An Eye for An Eye

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When I was in seminary and took the requisite course in "Old Testament" (don't get me started on the difference between OT and Hebrew Bible) we had the conversation about Exodus 21:23-27, the infamous An eye for an eye passage that has been so misused over time.


23 But if any harm follow, then thou shalt give life for life,

24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

25 burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

26 And if a man smite the eye of his bondman, or the eye of his
bondwoman, and destroy it, he shall let him go free for his eye's sake.

27 And if he smite out his bondman's tooth, or his bondwoman's tooth,
he shall let him go free for his tooth's sake.



I never liked the passage because most of the time, people used it to justify revenge. It was in that class that I learned that the original intent was to put a
limit on revenge and violence in an early society in which people would easily kill someone over a small injury. In my experience over the years, the "christian" meme on the passage has more often than not been one of prescribing revenge rather than limiting it in order to lift up Jesus' "turn the other cheek" as a better alternative. I have had countless conversations with people over this.

All that being said, I thought I might start a conversation here about people's experiences and conversations around this passage, especially since we are currently mired in a situation in the mid-east that is far more nuanced than a tit-for-tat episode leading to conflagration.

Personally I prefer Gandhi's take on it:
"An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and the whole world would soon be blind and toothless."


I offer the wiki page on this passage for a jump start to get a conversation going.


Any takers?



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