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Answering The Atheist
January 4, 2004 / Volume 4, Issue 1

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Is it OK to take an oath? Several verses speak favourably of oaths (Genesis 21:23-24; 24:2-3; Leviticus 27:2, 10; Deuteronomy 6:13) and yet others say not to take an oath (Matthew 5:34; James 5:12). Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
The questioner might do well to note that the verses wherein oaths are used and spoken of well are Old Testament passages. In contrast, the texts which speak ill of the use of oaths are New Testament passages.

That it was perhaps a regular practice and accepted practice among God's people through the time of the patriarchs, and through the history of Israel, no one will argue. However, it must be acknowledged that a changing of covenants has taken place. That not all things which were accepted in the old practice of God's people are necessarily accepted under the new covenant. The Lord clearly indicated that there would be a changing of covenants (Hebrews 8:7-13; Galatians 3:21-25; Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Matthew 5:34, in it's context reads, "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.' But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes' be ‘Yes', and your ‘No', ‘No'. For whatever is more than these is from the evil one." (Matthew 5:33-37). Do you see the Lord contrasting what He teaches with what was taught "to those of old"? His covenant would not implement all that was of the Old. In James 5:12, James simply recounts the teaching of Jesus, again indicating that those who are under the New Covenant ought not to make oaths, but to simply live by their ‘Yes' and ‘No'.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible