by guest blogger Andrew Roman
This is not a religious post.
But if conservatives – whom, by every measure available, already give more money to charity than our socially-conscious, deeply-caring liberal brethren (*cough*) – contributed a mere dime apiece to favorite charities for every leftist counter-argument they heard based on either pure emotion or hackneyed talking points, there would not be a single homeless, hungry, or shoeless human being in all the land. There might even be enough coin left over to wipe out a few diseases and have every alley cat in Brooklyn spayed or neutered.
Since the Paris terrorist attacks, among those who actually admit that Islamists were responsible, debate has been hot and heavy in all media corners regarding exactly what the Koran actually says and means. What does it endorse? Are these kinds of barbaric acts really acceptable to Allah? And what of all the barbarity in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles? How can we criticize the Koran when the Old Testament, in particular, is rife with such brutal and vulgar displays?
Often quoted by atheists and religious skeptics, considered to be the benchmark example of primitive justice, cruelty and incivility in the Bible is Exodus 23-25:
“And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”
The famous “eye for an eye” verse…
After all, to a civilized, sophisticated culture, what could be more barbarous than the idea of cutting out someone’s eye as a dispersal of justice? The concept – and the belief in a God that would issue such an edict – is as primordial as giving up your seat for a woman on the subway, or wishing someone a Merry Christmas without being absolutely sure of their own religious leanings.
How many times have we heard this nugget, attributed to Gandhi: “An eye for an eye simply makes the whole world blind.”
Adorable. That's right up there with "War Is Not the Answer." Indeed, war isn't the answer ...if the question is, "What is the square root of 116?"
But that’s not what it means. That’s not what it has ever meant. But as is the wont of the emotions-first, bumper-sticker-lovin' left, the jerking knee does so in a reflex of emotion and ignorance, not honesty or historical context. One does not have to be a believer to understand what the aforementioned Bible verse is meant to convey; And if there were intellectual honesty on the left, regardless of one’s religious belief, one would see that the verse is not primitive, in the least. In fact, it can be looked at as a great step forward - a progressive step, if you will – in the history of jurisprudence.
Never in human history were members of the so-called lower classes – peasants, indentured servants, etc - considered to be on an equal level in any way as those in the royal or ruling classes. Contrary to the tiresome and uninspired “every god is just an angry, cruel, vicious man in the sky” arguments, the Bible actually invents a hardcore liberal value: equality.
The verse establishes that everyone’s “eye” or “hand” is equal, regardless of economic and social status. A rich man’s eye was no more valuable on the scales of justice than a poor man’s eye.
That concept is a big deal.
It creates equality in law – something that the left should adore as much as windmills. Thus, if an eye is taken, one could not seek two eyes as a form of just punishment. This is true equality that transcends class – something the left is really big on.
The “eye for eye” concept simply cannot be taken literally, because it could never be executed consistently or justly (save for the idea of a life for a life, which I will touch upon in a moment). In fact, one cannot cite a single example of that kind of literal justice being metered out in the Bible anywhere. It just is not possible to reserve and carry out justice in punishment to that which could literally replicate the crime – as much as many of us would love to see it done in certain instances.
Besides, equivalent physical damage could never be exacted in this way during that time period. There were no top flight medical facilities thousands of years ago. Antibiotics were still millennia away. Scooping out an eye could literally lead to death – and by definition, that would be contrary to the rule. One would think God is wise enough to understand this.
Additionally, if we take the verse literally, could a blind person escape justice with no working eyes to extract?
The exception here is the justice of a life for a life – that one who murders the innocent (and the word “murder” is key here) shall not be able to keep his or her own life. This law appears in each of the first five books of the Bible, known to Jews as the Torah. It is the only law to appear in each the Torah’s five books. To take an innocent life by way of murder means that the murderer no longer has the right to keep his or her own life.
And how do we know this is to be taken literally, whereas the “eye for an eye” verses are not?
The Bible actually states that one cannot ransom a human life (Psalm 49:8) – meaning that no amount of bartering, bargaining or deal making can ever be made as to make the loss of that murdered life "even." There is no provision, however, prohibiting the ransom of a body part such as an “eye” or a “hand.”
I would be willing to guarantee that most on the left have never even heard these arguments based not only on the biblical text itself, but on centuries and centuries of scholarly examination and discussion.
To the left, the phrase “eye for an eye” sounds so awful, so unevolved, so close-minded … thus those who are repulsed by the idea of a transcendent creator making the rules have ammunition – albeit in the form of intellectually inane bullets – to shoot down religion in the name of civility and reason.
The problem is: I’ve heard this argument come from so-called moderate Muslims as proof that all faiths have their questionable doctrines to wrestle with.
Well, to be fair.... indeed, they do (the word "Israel" literally means "struggle with God") … but “eye for eye” is not one of them.