A Biblical View of Punishment Redefined

By | October 23, 2017

The Old Testament is filled with different mandates regarding punishment for certain acts and crimes, a great deal of which includes the penalty of death. Conversely, the New Testament somewhat disregards the Old Testament idea of punishment, in that it became secondary to Jesus’ message of love and redemption. In this respect, both reward and punishment are seen as taking place in eternity, rather than in this life. How do we reconcile these differing views? What are the reasons for the sharp shifts in these fundamental concepts? Moreover, to what extent should our system of criminal law incorporate these biblical models of justice?

Two broad theories of punishment exist which guide our current criminal justice system: utilitarianism and retribution. These theories guide lawmakers in developing general principles of criminal responsibility.


From a utilitarian perspective, punishment exists to ensure the continuance of society and to deter people from committing crimes. The primary utilitarianism objective is to augment the total happiness of the community by excluding everything that subtracts from that happiness. There are three distinct forms of utilitarianism:

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