The 8 Cases of Suicide in the Bible (Alexander Murray)

NOTE: Although the early Church Fathers allowed the taking of one’s life under certain circumstances, later Church Fathers believed that suicide was not allowed in any circumstance.

St. Clement of Alexandria (3rd century) taught that Christians must not engage in suicide martyrdom because, according to Clement, any man who kills a godly person sins against God, even if that man is himself. Moreover, Christians ought to flee whenever possible because voluntarily presenting themselves for judgment makes them partially guilty of their own deaths. (Stromata, Book 4:4-11)

St. Ambrose of Milan praises St. Pelagia of Antioch for killing herself to preserve her chastity.
St. Ambrose of Milan praises St. Pelagia of Antioch for killing herself to preserve her chastity.

The early Church Father St Jerome categorically stated that Christ would not receive the soul of one who commits suicide. [Saint Jerome, Letters 39:3]. Eusebius, St. John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose and St. Jerome make however an interesting exception to their otherwise absolute and inclusive condemnation: those who commit suicide in order to preserve their chastity.

St. John Chrysostom praises St. Domina for killing her own two daughters, and then herself, in order to preserve their chastity.
St. John Chrysostom praises St. Domina for killing her own two daughters, and then herself, in order to preserve their chastity.

Other Church Fathers believed that suicide was not allowed in any circumstance. St. Augustine of Hippo believed that anyone who took his or her own life was beyond repentance because that person had violated the sixth commandment which clearly states “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). After the 4th century AD, the Church no longer accepted women who committed suicide in order to preserve their chastity into the ranks of Saints. Men and women now had to have patience and endure (with thanksgiving and prayer, no doubt) the rapes and other forms of sexual abuse and humiliation (whether singular or gang rapes) that they endured at the hands of their captors or abusers.

Contrary to earlier Patristic teachings, St. Augustine rejected all forms of suicide, even to preserve one's chastity.
Contrary to earlier Patristic teachings, St. Augustine rejected all forms of suicide, even to preserve one’s chastity.

The Orthodox Church commemorates the Feast Day of saints who committed suicide: Agathonike (October 13), St. Apollonia of Alexandria (February 9), St. Euplus of Catania (August 11), Sts. Domnina, with her two daughters Bernike and Prosdoke (October 4), St. Pelagia of Antioch (June 9), St. Lucretia (November 22), etc.

As well, Church Fathers like St. John Chrysostom and St. Ambrose praise many of these Virgin-Martyr saints for committing suicide—and in the case of St. Domina who threw her two daughters into the river—murder to preserve their chastity.

suicide-of-judas

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