Because you are going to be bombarded with it and with its consequences, it is probably somewhat important to know that there has been in Western Christianity a movement, beginning around the beginning of the twentieth century, to translate the Sixth Commandment (Fifth Commandment in the Catholic and Anglican Churches), “Thou shall not kill,” as, “Thou shall not murder.” This movement picked up steam after World War II. More than likely this occurred because of the enormity of killing English, Russian, German, American, French, Canadian, Australian, Croat, Serbian, Greek and Italian Christians of all Churches did and did with the approval of their Churches in Word War II—and for decades thereafter right to this day. The spiritual and moral ache to in find a way to believe that the monstrous amount of killing that they, their governments, their Church leaders and their Churches participated in and supported was of God drove post WW II Christians to alter the translation of the Sixth Commandment. Between 1959 and 2004 practically every Protestant edition of the Bible changed the wording of the Sixth Commandment from what it always had been, “Thou shall not kill,” to “Thou shall not murder.” The Catholic Church, who is known to have a scholar or two on its payroll, has refused to go along with the new translation of the Fifth (Sixth) Commandment and retains the word “kill” in the Commandment.
This new manner of stating the Sixth Commandment amounts to a clear change in content from the original and traditional translation of Commandment. Killing a human being, homicide, is the genus, murder is a species of homicide or killing. What differentiates murder from kill is that “murder” means the killing of a human being that is not authorized or approved or justified by some institution, e.g. a state, a religion, a tribe, etc. Whereas, “kill” means any killing.
This change of translation and subsequent alteration of the meaning of the Commandment was accomplished by interpreting the Hebrew verb, rtsh, in the Sixth Commandment as murder rather then kill. There was no new scholarship concerning rtsh to support this change in translation. All the reasons given for the alteration in translation came for outside of the word itself.
The Hebrew Scripture’s verb rtsh means kill, that is for certain. The rationalization for the justification of the change in translation is that God could not possibly have meant all killing of human being since He Himself orders many types of homicide, from killing a disobedient adolescent boy, to capital punishment, to war, to genocide in the same Hebrew Scriptures that contain the Sixth Commandment. The process, however, of translating the Sixth Commandment by taking a word that is a genus or general term, “kill,” and translating its by a word meaning one of the species or subdivisions of “kill,” that is, by “murder,”—a word meaning only unlawful (secular or moral) killing—is of dubious spiritual and intellectual integrity and soundness. It is tantamount to changing the Seventh (Sixth) Commandment, “Thou shall not commit adultery,” to “Thou shall not commit some species of adultery,” e.g., “Thou shall not commit inter-racial adultery” or inter-tribal adultery or inter-religion adultery or inter-caste adultery. To force a generalizing word into meaning only one of its subdivisions is not kosher. When that word is consider to be a word that God Himself wrote in stone to aid human beings then an innovative translation becomes a clever gimmick to say, “Non serviam”
There are many technical reasons in scholarship and many common sense reasons why altering the translation of kill to murder is inaccurate and unacceptable. If you wish to read the scholarly reasons in detail they are well presented in You shall not kill or you shall not murder: The Assault on a Biblical Text by Wilma Ann Bailey, whose PhD is in Hebrew and Aramaic Scriptures.
On the common sense level reducing rtsh from kill to murder makes its meaning dependent on the self-interests, or even whims, of any secular or religious politicos who comes along and who has the power to dictate and enforce, by some form of violence, the rules or laws, secular or religious, by which a group of people must live. One person’s or society’s or religion’s hero can be, and often is, another person’s or society’s or religion’s murderer. So the same act at the same time by the same person may be murder or not murder, breaking the Sixth Commandment or not breaking the Sixth Commandment depending on the geography of the act and the political and religious honchos who control that geography. If such is the case, there is not reason for God to have given the Sixth Commandment. Its content is then just what the elites of state or religion decide it to be in their time and place.
Killing is as a word is universally clear. It means, according to the Oxford-English Dictionary, “to deprive of life.” Murder is depriving of life only those that some post-original sin, concupiscence saturated, sin drenches, perishing lump of clay with institutional secular or religious power forbids to be killed. Other than that, the human killing fields are wide open, e.g., Fallujah, Nagasaki, Saint Edith Stein, Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, Auschwitz, Dresden. No murder where those killings are concerned. No breaking of the Sixth Commandment here. All these killings were legal and permitted by state and Church at the time, as well as, being executed by Christians.
A more spiritually profound and mystical reason for not changing kill to murder in translating the Sixth Commandment can be seen and known through the life of Desmond Doss which can be view on this History Channel documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvf6oxK9LHw
All the above information is somewhat important to know since rtsh is going to be pushed upon Christians as murder rather than kill for evidently a long period of time to come. The Christian therefore should be generally familiar with some of the pertinent issues surrounding the translating of rtsh as murder rather than kill. But, nothing said above should make the slightest difference in determining how a Christian views and lives the Sixth (Fifth) Commandment. As noted in Fast Food Helpings Thirty-One and Thirty-Two, the Christian’s interpretation of the Ten Commandments must be governed by the Eleventh Commandment, the “new commandment” of Jesus, “Love one anotheras I have loved you.” For the Christian then, the Sixth (Fifth) Commandment must be read as “Thou shall not kill,” not as, “Thou shall not murder,” because the love that is “as I have loved” is a Nonviolent and therefore a non-killing Love of friends and enemies in every situation in life.
-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy