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Execution and InventionDeath Penalty Discourse in Early Rabbinic and Christian Cultures$
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Beth A. Berkowitz

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195179194

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2006

DOI: 10.1093/0195179196.001.0001

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Performing Execution, Part 1

Performing Execution, Part 1

The Blood-Avenger, the Community, and the Witnesses

(p.95) 4 Performing Execution, Part 1
Execution and Invention

Beth A. Berkowitz (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the people who enact an execution according to rabbinic law, beginning with those found in the Bible: the blood-avenger, the community, and the witnesses to the crime. It argues that the blood-avenger serves as a focal point for tensions between the individual and the rabbinic authorities. In addressing the role of the community and witnesses, it shows that the Rabbis withdraw the agency of execution from the community and deliver it into the hands of the crime’s witnesses. This transfer of power can be interpreted as a strategy for controlling the power of execution, while at the same time maintaining some distance from the execution itself.

Keywords:   blood-avenger, community, witnesses, Bible, rabbinic law, rabbinic authorities, agency of execution, transfer of power, control, distance

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