Death Penalty and the Bible Research Paper

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Death Penalty II

The Death Penalty and the Bible

The Bible is an important and valuable book providing a wealth of information, and it should be used as a determination as to whether the death penalty should be chosen for certain, specific crimes, despite the often-cited issue of separation between church and state.

Biblical Crimes






f. Other Crimes

The Death Penalty

Biblical Times

Ransom From the Death Penalty

The Separation of Church and State

The death penalty has been around since biblical times, during which it was commonly used for a number of offenses. It is important to point out, however, that these offenses were punishable by death, meaning that the death penalty could be used. That does not mean that it had to be used, and there was discretion available. Here, several common crimes will be looked at in the context of biblical death penalty issues, and will be considered in the context of today's death penalty. That will be done in order to determine whether the death penalty that is used today should be based on the Bible, or whether it is better off being judged in some other way. The ransom that could be used to get out of the death penalty in biblical times, and the comparison of how that is done today is also discussed, along with the separation of church and state and how it relates to using the death penalty in today's society.

The Death Penalty and the Bible


The death penalty has been part of the culture of human beings for centuries. In biblical times, for example, there were a number of crimes that were punishable by death. That does not mean that the death penalty was always used in these cases, but only that the option to do so legally was available. There are serious arguments as to whether the Bible and its contents should still be used for death penalty cases today, because there is a move toward a separation between church and state. However, the insight the Bible provides when it comes to the serious nature of crimes and the importance of severe punishment can provide a great deal of information for how to operate a society where there is less crime. The Bible is an important and valuable book providing a wealth of information, and it should be used as a determination as to whether the death penalty should be chosen for certain, specific crimes, despite the often-cited issue of separation between church and state.

Biblical Crimes

It is important to remember that what was a crime in the Bible may not be considered a crime today, in the legal sense. Ethically, though, there are still problems with many of the issues that the Bible spelled out as worthy of the death penalty. For example, the Bible called for the death penalty for adultery, which is not even prosecuted as a crime in modern society (Anderson, Bishop, & Newman, 2006). Whether adultery is right or wrong is not the issue, but society has moved toward a lack of interest in recognizing it as a truly criminal act. However, in order to better understand the way the world has changed, several biblical crimes will need to be discussed here.


Rape was a crime in biblical times, and is still a crime now. In the Bible it was punishable by death, and many people were put to death for raping others. However, the "value" of the person who was raped played a part in whether it was a criminal act and whether it was severely punished (Gundry, 1993). Those who were important to society could get away with much more than those who were not, and that was true even when they committed crimes like rape. Now, rape is still a crime, but there is no designation that makes the rape more or less of a crime based on who was harmed by it (Mandery, 2005). Socially, people are not equal, but they are all, allegedly, equal under the law (Mandery, 2005). That was not the case during biblical times, and is one of the ways in which society has changed in the way it determines what is a crime and what is not.

There has been an evolution in the way people are viewed, but there has also been a change in the law to reflect the fact that the majority of society no longer feels as though rapists deserve to die for their crimes. If the death penalty followed the Bible today, many more people would be put to death each year, or at least end up on death row, for the crimes they committed against others (Freedman, Myers, & Beck, 2000). With the changes that have taken place as society has moved on, a number of people -- including many rapists -- are in prison for a period of time and then back out in society once again. Whether this is better or worse is a matter of opinion, of course, and not something that can be easily decided. However, using the Bible's principle of the death penalty for rapists would help avoid many repeat offenses that occur every year (Lienhard, 1995).


Sodomy was another crime that was punishable by death in the Bible. While sodomy is still a crime today, it is no longer a death penalty issues unless it is part of a "package" crime, such as when a person is sodomized and then murdered (Anderson, 2007). Because sodomy is such a serious crime, though, there are undoubtedly people who would feel as though it can and should be a crime that is punishable by death. This would be more likely to be accepted if the victim of the crime was a child, an elderly person, or someone who was disabled. With that in mind, though, determining who is "more important" in society would be required (Dershowitz, 2000). In other words, this would necessitate the opinion that a crime against a child, for example, was worse than a crime against an adult. That would extrapolate out to a child being more important or more valuable in some way, and may not be an acceptable way to consider the issue.


Bestiality is not something that is discussed like it was in biblical times. That can lead many people to feel as though it is no longer a crime, or that it does not even take place anymore. However, it does still occur. Most of the time, it is not punishable because the person engaging in it is not caught. However, there have been cases of people engaging in sexual acts with farm animals and also with dogs, and some of those cases have made the news. Whether this is actually a crime or more of a fetish could likely be argued, but in biblical times it was considered to be a crime for which a person could be put to death (Head, 2005). The unnaturalness of it in the eyes of most members of society was very likely the reason for its seriousness when it came to its criminal nature (Head, 2005). Putting someone to death because they were interested in something so out of the ordinary seemed to make more sense for the way society operated at that point in time, but many different types of sexual acts are more widely accepted today. Whether that is good or bad is not the argument here.


In biblical times, adultery was a very serious crime (Kronenwetter, 2001). When people took a vow and were married, they stayed that way and they did not cheat on one another. Now, cheating and divorce are both very common in society. One can argue that this is bad, but whether it is a crime that a person should be killed for is another discussion entirely. Bringing back the concept of the death penalty for adultery would never be accepted by society today. The majority of people have either committed adultery or have a friend, relative, or acquaintance who has. Agreeing that they all should be sentenced to death for that has no basis in realism in today's society. Biblical times were also very different in that a man could often have more than one wife, but a woman could not have several husbands (Freedman, Myers, & Beck, 2000). Today, that is no longer allowed, and would be considered adulterous -- but it would not be seen as a crime.


Murder is the possible exception to the list of crimes that were punishable by death in biblical times but no longer have that connotation. There are still people put to death for murder today, and many more are sentenced to death, but languish on death row. Some even die of natural causes on death row before they can be executed. That may be the result of a broken system that does not process people quickly enough for their crimes, but the…[continue]

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