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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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DROWNING.—Drowning never was or could be a recognized form of capital punishment in so poorly watered a country as Palestine, as it was in Assyria and Babylonia. It is mentioned in Matthew 18:6 (|| Mark 9:42, Luke 17:2) as a fitting reward for those who ‘offend one of these little ones which believe in me.’ The last expression may either be taken literally, or this utterance of Jesus may be directed against those who cause the simple believer to stumble in his faith. The Greek word καταποντίζειν is used by the LXX Septuagint to translate the Hebrew טבע in Exodus 15:4, and the expression used by Jesus may be a reminiscence of the drowning of the Egyptians in the Red Sea, or of the adventure of Peter (Matthew 14:30), where the same word is employed.

In the Code of Ḫammurabi, drowning is the penalty for selling beer too cheaply (C. H. W. Johns’ Babylonian and Assyrian Laws, Contracts, and Letters, p. 52 ff.), as well as for more serious offences. The keepers of the beer-shops appear to have been women, and it is curious that drowning seems to have been considered the form of execution proper to female criminals. In Moslem law as defined by Abu Hanifah (d. 767 a.d.), killing by means of drowning was not accounted murder, and no retaliation could be claimed.

T. H. Weir.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Drowning'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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