‘Eye for eye’ passage endorses proportionality, not vengeance

IT’S IRONIC that in her column on forgiveness (“The crucial act of forgiveness,” Op-ed, Dec. 25), Farah Stockman implies that the Biblical passage, “eye for eye, tooth for tooth,” etc., endorses revenge. Albeit inadvertently, Stockman joins those who have misinterpreted the passage in a way that casts aspersions on Jewish ethical values.

Biblical scholars hold that, even in ancient times, “an eye for an eye” simply required just compensation to those who had been wronged — that punishments must be proportionate to the offenses.


Far from endorsing revenge, this was a major ethical advance, since retaliation against entire families or clans was a common response after harms were inflicted. The passage, properly understood, is meaningful even today.



Loading comments...
Real journalists. Real journalism. Subscribe to The Boston Globe today.
We hope you've enjoyed your free articles.
Continue reading by subscribing to Globe.com for just 99¢.
 Already a member? Log in Home
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com