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Eye for an Eye

Posted by Markitos on July 31, 2001

In Reply to: Eye for an Eye posted by R. Berg on June 28, 2001

: : : : The origin and meaning of "Eye for an eye..." are both wrong.

: : : : It comes from Exodus 21:23-25 - "But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."

: : : : It is a limit on punishment, not a call for vengence.
: : : : The Jews may have used it as an excuse for vengence, but in Matthew 5:38-42, Christ was correcting their misapplication by urging them to forgive *personal* injustices.
: : : : It is the foundation of our "modern" prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment - the punishment should fit the crime, e.g. you don't execute someone for stealing a loaf of bread.

: : : So let me see if I understand your perspective correctly: Jews would seek vengeance by insisting on bloodthirsty retribution (say, an eye for an eye) while enlightened Christians would wisely and humanely set limits on justice (say, an eye for an eye.) Yes, now I get it.

: : It seems to me that many of God's 'Laws' breach the UN connvention on human rights: perhaps they should be declared illegal.

: bob, Exodus and Matthew really do prescribe different responses to injury. The verses cited in Matthew include the "Turn the other cheek" passage.

: Barney, I was wondering where you'd been. Long time no read. --rb

The dispensation of justice according to the rule of "an eye for an eye" was formalized in the code of Hamurabi about 1800 b.c.e. It is known as "the talionic principle," and it persisted as one of the bases of Talmudic law. Christ's injunction to turn the other cheek was a considerable step forward away from the notion of entitlement to retaliation--would that the value of this lesson be learned!