Not swearing oaths

Matthew 5:34-37

We are told to not swear oaths.

Why not instead ‘assert’ in court for example, as is available to religious groups?

Yes -if one has the option to choose another means -by all means make use of it.

The Church though does not understand Jesus to exclude all oaths.


2154 Following St. Paul,83 the tradition of the Church has understood Jesus’ words as not excluding oaths made for grave and right reasons (for example, in court). “An oath, that is the invocation of the divine name as a witness to truth, cannot be taken unless in truth, in judgment, and in justice.”

83 Cf. 2 Cor 1:23; Gal 1:20.

you can either swear or affirm that you will tell the truth. the point is to let the witness know the importance of telling the truth.

its a non-issue.

I swear, oaths or otherwise, all the time.

There are “legit” times one may take an oath. And it may even happen frequently for example in court …but oaths should not be done for say trivial matters etc.

Fuller text from Catechism:

2153 In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained the second commandment: "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all. . . . Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one."82 Jesus teaches that every oath involves a reference to God and that God’s presence and his truth must be honored in all speech. Discretion in calling upon God is allied with a respectful awareness of his presence, which all our assertions either witness to or mock.

2154 Following St. Paul,83 the tradition of the Church has understood Jesus’ words as not excluding oaths made for grave and right reasons (for example, in court). "An oath, that is the invocation of the divine name as a witness to truth, cannot be taken unless in truth, in judgment, and in justice."84

2155 The holiness of the divine name demands that we neither use it for trivial matters, nor take an oath which on the basis of the circumstances could be interpreted as approval of an authority unjustly requiring it. When an oath is required by illegitimate civil authorities, it may be refused. It must be refused when it is required for purposes contrary to the dignity of persons or to ecclesial communion.

More there on false oaths too of course…

I do…I have…I 'affirm" that I am telling the truth.

If one can only be trusted to tell the truth if they are under oath then I would think it would follow that one is untrustworthy unless an oath is invoked. “Let your yes be yes and your no be no”. To require oaths is to suggest there are two rules governing “honesty”.:shrug:

since I don’t know you from Adam and don’t know and won’t assume anything about your personal integrity, your promise to tell the truth is a public declaration that the you will tell the truth, as well as being a formal reminder to you. the promise incurs a legal obligation as well – tell a lie and you’ll face potential perjury charges.

you may be impeached by showing you’re a habitual liar who can’t be trusted, but this is a start.

it also has other legal implications, a criminal defendant is entitled to take the stand and give an unsworn statement, and not be subject to cross-examination. but this is usually a bad choice.

I would choose to assert instead because I Iive by:

“Let your yes be yes and your no be no”

I simply tell the truth. Well I do my best.

If someone can only be trusted to tell the truth under oath, how can they be trusted to tell the truth then as well?

I speak simply but often people look for hidden meanings even though there never are any!

simple living.

yeah, but that’s not how it works. the affirmation is something like, “I affirm that I will tell the truth.” its ceremonial, but with consequences (perjury) for lying. without the oath or affirmation, its not evidence.

Yes I understood that, I have read about asserting instead of oaths.

I think lying always has consequences!

I am happy to assert it feels right for me.

I understand the church has interpreted Jesus words for us, but I’m interested how they can interpret such a simple statement as basically ‘don’t swear oaths’ to mean it’s ok to swear them sometimes.

I think sometimes Jesus’ words are so clear & simple it’s hard to see that they need any interpretation.

As People of God, we are to tell the truth. A “yes” is to be a “yes” and a “no” is to be a “no”. I don’t accept that people will only speak the truth under oath…our word is to be our bond without an oath to bolster that claim.

It was thru Friends petitioning the governments that was intrumental in allowing us to “affirm” instead of entering into an “oath”. Friends have always thought it strange that one would be required to place their hand on a book that itself stated not to perform oaths but state your “yes be yes” and our “no be no”.

the form was never really all that important when it comes down to the purpose. there aren’t a lot of magic words left in the law, but affirm or swear are two of them.

and people really do take the oath/affirmation to not lie seriously (fear of perjury), that’s why you get a lot of “don’t remember” or “not to my recollection” or “no knowledge” responses to testimony. its also a way of tying down statements so they aren’t changed later except a cost of credibility, or to bind people to their word when someone relies on a promise.

Jesus also speaks of plucking out eyes…

Someone could say ''Jesus’s words there were clear and simple" that is why I have no more eyes …

Jesus also said basically not to call a man a teacher…but we know that one can call people teachers…professors etc. He was not thereby forbidding the use of the word.

We have to always “read the Scriptures” from within the Church.

Now in saying this I too seek to avoid all oaths as well. And promises too!

Let your yes be yes and your no be no.

The Church follows Paul here too ( 2 Cor 1:23; Gal 1:20)

Yes, that’s why I said “I think sometimes Jesus’ words are so clear & simple” that is not always.

But I thought about the examples we’re giving and I had a sudden realization.

Jesus always spoke with the full knowledge of how people behave.

I mean he knew nobody (sane) would take out their eyes and he knew many people would otherwise swear oaths. Whether his words are literal or not each time relies completely on human nature! God’s ways have no end to their depth…

Actually (sane) people HAVE taken his words wrongly and did things of that sort…

In any case…

He also spoke with knowledge that he was founding a Church to whom he gave authority to teach in his name…to clear up any such matters…

(and again one can end up not calling ones own father —“father”—or ones teacher a teacher etc…but such is not the way that such is to be taken.)

I’m not disagreeing with you Bookcat.

I know the church interprets scripture for us. I was meditating on some things out loud!

And also though surely you understand some of what Christ speaks to you?


And we need always read and understand from within the Church (as you agree).

A great quote from a great writer:

A divine inspiration cannot ask us to do something that contradicts what the Word of God teaches and asks of us. This means not the Word of God as compiled by each individual’s fantasy and interpretation, but Holy Scripture as transmitted and explained by the teaching authority of the Church. For example, a divine inspiration cannot ask me to commit acts that the Church considers immoral. In the same way, true inspirations always go in the direction of a spirit of obedience to the Church.

  • In the School of the Holy Spirit, p.47

And as I noted before ----I too seek to avoid oaths and promises – “let your yes be yes and no be no”.

While understanding there can be say serious reasons to take one that are legit.

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