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Courts have a variety of oaths that may invoke deity:

  • I do swear in the name of God that what I shall state shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth
  • I swear by Almighty God that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth
  • You do solemnly state that the testimony you may give in the case now pending before this court shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

Some people outside of court may make an oath to another invoking God to show their sincerity.

  • As God is my witness
  • I swear to God that....

What does the bible teach about making/keeping oaths (especially those that invoke God/Jehovah/Almighty)?

Related Questions:

Clarification: I'm not asking why someone may swear an oath (in court or not), just what does the bible say about swearing oaths that invoke God?

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    I have stopped using the wording 'xxx forbid' which is found occasionally in the KJV to translate the Greek wording 'let it not be'. I usually now say 'Not so'. I now regard it as an inappropriate oath. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 10 at 13:55

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In that truly helpful list of scriptures provided by the OP, the one that sums up the entire matter for me is Matthew 5:34-37 where Jesus says not to swear by heaven, nor by earth, nor by Jerusalem, nor by one's head. Then he gives a positive command:

"But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." verse 37 A.V.

"Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes', and your 'No', 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." verse 37 N.I.V. 1987 ed.

"Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil." verse 37 R.S.V. 1952 ed.

The absence of any of the disciples being recorded in scripture as swearing oaths as Jesus forbade, silently screams out that they did not do that. However, there is one tiny verse that indicates the apostle Paul coming quite close to swearing by God's name:

"Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth." 2 Corinthians 1:23 A.V.

"I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth." Ditto N.I.V. 1987 ed.

"But I call God to witness against me - it was to spare you that I refrained from coming to Corinth." Ditto R.S.V. 1952 ed.

This was not swearing by God's name, but saying God was his witness, as his soul full well knew, as to his pure motive for not having visited the Corinthian Christians previously. In a sense, God was invoked, but not as an oath, and not by giving God's name. Paul simply had a totally clear conscience on this matter and he was confident that God could vouch for him. It seems that he came quite close to an oath in God's name, but not close enough to violate what Jesus prohibited in Matthew 5:33-36.

This may be significant with regard to Christians taking (or not taking) oaths in a court of law. And the 2 Corinthians 1:23 verse is additional to the list previously provided, which is why I detail it.

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  • God was invoked....and not by giving God's name seems iffy. Is swearing by God, using God's name/would that pass Matt 5 guidance? Is there a difference between oaths and swearing?
    – depperm
    Commented May 14 at 16:11
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    @depperm Good question. Where is the line drawn? O.M.G. may be viewed as 'swearing' but in God's book it may be a gross violation, using his name in vain. Paul, in that example I gave, was totally respectful of God, and not taking his name in vain in any sense, I reckon. Yes, there will be a difference, but each one has to be clear in their own conscience as to how they speak of God, and it's certainly safer to err on the side of caution!
    – Anne
    Commented May 14 at 17:03
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    Yes, Paul is making a statement for which he will be judged, himself, either immediately in this life or in the Last Judgment on that Great Day, as to its veracity, and he signifies the solemnity by invoking the name of Him who will Judge all truth and all untruth. Up-voted +1. My own understanding of the literal translation of 2 Cor 1:23 (see EGNT) is But I a witness the Deity call upon this my soul.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 15 at 11:18
  • @NigelJ doesn't that go against Matthew counsel? Isn't that why people swear oaths that invoke deity to add veracity to one's words?
    – depperm
    Commented May 17 at 12:35
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    @depperm If someone wishes to accuse (or to make an implication against) Paul the apostle, then they should consider the consequences, is all that I can say.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 17 at 12:47
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Below Are all references I could find that explicitly mention oath(s). NIV version unless indicated otherwise. There is probably some crossover that could be found between oath, pledge, vow, swear, and covenant. The scripture references in bold to me indicated instruction/guidance on oaths.

Gen. 26:3

3 Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham.

Gen. 50:25

25 And Joseph made the Israelites swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.”

Ex. 22:11

11 the issue between them will be settled by the taking of an oath before the Lord that the neighbor did not lay hands on the other person’s property. The owner is to accept this, and no restitution is required.

Num. 30:2

2 When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.

Deut. 7:8

8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Deut. 29:12 (KJV)

12 That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day:

1 Kgs. 2:43

43 Why then did you not keep your oath to the Lord and obey the command I gave you?”

2 Kgs. 11:4

4 In the seventh year Jehoiada sent for the commanders of units of a hundred, the Carites and the guards and had them brought to him at the temple of the Lord. He made a covenant with them and put them under oath at the temple of the Lord. Then he showed them the king’s son.

1 Chr. 16:16 (Ps. 105:9)

16 the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac.

Neh. 10:29

29 all these now join their fellow Israelites the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our Lord.

Jer. 11:5

5 Then I will fulfill the oath I swore to your ancestors, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey’—the land you possess today.” I answered, “Amen, Lord.”

Ezek. 16:59

59 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will deal with you as you deserve, because you have despised my oath by breaking the covenant.

Matt. 5:33-37 (See this question for additional background of oaths in court and some interpretations of this verse and this answer suggest this counsel is only against casual oaths not ALL oaths)

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’

34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne;

35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.

36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.

37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Matt. 14:9 (Mark 6:26)

9 The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted

Luke 1:73

73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:

Acts 2:30

30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne.

Acts 23:21

21 Don’t give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request.”

Heb. 6:16-17

16 People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument.

17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.

Heb. 7:20, 28

20 And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath,

28 For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.

James 5:12 (KJV)

12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.

emphasis mine

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The Bible generally frowns upon invoking God in one's oath, as well as making vows to Him that one cannot keep.

When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. (Ecclesiastes, chapter 5, verses 4 and 5, King James Version.)

Furthermore, Jesus seems to condemn it, or at least caution against it strongly.

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