How does the Coptic Orthodox Church view Capital Punishment?
Our Coptic Church approves of fair capital punishment. God Himself instituted Capital Punishment and gave us the reason why he did. We read in the Holy Book of Genesis 9:6 "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man." This passage regards the killing of a human as an offense to God because humans both male and female are made in the image of God. The Holy Book of Leviticus 24:17 requires that "whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death." The Holy Book of Leviticus 24:21 repeats this. See also the Holy Book of Numbers 35:16 and the Holy Book of Deuteronomy 17:6.
God killed individuals because they had engaged in various transgressions. He sent the flood to kill all the wicked (Genesis 7:6). In the Holy Book of Genesis 18:20, God heard that the people of Sodom were wicked and evil. Genesis 19:24, God demolished Sodom and all of its men, women, children, infants, plants and animals, except for Lot's family.
In the New Testament, God's love and Justice were proclaimed on the cross. For "Mercy and truth have met together" (Psalm 85:10). Now we live in the time of Grace; however the Grace of God goes hand in hand with His Divine Justice. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Both in the Old and New Testament God is revealed as a loving and just God. In The Holy Book of Acts 5:1-11, a couple, by the name of Ananias and Sapphira were punished by being struck dead instantly for lying to the Holy Spirit. Members of the church were understandably terrified. Ananias and Sapphira's punishment was in this life. God did not wait till the eternal life to punish them.
St. Paul tells us "Deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Corinthians 5:5). He also instructs Christians to submit themselves to the authority of the state, "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and God appoints the authorities that exist. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves" (Romans 13:1-2).
Referring to the authorities, St Paul writes "For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil" (Romans 13:1-5). The reference to "sword" might be interpreted literally (to refer to capital punishment) or symbolically (to refer to the power of the state to punish wrongdoers).