The American Death Penalty and Jesus’ Words to Pilate in the Bible
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I Was In Prison
Online Prison Ministry Newsletter
March 25, 2009
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
Upcoming Events:

Florida Community College of Jacksonville FL
Downtown Jacksonville Campus


Death Penalty Analysis Class (Not open to the public).
Wednesday April 8, 2009 - 11:00 a.m. to 12:50pm
Presentation: Biblical Teaching and the Realities of the American Death Penalty
Guest Speaker: DALE S. RECINELLA
Catholic Lay Chaplain for Florida Death Row and Solitary Confinement
For information, contact: Professor John Elac
ph. 407-321-9386 or 386-503-1517

St Peter’s in the Glen Anglican Church, Glen St Mary, Florida

The Biblical Truth about America’s Death Penalty and the Death Penalty Up Close (open to the public).
Saturday April 25, 2009 - 9:00 a.m. to Noon followed by free lunch
Guest Speakers:
DALE S. RECINELLA - Catholic Lay Chaplain for Florida Death Row and Solitary Confinement
DR. SUSAN M. RECINELLA – Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed and Families of Murder Victims
For information, contact: Ms. Sue Leger Krall
cell 613-2542 Hm 259-6568




The American Death Penalty and Jesus’ Words to Pilate in the Bible
By: Dale S. Recinella

“The modern logic of biblically-based support for the American death penalty follows the same track as the biblical logic for defending slavery: the death penalty is present in the Hebrew scriptures, is not expressly prohibited by the Gospels, and is arguably supported by a particular way of interpreting Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (out of context).


Some Christian death penalty proponents have gone so far as to argue to the author that Jesus drove the moneychangers from the temple, but He did not stop his own execution under Pilate, thereby verifying Jesus’ approval of capital punishment.

The logic of the Bible-belt’s pro-slavery biblical arguments has been resurrected with new verses to defend the death penalty.”¹

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Some pro-death penalty Evangelicals like to quote the following passage from the Gospel of John as biblical proof that Jesus supports the death penalty. The scene is the trial of Jesus before Pilate:

SO PILATE SAID TO HIM, “DO YOU NOT SPEAK TO ME? DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT I HAVE POWER TO RELEASE YOU AND I HAVE POWER TO CRUCIFY YOU?” JESUS ANSWERED [HIM], “YOU WOULD HAVE NO POWER OVER ME IF IT HAD NOT BEEN GIVEN TO YOU FROM ABOVE.”

Such pro-death penalty Evangelicals stop there and fail to quote the rest of what Jesus said. The entire exchange reads as follows:

SO PILATE SAID TO HIM, “DO YOU NOT SPEAK TO ME? DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT I HAVE POWER TO RELEASE YOU AND I HAVE POWER TO CRUCIFY YOU?” JESUS ANSWERED [HIM], “YOU WOULD HAVE NO POWER OVER ME IF IT HAD NOT BEEN GIVEN TO YOU FROM ABOVE. FOR THIS REASON THE ONE WHO HANDED ME OVER TO YOU HAS THE GREATER SIN.” JOHN 19:10-11

This full text can hardly be claimed as Jesus’ support for capital punishment. In fact, the Scriptures tell us that Pilate’s reaction to this exchange was just the opposite:

CONSEQUENTLY, PILATE TRIED TO RELEASE HIM.” JOHN 19:12

Catholic biblical scholars tell us that: “Jesus probably does not single out any specific individual, but by ‘the one’ he means anyone of the Jewish leadership that had handed him over to the Romans. They are all the more guilty because, possessing the authority that has been committed to them by God, they have used this authority to encompass the death of an innocent person.”²

The American death penalty is inherently defective in that it creates a great risk of executing the innocent. This defect goes against the explicit commands of Scripture Ex. 23:7 – “Thou shalt not execute an innocent person.” The American legal precedents, doctrines and statutes against courts hearing late-discovered evidence of innocence increase the risk of executing the innocent. This is especially true of the American legal doctrine called “procedural bar” which limits or prohibits late discovered evidence of innocence, even if it was hidden by the state.

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The man or woman on the gurney, even if innocent, is killed in our name: In the name of “The People of our State”

What does the response of Jesus to Pilate in John 19:11 tell us about the American death penalty and about all of “The People of our State” If that man or woman is innocent?


¹Recinella, Dale S., The Biblical Truth about America’s Death Penalty (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004), p. 100. ©2004 Dale S. Recinella. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

²The Jerome Biblical Commentary (1968), p. 460





© 2009 Dale S. Recinella
Used with permission. All rights reserved No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission.

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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 shared 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

If you Like this Weekly Ezine - You will love Dale's Book!
Sr. Patricia Proctor
Paperback: 433 pages

Excellent book on the topic!,
June 13, 2005 Nathan Eanes
(Review from Amazon.com)

The Biblical Truth about America's Death Penalty is a must-read. It deals with Biblical standards of Capital Punishment and then compares them to the system used in America today. It is the best-researched, most faithful to scripture, and most evenhanded analysis I have ever read concerning the Death Penalty. Whatever your persuasion on the issue, this book will teach you a great deal. Recinella is a trained lawyer and committed Christian who now volunteers part-time on Florida's death row. He thus understands law, the Bible, and the system of execution in America. I challenge anyone who supports the Death Penalty to read this book.



This ezine edited by Sister Patricia Proctor, OSC - Poor Clare Sister
to support the IWasInPrison Outreach