What makes one crime more serious than another, and why? This book investigates the problem of 'seriousness of offence'in English law from the comparative perspective of biblical law. Burnside takes a semiotic approach to show how biblical conceptions of seriousness are synthesised and communicated through various descriptive and performative registers. Seven case studies show that biblical law discriminates between the seriousness of different offences and between the relative seriousness of the same offence when committed by different people or when performed in different ways. Recurring elements include location and the offender'ssocial statue. The closing chapter considers some of the implications for the current debate about crime and punishment.