Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Justice and Torah (6)

Here is the final question.

Didn't Jesus modify/intensify the Old Testament law. For example, the Old Testament says "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" but Jesus says, INSTEAD, "Never resist an evil doer" and don't reply. I'm sure you have an explanation for these, but I'm curious.
This is interesting. I note that you said, “the Old Testament says "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth". You have fallen a trap that is common among those who hate the law, because Jesus did not say that the Old Testament said these words. He said “you have heard it said that”, just as he said “you have heard it said, 'hate your enemies'. He was referring to a human tradition that distorted the Old Testament teaching, because the Old Testament does not advocate personal revenge. Not even Leviticus.
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD (Lev 19:18).
The reference to “eye for eye” in Exodus 21:22-25 does not refer to personal revenge, it describes a method by which judges decide the financial compensation that should be made to an innocent victim of violence, in this case, a pregnant woman. Financial compensation should be proportional to the physical loss. This is similar to what is done by accident insurance companies when assessing compensation. Loss of an eye is worth $100k, loss of a hand is worth $50k and loss of a toe is worth $5k. Exodus provides a humane way of making compensation to the victims of violence.

Jesus did not say that this law was obsolete. He was criticising people who had twisted this law and made it into a justification for personal revenge. He criticised this approach and raised the standard for personal behaviour to “turning the other cheek”, which those who walk in the spirit should be able to do. He was not saying those who are injured should not receive financial compensation. He never annulled the law that specified financial compensation to victims of violence.

Ironically, modern human justice makes violent people pay fines to the state, but very rarely provides financial compensation to the victims of violence. This is a good example of where God’s standard of justice is better than modern democratic law. Even people who are not Christians would recognise that.

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