CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
There are three Hebrew words in the Old Testament text sometimes translated in English by the word crime: (1) mishphat, (see Ezek. 7:23) — most often translated "judgment"; (2) zimmah (Job 31:11), translated "heinous crime" and means literally, "an evil scheme" (used in connection with murder, incest, and adultery — see Hosea 6:9; Prov. 10:23; 21:27; Lev. 18:17; 20:14; Job 31:11; Jer. 13:27; Ezra 16:27, etc.); (3) ‘asham, (see Gen. 26:10; Num. 5:7; Prov. 14:9; Jer. 51:5), it means "of-fence, trespass, fault" and is often translated "guiltiness."
Four Greek words are used to mean "crime" in the New Testament: (1) aitia (see Acts 25:18; Matt. 27:34; Mark 15:26; John 18:38; 19:4,6; Acts 13:28; 23:28; 28:18); the word is often translated "charge, fault, cause, case"; (2) aitioma, related to the first word, but more implicit (see Acts 25:7) — translated "complaint, charge"; (3) egklema (see Acts 23:29; 25:16) also translated "charge, complaint"; (4) Kategoria, kategoros and kategoreo (two nouns and a verb, from which we get the English words "category" and "categorize"); all have to do with judicial procedure; they are words derived from the Greek word agora which means "a place of public speaking", and from the Greek prefix kata which means "against" — thus, "a speaking against a person before a public tribunal; this word is the opposite to the Greek word apologia which means "a public defense."
A crime is a contravention of the public right; a violation of the natural law or the codified law; all of which subjects the perpetrator to legal punishment. The English word crime is de-rived from the Latin crimen which means, "accusation, fault." A crime is an act or omission forbidden by law and punishable upon conviction. People sometimes use the word "crime" to describe any aggravated or gross offense against accepted morality, whether codified as civil law or not. In the Bible "crimes" are regarded as offenses against (1) God, or (2) man, or both, but not, primarily, as "offenses against the state."
The very ideas of crime and punishment are valid only because of the objective existence of the eternal God and the revelation of his divine nature. As Paul put it:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness sup-press the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made (Rom. 1:18-20).
God is just. The Hebrew word for "just" is tsadaq. The word is often translated "righteous." God’s justice or righteousness is the very essence of his nature.
That God is just is true, analytically, from the definition of His holiness. The Hebrew word tsoddiq means "straight," and the Greek word dikaios means "upright." Both words express the justice of a holy God. Justice is the outgoing of God’s holiness with reference to moral (or immoral) creatures. If the creature were entirely harmonious with God’s holiness, it would follow from God’s justice that the creature would be in perfect fellowship with God; but if the creature is, as we know he is, fearfully self-corrupted, it follows that God must be hostile to his corruption. Since the creature is unholy and unjust, it follows that God in His justice must vindicate His holy character and maintain His creation as an expression of that holy character. A holy God if he maintains a creation must maintain a holy creation, and must be hostile to all things in it which are in violation of his own holiness. If there is any difference between right and wrong, God in His righteousness must be hostile to the wrong. This is analytically true. Thus it is evident that the law, "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23) is logically necessary in consequence of God’s holiness .
A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, by James Oliver Buswell, Jr., pub. Zondervan, pp 1-67,68
It is not our purpose in this volume to make an extended study of the nature and attributes of God. What the Bible says about God’s essence and character has been given a thorough and scholarly treatment by Dr. Jack Cottrell, in his three volume work, What The Bible Says About God (Creator, Ruler, and Redeemer), published by College Press, and we heartily recommend that Christians read all three volumes. We do quote from Dr. Cottrell here by way of establishing the ground upon which we shall treat the subject of Crime and Punishment:
That God is righteous means that all his actions conform perfectly to the proper standard or norm. This needs to be very carefully explained, however. It does not mean that there is some Eternal Law existing outside of God to which God himself must give allegiance. All law external to God derives from God; he externalizes it not for his own sake but for the sake of his creatures, that they might have access to the perfect standard for righteousness. For God himself, his own eternally perfect nature is the law or norm to which all his actions conform. Clarke puts it well when he says that the righteousness of God means that "God is the eternal Right," that "in him all right is grounded." In other words, "what we name his righteousness is the attitude and work of God as the eternal Right, in his relations with other beings." Berkhof makes this comment: "The fundamental idea of righteousness is that of strict adherence to the law. Among men it presupposes that there is a law to which they must conform. It is sometimes said that we cannot speak of righteousness in God, because there is no law to which He is subject. But though there is no law above God, there is certainly a law in the very nature of God, and this is the highest possible standard, by which all other laws are judged.
Knowing that God is righteous is thus very important to us creatures who are asked to trust him. Because he is righteous, i.e., because he acts with perfect consistency and constancy, especially in keeping his word, we can trust him; we can rely on him and put our utter confidence in him.
What the Bible Says About God the Redeemer, by Dr. Jack Cottrell, pub. College Press pp. 194-196
Abraham acknowledged, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen. 18:25). From beginning to end, the Bible declares God to be Just (Righteous) (see Exod. 9:27; Deut. 32:4; Psa. 37:28; Isa 45:21; 61:8; Neh. 9:33; Hosea 14:9; Zeph. 3:5; Hab. 1:13; Rom. 3:5; Rev. 15:3).
All crime is ultimately against God. Every crime is a rebellion against the absolute holiness of the Creator. Every punishment decreed against crime is ultimately a decree of Almighty God, either administered providentially by God, himself, or by his ordained agency — civil government (institutionalized in the family, the nation and the international community).
Without the objectivity of God’s existence and the logical necessity of justice as the essence of his nature there would be no imperative for justice among human beings. Crimes would not be violations of any Absolute Law and punishments, if there could be any justifiable punishments at all, would be entirely relative. Without an Absolute as a final ground, men would inevitably categorize criminal actions from a strictly pragmatic, humanly-autonomous criterion. The most powerful human being (or group of human beings) would determine what was criminal — and that would naturally be whatever was unpleasant or unprofitable for that human being. The determination of punishment for relativistic crimes would also devolve upon the autonomously powerful human beings.
What we are saying is this: justice (punishment of crime) does not find its ultimate basis in either individual "human rights" or in "society" — but in God. Crime is what God says it is (either in precept or principle), and punishment is what God says it is (either in precept or principle).
Unless a person recognizes some form of supreme law by which man’s laws must be judged, there is no basis for believing in any form of disobedience, or that any human law or act of government is unjust.
Christianity and The Constitution, by John Eidsmoe, pub. Baker, p. 363
In many instances, God has clearly decreed and denominated what is to be counted as criminal action by mankind. In some cases, only general principles are stated (in the Bible) and men are left to define and declare, on the basis of the divine principles or guidelines, what is legal (lawful) or illegal (criminal) — as well as the punishments to be meted out for violations of said determinations.
What must be established, second, is that God has ordained human governments to act coercively, with force, to execute divine wrath upon criminal actions. It is both irrational and unbiblical to insist that human governments carry out their God-ordained purpose of executing God’s wrath on wrong without the use of coercion and force. Human governments do not "bear the sword in vain" (Rom. 13:1-7; I Pet. 2:13-17). Some Christians shrink from the idea of the use of force and coercion by civil governments as being contrary to the Bible. What is often not considered is the difference between force and violence. To execute a murderer is not violence when done within the parameters of the revealed will of God — by duly ordained civil authorities acting in harmony with divinely revealed laws. Acting within these parameters human government is trusting justice to be reckoned from an Absolute point of reference from which no in-justice will be done.
Provided that there is a legitimate basis for its use and a vigilant precaution against its overreaction in practice, a qualified use of force is not only necessary but justifiable. Within the Christian framework there is the possibility of truth, justice and authority which are not arbitrary, relativistic or mystifying. Thus an important distinction between force and violence is possible. Force, on the one hand, is the controlling discipline of truth, justice and authority in action. Violence, on the other hand, can come from one of three directions — from the maintenance of authority without a legitimate basis, from the contravention of a legitimate authority or from the injustice of a legitimate authority overreacting as it deals with opposition or violation. Over-reaction in the name of truth too easily becomes the ugly horror of violence once again . . . . Either all force is unmasked as violence (with the consequent chaos of disrespect for all law), or else all violence is masked as force (and there is no redress except by recourse to greater force). The ideal of Justice within law can only be pursued with this distinction kept carefully in mind. Without such a distinction there can be no legitimate justification for authority or discipline of any kind, whether on a parental or on a presidential level. In a fallen world the ideal of legal justice without the exercise of force is naive. Societies need a police force; a man has the right to defend his wife from assault. A feature of any society which can achieve a measure of freedom within form is that responsibility implies discipline. This is true at the various structural levels of society — in the spheres of the state, business, the community, the school, respectively . . . .Of course the mere statement of the ideal of force without violence does not mean that it can be easily or constantly attained. Far from it. But this should not lead to a dilution of the ideal.
The Dust of Death, by Os Guinness, pub. IVP, pp. 177,178
A. REASONS CIVIL GOVERNMENT MUST PUNISH CRIMINALS
1. To Carry Out Its God-Ordained Mission: We have discussed this at length in the chapter on Purpose. But it bears repeating. God has "instituted" (Rom. 13:1) and "sent" (I Pet. 2:14) civil governments for the express purpose of "executing divine wrath upon evil doers." That is civil government’s main function. It exists for hardly any other purpose. The civil government that does not punish criminals is in rebellion against the Almighty. Romans 13:1-7 and I Peter 2:13-17 say nothing about rehabilitating criminals, and certainly nothing about excusing them. Human government is an instrument of God — it exists to serve him.
2. To Vindicate the Sovereignty and Character of God: If the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness of men (Rom. 1: 18ff), and if God is in his very essence Justice and Righteousness, that sovereign justness has to be upheld or asserted. God could do that by supernatural intervention every time a crime is committed. He could slay individual criminals or burn up whole cities of criminals (e.g. Sodom and Gomorrah) by direct, miraculous judgments if he should choose to do so. However, the Bible clearly teaches that God chooses in almost all instances (with a few exceptions in Biblical times to give validity to his messengers, the prophets and the apostles), to have his sovereign will against crime upheld and asserted by human beings. This "covenant" from God to man in punishing crime dates as far back as the "rebirth" of the human race when Noah came forth from the ark (Gen. 9:6-9). It predates the Mosaic legislation and is, therefore, not to be restricted to the Israelite theocracy. It is a principle for the whole human race.
God does not administer his justice in time and history by constant supernatural deeds — he does not send angels (with but a few exceptions) — he sends human governments. Man is charged not only with a stewardship of the material creation (Gen. 1:29,30; 9:1-4), but also with a stewardship of human society (Gen. 9:5,6). "Am I my brother’s keeper?" Indeed, in more ways than one! Politicians, governors, rulers and civil workers, will give account of their stewardship just as surely as preachers and elders. It is possible that Hebrews 13:17, "Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account," applies as much to civil rulers as it does to church elders. Political leaders and government workers will answer to Almighty God for what they have done with the human social order! The Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus and the apostles undeniably called civil rulers, both Israelites and Gentiles, to account for their administration of human government.
3. To Deter Others From Committing Crimes: It is reason-able, it is a matter of experience, and it is Biblical to expect punishment to be a deterrent against crime. Fear is a viable motivation for producing right behavior. It works because it is true! Paul explicitly named "terror" (Gr. phobos, "fear") as an instrumentality of human government in deterring "bad conduct" (Rom. 13:3). Paul also wrote to Timothy, "Now we know that the law is good, if any one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, immoral persons, sodomites, kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine . . . " (I Tim. 1:8-10). The very purpose of the law is to produce fear so that such crimes as Paul listed would be deterred. Laws must have penalties to be laws. Penalties must be executed if the law is to be validated. Laws without penalties and punishments are useless. They are nothing more than words on paper. They are worse than useless without penalties. Not only would laws without punishment deter no one, they would actually make the very idea of "law" a mockery.
We are told repeatedly in the Old Testament that the purpose of punishment was that "all Israel shall hear, and fear" (cf. Deut. 13:11; 17:13; 21:21). Isaiah wrote these words:
My soul yearns for thee in the night, my spirit within me earnestly seeks thee. For when thy judgments are in the earth, the in-habitants of the world learn righteousness. If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals perversely and does not see the majesty of the Lord (Isa. 26:9,10).
The deterrent factor of discipline is assuredly expressed in the well known passage of Hebrews 12:3-11. A number of passages in Proverbs (13:24; 19:18,19; 21:11; 23:13,14, etc.) teach that punishment for crime is to serve as a deterrent, if not for others, certainly for the perpetrator. Hosea depicts God using his punishment of Israel in the captivities as an instrument to "allure" Israel back to him. God says through the prophet that he will make Israel’s "Valley of Achor" (Valley of Trouble), a "door of hope" (Hosea 2:14,15).
If God threatened punishment to deter his theocratic people from criminal conduct (see Lev. 26; Amos 3-4; Micah 1-3; Zeph. 1:12-18, etc.) those who are "servants" of God in the arena of civil government could find no better principle by which to govern—especially since they have a clear Biblical mandate to do so (Rom. 13:1-7, etc.)
The Bible gives many examples of governmental leaders practicing this principle. Coercion, force, and fear of punishment by human rulers is actually the only alternative left in maintaining social order when mankind refuses to accept the regenerative power of biblical new-birth. God used the threat of punishment upon Israel and Judah (Isa. 10:5ff; Jer. 27:lff) to deter them from further crimes — and it worked for some.
In the New Testament we see a number of government officials (both Jewish and Gentile) exercising punishment or the threat of punishment to deter what they ignorantly and wrongfully deem anti-social crimes (John 19:10; Acts 4:13-22; 5;40-42).
We also find some expressing their fear of punishment (Acts 16:27; 16:35-39; 19:35-41; 27:42; Luke 23:40). Proverbs 19:12 and 20:2 tell us that the "dread wrath of the king" is a fearful warning much like that of a "growling lion" so that disorderly and criminal behavior may be deterred.
A significant reason that punishment and fear of punishment does not provide greater deterrence is that punishments are not enacted quickly, impartially, and severely enough (see Eccl.8:2-11; 10:4). The book of Proverbs is widely known for its admonitions about punishment of children as a deterring factor to prevent them from growing up to be adult criminals (Prov. 13:23; 22:15; 23:13,14). Proverbs also declares that the lack of deterring punishment leads to shame (Prov. 29:15). If punishment must sometimes be resorted to as a deterrent in the home, where intimate familial ties usually prevail, how much more must punishment be applied to deter criminal action in civil society where such intimacy does not prevail! And, further, if punishment as a deterrent is mandated for use (in specified cases) even in the earthly existence of the messianic kingdom (the church) how much more in civil societies (see Matt. 18:15-20; Acts 5:7-11; I Cor. 5:1-13; 6:9-11; II Cor. 2:5-11; Gal. 2:11-14; II Thess. 3:6-15; Titus 3:10,11, etc.).
For the Christian, for the Bible-believer, it is beside the point to argue whether punishment deters crime or not. The Bible states that it does and that governing authorities are to act upon that Biblical mandate. It will work because it is true. It has not worked, because it has not been practiced. Of course, only the naive would expect crime to be absolutely deterred by the threat of punishment — it will not, and the Bible realistically teaches that it will not. Only regeneration of the human personality — the new birth — will put an end to crime. But the Bible is realistic enough to teach also that punishment used as a deterrent to crime will be relatively successful — enough so that social order will be maintained and sufficient "peace and tranquillity" will prevail so that some of mankind will be able to come to a knowledge of the truth.
4. Physical Restraint of Criminals and Crime: Punishing crime and criminals is plainly necessitated in order to physically, objectively, stop crime from recurring. This is done by physically removing the perpetrator (criminal) from an otherwise law-abiding society. There are only two ways by which human governors may physically restrain criminals — execution and incarceration. Incorrigible criminals must either be put to death or imprisoned. We will treat the specific forms of restraint later in this chapter. The Bible clearly advocates the principle of physical restraint as a reason for punishment of criminals. Those who will not be amenable to the laws of social order by reason or persuaded to do so by deterrents, will necessarily need to be physically restrained. Behavior that usurps and sets aside the rules which make it possible for individuals to live in immediate and intimate socialization with others (society) must be prohibited. The criminal actually alienates himself from society by refusing to behave within the compulsory norms of social order. The criminal, in effect, declares war on society. He forfeits his right to be accepted as a member of society. By his criminal activity he is saying that he chooses to live by standards and principles alien to social order. He declares himself in favor of anarchy and disorder. If criminal behavior (robbery, assault, murder, rape, homosexuality, adultery, theft, perjury, treason, etc.) is extrapolated to include every individual in a society — if criminal behavior is the norm — it takes no huge amount of reason and common sense to know that society would self-destruct. Criminal activity must, to the greatest extent possible, be prohibited. This may be accomplished to some degree by punishments which will act to deter some individuals from such activity. But those who commit capital crimes and those who are incorrigible repeaters of lesser crimes must be physically removed from the midst of the law-abiding society and executed or imprisoned.
The Bible confirms this principle in numerous places. A recur-ring phrase in the Mosaic law is, "so you shall purge the evil from the midst of you . . . " (see Deut. 13:5; 17:7; 19:19; 21:21; 22:21; 24:7). Another phrase often repeated is, " . . . the per-sons that do them shall be cut off from among their people . . . (see Num. 15:30,32; Lev. 18:29; 20:3). The Mosaic legislation says very little about incarceration. Imprisonment to retain in custody certain violaters or alleged violaters until they could be "tried" and other punishments exacted was occasionally practiced (Lev. 24:12; Num. 15:34; Lev. 25:28; Num. 35:25; Deut. 19:12). But imprisonment as a form of punishment was not practiced by the early Israelites. And many of the heathen cultures incarcerated people only to keep them in custody until disposition of accusations against them were made as the case of Joseph, the baker, and the butler, in Egypt (Gen. 39:20ff). The Mosaic criminal (civil) code legislated principally three forms of punishment: (1) retribution ("an eye for an eye . . . "); (2) restitution; (3) execution (death). Occasionally punishment took the form of ostracism or excommunication (deportation). Later Israelites may have used imprisonment as a method of restraining criminals. Imprisonment as punishment was used by some of the Gentile governments mentioned in the Bible (Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans). Jesus referred to the practice of imprisonment in some of his parables (see Matt. 5:25; Luke 12:58; Matt. 18:30; Matt. 25:36ff). John the Baptist was imprisoned as a punishment (Matt. 4:2; 11:2; 14:3; Mark 6:17,19,22; Luke 3:19,20). Later, he was beheaded. And God himself created the most terrible prison of all — Hell — where impenitent and incorrigible criminals will be incarcerated forever!
5. To Prevent Private Vengeance: Society cannot tolerate criminal activity. But neither can social order be maintained when each individual arrogates to himself the authority to prosecute, judge, sentence and execute punishments for crimes against him or others. The structure of human social order must be maintained by administrators (governments and governors) who are as objective and impartial as possible. The passions, sensibilities, and prejudices of victims of criminal acts would make it very probable that the exercise of private vengeance would, in turn victimize innocent people who might have some personal connection to the guilty.
In societies where duly constituted government does not exist or where it exists but does not fulfill its obligations to punish criminal activity, the victim and/or his family or friends will. In such cultures, justice is attempted by personal retaliation. Personal vendettas have been extended through generations of people. The result within such a culture is often civil war and innocent blood-letting. The Bible declares that the guilty criminal, not his innocent family, is to be punished for his crime: "The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin" (Deut. 24:16; Ezek. 18:lff; 33:7ff). The insecurity, injustice and chaos wreaked upon society by private vengeance is recorded in the book of Judges when the phrase is repeated:
"Every man did that which was right in his own eyes, for there was no king in Israel in those days." A classic case in point is that of Absalom, David’s son, taking personal vengeance upon his brother for crimes against his sister (II Sam. 13:2Off). Terrible consequences for the whole nation of Israel resulted from that incident.
God made provision in the law of Moses, through the "cities of refuge" (Num. 35:25-28), by which private vengeance could be prevented. Gentile societies in ancient times apparently made no such provisions. As a result, private vendettas, family feuds, and vigilante-justice was often perpetrated. While the law of Moses prohibited it, such personal vengeance occurred occasionally in Israel — tribes and families feuding against one another (e.g. Jdgs. 18-21).
6. To Rehabilitate the Criminal. There are no specific passages of scripture which state unequivocally that punishment for criminal activity is to rehabilitate the criminal. The inference seems to be that when restitution as a form of punishment for crime or negligence is adjudicated (Exod. 22:1,4; Lev. 6:4,5; 24:21, etc.) it will have some rehabilitative effect on the one punished. Punishment to produce fear and deterrence would, of course, be correlative to rehabilitation. The principle of rehabilitation proposed in Biblical directions for punishing a child (for correction) would seem to apply in the area of criminal justice as well (Prov. 13:24; 22:15; 23:13,13, etc.). The apostle Paul certainly applied the principle of rehabilitation as the purpose for disciplining the immoral man in the church at Corinth (I Cor. 5:1-5).
The obstacles to rehabilitation created by incarcerating criminals guilty of crimes of differing magnitude in one huge and populous penal compound are almost insurmountable. Too often a colony of prisoners becomes little more than a "school" in which criminality in worse forms is learned and practiced. Rehabilitation is not the fundamental purpose for the punishment of criminals — the primary purpose for punishment of crime is justice and the maintenance of civil order. The law of God which is the basis for the laws of man and society must be vindicated (upheld). Society must be protected so that truth and goodness may be proclaimed and practiced. Crime must be prohibited by punishment.
B. PRECAUTIONS TO BE PRACTICED BY CIVIL GOVERNMENTS IN PUNISHMENT OF CRIMINALS
1. Punish Without Pity: That does not, at first, sound like a precaution at all. Initially, and on the surface, it sounds extremely cruel and barbaric. But it is what God told the Israelites to do. They were told to "destroy" all the Canaanites "without pity" when God led them into the Promised Land (Deut. 7:16); they were told to execute without pity any fellow Israelite who was guilty of idolatry and who tried to seduce others into idol worship (Deut. 13:6-11); and they were told to administer civil punishments, including death, without pity in cases of severe crimes (see Deut. 19:11-21; 25:12). In fact, the inference in Deuteronomy 19:2 1 is that all administration of civil justice — life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot" — is to be done without pity.
The Hebrew word used in the passages cited above is chus. It actually means that no mercy is to be shown in the punishments directed. God intended that such crimes as are mentioned were to have unmerciful justice meted out upon them. Justice cannot be tempered with partiality or exoneration of the guilty and still be justice.
The precaution the Israelites were to take was to appoint judges and other administrators of the law who would carry out the punishments of the law without pity. Leniency does not serve justice. When justice is compromised in the civil arena, all the other fibers of moral integrity which hold an orderly civilization together are soon compromised with the result being chaos and anarchy. While the church of God, his redeemed community, is born and sustained by divine mercy, the world of the unredeemed is held together only by the threads of pitiless and impartial justice. Actually, God was able to show mercy unto redemption only when he was able also to execute perfect justice upon sin in his sinless Son (cf. Rom. 3:21-26).
Merciless punishment for civil crimes is intended to serve as a significant deterrent. "Those who remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you" (Deut. 19:20). A sage once said, "Mercy but murders, pardoning those who kill."
While the Biblical commandment to execute murderers (and others) without pity may sound cruel and barbaric, actually, it is a serious precaution which will lead to a sense of fairness, rightness, and lawfulness in the civil society.
2. Do Not Delay Justice: The wise ruler (Solomon) wrote:
Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil (Eccl. 8:11).
There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth ac-cording to the work of the righteous: I said that this also is vanity (Eccl. 8:14).
Isaiah, the prophet, spoke to this issue when he wrote (Isa. 26:10):
If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals perversely and does not see the majesty of the Lord.
The prophet Habakkuk wrote that delayed judgments in his day exacerbated the injustices and increased criminal activity:
0 Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and thou wilt not hear? Or cry to thee "Violence!" and thou wilt not save? Why dost thou make me see wrongs and look upon trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arises. So the law is slacked and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous, so justice goes forth perverted .
Thou who art of purer eyes than to behold evil and canst not look on wrong, why dost thou look on faithless men, and art silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he? (Flab. 1:2,3,4,13).
It is clear from the instruction in the Mosaic law that justice was to be done swiftly and sentence upon the guilty to be executed without delay (see Deut. 17:10; 19:11-21; 21:18-21; 22:13-21; 22:22; 22:23,24; 25:1-3).
There are Biblical examples which reinforce this principle. David’s hesitancy to punish Absalom for his crimes only made Absalom more arrogant and rebellious (II Sam. 13-19). The delayed judgment of God upon Jezebel incited her to more wickedness. The same was true of delayed judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Peter’s warning that "scoffers" would intensify their wickedness because of their doubt about final retribution ever becoming a reality (II Pet. 3:3-6) vindicates the principle.
While the American judicial system is probably the best and fairest in history, one of its faults is its tolerance of endless, in-judicious, often unethical delays by some defense attorneys in criminal trials. Interminable appeals and judicial reviews of criminal cases already adjudged and thoroughly reviewed accomplish nothing in the interest of justice. They merely add to the burden of the taxpayers and make fair-minded people cynical of the system. The "exclusionary rule" which disallows evidence in court obtained by "strings," phone-taps, etc. has allowed scores of guilty criminals to go free. The pragmatic approach to over-crowded court dockets which allows the practice of "plea-bargaining" lets hundreds of people guilty of serious crimes be assessed much lighter punishment than they deserve. However, Americans must be thankful for the manifold protections guaranteed by its laws and courts.
3. Guard Against Partiality: The Old Testament and the New Testament are emphatic about the sin of partiality: Impartial justice is a fundamental dimension of God’s own character (Deut. 10:17; Isa. 61:8; Jer. 22:3; Psa. 37:28; 89:14; Micah 6:8):
You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his suit. Keep far from a false charge, and do not slay the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked. And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right (Exod. 23:6-8; see also Exod. 23:1-3).
You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor (Lev. 19:15).
And I charged your judges at that time, "Hear the cases between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien that is with him. You shall not be partial in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike; you shall not be afraid of the face of man, for the judgment is God’s . (Deut. 1:16,17).
You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns which the Lord your God gives you, according to your tribes; and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality; and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God gives you (Deut. 16:18-20).
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without favor, doing nothing from partiality (I Tim. 5:21).
... have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:4).
Almighty God is no respecter of persons, and human civil rulers, judges, and others appointed to administer justice are warned against partiality of any kind (see Deut. 24:17; Psa. 82:2; Prov. 23:23-26; 29:27; 31:4,5; Eccl. 3:16; 5:8; Mal. 2:9; Acts 10:34,35; II Chron. 19:7; Jude 16).
4. Guard the Concept of Presumption of Innocence: The Biblical system of justice presumes the accused to be innocent until proven guilty. In other words, the burden of Conviction was upon the accusers while the accused was not required to prove himself innocent. Furthermore, at least two witnesses were necessary to establish guilt and secure conviction:
At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death (Deut. 17:6).
A single witness shall not prevail against a man for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed; only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses, shall a charge be sustained (Deut. 19:15).
If any one kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses; but no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness (Num. 35:30).
But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses (Matt. 18:16).
Any charge must be sustained by the evidence of two or three witnesses (II Cor. 13:1).
The Biblical law of presumption of innocence was protected by severe penalties attached to malicious accusation and perjury:
If a malicious witness rises against any man to accuse him of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days; the judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother; so you shall purge the evil from the midst of you. And the rest shall hear, and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you (Deut. 19:16-20).
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (Exod. 23:1-3).
You shall not utter a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man, to be a malicious witness. You shall not follow a multitude to do evil; nor shall you bear witness in a suit, turning aside after a multitude, so as to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his suit (Exod. 23:1-3).
Keep far from a false charge, and do not slay the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked. And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right (Exod. 23:7,8).
Anyone refusing to give testimony concerning what he knows about a crime is guilty and must suffer the consequences (Lev. 5:1). Proverbs 6:19; 12:17; 19:9; 24:28; 25:18 all condemn perjury and false accusation (see also Lev. 19:16).
5. Preserve the Process of Trials by Peers: Added to the fact that an Israelite was innocent until accused and witnessed against by his peers was the stipulation that those who accused and tried him were also to be the first to carry out the execution of a guilty person’s sentence. The man found guilty of blasphemy against God is a case in point:
And the Lord said to Moses, "Bring out of the camp him who cursed; and let all who heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him (Lev. 24:13,14).
And the crime of idolatry was to be tried and punished by one’s peers also:
If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son, or your daughter, or the wife of your bosom. or your friend who is as your own soul, entices you secretly . . . you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him; but you shall kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.
The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So shall you purge the evil from the midst of you (Deut. 17:7).
6. Sustain the Principle that the Penalty Must Fit the Crime:
The Bible clearly teaches that laws must be established to deter criminal activity. We have established that. But laws must have penalties to be laws. Sanctions are the only vindication that laws instituted and administered by civil governments have. Without penalties, laws are void.
Sanctions (1) Law must have sanctions, otherwise it is not law; and back of the law there must be legitimate authority (moral power or right to use force) and actual power sufficient to enforce the sanctions. Law is more than mere wish; it is more than mere precept which may or may not be heeded. Law carries with it — if it is law — its own reward for obedience and its own punishment for disobedience . . . (2) Purpose of sanctions: Primarily, to secure the observance of the law . . . Secondarily, to uphold moral order, or to restore moral order which has been disturbed . . . . The function of punishment is first and foremost vindicatory, that is to secure obedience to the law and hence to make its operation effective: basically to vindicate the ends of justice sought by the will (lawgiver) who ordained it. Vindication must be distinguished from vengeance: whereas vengeance (revenge) is personal and emotional, vindication is impersonal and juridical. Law that seeks revenge as its object cannot be true law; the very essence of true law is its vindicatory character . . . . (3) Vindicatory sanctions are designed to sustain the majesty of the law, to vindicate the will of the lawgiver (in the fact that his will ordained the law for the good of his subjects) to restore order that has been broken and hence to reestablish the equilibrium of justice. For example, a hardened criminal machine-guns a man in cold blood, a man who is probably the father of a family. The criminal has taken something out of the totality of being which cannot be restored, namely, the victim’s greatest good (his life) and he has, at the same time, robbed the victim’s family of their means of material sustenance; hence the state (society acting through its government, the public authority), in order to restore the balance of justice (according to which every person is to receive that which is his due), takes the criminal’s greatest good (his life) in retaliation (reciprocity). Again, man is a person by virtue of the fact that he is a rational being (a fact which remains a fact no matter how irrationally he may act). Hence, by heinous crimes which are offenses against the law of reason, he recedes from — falls far below — the order of reason, and as such a diseased member, he is corruptive of the whole social order of which he is a part, and may be put to death — but only by the public authority — for the common good.
Commonsense Ethics, by CC. Crawford, pub. Brown, pp. 227,228
Any civil government that does not make punishments commensurate with the seriousness of the crimes committed, is an unjust government. Justice is the administration of law according to the rules of equity. Justice means to see that all citizens receive what is fairly due them — the guaranteeing of unalienable human rights. When one human, without provocation, without reason, takes another person’s life (murder), fairness demands that the murderer have his life taken. When one human robs another human of property, fairness demands that the robber pay for the taking of property, either by restitution of the property or some form of payment (unsalaried work, etc.). Justice is poorly served in our modern society when criminals are merely incarcerated and become wards of the taxpayers without making any physical restitution through work or payment. The ideal justice is the restoration of the order (circumstance), as nearly as possible, as it was before the disorder (crime) occurred.
The primary function of civil government is to administer justice. When it does not — when it begins to give punishments that do not, as nearly as possible, restore the order that was destroyed by the crime, it has defaulted on its divine reason for existence and ought to be replaced.
Third, there was a concern that penalty should be adjusted to fit the crime. The quality and form of punishment were, as far as possible, fixed in harmony with the principle that satisfaction was to be rendered for harm done. Guilt and its requital were in some sense to correspond. What the evil man had done, or purposed to do, to another, was to be visited in punishment on his own head.
The so-called lex talionis, which required "eye for eye, tooth for tooth" (Exod. 21:23; Lev. 24:17,18; Deut. 9:21), was a vivid expression of this law of proportion. Laws of neighbor nations, frequently designed to discourage theft and assault rather than strictly to vindicate divine righteousness, more often extracted several times more than the strict assessment of guilt required. So, far from teaching cruelty and hate, this formula (Mosaic law) was part of Israel’s unique message of mercy, although it did not always prevent miscarriage of justice.
Toward a Biblical View of Civil Government, p. 142
Many in modern society object to the penalties set for crimes in the Mosaic law as "cruel and unusual punishments." But they were neither cruel nor unusual. They were certainly not unreasonable or unfair. They were just.
If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe (Exod. 21:23).
He who kills a man shall be put to death. He who kills a beast shall make it good, life for life. When a man causes a disfigurement in his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has disfigured a man, he shall be disfigured (Lev. 24:17-20).
Your eye shall not pity; it shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot (Deut. 19:21).
To do any less than is ordained in these Biblical commandments would be less than fair (equitable, impartial, unbiased, dispassionate, objective).
Justice has to do with (human) relations to others, and is therefore evaluated on the basis of external acts; that is to say, the Order of Justice is objective, not subjective.
The Order of Justice is that arrangement of things as a whole such that each part will receive and have what rightly belongs to it—that which is its due (on the basis of ability and merit). The Order of Justice is based entirely on the natural equality and dignity of human beings as such, as persons, and ultimately on the Natural Moral Law which ordains such equality and dignity . . . . Men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.
The Order of Justice is threefold, on the basis of the relation-ship between part and part, and between the whole and the parts. (1) Commutative justice has reference to the relationship between citizens or persons as individuals; it presupposes equality of per-sons (before the law, in bargaining power, etc.) and equality of things exchanged. This is the kind of justice that is involved, generally speaking, in the area of civil law, particularly in that of contractual relations. (2) Distributive justice takes in the relation-ship of the whole to each part (of society or the "state" to the individual citizen, e.g., the advantages and burdens of the community as a whole, protection of natural rights, equitable taxation systems, remunerative and vindicatory justice). This is the kind of justice which prevails in the area of what is called criminal law. For example, a man may break into a safe and steal several thousand dollars: he cannot satisfy the demands of justice simply by returning to the legal owner the money he has stolen. That might satisfy the owner’s claim but it does not satisfy the demands of the moral law. The thief has not only injured temporarily the legal owner of the money — he has also committed a crime against society, hence he can satisfy the claims of justice fully, only by submitting to the prescribed penalty (which is designed to be both vindicatory and medicinal). (3) Legal justice takes in the relation of the part to the whole (of the citizen to the state). It includes all the normal duties of responsible citizenship, such as voting, serving on juries, paying taxes, etc. The end of justice is objective right and duty. Cf. the Preamble to our Constitution, "to establish justice." Also the oft-repeated phrase, "peace with justice," or "a just peace."
Commonsense Ethics, pp. 277-278
It is important for Christians to remember that civil justice deals primarily with objective fairness (justice). It renders justice on the basis of objective merit. Civil justice is seldom able to deal with justice on a subjective basis. Civil justice cannot usually reward or punish on the basis of motives or assumptions. Civil justice is administered by finite individuals. Only the Infinite God can judge with absoluteness as to motives and purposes. Human beings are capable of not only fooling one another, they are also capable of fooling themselves.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it? I the Lord search the mind and try the heart, to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings (Jer. 17:9,10).
Civil justice should limit itself as much as possible to rewarding or punishing citizens according to lawful or unlawful behavior — not according to intentions or motives. Of course, even the Bible makes some distinctions between pre-meditated criminal acts and unintentional "accidents." The Bible also distinguishes between guilt by negligence and non-negligence. Surely motive and purpose, responsibility or irresponsibility, should be established if possible when alleged crimes are being adjudicated. Pre-meditated crime deserves more severe punishment than culpability due to negligence. But for the most part civil government must content itself with rendering justice according to the outward appearance of the case. A classic illustration of the danger of in-justice resulting from trying to adjudicate on the basis of subjective evidence is the plethora of appeals in modern criminal cases as "not guilty, by reason of insanity." Psychiatrists and psychologists are paraded before juries testifying of the defendant’s inability to have made a moral choice to commit the crime due to "momentary insanity." Reason and common sense dictates that in most of these cases there was not "insanity" — only uncontrolled rage, perhaps frustrated resentment. Only robots commit crimes without having chosen to do so. Perhaps there are degrees of moral maturity or capability in some persons (mentally retarded, etc.) which should alleviate the severity of the punishment, but justice will always be better served if it deals primarily from the posture of objectivity.
7. Guard Proper Judicial Rules for Evidence: The God-ordained law of Israel stipulated or implied righteous rules which regulated acceptable and non-acceptable evidence in criminal cases. First, the accused could not be made to incriminate himself. Every accused person had to be incriminated by two or more witnesses whose testimony had to agree. At the trial of Jesus, when the Jewish supreme judge (high priest) questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching, Jesus reminded the high priest that a charge should be proved by witnesses and that he should not be required to incriminate himself (John 18:19-21). Second, neither the accused nor witnesses were allowed to be tortured in order to produce testimony. Once again, Jesus reminded the high priest of this (John 18:22,23). The apostle Paul clarified the same principle (Acts 23:1-5). Third, hearsay evidence was unacceptable. Israelite judges were to "in-quire diligently, search out," and determine whether reports were true or not before making judgments (Deut. 13:12-14; 17:2-7), and bearing "false witness" was strictly forbidden (Deut. 19:15-21; Lev. 19:16). Fourth, should a person merely appear to be guilty of a crime, or be accused of a crime which could not be substantiated by eye-witnesses, a solemn oath on the part of the accused was sufficient, to establish acquittal (see Exod. 22:10,11).
8. Enact and Enforce Laws to Prohibit Personal Exaction of Justice: The Bible stands unequivocally against personal retaliation. Jesus made this a fundamental principle for his disciples (Matt. 5:38-42). Paul enunciated the same principle (Rom. 12:14-21) adding that this was the very reason God ordained civil governments (Rom. 13:1-7) — to administer the justice for-bidden to the individual. God ordered the Israelites to provide "cities of refuge" for those who became involved in "accidental" crimes or in "acts of God" (Exod. 21:13; Num. 35: 10-34; Deut. 19:1-13; Josh. 20:1-9). This was to protect the innocent from "avengers of blood" (those who would take justice into their own hands and exact punishment by the "blood feud").
C. BIBLICAL CRIMES
... it is not possible to transfer Mosaic laws into the civil structure of any state today, owing to their special theocratic character. Yet this does not mean that they have no relevance . . . note how God holds the Canaanite people quite responsible to keep their land free from unrestrained vice. In many respects, Mosaic laws are special enactments for Israel of general divine law applicable everywhere.
Toward a Biblical View of Civil Government, p. 149
It is quite true that some Mosaic legislation (especially religious arid ceremonial law) should not be applicable to any secular state any era. On the other hand, much of the Mosaic law can and indeed should be enacted and enforced in every secular state! The Old Testament prophets explicitly declared the civil governments and governors (kings, princes, emperors) responsible to enforce standards of justice and morality in keeping with the general, fundamental standards revealed in the law of Moses. The reason for this is that these fundamental standards revealed to Moses were also revealed in the "Natural Revelation" (creation and conscience) to the Gentiles. There can be no doubt that Biblical revelation concerning crime, public or social morality, and punishment for such are proper guidelines for any and every secular state that exists.
Just as the Bible makes no claim to specify every detail of moral behavior or record all the minutiae of scientific discovery, it makes no claim to be a complete codification of civil law. ~-1owever, just as it does claim to give sufficient precepts and principles so that mankind may have "all that pertains to life and godliness" (II Pet. 1:3,4, RSV) and that the individual may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed" (II Tim. 3:17, TEV), we are to consider biblical principles and fundamentals in the area of civil law to be sufficient. Civil governments wishing to fulfill their mandate as "servants" of God (Rom. 13:1-7, I Pet. 2:13-17) will apprise themselves of the biblical codification of fundamental crimes and their punishments, and legislate accordingly!
1. Biblical Capita! Crimes: The word "capital" literally means "head." In jurisprudence it means that a person has committed a crime for which he must forfeit his head. There is anti-social behavior so depraved and destructive of social order that the forfeiture of the life of the criminal is necessary to vindicate the rule of justice and the sustaining of the society. This is not only a matter of divine revelation (Biblical) but it is also a matter of "natural law" found in reason and conscience. Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher proposed that in order to determine whether a principle or an action was right or wrong one should simply "universalize" it. In other words, to determine the gravity of any anti-social action simply ask, "What if every human being were allowed to take any anti-social action, for any reason or for no reason at all, anytime and everywhere, without suffering a penalty commensurate with the crime?" What would society be like in such circumstances? Would there be any society?
Under the Mosaic law, the crimes that made a person liable to capital punishment (death) were:
a. Murder: The Hebrew words used in Exodus 20:13, lo tiretsaka, are properly translated "Thou shalt not murder." In Exodus 21:13 which speaks of the execution of a murderer, the Hebrew word used is yumath which is often translated "slay" or "to cause to die." All murder is killing, but not all killing is murder! There is a diametrically different morality between murder and capital punishment. The Bible decrees execution (death) without mercy and without the possibility of any kind of ransom (see Num. 35:16-21; Num. 35:29-31; Exod. 21:12,14,23; Deut. 19:11-13; Deut. 5:17
b. Negligent Homicide: If a person owned an ox that was known to gore people, and if the owner had been warned but did not confine it and it killed a person, both the ox and the owner were to be stoned to death (Exod. 21:28-31). Connecting Deuteronomy 22:8 with Numbers 35:33 we find another instance of negligent homicide which would deserve the death penalty.
c. Assassination: Assassination is murder pre-meditated, by stealth and treachery — usually very violent. It is most often the murder of a civil ruler which makes it extremely destructive of the social order (see Jdgs. 3:20-22; II Sam. 4:5,6,9,10,11,12; I Kings 15:27,28; II Kings 19:37; II Chron. 32:21; Jer. 41:2; Acts 21:38). It must be punished with death upon the perpetrator.
d. Infanticide: The killing of babies was punishable by death (Lev. 18:21; 20:1-5).
e. Rape: The man who forced himself sexually upon a young woman who was betrothed was to be executed (Deut. 22:25-27). Punishment by death for rape is called for because of the depraved nature of the perpetrator, because it is a crime so very destructive of the social order, and because it severely traumatizes the victim.
f. Suicide: While there is no declaration in the Bible that suicide is a crime, reason would dictate that any pre-meditated, unwarranted taking of human life, whether at the hand of another person or of the person himself, should be classified as murder. Josephus, a Pharisee, well schooled in rabbinical interpretation of the Mosaic law wrote: "Now self-murder is a crime most remote from the common nature of all animals, and an instance of impiety against God our Creator. . . do you not think that God is very angry when a man does injury to that he had bestowed on him7 For from him it is that we have received our being, and we ought to leave it to his disposal to take that being away from us . . . . Accordingly, our laws determine that the bodies of such as kill themselves should be exposed till the sun be set, without burial . . . " (Josephus, Wars, Book III, chap. VIII, para. 5). Of course, the perpetrator of suicide cannot be punished. But if it be classified as "self-murder" should not those remaining alive who may have become willing accomplices in the crime be punished? There are a number of cases of suicide mentioned in the Bible (I Sam. 31:4,5; II Sam. 17:23; I Kings 16:18; Matt. 27:5) and in the Apocrypha (II Macc. 10:13; 14:41-46).
g. Sodomy and/or Homosexual Behavior: It is severely condemned in the Bible. It is a crime for which the death penalty is assessed (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Deut. 23:17,18). Homosexuality is perverse and unnatural. It is declared unlawful and profane (I Tim. 1:8-11). The Old Testament declares it an abomination in the social order. If God intervened directly in history to obliterate societies practicing this perversion (see II Pet. 2:6; Jude 7), surely it should be legislated a crime by civil governments. It is a crime against nature and society. It would inevitably, inexorably result in genocide — destruction of the human race! Homosexuality universalized proves it is perverse, destructive, unreasonable and criminal (see also Rom. 1:26-32; I Cor. 6:9-11; I Tim. 1:8-11). Homosexuality is unequivocally a crime against society! And those charged with "using the law lawfully" (I Tim. 1:8-11), that is civil rulers, should legislate against it as a criminal offense, assessing and executing punishments commensurate with the crime. The criminality and destructiveness of sodomy and homosexuality are graphically documented in the history of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 13:13; 19:5-11) (see also I Kings 14:24; 15:12; 22:46; II Kings 23:7; Job 36:14; Hosea 4:14).
g. Incest: Sexual intercourse between immediate and near immediate family members was a crime punishable by death (see Lev. 20:11,12, 14; Lev. 18:6-18; Deut. 27:20,23). Sexual inter-course between a man and his mother, stepmother, half-sister, granddaughter, stepsister, aunt, wife of an uncle, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, stepdaughter, step-granddaughter, mother-in-law, and most certainly between a man and his own sister and his own daughter (omitted from the Biblical lists as too gross to even consider).
i. Beastiality: Human beings who practiced sexual copulation with animals were guilty of a capital crime and sentenced to death (see Exod. 22:19; Lev. 18:23; 20:15,16). It is a crime so perverse that the dumb beast along with the human being was to be executed. It manifests a condition of mind in a human being that is so depraved, so obscene, so utterly unnatural that it is practically beyond any redeeming grace whatsoever. Society cannot tolerate it. Practitioners must be exterminated for the safety and salvation of the social order.
j. Abortion: The Bible clearly says the taking of human life (except for the punishment of capital crimes, taking life in defensive wars, and accidental deaths) is murder. And the Bible states that the unborn are persons (see Psa. 139: 13-16; Job 31:15; Isa. 44:24; Jer. 1:5; Amos 1:13; Luke 1:41-44; Gal. 1:15,16). In the passage in Luke 1:41-44 Mary and Elizabeth are speaking of the unborn fetuses then resident in their wombs. Elizabeth refers to Mary’s unborn as "My Lord" and tells of her own unborn as leaping in her womb." Elizabeth’s fetus was 6 months old, Mary’s just newly conceived. The Greek word used by Luke the physician to describe Elizabeth’s fetus is brephos ("baby"). This word is used in the New Testament and elsewhere to refer to infants whether born or unborn. This implies that the child does not enter some new level of life at birth but is just as much a baby (a person) before birth as after. To induce the death of an unborn person (a fetus in any stage — from conception to term) is murder. Infanticide at any stage of infancy (born or unborn) is criminal (see Exod. 2;2,3; 20:13; 21:22,23; 23:7; Num. 35:33; Deut. 5:17:27:17,19,25; II Kings 21:6; Prov. 24:11,12; Eccl. 11:5; Jer. 7:31; Matt. 18:10).
The testimony of medical science supports this view in every way. Research within the last two or three decades has given us quite thorough details of fetal development. We know what the baby is like at every stage of growth. The picture is one of an unbroken continuum from conception onward.
At fertilization the single cell is unique and distinct, with its own chromosomal and genetic structure. It is not a part of the mother’s body. The remarkable thing is that this single cell contains everything that the full-grown adult will be . . . . The one-celled person is not qualitatively different from what he will be at twenty-five years of age.
Tough Questions I!, by Jack Cottrell, pub. Standard Publishing Co., p. 81
k. Kidnapping (Manstealing): "Whoever steals a man, whether he sells him or is found in possession of him, shall be put to death" (Exod. 21:16). In this O.T. passage the Hebrew language uses the two words, ueginev iyish, "and he who steals a man." In I Timothy 1:10 the word andrapodistais is, literally, "foot-man." This Greek word came to mean, "slave-dealer" and, metaphorically, "manstealer." Kidnapping or manstealing is a capital crime, punishable by death (see also Deut. 24:7).
I. Adultery (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22); Unchastity (fornication before marriage) (Deut. 22:20,21); Harlotry (prostitution) (Gen. 38:24; Lev. 21:9; Deut. 22:21). While modern society for the most part sees these not as "crimes," but as "indiscretions," the Bible sees them as serious crimes against society. First, they are devastating to the home — the indispensable structural unit of society. Second, they are serious breaches of the public trust. Third, they are crimes against persons — exploitations and degradations of personal dignity. They are, in fact, injustices! When punished in the Bible, they were punished with death!
m. Striking or Reviling a Parent: Once again, a crime against the fundamental adhesive (the family — the home) of humanity (Exod. 20:12;21:15,17; Lev. 20:9; Deut. 5:16; 21:18-21; 27:16; Prov. 6:20; 19:26; 20:20; 23:22). In the divine order of creation, the parents (especially the father) represent God in the family. The father is charged with the spiritual, moral, physical, and intellectual development of the family. He is to discipline, love, train, supply necessities, and protect what God has in-trusted to him — a wife and children. He must be respected and obeyed. Verbal or physical rebellion against this divinely appointed hierarchy is serious enough to God to warrant the death penalty! Rebellion in the home whether by adultery in the parents or disobedience in the children is as treason against the state! It is, in fact, more serious. For the home and society can exist without the state, but society and state cannot exist without the home!
n. False Testimony (Perjury) in Capital Cases: "If a malicious witness rises against any man to accuse him of wrongdoing . . . if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother . . . it shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth . . . " (Deut. 19: 16-21; Exod. 23:1-3). Truth-telling is imperative to the maintenance of civil order. Justice can never be accomplished if false testimony is admitted. Perjury in the case of a capital crime would result in the death of an innocent person. Therefore, the perjurer is, in effect, a murderer! His crime is worthy of death.
o. Treason: This is a crime sometimes called, "Conspiracy." While it is not mentioned in the Pentateuch (with the exception of the commandment against cursing the king, Exod. 22:28), treason or conspiracy was almost always punished by death (see I Sam. 15:31; 16:23; 18:9-13; 22:11-19; I Kings 16:8-20; II Kings 21:23-24; Eccl. 10:20; Esther 2:21-23). To "curse" in the Bible means to "call for evil upon someone or call for judgment upon someone." It is verbal sedition. It is the first stage of insurrection.
p. Breaking and Entering (Night only): "If a thief is found breaking in, and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him . . . "(Exod. 22:2a). This is not exactly capital punishment. It is not a punishment to be administered by civil authorities. However, the crime appears to be serious enough that the homeowner is not held accountable for slaying a thief who breaks into the house at night-time. If a man breaks in during the daytime and his crime is only thievery, he is not to be slain by the homeowner: "but if the sun has risen upon him there shall be bloodguilt for him" (for the homeowner slaying him — Exod. 22:2b).
There are a number of lesser crimes listed in the Pentateuch (as well as in the other books of the Old Testament) which were to receive lesser punishments.
2. Non-capital crimes:
a. Affray (brawling where injury results): (Exod. 21:18-22; Deut. 25:11,12). Punishment was either payment for medical expenses of the injured and remuneration for loss of time, or when the injury was vicious, maiming was the punishment. The term "miscarriage" in Exodus 21:22 is not in the Hebrew text. It is an interpretation of the translators. The original text simply says, "When men strive together and hurt a pregnant woman and her child comes out, and there is no injury," then a fine is imposed. But if there is harm, whether to the mother or the baby, then lex talionis ("life for life, eye for eye . . . ") applies. Capital punishment if the child or mother dies!
b. Assault: Deliberate attack upon the person of another is a crime punishable by lex talionis — retaliation in kind (Lev. 24:19,20).
c. Breach or Betrayal of Trust: Breach of contract (failure to pay or hold in secure deposit, etc.) was regarded as a crime. Included in this would be robbery, concealment of stolen goods, and lying about having found that which was lost (Lev. 6:1-7). Removal of landmarks was classified as breach of trust (Deut. 19:14; 27:17; Prov. 22:28; 23:10).
d. Bribery: A crime severely condemned, but widely practiced in the later days of the Hebrew monarchy (Exod. 23:8; Deut. 16:19; I Sam. 8:3; H Chron. 19:7; Job 15:34; Psa. 26:10; Prov. 6:35; 17:23; Isa. 1:23; 33:15; Ezek. 22:12; Amos 5:12).
e. Burglary or Robbery: As we have already noted under "Breaking and Entering," when the crime was one of violence or one capable of violence (at night), the offender was subject to death at the hands of the victim and the victim was not considered guilty should the robber lose his life (Exod. 22:2a). Other-wise, restitution was assessed.
f. Cheating or Swindling: The prohibition is against "unjust weights" or "measures" (Lev. 19:35,36; Deut. 25:13-16). The punishment is not decreed. One would presume it would involve some form of corporeal punishment.
g. Debt: Borrowing, per Se, was not prohibited (except on an international scale, see Deut. 28:12). But to borrow and default on payment was evidently considered to be criminal insolvency or fraud (see Matt. 5:26; 18:28-34). Paul admonishes Christians to live free of indebtedness (Rom. 13:8) and that in a context dealing with one’s civic responsibility.
h. Drunkenness: The consequences of drunkenness would certainly be criminal. It leads to all manner of heinous crimes, including incest (see Gen. 19:30-38). The prophets denounced civil rulers for their drunkenness would cause them to pervert the rights of the afflicted (Prov. 31:4-9). David led Uriah into drunkenness in order to try to hide his adultery with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba (II Sam. 11:13). Ben-hadad’s drunkenness in the line of duty as a civil officer cost great loss of life to his soldiers and almost his own life (I Kings 20: 16-21).
i. Homicide (Accidental): Accidental homicide did not incur the death penalty, but it was serious enough to be considered a crime which incurred a form of incarceration (Num. 35:22-28). Should two men be working, or in some other circumstance, and one should be accidentally shoved or thrust-through, or struck with a tool, so that he dies, the other is not guilty of premeditated murder. However the living person who was involved in the accident must flee to a "city of refuge" and remain there until the death of the incumbent high priest. If he does not remain in the "city of refuge" he is subject to death at the hands of the "avenger of blood" (see also Deut. 19:4-10; Exod. 12:13).
j. Seduction: The enticement of an unbetrothed virgin to sexual intercourse (Exod. 22:16,17; Deut. 22:28,29). The seducer must marry the woman, or if the father will not give her in marriage, the seducer must pay the woman’s dowry to the father.
k. Slander: Malicious character assassination was a crime in the Hebrew civil order (Exod. 23:1). When a wife’s chastity was slandered the slanderer is to be punished by whipping (Deut. 22:13-19) and by a fine.
k. Swearing Falsely (Perjury, Lying, etc.) in Non-Capital Cases: An inexcusable crime even if the false swearing is done to benefit the poor (Exod. 20:16; 23:1-3; Lev. 6:3-5; 19:11,12; Deut. 19:16-21; Jer. 5:2; 7:9; Hosea 10:4; Zech. 5:4).
1. Theft, Stealing: (Gen. 44:8; Exod 20:15; 21:16: 22:1-4; Prov. 6:30; Zech. 5:3; Gen. 31:21,26; II Sam. 15:6; 19:3; Prov. 9:17; Matt. 15:19; Mark 7:21; Rev. 9:21). Restitution was the penalty. If the apprehended thief had nothing with which to make restitution, he was sold into indentured servanthood until proper restitution was made.
m. Negligence Leading to Property Damage or Loss: (Exod. 22:5-15; Lev. 5:14-6:7; Num. 5:5-8). Full restitution was the punishment.
n. Usury (Loaning Money for Interest): This was considered to be a form of exploitation or extortion (Exod. 22:25; Deut. 23:10,21; Deut. 15:7-11; 24:13; Psa. 15:5; 37:21,26; 112:5; Prov. 19:17; Ezek. 18:17; Job 22:6; 24:3,7).
These are not all the crimes listed in the Bible. The Israelites as well as the Gentile societies had a multitude of "common law" crimes codified in their civil systems. "Common law" is that which becomes law through necessity and is established by precedent. One has only to turn to the Jewish Talumd, the Mishnah, the Gemara and the Midrash, to observe the Israelites developing their "common law."
There are laws in the Bible which protect people and property from being victimized and exploited: (1) Property (Deut. 22:1-4; 23:24,25, Exod. 21:33-36; 23:4,5); (2) Environment — Ecology (Deut. 22:6,7; 22:9; 23:12-14); (3) Temporary deferment from Military Service (Deut. 24:5; 20:1-9); (4) Equal Justice for Aliens (Deut. 24:17,18); (5) Protection of Heritage (Deut. 21:15-17; 25:5-10); (6) Protection Against Inhumane In-dignities (Deut. 21:22,23); (7) Protection of Bond Servants (Exod. 21:1-11); (8) Protection for Divorced Women (Deut. 23:1-4); (9) Protection Against Excessive Punishment (Deut. 25:1-3); (10) Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Deut. 25:4); (11) Protection Against Character Assassination (Deut. 22:13-19).
Hammurabi (1628-1686 B.C.) lived some two-hundred years before Moses. Hammurabi made Babylon one of the great cities of the ancient world. He is famous for his "law code." It says, in part, " . . . the savior of his people from distress, who establishes in security their portion in the midst of Babylon . . . that justice might be dealt the orphan and the widow . . . I established law and justice in the language of the land, thereby promoting the welfare of the people." It is now known that his was not the first attempt to systematize the laws of Babylon. Fragments of several previous law codes have been found. But Hammurabi’s is the most complete expression of early Babylonian law, and undoubtedly incorporates many laws and customs which go back to far earlier times. The law code itself included nearly 300 paragraphs of legal provisions touching commercial, social, domestic and moral life. There are regulations governing such matters as liability for (and exemption from) military service, control of trade, banking and usury, the responsibility of a man toward his wife and children, including the husband’s payment of the wife’s debt. Death was the penalty for homicide, theft, adultery, and bearing false witness. Women’s rights were safeguarded. Negligence for safety was punished. Perhaps the reason for many similarities between Hammurabi’s code and the Mosaic legislation is that there is a common ancestry (Semitic) and that many of the laws of both were already being practiced in the ancient civilizations long before Babylon and Israel (see Gen. 9:6; 12:17-29; 14:13-24; 19:lff; 38:8; 38:24, etc.). It is further evidence that fundamental divine law is written on the human conscience — it is "Natural Law." Numerous religious laws were codified in the Law of Moses. Violation of some of them required the death penalty: (1) idolatry in any form (Lev. 20:2; Deut. 13:6; 17:2-7); (2) witchcraft and false prophecy (Exod. 22:18; Lev. 20:27; Deut. 13:5; 18:20; I Sam. 28:9); (3) Sabbath-breaking (Exod. 31:14; 35:2; Num. 15:32-36); (4) blasphemy against the Name of God (Lev. 24: 14,16,23; 1 Kings 21:10; Matt. 26:65-66). These were unique to the Israelite community as the "covenant-people" of God and could not be applied in a religiously pluralistic civil society. Some of these are perpetual high crimes against God and when perpetrated by anyone in any age or social unity they will be punished by eternal death.
It is interesting, though, that in many monolithic or dictatorial forms of Gentile government mentioned in the Bible, violation of religious laws also incurred the death penalty (see Dan. 3:lff; 6: 1ff). Since religion is usually the foundation of morality, and morality is the fiber of society, civil laws must be enacted in any society to further the practice of religion, at least by protecting the free exercise thereof. And, further, since morality must be based upon truth, religions that, at least, seek truth must be protected.
Religions that pervert human nature that are fraudulent, that usurp the laws of civil order must be dealt with accordingly by the civil authority. "Religion" that is behaviorally inimical to civil order can-not be tolerated.
D. BIBLICAL PUNISHMENTS
1. Capital Punishment: Punishment by death, lethal execution by the hands of civil authorities, is biblical! In the Old and New Testaments, this is a commandment ordained by God and committed to civil government. Capital punishment (death) for capital crime is not "uncivilized," not "unreasonable," not "cruel," and not "unchristian." Some Christians take a different position:
The desire for vengeance, for eye-for-eye justice, is a principle and a mentality worthy of civilized government and of this body (the U.S. Senate.) — spoken by Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon in regard to the Senate’s passing of a drug bill that legislates capital punishment for drug-related killings. "Liberals from both parties derided the capital punishment as an ineffective vestige of less enlightened times."
The Joplin Globe, Joplin, Missouri, October 14, 1988
An article in Christian Standard a few years ago put it this way: "For exactly the same reason that it was wrong for a man to murder, it is wrong for him to be killed in the name of the law" . .
One writer for Christian Standard expressed this view some years ago: "There is one irrefutable reason against capital punishment. Man cannot give life; therefore, he should not take it away. God says, ‘Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense, saith the Lord’" (Romans 12:19, A.S.V.).
The Bible Says, by Jack Cottrell, pub. Standard, pp. 54,55
Human life is sacrosanct with God. Human life is so sacred that even the life of the murderer is to be respected; it is not to be wantonly or ruthlessly taken away. The Lord appointed a sign upon Cain, the first murderer, so that other individuals would not take the law into their own hands and maliciously carry out some personal vendetta by slaying Cain. God said, "If any one slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold" (Gen. 4:15). Crime is not to be punished by crime; the life of the murderer is not to be taken violently or in thirst for blood. The arrogant boast of Lamech (Gen. 4:24) shows how deeply seated the practice of personal blood-letting had become in the human race. But the pre-flood civilization became so depraved and insensitive to the sanctity of human life that the indictment of God upon it is epitomized by calling it "violent" (Gen. 6:5,11,12). As a result God destroyed the human race with the exception of eight per-sons.
It is signal evidence of God’s grace that the indictment respecting the depravity of man’s heart that "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5), depravity which filled the earth with violence and therefore with the desecration of life’s sanctity, should be given later on as the reason why the Lord would not again curse the ground with a flood and destroy all living as he had done (Gen. 8:21). The reason is stated to be that "the imagination of the heart of man is evil from his youth." The import surely is that God’s covenant of perpetual forbearance and mercy (Gen. 9:8-17) is necessitated precisely because of the deep-seated and native depravity of man’s heart; it is God’s grace alone that explains the preservation of man, not any change in the native perversity of the thought of his heart. Symptomatic and confirmatory of this grace of God is the fact that the institutions which guarded and promoted the new order instituted after the flood (the propagation of life — Genesis 9:1-7; the sustenance of life — Genesis 8:22; 9:2b,3; the protection of life — Genesis 9:2a,5,6) are institutions which have as their purpose the maintenance and furtherance of life. The wages of sin is death; the destruction of the flood demonstrated this concretely and conspicuously. After the flood, in accordance with God’s covenant and in pursuance of it, the Lord manifested his grace in making provision for the safeguarding and enhancement of life as the antithesis of death.
Principles of Conduct, by John Murray, pub. Eerdmans, p. 109
God’s new civilization, after the flood, would still be, for the most part, insensitive to and unredeemed by the grace of God. If it is not to fall back into implacable violence and be destroyed as the pre-flood civilization, it must have instituted strong, humanly-administered, sanctions to prevent such violence and anarchy. It hardly needs to be said that modern civilization is equally insensitive to and unredeemed by the grace of God. In fact, it may be more so than some of the pre-diluvian civilizations.
Capital punishment for capital crime (especially murder) is so basic an institution for civilization that God ordered it as a first priority upon Noah’s emergence from the ark:
And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made he man (Gen. 9:5,6 KJV).
It is important to note that in the original Hebrew language, the word yod is in this text; it means literally, "hand." God in-tended capital punishment to be executed upon murderers by the hand of man. God did not intend to intervene providentially or supernaturally to directly administer capital punishment after the flood. Man was delegated authority to act in God’s place in this instance. That would be the primary function of civil government (Rom. 13:1-7). It is also important to note that the fundamental reason capital punishment was ordained against murder and the reason man was to administer the punishment is that man is "created in the image of God"! An assault upon man’s life is a virtual assault upon the life of God! So depraved is murder, the penalty for it must be nothing less than the crime! Furthermore, since there is certainly no termination of the fact that man is made the image of God (every person born or being born is in His image) the sanctity of life and the sanction against murder (capital punishment) is as true today as it was in the days of Noah. It is an act that in no other instance of biblical jurisprudence is there a penalty inflicted giving for its reason that man is created in the image of God!
Abraham, father of the faithful, pursued the "kings of the East" when they had kidnapped his nephew Lot and his family, and "slaughtered" (Heb. makkah, Gen. 14:15,17) some of them. Capital punishment by the hand of the man (Abraham) so often eulogized by the Scriptures as symbolic of the true believer in God (Rom. 4:9-12; Gal. 3:6ff; Heb. 11:13-22; James 2:21-23) should dispel any misgivings Christians might have that God disapproves of capital punishment.
We have listed sixteen crimes for which the nation Israel (ac-cording to the Law given by God through angels to Moses) was to exact the death penalty. It will not be necessary here to repeat them or the scripture references. However the clear declaration that capital punishment was to be administered "without pity" (Deut. 19:21), and that there could be "no ransom" accepted (Num. 35:29-31) bears repeating to emphasize that God did not consider it "cruel and unusual punishment," nor did he deem it "uncivilized."
The "cities of refuge" were not for the purpose of giving "sanctuary" or safety to those guilty of murder. They were established so that one who had slain another and whose innocence needed to be established might find temporary security from spiteful, personal vendetta by "vigilantes" until he could be brought before the "congregation" for judgment. The Israelite judges were given well-defined criteria by which to decide between accidental homicide and culpable homicide (whether premeditated murder or negligent homicide). If guilty of murder the man was delivered up to the death penalty — if innocent, he was given sanctuary in the city of refuge until the "change of administrations" (see Num. 35:9-28).
We have also noted before that the death penalty was carried out as punishment for capital crimes during the Israelite monarchy. The Old Testament prophets indicate that during the monarchy justice was perverted with ever increasing indifference until the captivities, but this failure does not disavow the biblical man-date already established by the divine law. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
God has clearly declared in his revealed word the principles upon which we are to rely for the "time to kill . . . "and the "time to make war . . . "and he expects man to understand his revelation and obey it.
It is in the light of these principles that we are to view the power of the sword vested in the civil magistrate. It is a strange turn of thought which causes some who espouse an evangelical view of Holy Scripture to fail to appreciate the implications of the biblical teaching that the powers that be are ordained of God to bear the sword and execute wrath upon evildoers (cf. Rom. 13:1-7; I Pet. 2:13-17). it is true, of course, that all punishment is evil; for all punishment is the wages of sin. But it does not follow that the execution of the evil which consists in punishment is per se sinful. If this were so then God himself would commit sin in executing wrath, a blasphemous thought.
Principles of Conduct, by John Murray, p. 114
The writer of Hebrews expresses the sentiments of finite mankind when he says, "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Heb. :2:11). Capital punishment, even when contemplated for others, does not seem desirable when viewed by the finite and limited perspective of the human mind. But as revealed in the Bible when viewed in the divine perspective which is infinite and unlimited, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those rained by it!
As Dr. Cottrell points out in his book, The Bible Says.
Jesus (e.g. the Sermon on the Mount) did not introduce a new system of ethics. He did not come to "destroy the law, but to fulfill :r." What Jesus revealed in the Gospels, and what the apostles revealed by His Spirit in the rest of the New Testament, especially about ethics, love, justice, government, is not at all different in spirit or principle from the law of God in the Old Testament. For example, the O.T. Law says, "You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason with your neighbor, lest you bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord" (Lev. 19:17,18). Jesus taught no ethic higher than that! His Sermon on the Mount is an admonition for believers to allow the Spirit of God’s Law to captivate their thinking and regulate their actions — and to go beyond the pharisaic, hypocritical "letter-of-the-law" mentality. In Jesus’ day the "eye for an eye" law was being perverted by many Jews into a mandate for personal revenge but its original intent was for use only by civil judges in executing just and fair punishments. Jesus was actually advocating a return to the original doctrine.
In Jesus’ declaration, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s" (Matt. 22:2 1) the implication is unequivocal that "Caesar" does have distinct prerogatives and functions which God has authorized.
Later, Pilate judging Jesus, said, "You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?" — Jesus granted that Pilate actually had those powers by the will and authority of God as he replied, "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above . . . " (John 19:10,11), even though Jesus had been unjustly arraigned.
The penitent thief on the cross, in keeping with the sensitive conscience that characterizes the true believer’s acceptance of the demand for justice, said, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? (death by crucifixion) . . . . And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due rewards of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong" (Luke 23:40,41). His recognition of just retribution for crime is in keeping with the attitude that makes him a proper subject of divine grace as he cries for mercy. But the attitude of the other thief dishonestly railing against justice shows a moral antagonism to the spirit of Christ’s kingdom and Paradise.
Capital punishment is to be accepted as a principle by which Christians are to live in this present world. The apostle Paul undeniably lived by this principle for when he was falsely accused by the Jews and was under arrest by Roman officials he declared, "If then I am a wrongdoer, and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die" (Acts 25:11). Paul was innocent of any criminal action so he availed himself of his rights as a citizen under Roman law ("appealed to Caesar") and demanded to be tried before the judicial system then in power. Paul knew that if one expected the protections afforded by enforcement of civil law, he must also support the principle that laws without just punishments are no laws! Paul not only preached civil justice (Rom. 13:1-7), he practiced it! There are three points in Paul’s statement before Festus: (1) he recognized that there were crimes worthy of death; (2) he declared that he would not resist capital punishment upon himself if he had been guilty of a capital crime; (3) implicit also is his recognition that some authority had the right to execute the death penalty.
The New Testament, in making civil government doctrinally ordained by God (Rom. 13:1-7; I Pet. 2:13-17) ordains in the same passages the doctrine of capital punishment. The Greek words ekdikos ("avenger," Rom. 13:4) and ekdikesin (‘vengeance," I Pet. 2:14) and ten rnachairan ("the sword," Rom. 13:4) plainly indicate that civil authorities were to exercise the use of the sword in carrying out "vengeance" upon evildoers. The use of the word "sword" obviously refers to execution — death (see Matt. 26:52; Acts 12:2; Rev. 13:10). The proper civil magistrate has biblical authority and obligation to inflict death as the penalty for crimes which merit this retribution.
Nothing shows the moral bankruptcy of a people or of a generation more than disregard for the sanctity of human life. And it is this same atrophy of moral fibre that appears in the plea for the abolition of the death penalty for the crime of murder. It is the sense of this sanctity that constrains the demand for the infliction of this penalty. The deeper our regard for life the firmer will be our hold upon the penal sanction which the violation of that sanctity merits.
Principles of Conduct, by John Murray, p. 122
Many in civil government today, in America as well as in other nations, do not accept the biblical view of capital punishment. Politicians, sociologists, criminologists and even the judiciary are divided on the issue. "Conservatives" generally hold to the biblical view while "liberals" usually oppose it. The "liberal" position is stated succinctly as follows:
Criminologists today believe that society must protect itself against criminals rather than revenge itself upon them . . . .
People once considered criminals as sinners who chose to of-fend against the laws of God and man. But criminologists today regard society itself as in large part responsible for crimes committed against it. Causes of crime include, poverty, undesirable living conditions, and inadequate education. Crime results fundamentally from society’s failure to provide a decent life for all the people and to develop a sense of social responsibility in its citizens .
Criminology is opposed to the death penalty and other forms of cruel and revengeful punishments. Modern criminologists favor applying scientific methods to the study of the causes of crime, and the handling of delinquents and criminals in courts, prisons, and upon their release from prisons.
... the best way to protect society is to discover the major causes of criminal behavior. Then, criminologists and other specialists try to rehabilitate the offender so that on release he will be a well-adjusted citizen.
World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, articles on "Crime" and "Criminology," pp. 909-912
This appears to some as the "enlightened" and "civilized" approach to crime. But, (1) it is anti-scriptural, and (2) it does not work! There were no prisons in Mosaic Israel and there is no indication in the Law of Moses they were to have any. Occasionally the Law provided for an accused person to be held in "custody" or "in hand" (Lev. 24:12; 25:28; Num. 15:34; 35:25; Deut. 19:12) until judgment could be made and punishment executed. Gentile societies had prisons, of course, but there is no biblical endorsement of incarceration as a form of punishment. Immediate application of punishment, whether retribution (revenge) or restitution (repayment) was the sanctioned biblical practice.
The first prison system in the United States was instituted by the Quakers and it was called the "Walnut Street Jail" in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. By the year 1790, common law (precedent) had established incarceration as the most used way of punishing criminals. There are approximately 500,000 prisoners in State and Federal prisons in America today, and another 500,000 in County and City Jails. It costs the American tax-payers approximately $18,000 per year per person in prison; that is 18 billion dollars per year! And America has the highest crime rate in the Western world. Incarceration does not work! Prisons are breeding grounds for homosexuality and brutality. Literal "crime schools" operate inside penitentiaries. According to statistics released in 1982, we punish 25 out of every 500 criminals who commit serious crimes. The 25 that are punished we put someplace where they sit for years. Criminals have more advocacy for their "rights" by both civil and private authorities than the victims of their crimes have. Those who commit crimes against innocent victims and against society have no "rights" until they have paid for their crimes. Criminals, by acting to violate the laws of society declare themselves, in effect, violently opposed to the only thing that can guarantee rights — the law. They are self-declared insurrectionists. Since by their own declaration they do not wish the rights of law, they should not have those rights! Eighteen billion dollars per year just to maintain one million felons with clothing, food, and housing in a manner that many hard-working law-abiding citizens do not have is not justice. That does not include the tremendous cost of the judicial system afforded them or the psychological trauma and material costs their crimes have caused. These prisoners are contributing nothing productive to the society that is underwriting their subsistence. Such a penal system seems to be an atrocious injustice in itself. Surely a system of punishments closer to the biblical one would be more just.
The objections to capital punishment have all been made and repeated over and over. It is not our purpose to deal with every objection here. We shall consider a few of them. For those whose objections are based on an anti-biblical stance, our resolutions will be unacceptable because we believe the issue must be ultimately settled from a biblically authoritative posture. If the Bible, in both Old and New Testaments, teaches that capital punishment is sanctioned as a mandate for civil government, that settles the issue.
Objection No. 1: The forgiveness Jesus gives and teaches should be followed and criminals should have our forgiveness, not execution. Answers: (1) Jesus earned our forgiveness by his redemptive work and made it provisionally possible in the here-and-now and ultimately possible in the hereafter. Any person, even a murderer, may, upon repentance and acceptance of Christ’s New Covenant have the forgiveness of God for the hereafter. But redemption does not relieve us always from the consequences of our sins. A drunk who confesses his sin has no right to expect God to take away his cirrhosis of the liver. The grace of God takes care of the penalty of a man’s sin but not always the immediate consequences. If forgiveness of sin meant also the elimination of all its consequences, men would look for more ways to sin in order to "have their cake and eat it too"!
(2) Jesus taught no different ethical level than the will of God in the Old Testament. (3) And, for that matter, the faithful of the Old Testament were saved by the grace of God through their faith (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:6ff; Heb. 11:6; Gal. 3:8, etc.). If capital punishment was a viable practice then, it is not rescinded by the New Dispensation.
Objection No. 2: The possibility that an innocent person might be executed should make society refuse to practice capital punishment. Answers: (1) The multitudinous checks and balances, the thousands of safety precautions built into our jurisprudence system makes this highly improbable. (2) Doctors, politicians, mechanics, automobile drivers, pharmacists all make mistakes — some of them are fatal mistakes. But no one wants to totally dispense with their contributions to society. (3) All human beings make mistakes, some of them fatal, but that must not cause us to suspend the need for justice and morality to be chosen and practiced.
Objection No. 3: Capital punishment is cruel and inhuman. Answers: (1) This objection completely overlooks the point that the "inhumanity" was the crime and not the punishment. The "in-humanity" is the anti-social, violent murder, perpetrated by the criminal, not the punishment which stops further violence.
(2) Execution of a murderer should itself be considered a humane action. It is an extension of mercy to a law-abiding citizenry. To purge from peaceful society the bloodthirsty, calculating, violent murderers of babies, innocent children, women and peaceful men, often murdered by multiples, cannot be inhumane. To simply imprison them briefly and release them on parole to repeat their crimes is inhumane! (3) Justice is the prime reason for capital punishment, not reform, not rehabilitation, not restitution (which is impossible for the crime of murder). Since a murderer has taken what can never be restored and no amount of material wealth could be given to equal a human life, the murderer must be brought to justice by the taking of his life. There is nothing inhumane in that.
There is only one thing that satisfies an offended justice and that is payment of the debt to justice. And the biblical payment for murder is one’s life .
The reason why this rationale may sound strange to the modern ear is that the true sense of justice has been obscured. When men no longer believe in God nor in an unchangeable moral law, it follows that no penalty should be incurred for transgressing a law which is not there. Along with this contemporary distortion of justice is an anemic concept of love. A loving God would not punish anyone, it is vainly thought. Hence, it is concluded that a loving parent should not discipline his child. It is little wonder that men do not understand the need for capital punishment; they do not see the need for any kind of punishment. They fail to see that loving parents punish their children (Prov. 13:24) and that a loving God chastises His Sons (Heb. 12:5,6). Indeed, almost the converse of the modern mentality is true. The Bible teaches that proper punishment is proof of love. The love is in the discipline. The lack of correction is an indication of the lack of true concern for the wayward.
Ethics: Alternatives and Issues, by Norman L. Geisler pub. By Zondervan, p. 247
Two more quotations are in order relative to what the Bible says about civil government and capital punishment.
It seems to me that those who advocate abolition of all capital punishment ignore three vital factors (1) the absolute sovereignty of God as the creator and giver of human existence on earth; (2) the malignancy of sin which left unchecked would destroy the universe; (3) the divinely delegated authority to human society to remove from its fabric those who are incorrigibly devoted to the destruction of that fabric by acts of violence against the innocent.
It is not the distance from animals but the proximity to God which makes man unique . . . . Man abdicates his responsibility when he gets on the animal level or when he seeks to dethrone God. And he does both when he becomes a willful and malicious murderer. He attempts to be under what he is over (animal) — and aspires to be over what he is under (God). And it is here that God decrees that man forfeits his right to continue to live with those who remain within the status for which man was made.
Mission Messenger, Vol. 31, August 1969 by Carl Ketcherside, p. 118ff
He (the Christian) has no Biblical authority to tell the state it must renounce the use of force in order to preserve law, or to demand that the law of the state be changed to disarm policemen. This would be to take the "sword" from the magistrate — and the bearing of the sword by the magistrate is recognized and approved by the Word of God.
William LaSor, in Christianity Today, January 30, 1970
2. Forms of Capital Punishment in the Bible:
a. Stoning to death: (see Exod. 19:13; Lev. 20:27; Josh. 7:25; Luke 20:6; Acts 7:58; 14:5; also John 10:31; Lev. 20:2; 24:14-23; Num. 15:32-36; Deut. 13:10; 21:21; 22:21-24; I Kings 21:10; Ezek. 16:40; 23:47; John 11:8). This was the ordinary method of execution. It was efficient, awesome and one in which those who bore witness to the crime would participate (Deut. 13:9; 17:7). The tractate Sanhedrin (in the Talmud) directs that the condemned was to be taken to a cliff "the height of two men" and one of his accusers was to throw him down backwards, obviously to stun him by the fall or to break his back; it was only after this that the stones were to be thrown. and the first was to be aimed at his heart. Stunning the prisoner first was undoubtedly to extend him some mercy before the stones fell upon him.
b. Hanging: This may not have been a form of execution at all (see Num. 25:4; Deut. 21:23; Gen. 40:22; 41:13; Josh. 8:29; 10:26; II Sam. 4:12; 17:23; 18:10; 21:9; Ezra 6:11; Esther 2:23; 7:10; 9:14; Lam. 5:12; Mall. 27:5; Luke 23:39; Acts 5:30; 10:39; Gal. 3:13). Some of the above references are to crucifixion. The Hebrew word talah is most often translated "hang" and means "to dangle or suspend by hanging." In Ezra 6:11 the Hebrew word macha is translated "hanged" (KJV); and "impaled" (RSV); macha means "to smite together" and therefore should be translated "impaled." "Hanging" which was often done by impaling a corpse already dead was usually done to deter others from committing the same crime (II Sam. 4:12). The person whose body was so exposed was "accursed of God" (Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13), and for this reason was not allowed to remain in view overnight (Josh. 8:29; 10:26). Execution by being "dangled" from a gallows was not prescribed for any crime in the Mosaic law. Death by impaling the convicted upon large, upright poles of wood was a favorite method of the Canaanites (II Sam. 21:6-9) and of the Assyrians as the has-reliefs found in the ruins of the Assyrian civilization testify. The Persians also impaled for execution.
c. Burning: Before the time of Moses, this was the punishment for sexual unchastity (adultery, fornication, see Gen. 38:24). Burning as a method of execution was also legislated by the Law of Moses (see Lev. 20:14; 21:9). The Lord God used burning as a form of capital punishment (Lev. 10:1-3); Joshua executed Achan and his family by stoning and "burning" (Josh. 7:25). It was practiced by the Gentile civilizations (Dan. 3:6,15,19,20; Judges 14:15; Jer. 29:22; II Macc. 7:5ff). "The lake of fire and brimstone" is God’s method of eternal punishment (see Luke 16:l9ff; Math 25:41; Mark 9:44,45; II Thess. 1:8; II Pet. 3:7,12; Jude 7: Rev. 14:9-11; 20:9,10,14,15,; 21:8).
d. Sword or Spear (Beheading or Stabbing): (see Exod. 19:13; 32:27; Num. 25:7ff; Judges 9:5; I Sam. 15:33; II Sam. 20:22; I Kings 19:1; Jer. 26:23; Mall. 14:8-10). Some of these are cases of assassination, but the sword is given to all governments (symbolically) as a instrument of execution (Rom. 13:1-7). The sword was specified in the Mosaic law (and "shot" with an arrow or a spear Exod. 19:13) in rare cases. Ahab’s seventy sons were beheaded by command of Jehu (II Kings 10:6-8); John the Baptist was beheaded by order of Herod (Matt. 14:1-8; Mark 6:27); James the apostle was beheaded (Acts 12:2); many of the early Christians martyrs were beheaded (Rev. 20:4). Gentile governments used beheading by the sword as their usual form of capital punishment (Gen. 40:19) for their own citizens; (see also Heb. 12:20; Deut. 13:13-15; Judges 9:5; I Sam. 22:18,18; II Sam. 4:6,7; 1 Kings 2:25-34; I Kings. 19:1; II Sam. 1:15)
e. Strangling: It is not mentioned in the Bible unless I Kings 20:31 implies it. The tractate Sanhedrin mentions it as a form of capital punishment for a son who had struck his father and for a "false prophet" — the strangling was done with a garrote. Herod the Great ordered two of his sons strangled to death on suspicion of sedition against his throne (Josephus, Antiq, XVI:11:7). Sometimes the convicted person was immersed in clay or mud, and a cloth was twisted around the neck and drawn in opposite directions by two lictors, so as to take away the breath.
f. Suffocation: Also not mentioned except in apocryphal works. This was especially a mode of execution practiced by the Persians and Syrians. A case is described in II Macc. 13:4-8 where Menelaus was fastened to a revolving wheel in a contraption 50 cubits high, filled with ashes, in which he was repeatedly immersed, until death ensued.
g. Dismemberment unto Death: "Hacking asunder" is mentioned as a Gentile form of execution (Dan. 2:5; 3:29). It was practiced by the Syrians upon the Jews (II Macc. 7: 1ff). See also Matthew 24:5 1; Luke 12:46. Samuel hewed Agag to pieces with the sword (I Sam. 15:33).
h. Sawing Asunder: Hebrews 11:37 describes an ancient form of execution. It could be describing the "threshing of Gilead with threshing sledges of iron" (Amos 1:3). Justin Martyr states that Isaiah the prophet of the Old Testament was "sawn asunder" by Manasseh the king. (See also Prov. 20:26; Isa. 28:27,28; II Sam. 12:31; I Chron. 20:3).
i. Drowning: This is not distinctly Jewish in origin even though some Jews apparently practiced it (see Matt. 18:6; Mark 9:24). Josephus records that some Galileans revolted and drowned some of Herod’s men (Antiq. XVI; 15:10). Herod the Great had the eighteen-year-old Aristobulus, his brother-in-law drowned because of Herod’s paranoia that the young man was after his throne (Josephus, Antiq. XV; 3:3).
j. Exposure to Wild Beasts: Daniel was cast into a den of lions for sedition against the law of Darius (Dan. 6). After Daniel’s miraculous survival, his enemies (those whose malicious cunning had caused him to break the Persian law) were thrown into the lion’s den and were consumed by the lions. Micah figuratively depicts human beings as animals goring others to death (Micah 4:13). Paul talks of being "rescued from the lion’s mouth" (II Tim. 4:17) — whether figurative or literal, it shows that such was a form of execution in the biblical civilizations. Paul also claimed to have "fought with wild beasts at Ephesus" (which may also be a figure of speech) (I Cor. 15:32). God himself used wild animals as a form of punishment (execution) upon criminally disobedient people (Lev. 26:22; Deut. 32:24; Jer. 15:3; Ezek. 14:21; II Kings 17:26). The book of Revelation indicates that this was a form of execution by the Romans of the first three centuries (Rev. 6:8). Twenty-four youngsters speaking evilly and disrespectfully toward God’s anointed prophet, Elisha, were "torn" by wild bears (II Kings 2:23,24).
k. Crucifixion: This method of execution for crimes was not a part of Mosaic legislation. Crucifixion was one of the most cruel and barbarous forms of death known to man. It was practiced, especially in times of war, by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Egyptians, and later by the Romans. The gory details of crucifix-ion are absent from the accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion (see Matt. 27:35ff; Mark 15:24ff; Luke 23:33ff; John 19:l8ff). Some specifics concerning the torture inflicted upon Jesus prior to his crucifixion are recorded. Victims of crucifixion did not generally succumb for two or three days. The physical trauma of being nailed to a wooden cross, bleeding, starvation, infection, exposure to elements and insects, pierced with a spear, "crucifragium" (breaking of the legs), and the psychological trauma, all made death by crucifixion a horror to be feared by the most callous or the most courageous.
I. Precipitation (Throwing Down from Great Heights): (see II Chron. 25:l2ff; Luke 4:29). See also II Macc. 6:10; II Kings 8:12; Hosea 10:14; 13:18. On an ancient column of Assur-banipal, an Assyrian emperor, archaeologists found an inscription stating that certain persons were thrown from a great height into a stone quarry landing on sculptured lions and bulls in order that they might be executed. Some Bible commentators believe Oreb and Zeeb (Judges 7:25) were executed by "precipitation."
Some of these methods of capital punishment seem "cruel and unusual." Perhaps they are. Is it any more cruel to execute a criminal by stoning him to death or by casting him down a great height upon stones? Remember, it was the God of omniscience and omnipotence — the God of all mercies — who directed, by divine revelation, that criminals be executed by stoning. Justice, for the criminal, is never pleasant. It is not designed by the all-wise God to be pleasant to the criminal. Capital punishment ad-ministered within the principles of jurisprudence (justice) is in-tended to be quick and final. There is nothing cruel about such an execution. The execution of capital punishment by a drawn out, torturous, malicious, vengeful, painful method is cruel. To eliminate the element of malice and desire to torture, capital punishment for capital crime was forbidden to individuals by God and mandated for systematic civil governments.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brennan’s opinion (Furman vs. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238,1972) contended that capital punishment is per se cruel and unusual punishment and therefore unconstitutional. The U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment states: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."
a. The Bible (authored by God’s Holy Spirit) does not consider capital punishment "cruel and unusual." That is true of both the Old Testament and the New.
b. "Cruel" must be modified by "unusual." Those who wrote the U.S. Constitution and its "Bill or Rights" (first 10 amendments) knew that death as capital punishment was not unusual. They knew history and they knew the Bible. When they wrote the Eighth Amendment there were millenniums of human history plus divine revelation to inform them about capital punishment. Had execution for capital crime been "unusual" they would have specified it as "cruel."
c. The men who wrote the Eighth Amendment were men who had just taken the lives of fellow Englishmen in a bloody war! They had executed people for spying and desertion; they had flogged and imprisoned their own soldiers for disciplinary purposes. How could they have considered execution for capital crime a "cruel and unusual" punishment?
d. The same men who wrote Amendment Eight, also wrote Amendment Five which says, in part: "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury . . . nor shall any per-son be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall he be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law . . . " The constitutional fathers believed punishment by death for capital crime was not "unusual or cruel"!
Four years after Justice Brennan’s opinion, the Supreme Court reviewed the proposition of capital punishment (Gregg vs. Georgia, 428 U~S. 153, 1976) and ruled by a 5-4 majority that execution as capital punishment was constitutional. Many public opinion polls have documented that a large majority of U.S. citizens favor the death penalty. Justice Thurgood Marshall has argued "that public opinion polls and votes of legislators cannot be relied on to ascertain society’s standards of decency, because legislators and private citizens do not really comprehend how barbaric capital punishment is." In other words, neither the ordinary citizens nor the Congress of the United States are intelligent enough to know the difference between such principles as decency, justice, cruelty, and barbarism. Apparently the esteemed Justice believes that "wisdom will die" with the Supreme Court’s liberal judges (see Job 12:2). Justice Marshall and his minority insist that society has "evolved" to the point where capital punishment is cruel and unusual, and the U.S. Constitution must be "reinterpreted" to correlate to an "evolving" ethic which is more civilized than that of 1787.
This is not the way the founding fathers viewed constitutional interpretation. They saw the Constitution as the supreme law, and also as a covenant or contract. The Constitution like all legal documents was viewed as a fixed document, to be interpreted ac-cording to its plain meaning. And if its meaning was ambiguous as applied to a specific situation, it was to be interpreted according to the intent of those who wrote it, signed it, and ratified it.
James Madison expressed this view when he wrote, "(If) the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the Nation . . . be not the guide in expounding it, there can be no security for a faithful exercise of its powers." His views were echoed by Thomas Jefferson, "The Constitution on which our Union rests, shall be administered by me according to the safe and honest meaning contemplated by the plain understanding of the people of the United States, at the time of its adoption."
Christianity and the Constitution, by John Eidsmoe, pub. Baker, p. 392
For the Christian and the Bible-believer, ethics do not evolve—they are absolute and revealed from God. And, it appears, the framers of America’s constitution believed in divine absolutes which were applied in the matters of human governance, one of which was capital punishment by death for capital crimes.
In recent decades, some Americans have lobbied vehemently for elimination of the death penalty on the grounds that it is discriminatory against minority races alleging that there are more people from minority races on "death row" than there are white people.
A majority of the prisoners scheduled to die in the U.S. are white males, 30 to 34 years old, who never married, never went beyond High School and were convicted of murder.
Two of three of those sentenced to death had a previous felony conviction. One out of nine had killed before. Schwarzchild (Henry) agrees that the legal system may not be prejudiced against blacks, but he argues that the economic system is. "The people at the bottom of the social ladder — of whom blacks, of course, are enormously over-represented — obviously are the people who commit violent crimes," he said.
Interview with Henry Schwarzchild, director of the ACLU Capital Punishment Project in N.Y., St. Louis Post Dispatch, Sunday, October 23, 1988
Statistics show that there are approximately 20,000 non-negligent killings in the United States every year. That is a medium-sized city wiped out by homicide every calendar year in this land where a majority of the news media hypocritically be-moans that (because of white collar crimes of public officials) we are a nation where some men see themselves above the law, and at the same time the same media crusades (under the guise of news-reporting) against the death penalty! Consistency, thou art a gem!
Capital punishment is biblical; it is rational; it is constitutional. The Bible cannot be altered by human opinion. It is firmly fixed in the heavens (Psa. 119:89; 119:160; Isa. 40:8; Mall. 24:35; I Pet. 1:25). The Bible is God’s absolute, perfect, and final revelation to man concerning "all that pertains to life and godliness" (II Pet. 1:3-4) and is able to equip the man of God (including civil rulers) completely, for every good work (II Tim. 3:16,17). The U.S. Constitution is not to be altered by any person or group of persons (including the U.S. Supreme Court) unless amended in due process by vote of the electorate. The U.S. Constitution mandates capital punishment by clear inference, not only in the amendments cited, but in relegating to Congress the power to declare war which is death by execution for capital crime on an international scale. Legislating the specifics for criminal punishments within the nation itself is delegated by the Constitution to each State within the Union. The Constitution clearly does not delegate the power to legislate to the Supreme Court.
Robert T. Ingram, in his book The World Under God’s Law, argues the Biblical mandate for capital punishment from the perspective of man’s dominion delegated by his Creator. According to Ingram, the sixth commandment of the Decalogue (Ten Commandments, Exod. 20:13) which says, "You shall do no murder" is the "crux of the law." By the sixth commandment, man’s station in the hierarchy of Creation is secured, just as God’s is legally recognized by the first commandment. All that is right toward God is grounded upon strict, uncompromising observance of the first commandment. In the same way, all that is right toward other human beings is grounded upon strict, uncompromising observance of the sixth commandment, "You shall do no murder." Furthermore, in principle this commandment against murder was implicit as long as the human race continues in this world. That God mandated dominion to man is unequivocally stated in Genesis 1:28-30; 9:1-7; Heb. 2:5-9.
The dominion of mankind is maintained, according to In-gram, by preserving the dominion of every single person. Dominion means, among other things, the power to give a name; the responsibility to train and teach those under you: and the power of death. To take away the life of any creature is to exercise the last word in dominion or rule over the creature, except God’s which can raise us from the dead. God has required us to exist by giving us existence: no man had any choice in the matter, either as to when and where he would be born, or who would be his parents, or what worldly heritage would be his. But the very next ranking power is given into the hands of "every man" (Gen. 9:5,6): the power of death. The combination of physical, mental, and willful powers in every single human being constitutes the power in each one of us to take the life of any other living creature. If, therefore, the dominion of man is to be maintained on the earth, then individual men must avenge the death of any other man.
Man, to maintain his dominion, must from time to time prove himself willing and capable to exercise dominion. It is so basic a principle that no person is qualified to discuss matters of government, order, discipline, subordination, or even human relations, who doesn’t almost instinctively know it.
It is insufferable that the life of any man shall be taken maliciously and aimlessly by any other creature, including another man. But if it is done, then man, who is the supreme authority (delegated by God) in the world and who must maintain his own dominion, must be the one to take vengeance. Broken laws which usurp the peaceful dominion of man must be repaired.
The power of death is the supreme power of temporal rule; it belongs to God and is delegated to man. Human life has a high price in human civilization. The price is another human life. When a human life can be paid for by a fine, or when it can be paid for by a few years of enforced confinement (even confinement for life), human life is cheapened — man’s dominion is usurped.
The rational dominion of man is secure only as long as man exercises the power of death to avenge crimes against his own peace and security under the law of God. The responsibility for the "individuality" of vengeance cannot really be delegated because in the ultimate sense it will always come down to an individual human being — the hangman, the headsman, or the man who pulls the switch on the electric chair. It is true, as God said, "At the hand of every man’s brother . . . "God requires the blood of the murderer. God will not do it in this world. He has delegated that dominion to man through civil government.
Man, as an individual, must insist upon death by execution as the penalty for murder, or man rebels and abdicates his divinely ordained dominion! That is the way God has decreed it — whether men like it or not. To do otherwise is to fly in the face of the Creator’s omniscience.
2. Secondary Forms of Punishment: Punishment, per se, was never intended to be pleasant (Heb. 12:11). Punishment is the deliberate infliction of pain. Pain, administered without malice, communicates several desirable principles: (a) reminds individual offenders that "no man is an island" — i.e. everyone must live in a "community." And communal living requires certain norms for behavior. Punishing abnormal behavior defines normal behavior! It establishes values. (b) Punishment of uncivil behavior establishes the principle of freedom of choice and responsibility for choices. This, in turn, demonstrates respect for freedom; (c) Punishment communicates that the society believes abnormal behavior can be changed, and it is imperative that the offender choose to make a change. This also communicates that the society believes in the innate dignity of each individual — even offending ones.
Punishment in the Bible is a "last resort" expedient to produce justice. If men will not live justly responding with gratitude for the grace of God and with faith in God’s faithfulness, then punishment for injustice must be forthcoming. But justice is more than punishment, more than impartiality, more than vindication of the law. Justice is the restoration of the order or well-being that existed before the order was destroyed. That is the meaning of the oft repeated phrase, "law and order." The law and its enforcement are both merely instruments to bring about justice.
Justice is present only when human beings are treating one another as God would treat them — honestly, fairly, helpfully, and redemptively. Justice is present when things are right and good. When one human being defrauds another, when one hurts another, when one destroys the well-being or the peace of another justice is not present. Justice in the ultimate is only secured by regeneration of the minds and hearts of human beings. Pure justice is only possible in the kingdom of Christ where the rule of love "constrains" citizens to see no one from a human point of view (II Cor. 5:14-17) but from a divine point of view. But some human beings are not constrained by love. Therefore law, including legal actions with punishments for viola-dons, has to be the force which produces some semblance of justice. What is right and honest and helpful for human beings must be produced by coercion when it is not present by faith and love. Justice is the indispensable factor by which human life is sustained on this earth. When a crime is committed, an injustice has always been done. Crimes are committed against individuals—not against institutions. When a house of business or a store is robbed individuals are jeopardized. When treason is committed, the lives of individuals are jeopardized. When a person is assaulted it is a crime against the person, not a crime against the "state." The Old Testament "civil" laws were designed to protect individuals. They were to produce justice for the victim. What had been disturbed or destroyed in the individual’s life was to be made right and restored. That was justice for the real victim. In the Law of Moses, life was more important than property — and people were more important than the punishment to be imposed for crimes committed. It is true, of course, that ideals (i.e. liberty, peace, justice, integrity, etc.) are violated when any crime is committed. But ideals are operable only in individuals. Ultimately it is people who are the victims of crime.
There were three fundamental forms of punishment legislated in the Mosaic law (for both civil and religious crimes): capital punishment (execution); corporal punishment (physical punishment short of execution); restitution. We have already discussed capital punishment. Corporal punishment was decreed but probably rarely practiced.
a. Blinding (Exod. 21:23; Lev. 24:20; Deut. 19:13-20; Jdgs. 16:?1; II Kings 25:7; Jer. 52:11; Esther 7:3; 1 Sam. 11:2).
b. Branding — some think the threat of "burning" was merely "branding" and not execution (Gen. 38:24; Lev. 20:14; 21:9;
Isa. 44:5; see also Lev. 19:28; Gal. 6:17).
c. Beating (Deut. 25:2,3; II Cor. 11:24; Exod. 21:25; II Macc. 6:19;30; see also Exod. 5:14-16; Prov. 23:14; Matt.
21:35; Luke 12:45; Mark 13:9; Acts 5:40; 16:37).
d. Braying (Pounding in a Mortar) (Prov. 27:22; II Macc. 6:30) or running over the victim with an iron sledge (II Kings
8:12; 10:32,33; Amos 1:3,4; II Sam. 12:31; I Chron. 20:3).
e. Flaying (mentioned figuratively in Micah 3:2,3). Taking the skin off people in punishment is historically verified as a
method of Assyrian punishment.
f. Imprisonment (not used by the early Israelites except to hold the accused in custody to await trial and further disposition). Imprisonment was clearly used by heathen cultures and by the later Israelites. (Gen. 39:20,21; Lev. 24:12; Num. 15:34; Acts 4:2; 12:4; Jdgs. 16:21; Ezra 7:26; Jer. 37:15; Matt. 18:30; Jer. 37:21; 38:6; I Kings 22:27; II Chron. 16:10; Matt. 4:12; Luke 23:19; Jer. 37:16; Zech. 9:11; Acts 16:24; Job 31:18; Psa. 105:18; 107:10; Jer. 40:4).
g. Indignities (various means were used to heap indignities and humiliations upon criminals — usually after they were dead: Josephus Antiq. IV; 8;6; I Kings 14:13; II Kings 9:10; 21:18,26; II Chron. 24:25; Jer. 22:19; Psa. 79:2,3; I Sam. 17:57; 31:9; Josh. 7:15,25; Lev. 20:14; Amos 2:1; II Sam. 4:12; Gen. 40:17-19; Num. 25:4,5; Deut. 21:22,23; Joshua 7:25,26; 8:29; II Sam. 18:17). Indignities such as spitting were assessed as "punishments" (Num. 12:14; Deut. 25:9; Matt. 26:27; Mark 14:65; 15:19; Luke 18:32; Isa. 50:6).
h. Mutilation (Deut. 25:11,12; Jdgs. 1:6,7; II Sam. 4:12; Dan. 2:5; II Macc. 7:1-40; I Sam. 18:27; Ezek. 23:25; II Chron. 33:11; Isa. 37:29; Ezek. 19:4,9; Amos 4:2).
j. Pulling Out the Hair of the Head (Neh. 13:25; Isa. 50:6; II Macc. 7:7; II Sam. 10:4; Job. 30:10; Matt. 27:30; Mark 12:4) and of the Face.
k. Retaliation (Exod. 21:24,25; Lev. 24:19-22; Deut. :~:19; 24:16; Dan. 6:24; IKings2l:21;IIKings9:26).
1. Scourging (Jdgs. 8:7,16; I Kings 12:11; see also Job 9:23;
1~a. 10:26; 28:15,18; John 2:15; Matt. 10:17; 20:19; Mark :3:34; Luke 18:33; Matt. 23:34; Acts 22:25; Lev. 19:20; Matt. 27:26; Mark 15:15; John 19:1; Heb. 11:36).
m. Slavery (Exod. 22:4; II Sam. 12:31; II Kings 4:1; Neh. 5:5; see also Lev. 25:39-43; Deut. 15:12; Jer. 34:14; Gen. 44:17).
n. Stocks (II Chron 16:10; Jer. 20:2; 27:2; 29:26; see also Job 13:27; 33:11; Prov. 7:22; Acts 16:24). It was a device usually containing five holes for the neck, arms and legs which .4~’ere sometimes inserted crosswise.
o. Stripes (similar to Beating and Flaying) (Lev. 19:20; Deut. 22:18; 25:3; II Cor. 11:24). It was the most common mode of corporal punishment and the idea of disgrace apparently was not associated with it (see Josephus Antiq. IV; 8:21) (see also Prov. 17:26; 10:13; Jer. 20:2; 37:15; Matt. 5:25; 18:34; Deut. 28:58,59; Psa. 78:38). In later times the adult male was stripped to the waist and in a bending posture lashed to a pillar; a female received the stripes (40 less one) while sitting with head and shoulders bent forward; and a boy was punished with his hands tied behind him. Roman law forbade the whipping of Roman citizens (Acts 16:37; 22:25). Nevertheless it was regarded as a wholesome punishment and is zealously advocated in Proverbs 13:24; 20:30; 23:13, 14; Psalm 89:32.
By far the most frequent punishment for non-capital crimes was restitution. The victim was to be paid back in full, and in some cases more than in full. Compensation was always to be made to the victim — not to the "state," therefore it is not proper to say that fines were a method of punishment in Mosaic law.
The kinds of offenses which resulted in restitution included both property offenses (such as theft) and violent crimes (such as battery). Most of Exodus 2 1-22 is devoted to various cases of restitution. The Mosaic system of restitution was an elaborate one. As far as possible the restoration was to be identical with or comparable with the loss of time or power (Exod. 21:18-36; Lev. 24:18-21; Deut. 19:21). The person who stole an ox and then sold or killed it had to restore fivefold; if it was a live sheep, four-fold. In later history it appears as if sevenfold might be the standard (Prov. 6:31; II Sam. 12:6). If the identical animal which was stolen was restored, another of equal value was all that the law required besides. For breach of trust or for trespass, twenty percent additional to the original sum was demanded (Lev. 6:1-5; Num. 5:5-10). Restitution or "damages" must be paid for destruction by an animal broken loose from its confinement (Exod. 22:5) and when an animal killed a servant, thirty shekels had to be paid to the loser (Exod. 21:32; Deut. 22:19). Compensation was demanded for loss by fire, through negligence, of a standing grain field; or for the loss or damage to a "pledge" (personal property held as security, Exod. 22:5,12). Under Roman law a jailer losing his prisoner was liable to the punishment which was to be inflicted for the crime on which the arrest had been made (Acts 12:19; 16:27). Zacchaeus promised to restore fourfold for any fraudulent exactions of which he might be guilty (Luke 19:8). Jesus refers to restitution (Matt. 5:25,26) as a form of punishment.
Restitution as punishment for crime is Biblically sanctioned. Clearly, God prefers restitution above all other methods of punishment as a resolution to crime and injustice. In view of this one wonders why civil governments today claiming "Christian" principles for "foundations" are not instituting an expanded pro-gram of criminal justice that requires the criminal to make restitution to the victim of his crime. Perhaps this will explain:
It is surprising to most people that early legal systems which form the foundation of Western law emphasized the need for of-fenders and their families to settle with victims and their families. The offense was considered principally a violation against the victim and the victim’s family. While the common welfare had been breached and the community therefore had an interest and responsibility in seeing that the wrong was addressed and the offender punished, the offense was not considered primarily a crime against the state as it is today.
Old Testament law emphasized that the victim be repaid through restitution.
The Code of Hammurabi (around 1700 B.C.), a collection of Babylonian laws, provided for restitution in the case of property crimes.
The Code of Ur-Nammu, a Sumerian king (around 2050 B.C.), included provisions for restitution even in the case of violent offenses.
In the Code of Lipit-Ishtar (around 1875 B.C.), the king of Isin required restitution when a householder neglected to maintain his property and as a result someone was able to break into the house of a neighbor. He was required to compensate the neighbor for his losses.
The Code of Eshnunna (around 1700 B.C.), a Mesopotamian kingdom, provided for specific compensation when the victim lost his nose, his eye, his ear, or a tooth.
In the ninth book of the Iliad, Homer (around the ninth century B.C.) refers to the practice of victim restitution. Ajax challenges Achilles for not accepting compensation offered by Agamemnon, noting that even the murderer of a brother may, by paying compensation, remain free among his own family.
Roman law also required compensation of the victim. According to the Law of the Twelve Tables (449 B.C.), convicted thieves had to pay double the value of the stolen goods. If the property was discovered hidden in the thief’s house, he had to pay three times its value. If he had resisted the house search, or if he had stolen the object using force, he had to pay four times its value.
The Roman historian Tacitus (roughly A.D. 55 to A.D. 117) wrote that among ancient Germanic tribes even murder was punished by paying a fine of cattle and sheep, and that this satisfied the family of the murder victim, since ongoing feuds were destructive of the community.
The earliest surviving collection of Germanic tribal laws is the Lex Salica, promulgated by King Clovis soon after his conversion to Christianity in A.D. 496. It includes restitutionary sanctions for offenses ranging from homicides to assaults to theft.
Anglo-Saxon law developed elaborate systems of compensation. Around A.D. 600, Ethelbert, ruler of Kent, issued the Laws of Ethelbert. They contain remarkably detailed restitution schedules, differentiating, for example, the value of the four front teeth from those next to them, and those teeth from all the rest. Each finger (and its fingernail) had a specified value.
In each of these diverse cultures the response to what we now call "crime" was to hold offenders and their families accountable to victims and their families. Crime was understood to be an event involving the parties, as well as their kin, in the context of the community. This reflected a basic understanding that a relation-ship existed between victims and offenders, and that this relation-ship needed to be addressed in responding to the wrong. Victims were a key part of the process for pragmatic reasons (they and their families insisted on this), but also for reasons of simple justice—no adequate response to the crime could exclude the victim.
The Norman Conquest of Europe marked the beginning of the end of this approach. When William the Conqueror became king of England, he took title to all land. He then portioned it out to his supporters and to the church. He and his descendants asserted increasing control over the process by which crimes and other judicial matters were disposed of.
But where earlier developments were designed to keep family feuds from tearing apart the community, King William and his descendants were struggling for control of the legal process for the sake of political power. They were replacing local systems of dispute resolution (established by the barons) and were competing with the growing influence of the church over secular matters. The church had issued the Canon Law, which comprehensively regulated every dimension of life. The secular authorities responded to this by creating similar law codes.
A mechanism which the English kings successfully used in this struggle for control was the "king’s peace." King Henry I, the son of William the Conqueror, issued the Leges Henrici in 1116. These laws established thirty judicial districts throughout the country and gave them jurisdiction over "certain offenses against the king’s peace, arson, robbery, murder, false coinage, and crimes of violence."
Anything which jeopardized this peace became a subject of the king’s jurisdiction. This gave the king control over criminal cases as breaches of that peace. Criminal punishments were no longer viewed primarily as ways of restoring the victims of crime, but instead as means of redressing the "injury" to the king.
The king not only gained power, he also enriched his treasury. Because of the existing emphasis on compensating victims, the early codes required restitution but confiscated some of the payments for the king’s treasury. Over time, the amount confiscated from the victim increased, and eventually restitution was seldom ordered — the defendant was simply fined.
Furthermore, feudal custom held that when a vassal "broke faith" with his ruler, his possessions reverted to the lord — this was called escheat.
The Norman word for such a breach of faith was "felony." In England after the Norman Conquest the most serious crimes came to be called felonies because they were considered to be breaches of the fealty owed by all people to the king as guardian of the realm. (The felon’s land escheated to his lord, however, and only his chattel to the crown.)
As a result, the victim had no remedy. The criminal proceeding generated fines for the king. In felony cases, conviction meant that all the offender’s property reverted to his lord and to the king. The victim would have no way to recover through civil action against the impoverished offender.
The punishment of crime had become the province of the state. Recovery by the victim was a private matter to be settled in the civil courts. The state’s interest in criminal cases was in fixing the responsibility of the offenders and punishing them, not restoring the victims. The role of victims was only to help establish that a wrong had been done.
The "golden age of the victim" — the period when the system of justice emphasized compensation to the victim — had ended. It was replaced with what could be called the "golden age of the state," which continues today. Now the criminal justice system emphasizes controlling the injury to the state through various forms of punishment designed to deter, incapacitate or reform criminals. If victims want to recover their losses, they must sue in civil courts.
Crime and Its Victims, by Daniel W. Van Ness, pub. IVP, pp. 64-68.
Once again what the Bible says about civil government appears to be more reasonable, more just, and more practical than the so-called "enlightened" criminal justice systems of today. Punishment of crimes (except for capital crimes such as murder, etc.) by restitution or recompense to the individual victims would restore well-being and what is right. That would be justice for the victim as well as for the state. Actually, the "state" receives true and ultimate justice only when the individual victim receives it — because the "state" would not exist without its individual citizens.
Restitution would require responsibility from the offender to both the victim and the state. That would restore human dignity to both the offender and the victim, for human dignity is present only where responsibility is accepted and justice is done. Restitution might also produce some rehabilitation in some offenders. But rehabilitation is not the primary purpose of any form of punishment — the restoration of justice (rightness) is. Restitution might serve as a deterrent to crime. Any punishment has some measure of deterrence effectiveness. But, again, restitution’s primary function is to restore the factor of justice. Individuals must expect and receive justice if they are to dwell together in a functional, edifying society. Law does not serve society if it does not serve the individual.
The Bible does not equivocate on crime and punishment. It realistically reveals man as not only capable of crime, it documents the commission of numerous crimes — some of them of the most heinous nature. The Bible also clearly prescribes punishment, in principle and specifically, as an obligation of civil government.
Every possible criminal deviation which men may devise is not, of course, catalogued in the Bible. Nor is every acceptable method of punishment codified there. But all the fundamentals and principles of criminality and punishment are revealed so that any civil government desiring to fulfill its "ministry" as Almighty God has ordained it may do so.
We close this chapter with two long quotations — one concerning capital punishment, the other concerning restitution as a form of punishment: Following is the text of a speech made by Mr. Theodore L. Sendak, Attorney General of the state of Indiana, before the Law Enforcement Luncheon Meeting of Officials of Northern Indiana at Wabash, Indiana, May 12, 1971:
The purpose of our system of criminal law is to minimize the quantity of human suffering by maintaining a framework of order and peace. The primary object of the law in this area is to forestall acts of violence or other aggression by which one person inflicts harm on another. To the extent that government fails to do this, the primary function of the state is neglected, and individual suffering is increased.
The question we must ask ourselves about the death penalty is: which of several possible courses of action will serve the true humanitarian purposes of the criminal law? We must weigh the execution of the convicted murderer against the loss of life of his victims and of the possible victims of other potential murderers.
Many factors enter into the perpetuation of crime, some of which are obviously beyond the bounds of social control. And it is true that some murders occur under circumstances which no system of penalties can prevent. Yet the objective, statistical evidence available to all indicates one major factor in the commission of crime is the relative probability of punishment or escape. If punishment is certain, the impulse to crime is to some extent checked. If escape seems probable, the criminal impulse has freer reign.
The propaganda drive to abolish capital punishment appears to be a geared part of a general drive toward leniency in the treatment of criminals in our society. Such leniency has had in my opinion, undeniable psychological impact on potential murderers, and has contributed to the upward spiral of the crime rate. There is a striking over-all correlation between the recent decline in the use of the death penalty and the rise in violent crime. Such crime has increased by geometric proportions.
In the first three years of the last decade, the number of executions in the United States was by present standards relatively high. Fifty-six persons were executed in 1960; 42 in 1961; and 47 in 1962. During these same three years the number of people who died violently at the hands of criminals actually declined and the murder rate per 100,000 of population also declined.
Beginning in 1963, however, there was a drop in the number of legal executions, and the graph line of violent crime simultaneously began moving up instead of down. In the following years the number of legal executions has decreased dramatically from one year to the next, until in 1968 there was none at all. But each of these years has seen murders increase sharply both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of population.
In 1964, for example, the number of legal executions dropped to 15. Yet the number of violent deaths moved up from 8,500 to 9,250, and the murder rate per 100,000 went up from 4.5 to 4.8. In 1965 the number of legal executions dropped to seven, while the number of violent deaths increased to 9,850, and the murder rate went to 5.1. Similar decreases in legal executions have occur-red in the following years, accompanied by similar increases in the murder rate.
In 1968, with no legal executions at all, the total number who died through criminal violence reached 13,650, while the murder rate climbed to 6.8 per 100,000.
The movement in these figures, with murders increasing as the deterrence of the death penalty diminished, confirms the verdict of ordinary logic: That a relaxation in the severity and certainty of punishment leads only to an increase in crime.
These remarks concern the deterrent effect of the death penalty on those who might commit murder but do not. That is a negative phenomenon which can be inferred both from the record and the assessment of common sense. The repeal of the death penalty would not repeal human nature. To these truisms we may add the fact that there are numerous cases on record in which criminals have escaped the capital penalty for previous murders and gone on to commit others.
Likewise there are numerous cases of prison inmates who have killed guards and other inmates, knowing that the worst punishment they could get would be continued tenancy in the same institution. Opponents of the death penalty usually resist even life sentences without parole, and the deterrent function of that would be even less effective than capital punishment.
The general growth of violent crime in the past decade is the out cropping of the attitude of permissiveness and leniency going hand in hand with an increase in the rate of victimization. As more and more loopholes have been devised for defendants, the crime rate has increased steeply.
Between 1960 and 1968, the over-all crime rate in America increased 11 times as fast as the rate of population growth — plainly meaning that more and more people are being subjected every day of every year to major personal crimes — murder, rape, assault, kidnapping, armed robbery, etc.
Is a course of action humanitarian which actually encourages a vast and continuing increase in the number of people killed and maimed and otherwise brutalized?
There have been many sentimental journeys into the psychological realm of the criminals who are to be executed; I think there should be more sympathetic concern expressed for the thousands of innocent victims of those criminals.
Opponents of the death penalty may rejoice that in 1968 there were 47 fewer murderers executed in this country than was the case in 1962. But do they say anything of the fact that some 5,250 more innocent persons died by criminal violence in 1968 than was the case in 1962?
In the question of human suffering, this is a staggering loss of more than 5,000 individual innocent lives. What about the human rights and civil rights of the individual victim? Are not those 5,000 persons entitled to the dignity and sacredness of life? Is that a result of which humanitarians can be proud? I think not.
Only misguided emotionalism, and not facts, disputes the truth that the death penalty is a deterrent of capital crime. Individuals must be held responsible for their individual actions if a free society is to endure.
Ethical Arguments For Analysis, by Baum and Randell, pub. Holt, Rinehart, Winston, pp. 112,113
Our final quotation is an article by Jenkin Lloyd Jones, former editor of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, newspaper, The Tulsa Tribune, entitled, "The Pay-Back Crime Code," dated 1971:
Senator Mike Mansfield and Rep. William Green of Pennsylvania have introduced bills in Congress that would appropriate federal money for the relief of the victims of criminals.
The proposed legislation would not only provide funds to victims of crimes under federal jurisdiction, but it would supplement payments which the legislatures of six states have now authorized for the victims of state law infractions.
Crime compensation at taxpayer expense is getting popular. Britain, New Zealand, Sweden and seven Canadian provinces have now enacted such laws.
There is, indeed, little logic in freely spending public money to enable the criminal to perfect his defense, while leaving the bleeding victim to borrow money to overcome his lost earnings and the cost of doctors and hospitals.
But the idea can be improved. It can be improved by going back to the first principle of ancient law — the principle that it is the perpetrator of the crime who has the primary obligation to the victim.
In ancient days the idea of paying damages was not limited to civil law. Hammurabi and Draco understood that a criminal was not merely the enemy of the people as a whole, but was a particular debtor to his victim. Draco provided for fines in oxen, not to be paid to the state, but to the aggrieved party.
A couple of weeks ago Dr. John Kielbauch, prison psychologist, resigned from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to take a position in the federal penal system. And in de-parting, he made a few radical suggestions:
it is time, he said, that the man who robs or injures makes direct restitution. To this end, he proposed that the courts deter-mine proper compensation and that the state set up elaborate training programs and prison industries which would enable the prisoner to earn real money in behalf of those he had wronged. Dr. Kielbauch suggests indeterminate sentences, the duration of which would largely depend on the efforts the prisoner would make toward full restitution. He adds that if a prisoner is released or paroled before this restitution is completed, a portion of his out-side wages could be deducted.
The trouble with most prison job-training programs, according to Dr. Kielbauch, is that many prisoners associate the training with their punishment. This gives them a negative attitude toward useful work. They develop skills reluctantly and slowly and often turn their backs on them when they hit the street.
If, on the other hand, hard work and the acquisition of marketable trades became their keys to freedom, this might put shop training in a different light.
If a court can decide that the man who suffers a broken arm has $1,000 coming to him from the non-criminal who hit him with his car, why shouldn’t the criminal who breaks an arm in a brutal assault also owe the victim $1,000?
And there have been too many cases where robbers who have made big scores have sat out their prison years in the smug confidence that the caches will be waiting for them when they emerge. If full restitution is insisted upon the profit vanishes.
Since a law was passed in Michigan making parents financially liable for the depredations of their minor children the incidence of juvenile vandalism in Detroit has turned down remarkably. Parents who were quite casual about scolding in juvenile court began to take a lively interest in the behavior of their young as soon as they received bills from the school board for wrecked classrooms.
Money may be the root of all evil, but the possibilities of using money as a means of discouraging evil have been underexplored in America. The trouble with the bills proposed by Sen. Mansfield and Rep. Green is that they would load upon the blameless tax-payer the indemnity for the victims of crime.
What’s wrong with charging the criminal? Paying one’s debt to society would then take on a new and more practical meaning.
And it’s about time.
Ethical Arguments For Analysis, by Baum and Randell, pub. Hold, Rinehart, Winston, pp. 112,113
Copyright © 1990, Paul T. Butler