The principle is much older than Blackstone's formulation, being closely tied to the presumption of innocence in criminal trials. An early example of the principle appears in the Bible (Genesis 18:23-32), as:
The twelfth-century legal theorist Maimonides, expounding on this passage as well as Exodus 23:7 ("the innocent and righteous slay thou not") argued that executing an accused criminal on anything less than absolute certainty would progressively lead to convictions merely "according to the judge's caprice. Hence the Exalted One has shut this door" against the use of presumptive evidence, for "it is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death."Moses Maimonides, The Commandments, Neg. Comm. 290, at 269-271 (Charles B. Chavel trans., 1967).