Of God's Mercy and the Four Biblical Methods of Capital Punishment: Stoning, Burning, Beheading, and Strangulation

88 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2005  

Irene Merker Rosenberg

University of Houston, Law Center (Deceased)

Yale L. Rosenberg

University of Houston, Law Center (Deceased)

Abstract

In this article Professors Irene and Yale Rosenberg analyze capital punishment under Jewish Law, focusing on the four biblical death penalties: stoning, burning, beheading, and strangulation. To modern sensibilities these methods of execution may appear barbaric, especially as compared to the modern death by lethal injection. As with most of Jewish Law, however, one cannot read the Bible without reference to the Talmud. The Talmud makes it clear that because of various evidentiary, procedural and substantive barriers to conviction it is almost impossible to impose the death penalty.

The Talmudic discussions of the death penalties reveal that the Sages stressed the need for a favorable death, one that would not unnecessarily prolong the death agony nor subject those undergoing execution to indignity. Finally, the authors compare the Jewish Law of capital punishment with that of the United States. They conclude that although Jewish Law seems harsher, in fact it prevents innocent people from being executed and emphasizes the sanctity of life.

Keywords: Capital Punishment, Jewish law, Talmud, Bible

Suggested Citation

Rosenberg, Irene Merker and Rosenberg, Yale L., Of God's Mercy and the Four Biblical Methods of Capital Punishment: Stoning, Burning, Beheading, and Strangulation. Tulane Law Review, Vol. 79, p. 1169, March 2004. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=643723

Irene Merker Rosenberg (Contact Author)

University of Houston, Law Center (Deceased)

4604 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204-6060
United States

Yale L. Rosenberg

University of Houston, Law Center (Deceased)

4604 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204-6060
United States

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