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date: 13 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

“An eye for an eye” is a famous summary statement regarding appropriate punishment for a wrong, especially personal injury. It has been variously understood as requiring equivalent, even duplicate, punishment or as setting a limit on punishment, and has even been labeled primitive or barbaric. In the biblical world it primarily represents the notion that the crime and the punishment should be commensurable and establishes a basis for negotiation. In the case of false witnessing, the biblical and ancient Near Eastern legal tradition emphasizes that a lying witness should receive the punishment that would have been determined for the accused. In ancient Israel, capital punishment is generally more restricted than among its neighbors. In the Gospel tradition this principle of commensurability is turned upside down, shifting the emphasis to how one should not lie, whether under oath or not, and should positively respond even to forceful actions or demands.

Keywords: commensurability, compensation, Covenant Code, fundamental law, intentionality, lex talionis, negotiation, punishment, retaliation, Ten Commandments

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