Summary: Understanding the Lex Talionis (Law of Retaliation).
“Retaliation Vs. Grace”
As most of you know, I am very fond of the area of faith referred to as apologetics.
Apologetics comes from the word “apologia” and it means to “give a defense” for a position or an action.
The english word “apology” comes from this word, but it is often misunderstood.
People often think an apology is a show of remorse or regret, and they equate it with saying “I’m sorry.”
But an apology is not necessarily saying “I’m sorry”, but instead it is providing an explanation or justification for something.
I believe in my faith, and I believe it is worth defending; likewise, I believe all Christians should be able to defend what they believe.
I mention the subject of apologetics because one of the first arguments I ever heard against the Bible’s truthfulness dealt with the passage which we are going to be examining today.
This morning, we are looking at the passage wherein Jesus discusses the old testament concept of “an eye for an eye” and His command to “turn the other cheek.”
For some people - especially those who oppose the Bible - this verse is one of the first they cite to demonstrate that there are “contradictions” in the text of Scripture.
I mean, it does seem like an absolute contradiction:
One one hand, we are told that if someone injures us, we are to return the injury in kind... “an eye for an eye”.
On the other hand, we are told that if someone slaps our cheek, we are to “turn the other cheek also”.
I have even had conversations with people who say this demonstrates that God is inconsistent with his commands and thus the Bible’s message is untrue.
Beloved, I obviously believe that the Bible’s message is consistent throughout.
Likewise, I believe that to see these as contradictory is the result of nothing more than a misunderstanding of the context of both passages.
The contradiction is in our understanding, not in the text itself.
As we examine it together, I pray that we will all see the consistency between the two commands, and how they actually complement each other within the Word of God.
READ: Matthew 5:38-42
We are continuing our verse-by-verse study of the Sermon on the Mount.
Over the past few weeks, we have seen how Jesus is demonstrating the false teachings of the Jewish leaders with His own interpretation of the Law of God.
Something important to remember is that Jesus has not changed the Law; instead He is simply giving its right understanding.
He is using the formula of “You have heard it said... but I say to you...”
And in each case, He is describing an Old Covenant Law which has been misinterpreted and misapplied by the Jewish leaders.
Murder is wrong; but so is unjust anger, and words intended to harm.
Adultery is wrong; but so is looking with lustful intent.
Divorce is an abomination of God’s original intent for marriage.
Oaths are unnecessary, since our yes should be yes and our no should be no.
In no way has Jesus abrogated or overridden any Old Covenant Law.
This is especially important to understand in our text this morning.
Because in this one it would seem like Jesus is saying the former command is wrong, but He is actually not.
Jesus would not contradict the Law, as it is His Law; He is God-incarnate; the Law ultimately came from Him.
This puts Him in a two-fold position - (1) He wouldn’t contradict it because that would mean He is contradicting Himself and (2) He would be the best person to give the right interpretation of it.
He is not repudiating the old covenant law of an eye for eye, but rather He is challenging the Pharisee’s wrong interpretation of it.
Today we are going to examine three questions regarding this text:
1. What is the Old Covenant teaching on this subject?
2. How had the Jewish leaders distorted it?
3. How does Jesus remedy this distortion?
What is the Old Covenant teaching on this subject?
Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”
This is clearly a combined quote from various OT passages.
Exodus 21:22-24 “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman's husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”
Leviticus 24:17-20 “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death.18 Whoever takes an animal's life shall make it good, life for life. 19 If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him,20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him.”