Original Research - Special Collection: African Hermeneutics

‘Stop killing us without witness’: Analyses of Rawls’s theory of justice within the context of jungle justice in Nigeria in the light of Deuteronomy 19:15–21

Virginus U. Eze
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 43, No 1 | a2473 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v43i1.2473 | © 2022 Virginus U. Eze | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 January 2022 | Published: 28 October 2022

About the author(s)

Virginus U. Eze, Department of Religion and Cultural Studies, Faculty of the Social Sciences, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria; and Department of Old Testament and Hebrew Scriptures, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


This research examined the increasing human rights abuses, reminiscent of jungle justice, in Nigeria in the light of John Rawls’s theory of justice and Deuteronomy 19:15–21. The legal code contained in Deuteronomy was Moses’s instruction to his people when it became obvious that he was old and could not enter the promised land. This legal code found in the study text can serve as a model to any nation saddled with the social vices of jungle justice. Jungle justice means a group of people discharging judgement against an accused person or suspect without going through either the legal process of taking the person to court or waiting for any security agency in charge. These cases of killings without trial reflect on Nigerian society. This research employs Rawls’s theory of justice. As the study text is Moses’s farewell speech, this study employed rhetorical analyses in study of the biblical text and used descriptive analysis in the study of jungle justice in Nigeria. The target population of this study is Christians in Nigeria. Furthermore, the article used secondary data such as Bible dictionaries, concordances, encyclopaedias, journal articles, magazines and newspapers. However, the study’s findings revealed that the scandal of jungle justice has continued because judgement is based on one witness alone. In addition, legal cases are not taken to the court where they are decided. In addition, judges take bribe and derail justice especially against the poor, hence they do not make diligent inquiries before giving their judgement. Rawls’s theory of justice and Deuteronomy 19:15–21 provide a lucid response to this bizarre situation of human rights abuses.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This article contributes to scholarship as it provides a new dimension of scholarly discussion on the issue of human rights abuses on record in Nigeria. Again, this article provides a lucid exploration of Deuteronomy 19:15–21 and uses its hermeneutical propagation of more than one witness before adjudicating a case against any criminal suspect as a solution to this spate of human right abuses.


Deuteronomy 19:15–21; Rawls’s theory; jungle justice; human rights; Moses’s farewell speech; false accusation.


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