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For Educators


The Biblical Truth about America’s Death Penalty
Dale S. Recinella




Northeastern University Press
2004 • 320 pp. 6 x 9"
Religion / Criminal Justice / Law

$27.95 Paperback, 978-1-55553-632-9



“Recinella isn't looking to dodge controversy in his book, The Biblical Truth About America's Death Penalty. In more than 400 pages of research, analysis, interpretations of original Greek scriptures, indexes, and a bibliography, he reaches a conclusion bound to rile many people, namely that America's death penalty is incompatible and inconsistent with Biblical teachings… Recinella brings a unique perspective to his work.”—The Florida Bar Journal

A hard look at Hebrew and Christian scriptures as they relate to today’s death penalty practices.

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

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

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

Reviews:

“His conclusions are eye-opening.” The Florida Bar News

"Recinella concludes that people of biblical faith must abolish the American death penalty in our time, and that moratorium is a way of stopping the practice while others of biblical faith become educated to the biblical truth that demands nothing less than abolition."New Testament Abstracts

Awards/Recognition:

Notre Dame Magazine Pick of the Month for July


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






Mon, 23 Jun 2014 12:37:09 -0500