Beyond Retribution: A New Testament Vision for Justice, Crime, and Punishment

Beyond Retribution: A New Testament Vision for Justice, Crime, and Punishment

Beyond Retribution: A New Testament Vision for Justice, Crime, and Punishment

Beyond Retribution: A New Testament Vision for Justice, Crime, and Punishment

Synopsis

Recently a growing number of Christians have actively promoted the concept of "restorative justice" and attempted to develop programs for dealing with crime based on restorative principles. But is this approach truly consistent with the teaching of Scripture? To date, very little has been done to test this claim. Beyond Retribution fills a gap by plumbing the New Testament on the topics of crime, justice, and punishment.

Christopher Marshall first explores the problems involved in applying ethical teachings from the New Testament to mainstream society. He then surveys the extent to which the New Testament addresses criminal justice issues, looking in particular at the concept of the justice of God in the teachings of Paul and Jesus. He also examines the topic of punishment, reviewing the debate in social thinking over the ethics and purpose of punishment -- including capital punishment -- and he advocates a new concept of "restorative punishment." The result of this engaging work is a biblically based challenge to imitate the way of Christ in dealing with both victims and offenders.

Excerpt

Visions of peace abound in the Bible, whose pages are also filled with the language and the reality of war. in this respect, the Bible is thoroughly at home in the modern world, whether as a literary classic or as a unique sacred text. This is, perhaps, a part of the Bible’s realism: bridging the distance between its world and our own is a history filled with visions of peace accompanying the reality of war. That alone would justify study of peace and war in the Bible. However, for those communities in which the Bible is sacred scripture, the matter is more urgent. For them, it is crucial to understand what the Bible says about peace — and about war. These issues have often divided Christians from each other, and the way Christians have understood them has had terrible consequences for Jews and, indeed, for the world. a series of scholarly investigations cannot hope to resolve these issues, but it can hope, as this one does, to aid our understanding of them.

Over the past century a substantial body of literature has grown up around the topic of the Bible and war. Studies in great abundance have been devoted to historical questions about ancient Israel’s conception and conduct of war and about the position of the early church on participation in the Roman Empire and its military. It is not surprising that many of these studies have been motivated by theological and ethical concerns, which may themselves be attributed to the Bible’s own seemingly disjunctive preoccupation with peace and, at the same time, with war. If not within the Bible itself, then at least from Aqiba and Tertullian, the question has been raised whether — and if so, then on . . .

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