||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
Purge The Evil From Your Midst
By: Dale Recinella
“I’ve been wanting to talk to you,”
a middle-aged professional looking fellow approaches me through the festive reception crowd.
“You write all this stuff about the Old Testament and the death penalty,” he begins after typical cocktail party introductions. “You miss the most obvious points. Your writing is full of holes.”
“I never pretend to be a Scripture scholar,” I explain to my new acquaintance, realizing that the matters on his mind must be very important to him. “I do have training as an American lawyer. The Mosaic Law and Talmud are legal regimens. So the technical legal training does help me. What are some of the holes I need to fill?”
“Well, for instance, you go on and on against the death penalty which is mentioned in Scripture repeatedly. But you never say anything about the Old Testament mandate to get rid of the evil people.”
“I assume you are referring to the phrase that appears in Deuteronomy 17:7 and in other verses. It reads, ‘Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst.’”
“Yes. And all the verses where that phrase appears are referring to executions. God is telling us to get rid of the evildoers. That’s how we improve society.”
I want to answer viscerally, “Aren’t we all evildoers? Isn’t that why we all need a Savior?” But that response won’t meet the need. The analytical approach is in order.
“Do you think the Rabbis and the Sages of the ancient Hebrews understood the meaning of that phrase?”
“Sure. And they executed people.”
“To be accurate, the proper courts executed people, Hebrew courts that accepted the exclusive sovereignty of the God of Israel and were empowered under the Mosaic Law. Such courts don’t exist in America. Be that as it may, it is certainly interesting that the Talmud made provision for life imprisonment in lieu of execution. This was instituted by the Hebrew Sages based on the same Biblical phrase you just quoted.”
“What? Why would they do that? Why wouldn’t they just execute them?”
“Talmud provided for narrow vaulted chambers in which men could be imprisoned for life even though they were known murderers. It was a default option when legal technicalities stood in the way of executions. This option allowed the evil to be purged from the general society without having to kill the offender.”
“Technicalities? How could Scripture be involved with technicalities?”
“Have you ever read the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, and the Talmud, the Jewish oral tradition which was written down and preserved side by side with Scripture? It’s about law. Where there is law, there are technicalities.”
“But Scripture says Jesus came to free us from the law. Why are you bringing up the legal technicalities of the Jewish law?”
“Because that’s where the death penalty is in Scripture. It’s in the law. You cannot have your cake and eat it, too. If you want the death penalty, then you get law. And with law, you have to accept the technicalities that are part of any law.”
“Sounds to me like the problem is lawyers,” my new acquaintance shakes his head in disgust. “The lawyers muck everything up with technicalities.”
“You’re not the first one to feel that way,” I laugh. “But where there is law, there must be lawyers. Some figures in history have preferred lawlessness, to rule as despots. Their mantra was to kill all the lawyers.”
“Well, now,” he signals the end of the discussion by raising his glass in a smiling, mock toast. “That would certainly purge the evil from our midst.”
First published: The Florida Catholic, September 6, 2001
© 2001 Dale S. Recinella & The Florida Catholic.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission.
I Was In Prison
News & Updates
This ezine is targeted for people involved in prison ministry or in stopping the death penalty, we think you will find helpful information for people who are undecided about capital punishment, for those who have never experienced the inside of a jail or prison, and for those who feel called to participate through prayer and adoration.
Your name and information will never be used or sha#3333FF with anyone. We promise!
Dale S. Recinella
, Catholic Lay Chaplain, Florida Death Row and Solitary Confinement
Susan M. Recinella
, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed