Why my Dad regrets spanking his children

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At more than 60 years old, pastor James Merritt says he regrets spanking his three children, even though he won't say the Bible categorically condemns it. (Photo Credit: Camille Deann Photography)

At more than 60 years old, pastor James Merritt says he regrets spanking his three children, even though he won't say the Bible categorically condemns it. (Photo Credit: Camille Deann Photography)

Last Christmas, my dad called my two brothers and me down to the basement of his home for a private conversation. He started to speak and then paused. His eyes searched the ceiling for what seemed like eons before filling with tears. Saline collected and then began to stream down his cheeks.

“Will you boys please forgive me for the way I often disciplined you in anger growing up?” he asked with a cracking voice.

All three of us accepted his apology.

This sobering picture of an emotional father, now more than 60 years of age, asking for his children’s forgiveness is a perfect portrait of who James Merritt is. Humble. Honest about his failings. Wrestling, like many of his age, to make peace with the way he’s lived his life. That Christmas moment is now a lasting memory that will forever remind me of why he remains my hero.

It also underscores the seriousness of the national conversation taking place on the issue of spanking and how it impacts parents as well as children. I’ll bet that my dad isn’t the only 60-something today who wishes he owned a time machine.

As a pastor in the 1980's and 90's, James Merritt would have taken a harder line stance on spanking than he does today.

As a pastor in the 1980’s and 90’s, James Merritt would have taken a harder line stance on spanking than he does today.

I’ve shared my thoughts on why I don’t believe corporal punishment is wise or moral. Social science has demonstrated the deleterious effects of physical punishment on the wellbeing of children and I don’t think the Bible supports it in the slightest. My dad, a longtime minister and Bible scholar, doesn’t agree with me on the latter point but he isn’t as confident as he once was.

“I can’t categorically say, based on my reading of scripture, that the Bible condemns spanking,” he told me. “But I know the Bible doesn’t command it.”

He notes that you can’t isolate what the Bible says about disciplining children from the notions of anger and temper. Solomon mentions using “the rod” for discipline in Proverbs, but the ancient wise man had even more to say about the perils of unbridled anger.

“Every parent should look into the mirror and ask, ‘Do you have a problem with your temper?’” he said. “If you are given to fits of anger or great impatience, you might be better erring on the side of prudence and not spanking.”

Throughout the course of my childhood, my parents spanked us about the same amount most parents in the South during that era did. Sometimes with a belt or switch or wooden spoon. Usually, it was done calmly and with explanation. Sometimes it was done in a moment of strong emotion. This, my dad realizes, was a mistake:

“Parents should never ever strike a child in anger. Count to 10 or to 10,000. And make sure that corporal punishment should be a last resort, not a first resort. For many parents, spanking is the lazy way of parenting.”

Image courtesy of Harvest House

Image courtesy of Harvest House

When asked whether he would have spanked if he were able to do it over again, he responds bluntly, “No, I would not. Not because of what the Bible says but because of me and my temperament and taking my own raising into account. And if I did, it would be much fewer and farther between.”

Last year, dad released a book titled, “What God Wants Every Dad to Know: The Most Important Principles You Can Teach Your Child” in which he speaks about what he’s learned about proper discipline of children. Today, he is the pastor of a Southern Baptist mega-church outside of Atlanta where he speculates that almost none of his congregants corporally punish their children: “That’s just not the way it’s done today.”

But some modern parents, of course, do spank their children. And they should heed the warnings of a man like my father about the difficulties and risks involved in such parenting decisions—especially if they claim to be Christian.

When asked what he thinks Jesus—who was silent on the matter—would say about spanking, my dad paused and searched the ceiling yet again before answering: “I think he would tell parents to do what they believe is the most loving thing for a child and then to do it in the most loving way possible.”

It’s solid advice, and if more Christian parents followed it, there would be fewer parental apologies come Christmastime.

RELATED: “Christians have no moral rationale for spanking their children”

  • Jonathan have you read William Webb’s Corporal Punishment in the Bible: A Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic for Troubling Texts?

    I think that book does a better job of deconstructing the pro-spanking arguments from scripture than any other I have read.

    The problem with it is that many do not buy into the redemptive-movement hermeneutic that it is illustrating. So it is of limited use among many that need to see the problems of pro-spanking biblical hermeneutics.

    But it has a very good essay at the end that was jointly written by Webb and his wife (a special ed teacher) on their method of parenting without spanking that addresses a lot of the complaints about anti-spanking (the key section is that Webb says not spanking takes longer, requires more structure and more carry through. But not spanking is absolutely not an excuse to not do the hard work of parenting.)

  • Andy

    Life is filled with many parenting regrets Jonathan. Although, I occasionally wish the hand of my father would have been stronger. Perhaps the hand of God would have lighter as He disciplined me throughout my life.

  • opheliart

    If you have a child you have spanked (hit, smacked, paddled, struck with hand or weapon), and you explain to him why he received that spanking, and he says he understands … then uses that same method with his younger sibling, or a classmate, how do you explain that YOUR teaching is the “right” kind of teaching, and his is not?

    “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”

    Religion provides structure but should never exceed Love.


  • I enjoy your blog and your writings because you do a good job of questioning long-held beliefs but I will disagree with both you and your father on this one.

    I would agree that spanking in anger is a sin. However, spanking while under control for the purpose of discipline and not punishment IS biblical. Just don’t know how we can do enough hermeneutical gymnastics to get away from that truth.

  • Let me add, that by about age 8, most spankings are not needed. At that point you can effectively communicate and reason with your child. But in ages 2-7ish, reason and logic are not where they are mentally.

  • You wrote, “I don’t think the Bible supports it in the slightest.” Unfortunately, I think this does much to detract from your article. As Charlie wrote, you have to do a lot of hermeneutical gymnastics to make a statement like that.

    I would say the research is probably more mixed than you might imagine. There are some research articles that have demonstrated the benefits of controlled spanking, but as you no doubt know, getting research articles published with controversial findings is nearly impossible. Those who fail to toe the party line fail to see their names in print.

    I also think caution is needed with Webb’s work, who has proposed a trajectory hermeneutic, which Denny Burk describes as, “a way of interpreting the Bible that says modern readers sometimes need to move beyond the ethical instruction of scripture to an ethic that supercedes it.” That’s dangerous ground.

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  • Michelle

    Thank you for your courage in sharing about the freedom that comes with following how the Spirit is leading your heart in this regard and also taking time to faithfully study the Scripture to learn that the ‘rod’ mentioned in Proverbs does not have to mean a literal rod. As a new parent 5 years ago, I naively thought that other Christian parents and others working in ministry with us would not demand that we spanked our child (now 3 children). We were told we were disobedient, but as we searched Scripture and prayed often about how to discipline our children, we believe God gave us the answer to not spank our children and so that is what we followed and now as our oldest is nearly 5, there is not a day that goes by that I am not grateful for following the Spirit’s leading in this area. I hope your courage is sharing what is not often popular will help lead other parents into the freedom of this decision.

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  • Lauren Markoe

    Even the parent who seems not to be spanking in anger cannot but help send the following message: I am using my physical power over you to make you behave the way I want you to behave. Spanking, the best science of the past decades has shown, reduces children’s trust in their parents, and that’s not what you want when you’re really trying to teach kids to be good people. Many evangelical Christians are on your side Jonathan, as is the American Academy of Pediatrics: http://nospank.net/aap4.htm

  • Nancy Le

    I’m so glad he apologized. That’s wonderful, for all of you.

  • opheliart

    Jason, your statement …

    “You wrote, “I don’t think the Bible supports it in the slightest.” Unfortunately, I think this does much to detract from your article. As Charlie wrote, you have to do a lot of hermeneutical gymnastics to make a statement like that.”

    Spiritual Athlete?

    Then so be it.

    The face of Christianity will change as will the landscape of religion.
    Time to grow … the grain needs harvesting, and WHAT have you to harvest it with?


  • opheliart

    To hit a child and expect that he not “hit” back …

    Is plowing a field with ox and ass yoked together.


  • Merely saying something “IS biblical” doesn’t make it so. The fact remains that the Bible doesn’t command it. The only perceived reference appear in a book of general aphorisms and both the New Testament generally and the Gospels specifically are silent on the matter. We do find, however, through exhaustive studies on the matter that it is often damaging to children psychologically, physically, physiologically, and emotionally. And that parents who think they have done it appropriately often haven’t when they are monitored.

    One should be very careful before stamping “thus saith the Lord” over something that is at the very least risky to the well-being of children, and one should be even more careful about pretending the Bible speaks clearly about something when it does not.

  • Remember when the Bible says that spankings aren’t needed by about age 8. Yep, me neither. Another claim to make Biblical arguments without actually appealing to the Bible. If you believe the Bible commands spanking of children, then it commands it until age 13 when a Jewish child would be considered an adult. Sorry, Charlie, but you don’t get to claim to be Biblical and then opt when it is convenient.

  • Exactly. I don’t think the Bible supports it in the slightest. There are a few references to “the rod” for discipline in Proverbs. But many modern interpretations of these verses depend almost exclusively on English translations of these verses and not the actual Hebrew.

  • But Jonathan, you seem to be implying that the Bible is speaking clearly when you use language that “the Bible doesn’t support it in the least”, in support of your position.

    Could you comment for me on the use of the Hebrew word Nakah in Proverbs 23:13, since we are being told that too many evangelicals are relying upon modern english translations rather than Hebrew?

    My point is simply this: to say that there is no biblical warrant for corporal punishment cannot be defended in light of the language. Now, perhaps you may wish to interpret it differently, but to imply that you cannot get there from here is either disingenuous or misinformed.

  • I spanked my kids because my father did it.
    I believed in Jesus because my Father did.
    I went to church because my father did.
    I did what my father told me to do.
    Because he spanked hard – until I was 8 years old!

    It took many adult years to realize that I was doing nothing more
    than following his G-Damned orders.
    The Hell myth is nothing more than God’s plan to spank the rest of us! Forever.

    I hate the years of loss
    not thinking for myself
    I paid the price of this rotten cult of Jesus.

    I don’t hate my father. I hate the religion which preached
    that he not question these matters – and which in turn kept me from questioning these beliefs also:

    “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his daughter, and a daughter against her mother, …A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD.”
    – JESUS (Matthew 10:35)

    My poor kids.
    Thank goodness they don’t hate me.
    I never spanked much very lightly at that.
    But all of us have come to understand.

    Me, my wife and kids are all Atheist now
    and we have a house of HARMONY! (Mostly).

    Life without this religious crap is so much better I cannot count the ways!

  • (oh, and by way of reminder, you don’t get to claim to be biblical and then opt out when its convenient.)

  • @Jonathan Merritt,

    “I don’t think the Bible supports it in the slightest.”

    C’mon, Jonathan.
    You know better than that.

    “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice…And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”
    (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

    And Jesus agreed.
    Jesus scolded the Pharisees for their hypocrisy
    as they apparently did not follow this important law of God.


    Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God
 for the sake of your tradition? …. ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ ”
    – JESUS (Matthew 15:3)

    The words attributed to Jesus and Yahweh are worthless on all matters of decency.

  • Nathan

    I like you, Jonathan, but I don’t think your Biblical assessment is accurate and passes a thorough exegetical test. I don’t believe it’s correct to say that “the Bible doesn’t support [corporal discipline] in the least” is correct. There are clearly passages that instruct parents to discipline children and highlight the fact that discipline is (or should be) an act of love. Coupled with the idea of discipline are indeed references to corporal discipline as some of the possible methods. We read explicit references to ‘the rod’ or ‘a whip’ in more than just 2 Proverbs – but also in Ezekiel, 2 Chronicles. No matter how we try to play with the semantics of the languages, it is clear that the words in the context of those ANE cultures do refer a corporate discipline. As well, other scripture references strongly imply corporal discipline. Looking to extra-Biblical literature we can continue to see that the idea of corporal discipline was certainly a regular M.O. for how discipline was dispensed.

    That said, I agree that if corporal discipline is used, it must be done with extreme care. I would also agree that there are many people who should never use that technique as their personal emotional issues could lead them to be abusive. However, I don’t believe that because there are abusers we should wholesale throw it out. That would be like prohibiting alcohol for everyone because many people struggle with alcoholism.

  • opheliart

    Not that this matters to you, Jason, coming from me, not a religious scholar, and not a religious minister, and not a religious man, but NAKAH in Spiritual Verse has to do with elevation, which is understood in the form of “ground breaking.”

    I Kingdoms 6.2 shares in this.


  • opheliart

    I disagree in your assessment on the Biblical, Nathan, because your demand that SPIRITUAL UNDERSTANDING pass the exegetical test falls short on the purpose of EXEGESIS. Exegesis in this instance involves coming out of the old understanding to guide or lead into new understanding (see Greek make up of the word: interpret, ex- out of and hegeisthai- to guide, lead). What Jonathan shares is exactly this, and is communion with the order of Adasa. This, meaning … a new order is breaking ground, and it shall be of one with Truth.

    Your use of the word exegesis is stagnant, and does not show its numerical purpose of Spiritual Well-being.


  • I will be 60 this December. I have 3 daughters and I regret spanking them. I was probably like your Dad and “disciplined” my children like I was disciplined. BTW, I am also a PK.

  • Dennis Norton

    Sorry, but on this point I am going to have to disagree. I was raised in the south and my parents spanked both me and my sister as we were growing up. I received my last spanking at the age of 14 and I deserved each and every spanking I ever got. My father nor mother ever spanked us out of anger. They explained why we were getting the spanking (although we already knew why!) and never used their hand, always a belt of paddle. In raising our son and daughter, we used the same method and our children never needed a spanking p[ast the age of 10 or 11. We had “spankable” offenses……based on the 10 commandments and we never spanked out out of anger, always explaining why the spanking was needed anger. Today they are fine young parents themselves, but now use the “time out” method of discipline. I have yet to see it work. But they are a new generation and have to be careful how they discipline their children.. If they are seen spanking their children by a neighbor, they may get reported for child abuse. So now society dictates how children are to be disciplined. Our family operates a 4 generation agri-tainment business and we see thousands of children each day. And they are the most misbehaved, destructive children I have ever seen, destroying property, swearing, throwing our crops everywhere, and the parents watch them and laugh. That is the type of discipline we see today. Spare the rod and spoil the child is never more true than we see it today!

  • Jason

    Wrong. There is no biblical warrant for that. Not only that, it would not fit the context of the verse.

  • Nathan

    The point of a scholarly exegesis is to find out what a text meant to the original authors and readers in their ancient context – “What did it mean to them back then?” Exegetically, corporal punishment is indeed referenced in the scriptures as a normalized form of discipline within that ANE culture. This can be demonstrated both within the Biblical text and extra-Biblical texts from the ANE period. So to say that the Bible doesn’t support it in the slightest is not accurate.

    It is hermeneutics that seeks to ask the question, “What does this mean to us in our context now?”. It is vitally important that we do not confuse the methodologies of exegesis and hermeneutics. While they are complimentary, they are not the same thing. If one wants to make a hermeneutical argument for why that ancient cultural practice no longer expresses the seed principle in our modern context, so be it. Make a solid case. But it must be clearly stated as a hermeneutical argument that acknowledges the original message in the original context before one should argue how changing the ‘form’ of the discipline in our modern context better fits the seed principle.

    Again, I appreciate Jonathan and his work. But his statements here I believe could use some revisiting.

  • Layla Zon

    I fail to see why this is column worthy. You advocate the position that children should not be spanked. Your father, a trustworthy bible scholar and imperfect sinner spanked you….sometimes out of anger. He apologized privately for those times when he was in anger in a private family gathering. You three accepted the apology. End of story. As you concede, your father doesn’t advance your belief that spanking is wrong. He apologized for acts of spanking where his anger controlled him. So? This does not make an argument against spanking. Growing up in a Southern Baptist Church all my life, this is nothing new. Everybody knows this. So why the article? i can’t help but sense that you advance your own theological (or social mainly) agenda often times at the expense of your father. I understand you have your position and i am always interested in hearing different opinions, but this is a straw man argument to me. Why can’t you advance your position without invoking your father’s good name and reputation? I am sure you asked his permission to divulge these private conversations, (or not so private if he writes the same in his book….i have only known him to always be forthcoming and humble as you say) but to me you take his admission of regret in certain situations to try and impute that all spankings are wrong. You have no biblical authority for this and your father doesn’t either. Whether or not “it is done that way” anymore is not an appeal to biblical authority…nor has it ever been, nor should it.

  • If you haven’t read it before, I would refer to you to Tedd Tripp’s “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” where they spend much time explaining how God has given two tools for disciplining a child: the rod and communication. The point I was making as far as setting an age limit was, as children grow older, spanking should decrease and communication should increase.

    I don’t even know where to respond to “spanking is not biblical” claim. Thanks, for letting me post on here, however.

  • Alan Davis

    I hear you, hear your argument. Now show me a few family’s with multiple children that never spanked and the preschool, kindergarten teacher dreads seeing coming…. Everyone to the family of those that don’t spank I know…. Are terrors to be around. Maybevit works for you but the majority have childrenvtgat grow up thinking there are no real consequences just piddly timeouts which I laughed at as a boy.

  • Allen Mitchell

    In a link for “The Week”, you cite a professor that claims the shepherd’s rod, “was used to guide the sheep, not to beat them.” This is incorrect. The shepherd’s rod was used primarily for self defense against predators or thieves. It was also used to whack wandering sheep when they began to wander off – not to injure them, but to gain their attention. The shepherd’s staff, a separate implement, was used to guide them back to the correct path. The two implements are distinguished in the 23rd Psalm, “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”

    The Bible does speak clearly about spanking and there is no amount of linguistic gymnastics that can argue Proverbs 23:13-14 into anything else.

    Proverbs 23

    13 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.
    14 If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.

  • For those of you who say spanking is biblical I have a question for you, what part of the bible say to strike the child on butt or hand? I ask this because if you really believed the rod verses means physical punishment then are all doing it wrong according to Proverbs 26:3. It is supposed to be done to the back of fools and not the backsides.

    If you want to learn about the history you should look at the website in my name. It will explain the history of this practice

  • peacefulmammabear

    So many things wrong with post! The first is the overwhelming majority of parents still use spanking on children, second when you look at youth violent crime, teen birth rates, teen smoking, teenage alcohol you will see those things have dropped dramatically.

    I am not saying this generation is perfect but by any means, but this claim that children are worse behaved is just bull.

  • Allen Mitchell

    What you will find is there are two words, one for “rod” and one for “staff”. Sometimes, depending on the author, they are used interchangeably, but typically, the rod is for striking and the staff is for guiding. In any event, the idea of the instrument(s) as being used for punishment is inherent. It is simply a willful denial of plain definition to assert otherwise.

    You may think that parents should not spank, but claiming the Bible does not support it is another matter altogether. For several millennia, the belief of God’s people in this practice is defended. By what exegetical methods or system do you use to justify your position?

    Hebrew for Rod

    Hebrew for Staff

  • opheliart

    Jason says, in his absolute certainty of RELIGIOUS VOICE:

    “Wrong. There is no biblical warrant for that. Not only that, it would not fit the context of the verse.”

    Time to rise, Jason, and the rest of you of the old wineskins … cannot FIT New within the vessels of the old … they crack, tear …

    Peter’s vision of the sheet had FOUR corners. Do you understand the Spiritual Language of this?

    “So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.”

    I am of the East.

    Peace and Love

  • opheliart

    Oh, and it might help if you understood the Spirit Symbology of WHAT IS CHILD.


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  • opheliart


    The Week? Please show this and the professor you say I cite.

    In Revelation Chapter 11, the angel tells John:

    1 And there was given me a reed like unto a ROD: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and MEASURE the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.

    2 But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.

    3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.

    4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.

    +++++ In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to PREPARE A PLACE for you?

    *This would be the place John is told by the angel to measure with the reed like unto a rod (note: child in basket placed among the reeds—prophet’s station/ see also Philo Judaeus in his discourse of Moses within the middle of two opposing parts)

    Now, where Sirach states: partake of instruction with a great amount of silver, and gain much gold … he is not speaking of the emperor’s/dictator’s money; he is referring to silver as that rod of instruction (gaining Spiritual Maturity), and GOLD as WISDOM: Word.

    This is Spirit Language—Spirit Symbology.


  • The Bible is a long book but a finite book. Only so much can go in there.

    We ought therefore to allow for two possible reasons why the Bible doesn’t say much on spanking

    1) It doesn’t affirm spanking
    2) That it affirms spanking is so flat-out obvious that it scarcely needs to be stated

    Certainly we can say that when the writer to the Hebrews speaks of their fathers chastening them (Heb 12) no one thought he was talking about internet privileges

  • Just to add to my initial thought

    As our society goes off the radar in terms of its behaviour we can expect that an increasing amount of its behaviour wont be covered directly by the Bible.

    When that happens remember it isnt because the Bible has endorsed your behaviour it is only that its human writers had only so much imagination when it came to sin

  • @John W.

    You are wrong.
    The Bible demands killing unruly children. And Jesus said so explicitly.
    “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice…And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”
    (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

    And Jesus agreed.

    JESUS singled out this law in Deuteronomy specifically.


    Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God
 for the sake of your tradition? …. ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ ”
    – JESUS (Matthew 15:3)

    Jesus supports capital punishment for children who disobey their parents.
    It is a necessary by product of the Jesus myth.

    If children are allowed to disobey and survive it, then the argument for eternal punishment would fall flat on its face. This is all primitive nonsense.

    Kill unruly children. It is the main argument Jesus uses for Hell.

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  • jim scaggs

    You are soooo right .

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  • Scott Shaver

    The younger Merritt’s attempt to appeal to the self second-guessing of his father as to whether the bible condones parent-applied corporal punishment is a red herring.

    And he knows it.

    Its a common ploy designed to secure credibility from an emotional perspective without actually weighing what’s being espoused upon the scales of time and truth.

    High profile mega-church pastors may need to walk back their previously-held and publicly stated convictions for a variety of reasons but that dog won’t hunt on this one.

    Either the younger Merritt believes or doesn’t believe that scripture allows for the corporal punishment of children at the hands of their parents.

    Same hold true for his dad.

  • Katharine

    I am concerned because I know of a couple who may lose their children because of spanking with a belt, missing the butt and leaving a bruise. I can not recommend to them that they continue to spank their children.

    I would like to hear a more scholarly interpretation of how the rod was applied in biblical times and its context and why that was appropriate to that time within that cultural setting and examine whether it is still appropriate today. Thank you.

  • Allen Mitchell

    Hi, I clicked the incorrect Reply button. This was meant for Jonathan. Sorry!

  • You might be interested in Corporal Punishment in the Bible: A Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic for Troubling Texts by William Webb. He both deals with what the original text actually mean and gives a good theologically appropriate explanation of why he believes that spanking of any sort is not appropriate today.


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  • What I understand from reading what your father said to you 3 boys – is that he spanked/ disciplined in anger. And that he had an anger problem himself. i totally agree that he should not have used physical discipline if that is the case. That is a far cry to a spank on the bottom occasionally for behaviour that needs addressing when you don’t have time to stand around for 1 hour and reason with a small child. I think it ( spanking) shd be reserved for the odd occasion and never become the way to deal with behaviour as a normal mode of discipline. Once again, its the heart attitude behind the actions of parents that God looks at – we all get parenting wrong at times. I am not advocating beating, hitting or caning. Like I have said before – tell the animal kingdom to stop smacking their cubs to protect them from harm and you will prob just get eaten for your troubles. I am sure they don’t grow up with ‘issues’…. My generation mostly were smacked as a young child, and my friends are all pretty normal people, with normal kids….. I don’t think spanking in a loving family is a big issue, I think hitting and beating a kid in a dysfuctional family is HUGE! Far more to problems in adults than a smack around the bottom as a kid.

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  • Charlie, I would strongly encourage you to read and thoughtfully consider this review of SaCH:

  • Allen wrote: “What you will find is there are two words, one for “rod” and one for “staff”. Sometimes, depending on the author, they are used interchangeably, but typically, the rod is for striking and the staff is for guiding. In any event, the idea of the instrument(s) as being used for punishment is inherent. It is simply a willful denial of plain definition to assert otherwise – See more at: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2014/09/23/dad-regrets-spanking-children/#comment-180551

    Actually, Allen, I believe that you are mistaken. The word for rod in the Proverbs that are used to justify spanking is “shebet” — which is also the word used in verses discussing a rod of authority (such as a king would have — picture a scepter). In many/most of the uses in the Bible, the shebet-rod is a picture of authority — man’s, authority, God’s authority, a nation’s authority. It has other usages as well, but your oversimplification that “shebet” is for “striking” and “matteh” is for “guiding” is inaccurate — looking closely at the links you yourself provided.

    I personally believe that careful hermeneutical study will lead us to the understanding that the Bible does not command spanking (as is commonly assumed within our broadly Evangelical 20th/21st century North American cultural context.) It is just that we have been taught rod=spanking for several generations, that it is hard to see past that cultural assumption. (

  • Opheliart

    Love your energy.

    Here is a great quote from Prof. Clinton Bailey. A little Eastern wisdom 🙂

    Yesterday, the speaker was Professor Clinton Bailey. Professor Bailey is one of the world’s leading experts on Bedouins and Near Eastern Nomadic culture. He came to speak on the issue of tribal laws relating to murder in modern Near Eastern Nomadic culture.

    In fact, he has authored a number of books on these subjects and they are available on Amazon. Check out the following:


    He said the proverb divided the raising of children into three periods of seven years each.

    It said the following:

    The first seven years, treat your son mildly
    The second seven years, treat him strictly
    The third seven years, keep him close to you (to teach him and prepare him for adulthood)
    After that, lose the reins and let him run free (like a horse)

  • Many of the comments exhibit what I call “island theology.”

    Check this out from one of my posts on this subject.

    The “Spanking” texts in Proverbs and an “island” mentality among many Biblical interpreters when it comes to them

    Now, most of you reading this post will have encountered well intentioned Christian interpreters of the Bible who will home in a few Bible texts in the book of Proverbs (10:13, 13:24, 19:18, 22:15, 23:13,14 and 29:15) as their main authorities for their approaches to child rearing and for the absolute necessity to follow the face value information in these texts according to how they interpret them for you the reader.

    Now, this approach really resembles someone who visits Hawaii (the subject of child rearing in the Bible), goes directly to Hana, Maui (these texts in Proverbs) and leaves and then thinks that they know everything there is to know about Hawaii (biblical child rearing).

    I think we can all see how potentially dangerous, reckless and in fact ridiculous this potentially is. Let’s look a little deeper into the whole subject of Hawaii (child rearing in the Bible) by taking a fuller trip around all the Hawaiian Islands (the entire Bible) to help us develop a more accurate picture of this subject.

    For more information on the subject of corporal punishment/spanking/smacking in the context of the Bible, please download my free ebook here – whynottrainachild.com/2013/06/22/download-martins-book/

  • Cheryl Schultze
  • Let us be clear on what the Bible teaches.

    1. Corporal punishment of BOYS is mentioned in the Bible. The Corporal punishment of babes in arms is NOT mentioned in the Bible.
    2. Corporal punishment of GIRLS is NOT mentioned in the Bible.
    3. The word “crying” in Hebrew in any form or any of its cognates is NOT found in the book of Proverbs.
    4. None of the main texts which supposedly advocate for spanking are found in the New Testament.
    5. There are nine words which discuss the various stages of life of the Hebrew child. Which of these is discussed in the relevant texts concerning corporal punishment?
    6. The book of Hebrews (Yes, the BOOK OF HEBREWS, not THE BOOK OF GENTILES) was NOT written to Gentile Christians and those Gentile Christians who run to find their proof of spanking in texts which were never intended to assist them in the formulation of dogma are so mistaken.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this, Jonathan!

    I’m a Christian, early childhood professional, and have written a book entitled, “Gentle Firmness,” which is an in depth study proving the Bible does not teach spanking/hitting and shows the harmful effects of spanking/hitting children. My book also shows that all children can be disciplined without hitting.

    My Master’s thesis was on denial of the harmful effects of corporal punishment, and the data shows that calm spanking has a higher risk of children denying & repressing their emotional pain of being hit “lovingly” and in God’s Name. Hence the “I was spanked and I’m ok” rhetoric. The statistical data makes it clear that being calmly, “lovingly” spanked/hit in childhood makes these children more likely to view spanking/hitting positively and less likely to believe that spanking/hitting is harmful to children if it’s done “correctly” and in Jesus’s Name. This means people use denial and repression of the physical and emotional pain as a coping mechanism, thus, making them truly believe that they turned out well.

    There are so many positive discipline strategies that do work and are very Biblical that I don’t understand why Christians feel physical punishment is necessary. Some of the discipline strategies that work very well are modeling, child-proofing, validating feelings, fulfilling the child’s physical and emotional needs, setting realistic limits and boundaries, helping children comply, giving choices, and using natural and logical consequences with children. And yes, these have worked with some very difficult children.

    Finally, the rod verses were never meant to be taken literally. To further explain Proverbs 13:23-24, this means not allowing your child to go down the wrong road that could lead to a premature death. This has absolutely nothing to do with Hell as Dobson and many other Christian advocates of spanking believe. Children need limits. I am very pro-discipline. We wouldn’t let a toddler run out in the street to be run over by a car. But instead of spanking the toddler, we should firmly tell the toddler that the street is dangerous, and then show the toddler the safe way to cross the street holding onto Mommy or Daddy hands. Does hitting a toddler really teach him or her why the street is dangerous and how to be safe? No. It teaches them that danger makes Mommy and Daddy hurt me. That Jesus wants me to be hurt when I’m in danger. Plus, it’s our job to keep young children safe as they cannot keep themselves safe. Remember, young children cannot make abstract connections like adults can.

    For more info, check out http://gentlefirmness.wintersauthor.com. God bless.

  • TealRose

    Proverbs .. is a book of poems not a book of law. And if you believe that if you strike a child with a rod, he won’t die then ….. really you have either not heard about the parents that HAVE killed their children after hitting them with a ‘rod’ or you think that children are stronger than adults physically and won’t be harmed! Which is obviously not true. Many, many children are seen in ER for severe harm caused by parents and schools hitting them in the USA. Some have died. Some have been permanently crippled. Some have permanent scars. Both physical and mental and emotional.

    Christ DID speak about hurting a child. He warned us NOT to do it, as it would be better if we had a millstone tied about our necks and to be thrown into the ocean. He died for ALL of us not just adults. Grace is for us all not just adults. If you really believe that a gentle, kind, beautiful man that was Jesus would actually hit a child…. then you really are mistaken. Jesus told us that the greatest law … was to love God first with all our might and then …. to treat others as we would want to be treated. I for one, never wanted to be hit, hurt, frightened, feel unloved, feel hated, feel like nothing I did was good enough…………. Anyone who would want any of those things … would be damaged. And a LOT of adults who were hit as children are damaged, as they think that hitting defenseless and vulnerbale children is ok and even right. They have lost their empathy. They have lost their common sense. They have lost their knowledge of right and wrong. Many have fetishes that are totally unwanted. Others go through life feeling they are never good enough, feeling timid and uncared for … and worse .. some women think that being hit = being loved, and some men think that hitting their woman = love. This HAS to stop.

  • TealRose

    So by the same reasoning of yours … those children or even adults that are ‘special needs’ should be hit too ? You don’t hit anyone… much less someone who doesn’t have the reasoning or mental acuity that you have as an adult .. which means anyone up to the age of about 25 yrs old ! Why would you hit a small child that cannot understand …because .. it won’t understand WHY you hit it either …

  • TealRose

    I agree totally. I am 60 yrs old, and my parents lost my love, respect and trust from the first time they hit me, and never got it back. Why would I love, respect or trust anyone who hit me ? !! Being spanked aka hit when my parents were calm… simply made it worse, because I reasoned that if they hit me then .. without being angry .. then they could hit me anytime at all … and my life was a total misery.

  • TealRose

    I agree totally. I am 60 yrs old, and my parents lost my love, respect and trust from the first time they hit me, and never got it back. Why would I love, respect or trust anyone who hit me ? !! Being spanked aka hit when my parents were calm… simply made it worse, because I reasoned that if they hit me then .. without being angry .. then they could hit me anytime at all … and my life was a total misery.

  • TealRose

    Really ? You actually used a belt or paddle ie a weapon on small children…. and think that God really wants that ….and that your children understood that being hit with a weapon was far better than being hit with your loving hands….. which were actually HOLDING the belt ? Do you think they were that stupid? Do you also think that it is right that you and your partner have Grace, and forgiveness extended to you but not to children? ~ Christ died on the cross for ALL of our sins not just adults.

    As a grandmother of 60 yrs old, who never hit her children but taught them right from wrong, I can tell you that when my parents laid their hands on me, they lost my love respect and trust. They never ever regained it. I don’t love, respect or trust anyone who hits me. The post spanking nonsense of ‘Oh btw we love you’ and the attempted hug meant nothing to me, after all they had just HIT me which was something even I knew was wrong and never hit anyone. I didn’t believe them, any more than I believe anyone else that might hit me and tell me as an adult that they love me. It’s a complete oxymoron.

    Lack of discipline (which means to teach not to hit) is what is causing children today to be unruly … and that is hardly their fault, it is the fault of their lazy, careless parents.

    Meanwhile, in Europe where most countries have banned hitting of children, I have also seen the most gentle, kind, respectful and caring children. Where respect is given .. it is returned. We teach our children without hitting, and with respect. We teach them too that not all adults ARE due respect .. it’s a two way street and you don’t just get respect by being over the age of majority !

  • TealRose

    You do know that ‘chasten’ means reproof, rebuke, … not hit! Christ warning us about hurting a child and putting millstones around our neck and throwing us into the see is so flat out obvious that I would have thought you knew better than to hit a child… ie someone smaller and with less knowledge and less ability to understand than you do ….

  • TealRose

    Perhaps you and your friendswere lucky… many of us aren’t as fortunate. I am 60 and I can tell you that being hit ruined the relationship between my parents and myself. Forever. From the first time they hit me, they lost me… lost my love, respect and trust. Why would I love, respect or trust anyone who hits me ? But then again .. if you and your friends still think that hitting a child, ie a being so many times smaller than you, who can’t think like you, can’t reason like you or understand like you … will suddenly make them reason and understand … and you all think it’s ok to hit a child magically makes it ok by calling it discipline, you are wrong. You are damaged as you have lost your empathy.

    Many other now adults have life long problems .. from feelings of lack of worth, to being more violent, to feelings of sexual abuse ( after all your back side IS a sexual part of your body) and even to having sexual fetishes that are completely unwanted. You can spank with as much love in your heart as you want .. but it is STILL a violent act. Just as spanking or hitting your spouse would be classed as violence and abuse.

  • Nathan,

    Let’s make it real simple.

    Does the Bible teach that a father should strike his daughter?


    Samuel Martin
    Jerusalem Israel

  • Nathan,

    Children? What is a “child” in the texts you are referring to? People under 18? Hardly.

    What is so clear to you could very well be a mirage.

    If spanking is so clear for Gentile Christians, why is the subject so strenuously avoided in all of the seven churches of Paul, who were written to Gentiles? Could it be that Gentiles were not influenced in the same way that Judaeans were where corporal discipline was clearly a part of the law of Moses?

    Paul saw no need to mention or affirm any of that to Gentiles (to the contrary, Paul said be gentle), so why do you?

    Samuel Martin
    Jerusalem Israel

  • John,

    One question about the book of Hebrews. Is it relevant and written to Gentile Christians living outside the land of Israel? If not, then please stop quoting Hebrews 12 and misapplying it.

    Samuel Martin
    Jerusalem Israel

  • Katherine,

    I have a book on this subject which is free. Feel free to search for it for free download on the web – Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy.”

    Samuel Martin
    Jeruralem Israel