Three interweaving themes appeared in the inbox of my brain this morning:
- An “Eye for an Eye” reinterpreted;
- Differences in Perception – There are always two or more ways of seeing; and
- Is a writhing Division in thought all that new?
First, let me clarify that I am a Christian but with a deep, scholarly appreciation for Judaism, which I consider my spiritual foundation. We come from common terra and are cut from the same cloth, in my view. Our literature, the Torah (Old Testament) and Bible are invaluable foundational tools for forming what we believe and how we live. But, our thoughts must go beyond a literal interpretation of these foundational tools. Thinking for yourself is at least part of the reason for the Reformation?
As to “an eye for an eye,” found in Leviticus 24, from the Torah and biblical Old Testament, interpreted literally and at face value, is defined as the law of retaliation or compensatory damages (intended in the strictest sense, to serve as a benchmark for judges of the law to pass sentence on criminal behavior). Talk about taking the law into your own hands, vigilante justice, and judge/jury/executioner culture, this Scripture, taken literally, takes the cake. One cannot pass nary a crime drama without some “crim” or victim quoting “an eye for an eye” to defend his/her going after the “perp” whom he/she thinks did them wrong.
In the Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye, in response to the ordinary Joe’s literal understanding of an “eye for an eye,” says quite astutely: “Very good. That way the whole world will be blind and toothless.” My own interpretation of a literal use of the phrase results in “a culture of victims, all maimed by the overwhelming need to be right!”
Jesus, a humble Hebrew scholar (& much more) interpreted Leviticus 24 in Matthew 5. It’s the turn the other cheek Scripture. Billye Brim (Google her if you want), who studied Hebrew language and the deeper meanings of literal Scripture references, concluded that “an eye for an eye,” really means something more like Jesus’ turn the other cheek (if you’ve lost an eye, I’ll give you mine so that you will be whole) than the usual and popular, if you took my eye, I’m justified in taking yours – making us even, (but neither of you whole). Which one sounds more like Jesus?
Sticking to the text on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 10 throws up a funny little paradox (of which He was well-known) in His statement that He did not come to bring peace but division (a sword). Okay that’s weird. My mind goes directly from this paradox to the Tower of Babel from Genesis 11. Then, as the circle completes itself – I mused from the Divinely instituted linguistic confusion of Babel to the unity Divinely created in the form of the linguistic miracle in Acts 2 – where all the disciples spoke in different languages (colloquially called tongues), yet ALL UNDERSTOOD what was said in their own language, even though the uniting factor was an unknown language.
If you LOOK FOR COMMON GROUND, I say – you will FIND COMMON GROUND.
“He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” (John 8:7) – If any one of you who reads this is uninformed at the horrendous act of stoning, I encourage you to find and watch the 2008 film, The Stoning of Soraya M. and open your heart.