years, David chaired the Commission on Biblical Apostolate of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines from 2009 to 2015.

David, a graduate of the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines, also holds a doctorate in sacred theology from the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium.

Born in Betis, Guagua, Pampanga, the 57-year-old David served as auxiliary bishop of San Fernando, Pampanga, from 2006 until Pope Francis named him Caloocan bishop in 2015.
Pacquiao: God 'is a God of justice'

David issued his statement after Pacquiao on Monday, August 8, cited Bible passages to justify the death penalty.

The senator said Genesis 9: 6, for instance, states: "Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God, has God made mankind."

Pacquiao said, "Having read the Bible on a regular basis, I am convinced that God is not just a God of mercy, but he is also a God of justice."

Pacquiao is a former Catholic whom David, in 2012, eyed as a potential partner "in promoting the reading of the Bible among Catholics."

The boxer is now a first-time senator who, as Sarangani representative, was known for his habitual absences in Congress.

Reacting to Pacquiao’s statements on the death penalty, David said that "it is difficult to discuss the Bible with fundamentalists," or those "who would quote a verse or two from the Scriptures, and not mind the other passages that may not be supportive of their opinion."

David said: "The Word of God was gradually revealed to us from the Old Testament to the New Testament, culminating with the incarnation of God's Word in Jesus Christ. We were like children who matured in stages. In Jesus, we're supposed to see the highest level of maturity of our humanity. He is our criterion and standard for reading the Bible as Word of God."
Bishop David's Statement:

It is difficult to discuss the Bible with fundamentalists, the type who would quote a verse or two from the Scriptures and not mind the other passages that may not be supportive of their opinion.

The Word of God was gradually revealed to us from the Old Testament to the New Testament, culminating with the incarnation of God's Word in Jesus Christ. We were like children who matured in stages. In Jesus we're supposed to see the highest level of maturity of our humanity. He is our criterion and standard for reading the Bible as Word of God.

If we use the Bible as a mere justification for our personal opinions (such as on death penalty) then we might as well return to the morality of slavery, misogyny, death penalty for homosexuals and the ancient laws of purity and impurity, just because we also have them in the Bible. The Bible has been used much too often to justify even the most inhuman and ungodly things.

If Senator Pacquiao is convinced that the death penalty is a useful deterrent for criminality, he is entitled to his personal opinion. His right to express it will be protected in a democracy. But I just wish he didn't have to justify it using the Bible.

If Christ were in favor of death penalty, perhaps he would have been the first to cast a stone at the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11. Instead of dying for sinners, he would have just killed them all instead.

But isn't John 3:16 a favorite of Evangelicals? "For God so loved the world he gave us his only Son so that all who believe might not perish but might have eternal life. God did not send his Son to the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him."

I am willing to have a discussion with the good senator about the Bible if he is willing and sincere in his effort to understand the Bible as Word of God.
Source: Rappler

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