The Biblical Truth about America's Death Penalty

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Northeastern University Press, 2004 - Religion - 433 pages
While secular support for capital punishment in America seems to be waning, religious conservatives, particularly in the "Bible belt," remain staunch advocates of the death penalty, citing biblical law and practice to defend government-sanctioned killing. Dale S. Recinella compares biblical teaching about the death penalty, including such passages as "eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life," with the nation's current system of capital punishment, and offers persuasive arguments for a faith-based moratorium on -- and eventual abolition of -- executions.

Framing his careful and incisive analysis as a legal brief to those who believe the Bible mandates the ultimate punishment, the author addresses two critical areas of inquiry: what do the scriptures tell us about who is deserving of death and who has the authority to kill, and what do they tell us about the required standards for execution and the plight of victims' families. Recinella's examination of the Hebrew Torah, or Christian Pentateuch, and the Talmud reveals that the biblical death penalty was not a simple system of swift retribution, but a complex and practical set of laws that guided capital courts established under the Sanhedrin. His scrutiny of these texts, the Christian doctrine of atonement, and Romans 13 in the Pauline Epistles, draws parallels between the traditional biblical arguments used in favor of capital punishment and those used as the basis for pro-slavery positions in the nineteenth century. Demonstrating that both approaches are unsubstantiated in biblical terms, Recinella debunks the accepted religious reasoning for support of the death penalty and shows instead that the Bible's strict conditions for sanctioning execution are at odds with the arbitrary ways in which capital punishment is administered in the United States. He provides convincing evidence that a sentence of death in today's criminal justice system in fact fails to meet both the Bible's exacting procedural requirements and its strict limitations on judicial authority.

By providing actual scriptural language and foundation to counter the position that biblical truth justifies a pro-death penalty stance, this thoughtful, solidly researched, and well-reasoned work will give pause to religious fundamentalists and challenge them to rethink their strongly held views on capital punishment.

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The Biblical Truth About America's Death Penalty

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Recinella, a lawyer rather than a professional scholar of the Judeo-Christian scriptures, tackles the topic of the abolition of the death penalty based on his reading of the Bible. His intention is to ... Read full review

The Biblical Truth about America's Death Penalty

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Recinella, a lawyer rather than a professional scholar of the Judeo-Christian scriptures, tackles the topic of the abolition of the death penalty based on his reading of the Bible. His intention is to ... Read full review

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About the author (2004)

Dale S. Recinella is an attorney who serves as a state-certified spiritual counselor and Catholic lay chaplain for Florida's prison system, ministering to death row inmates and prisoners in long-term solitary confinement. He is also a columnist, public speaker, and frequent panelist on worldwide Vatican Radio. He lives in Macclenny, Florida.

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