In all of the hullabaloo in the aftermath over the Supreme Court’s decision to state Marriage Equality is a Constitutional Right, the Bible has come under attack. I have read several articles including several from pastors stating the Bible is outdated. It cannot be applied in a modern world. As one news reporter stated to a pastor, “Don’t you think it’s time that the Bible is dragged into modern times?” These attacks are centered around several passages. These attacks attempt to make people who believe the Bible is a word from God appear as foolish ignoramuses that do not know anything about the book they they claim to follow. I feel I need to respond to these criticisms to show that we Bible believers do in fact know a little about the good book.
This will be the first in a series of responses to these criticisms. Before I begin, I want to be clear on a few things. First, I know the Bible has been used a weapon against many, and Bible believers have used God’s word in very cruel ways. That is sin. I am not defending God’s word to sharpen my weapon against anyone or any group. I just want you to know why I do believe the Bible is a word from God and is not outdated for our “modern” times.
As you will see, most attacks on Scripture are pulled way out of context and used in ways that was never intended. By the way, Christians are just as good at pulling Scripture out of context too and using it for their ends instead of God’s.
The first argument I want to address is the eye for an eye debate. The criticism goes as followed. The Bible teaches (Deuteronomy 19, Leviticus 21, and Leviticus 24, if you want to read them), that if a person takes an eye or a tooth or breaks an arm etc., the same should be done to them. This has been argued as a Doctrine of Retribution or Revenge. Their question is how can a God of love teach revenge as a proper response to harm? Revenge is outdated. Compassion is the better modern response than revenge; therefore, the Bible is outdated.
Sounds like a good argument. Revenge and retribution are never good right? But, one must look at the context of the Bible passage. Don’t worry if you are not a Christian. There are plenty of Christians that are terrible at looking at the context of a passage. Throughout this series, you will hear me say, context, context, context. It is so important to pull the correct truth from a passage.
So what is the context of an “eye for and eye, tooth for tooth?” First, this passage in all three locations in the Bible mentioned above are aimed at the Theocratic Government of Ancient Israel. These passages are not aimed at individuals. These passages do not give an individual the right to take an eye or a tooth when he or she is wronged. These passages are aimed at the government of Ancient Israel. They are saying to the government, “when a crime happens you, the government, should punish the crime.” So when a person is wronged, the government of ancient Israel should take action. Again, not individuals taking revenge or retribution, but a government punishing crime. A similar legal statement is found in the ancient Hammurabi Code, which like these passages is legal governmental law, not empowering citizens to take retribution into their own hands.
Also, important to note, is that no where in the Bible, except for the punishment of premeditated murder, is a person punished by being mutilated in the same fashion as they hurt someone else. There is no record of a person breaking a bone of another and as punishment had his or her bone broke. This shows us that this passage wasn’t taken literally even in Bible times. What is the meaning then?
“Eye for an eye” and “tooth for a tooth” sounds harsh when you think of individuals seeking revenge, but when you realize that it is suppose to be a government taking action against crime, it’s much different. When I read “eye for and eye,” I read “let the governmental punishment fit the crime.” I believe that is a proper interpretation today. I, also, think that is very appropriate today.
Let the governmental punishment fit the crime would be wise words for a government to heed. Many communities in the United States have ridiculous three strike laws that place individuals with three minor drug possession convictions into prison for decades. These laws could learn from this truth. Being a pastor that has worked with individuals facing addiction issues, putting someone in prison for decades for minor offenses that have to do with addiction is not taking an “eye for an eye.” It is taking both eyes, an arm, a liver, and both legs for an eye.
Seeing corporate criminals that fleece millions from their employees or customers that use their money and influence to receive a short stay in a country club prison while their crimes break so many other lives financially and in other ways, is not a “tooth for a tooth.” It is like a single hair for a tooth.
When you realize the context for “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” is aimed at the government of Ancient Israel and never, ever, ever meant for personal retribution or revenge, these verses quickly goes from being outdated to incredibly relevant and useful today.
Food for thought.
If you have a specific question or Biblical attack, you would like me to address send them my way. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Up next, I will address this Social Media meme and see if this statement holds water biblically.