The biblical rationale for executing premeditated murderers seems to emanate from the Bible's belief that innocent life possesses infinite value. Therefore, one who murders an innocent person has committed an infinite evil, and a lesser punishment than death would not fit the crime. And because the Bible wanted to make sure that innocent people weren't executed, it insisted on the testimony of at least two witnesses to the crime (see, for example, Numbers 35:30 and Deuteronomy 17:6). Indeed, likely influenced by the fear of executing an innocent person, many rabbis of the Talmud tried to greatly limit executions of murderers.

Thus, you certainly have the right to oppose and argue against the death sentence. But you're committing an error if you base your opposition on the Bible and the Ten Commandments.



Send your questions for Joseph Telushkin to: columnists@staff.beliefnet.com. Please include "Telushkin" in the subject line.

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