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‘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.

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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.



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