Manfred Oeming, Beit Mikra vol. 60 (2015), No. 2, An abstract
|The Bialik Institute|
The adequate understanding of the formula “eye for eye, tooth for tooth" etc. (Ex. 21:24-25) is a matter under debate. The article first provides an overview of the ten most important interpretations of the talio formula (in singular) in the current scientific research and shows why each interpretation is problematic. Then the author tries to demonstrate that the character and meaning of the formula changes in different contexts in the Bible. The differences are so deep, that it is better not to speak of one formula but to differentiate between five talio formulas.
In the context of physical damage it means an adequate reparation (compensation-talio); in connection with a murder it intends the death penalty (life-protection-talio); in the context the Trial it designates the demand of absolute truthfulness (false-witness-talio); in the context of education it serves to strengthen the responsibility of young human beings (education-talio), in the context of philosophical reflection it is a sapiential principal of the world order as the “doing-receiving-correlation” (lex-generalis-talio). In the first three cases (compensation, life protection, faithfulness) the formula is more secular-juridical; in the two last cases (education, world order) it is more theological; the idea is that god himself is highly active in conducting the world.