Friday, July 31, 2009

Rare Penalty

The Old Testament imposes a number of requirements that will make the death penalty vey rare. All of the following conditions must be met before the death penalty can be imposed.

  • The crime must have observed directly by two or three independent witnesses (Deut 19:15).

  • The witnesses must not have committed the crime they are testifying about. Adulterers cannot testify against adulterers. People with a record for violence cannot be witnesses to crimes of violence (John 8:7).

  • A young man cannot be given the death penalty, if his parents object. If they think that he is redeemable, he must be given another chance. They would need to take responsibility for helping him change (Deut 21:18-21).

  • The victim’s family must agree to the death penalty. They will often refuse consent, because they will benefit more if the murderer pays restitution. The rest of the community could only overall, if the murderer continued to be a threat. The death penalty was only permissible in situation where protection of the community took priority over the compensation of victim’s family (Num 35:31).

  • The death penalty can only be implemented, if the murderer criminal stays in his community. Most murderers would flee their tribe or community to avoid punishment. There were no police force, no prisons to retain criminals. There were no extraditions laws to get convicted criminals returned for sentence. Fleeing criminals could escape justice, but they would cease to be a risk to their community, because they would be afraid to return.

    The fleeing criminal would lose the protection and privileges that come through being part of a tribe or community. He might find it difficult to find another tribe or community to participate in and might end up living among other outlaws. This would be dangerous as someone might seek revenge by paying someone to kill him.

  • When a society has become “hard of heart”, the community should stop imposing the death penalty in most situations, as excessive use the death penalty brutalises a society (Matt 19:8).. It is better for crimes to go unpunished than for society to be become vicious and violent.

Most situations where the death penalty is imposed in America will fail to meet one of these conditions. If these conditions were imposed in America, the death penalty would almost disappear. The Old Testament is much more merciful than American justice. People who assume that the Old Testament is harsh do not understand it.

More at Crime and Punishment.

1 comment:

Gene said...

Excellent work....
I have wondered how to answer people who claim that parents routinely stoned their children for disobedience.

I knew they didn't but hadn't thought this out.


I may steal this (with attribution)