The Biblical Truth About America’s Death Penalty, by Dale S. Recinella. Northeastern University Press. 433 pp.
In this book Dale S. Recinella examines the biblical passages from the Hebrew Scriptures often used to support the death penalty. The author was originally a pro-death-penalty lawyer. Eventually, he left the practice of criminal law because of a violent incarcerated client. Working and studying theology in Rome, he encountered a Jewish lawyer who had done research on ancient Hebrew practices regarding the death penalty. This and his ministry to the prison population on Florida’s death row changed everything. He set about to research the biblical foundations that many Americans cite as support for the death penalty.
Recinella does a thorough job of analyzing the Scripture passages most often quoted by “Bible-belt Christians”: “an eye for an eye,” the Rule of Blood found in Genesis 9:6, and others. He concludes that the conditions for the death penalty in the Hebrew Scriptures are not met in the United States, supporting this position with actual cases. Recinella also points out that these biblical arguments exclude the New Testament values of grace and forgiveness, ignoring atonement by Jesus.
Recinella suggests that people of faith adopt the position of restorative justice, which requires mutual accountability, a covenant relationship. Offenders are accountable to society for their wrongdoing, but society is accountable for its failing with regard to the offender. Restorative justice can include punishment, but must go beyond it by seeking to restore the community, the victims and the offender.