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Friday, 20 January 2012

An eye for an eye!

It was one of my former pupils who posted on her Facebook page that "If we all lived by 'an eye for an eye' the whole world would be blind.  It's a statement that I have heard many times before and, whilst apparently logical it is, in fact, displaying a misunderstanding of the original words as found in, inter alia, Exodus 21:23-25 - "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."
Contrary to popular opinion, this is not a carte blanche for personal revenge, as the previous verse makes clear: "... he shall pay as the judges determine." (Ex 21:22; my emphasis).  If the matter was proved, then the judge declared the punishment - a punishment that must be proportional to the crime.
Of course, it was not a "Law of prescription", but a "Law of restriction "! In other words, in a culture in which violence just kept escalating (You punch me once; I punch you twice. You knock out one of my teeth; I knock out all of your teeth. You break my leg; my two big brothers break both of your legs - and your arms. etc.), the Children of Israel were instructed, by YHWH (the LORD) to go no further than "like for like". Quite a radical concept in their day!

Then, when we reach the New Testament, we discover that Jesus takes the concept even further by instructing His disciples (now, as well as then!) to "turn the other cheek" - i.e. not to retaliate at all!! That's why, again contrary to popular opinion, being a disciple of Jesus is not for wimps. It's a life that demands real courage - as those in the persecuted church in countries such as North Korea, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, China, etc., etc. know on a daily basis. (see some of the links on the right-hand-side of thie page).

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