PURPOSE OF PUNISHMENT
Neither the purpose nor the effect of punishment has ever been definitely agreed upon, even by its most strenuous advocates. So long as punishment persists it will be a subject of discussion and dispute. No doubt the idea of punishment originated in the feeling of resentment and hatred and vengeance that, to some extent at least, is incident to life. The dog is hit with a stick and turns and bites the stick. Animals repel attack and fight their enemies to death. The primitive man vented his hatred and vengeance on things animate and inanimate. In the tribes no injury was satisfied until some member of the offending tribe was killed. In more recent times family feuds have followed down the generations and were not forgotten until the last member of a family was destroyed. Biologically, anger and hatred follow fear and injury, and punishment follows these in turn. Individuals, communities and whole peoples hate and swear vengeance for an injury, real or fancied. Punishments, even to the extent of death, are inflicted where there can be no possible object except revenge. Whether the victim is weak or strong, old or young, sane or insane, makes no difference; men and societies react to injury exactly as animals react.
That vengeance is the moving purpose of punishment is abundantly shown by the religious teachings that shape the ethical ideas of the Western world. The Old Testament abounds in the justification of vengeance. A few quotations amply show the Biblical approval of this doctrine:
Whoso sheddeth man’s
blood, by man shall his blood be shed.
No expiation can be made for
the land for the blood that is shed
therein, but by the blood of him that shed it. Numbers 35;33.
Wherefore should the nations
[Gentiles] say, Where is their [the
Jews’] God? Let the avenging of the blood of thy servants which is
shed, be known among the nations in our sight. Psalms 79;10.
The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance; he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked; so that men shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous, verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth. Psalms 58;10.
And I [God] will execute vengeance
in anger and wrath upon the
nations which hearkened not. Micah 5;15.
All things are cleansed with
blood, and apart from the shedding of
blood there is no remission. Hebrews 9;22.
For we know him that said,
Vengeance belongeth unto me. ... It is a
fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews