Daily Life Topics
Articles on topics that Believers face every day, and the application of Torah instruction to our daily walk.
Far too often we hear the phrase, “But the New Testament says…” I don’t know about you, but this phrase makes me sad. I usually respond with, “There is nothing ‘new’ in the ‘New Testament.’” But in many cases, those that believe there really IS something new (namely, a new religion called Christianity) actually have what they believe to be Scriptural proof. Normally they quote (rather, misquote) the Apostle Paul. Sometimes, however, the gospels get quoted in supposed support for this dispensational dilemma. In my experience, one of the most common of these is based on a few verses in Matthew 5. Let’s examine that, then, and see if there really is “something new” under the sun.
Matthew 5:38-42 – “38You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But I tell you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40If anyone sues you to take away your coat, let him have your cloak also. 41Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42Give to him who asks you, and do not turn away him who desires to borrow from you.”
The parallel account of this is found in Luke 6:27-31. Many will read these verses and then be quick to quote Leviticus 24.
Leviticus 24:19,20 – “19If anyone injures his neighbor; as he has done, so shall it be done to him: 20fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has injured someone, so shall it be done to him.” (See also Deut. 19:21).
The story usually goes like this: a person, whom we’ll call Ted, quotes Matthew 5:38-42. Then Ted says, “See? This is how we KNOW Jesus freed us from the bondage of the ‘Old Testament’ Law. He said it himself: we don’t return eye for eye and tooth for tooth anymore, now we just turn the other cheek.”
I doubt that Ted would really “turn the other cheek” if someone rather maliciously ran up and gouged out Ted’s left eye. But that’s not the point. The point here is this: Was Yeshua REALLY teaching that we are not to observe ‘eye for eye’ and ‘tooth for tooth’ anymore?
The first thing to look at is the context in itself. The context here starts with Yeshua saying, “You have heard it said…” so people automatically assume He is going to “correct” the “old law.” But notice, Yeshua never actually says, “don’t observe eye for eye anymore.” He simply says if someone slaps you, don’t slap them back. We’ll come back to this point in a moment. For now, let’s continue with our “logical” assessment of the context. Who was Yeshua speaking to? Jews. Those who knew the Torah. As with most of Yeshua’s earthly teaching, He spent a lot of time clearing up man-made doctrines and issues. We find Him correcting the religious elite (Pharisees, Sadducees, soferim [Scribes]) on a rather regular basis. Not correcting them for keeping Torah, but keeping their man-made laws ABOVE the Torah (See Mark 7).
So here again, he is correcting a common misconception. The Jews believed that anything that was done to them, they were allowed to do back. But there is something even more specific than that here. The statement “Whoever compels you to go a mile, go with him two” is very interesting. It is a cultural statement dealing with that exact period in time. During Yeshua’s time, Judea was under Roman occupation. A Roman soldier was allowed to compel a Jewish civilian to carry his pack, armor, equipment, etc. up to one full mile within the city limits. The Jews HATED the Romans, as the Romans had heavily taxed and oppressed them. So Yeshua is telling them, essentially, “You know those Romans that you hate? Well, when they tell you that you have to carry their gear for a mile, I tell you this: carry it two miles instead.” Completely counter-cultural and completely absurd to the Jewish mind! Yet Yeshua constantly taught that to serve is better than being served, and to go over and beyond what is required of you.
So, why then does it LOOK like Yeshua was saying, “don’t do eye for eye anymore”? Because we, as modern-day people, have BIAS in our heads. We have a preconceived idea about what He was saying, and so when we read Scripture we read it with that lens on. This is a serious problem when reading any Scripture, but especially the words of our Master and Savior. That is why it is so vitally important to “unlearn” the bias and pre-conceived ideas, and to adopt a Hebraic lens through which to study the Word. We must remember that Yeshua is the Word of YHWH, and that includes the Torah. Yeshua was completely submissive to The Father, and completely obeyed The Father. YHWH does not change (Mal. 3:6) and neither does Yeshua (Heb. 13:8). So why would we think that Yeshua, who came in the perfect, expressed image of YHWH, would change His mind?
What is more, is that YHWH commanded these types of laws for JUSTICE. He says He is just (Deut. 32:4; 2 Thess. 1:6) and Justice and Fairness are contained in all the Torah. YHWH commanded the laws of “eye for eye” and “tooth for tooth” and the like to ensure that people understand JUSTICE. Yeshua wasn’t teaching AGAINST justice, He was teaching what we have dubbed the “golden rule”: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That is actually the POINT of the Justice laws. If you don’t want your brother to put out your eye, you won’t out his out. If you don’t want your neighbor to take out your tooth, you won’t take hers out. And so on and so forth, for all types of repayable injuries. So Yeshua was teaching the POSITIVE commandment of properly treating others. He was not teaching AGAINST eye for eye, He was merely reminding them that they should treat everyone with respect, even if that person is ‘evil.’
Now think of a world without ‘eye for eye’ and the like. In that world, I can gouge your eye out and just go along my merry way. You can break my arm, and then just walk away like it was nothing. Is that the type of society you would like to live in? Not me. Even here in the US, if you break someone’s arm, you get arrested!
You may still be skeptical about this. You might not be convinced of anything yet. So how about this, then: we’ll look at what Yeshua WAS teaching more in-depth. Yeshua WAS teaching not to return insult for insult. A slap on the cheek: is it a grievous injury, or is it an insult? Why, an insult of course! Notice now: Yeshua never said not to return eye for eye, or tooth for tooth. He only said not to return slap for slap. Peter also gives a little guidance on this issue.
1 Peter 3:8,9 – “8Finally, be all like-minded, compassionate, loving as brothers, tenderhearted, courteous, 9not rendering evil for evil, or insult for insult; but instead blessing; knowing that to this were you called, that you may inherit a blessing.”
Peter echoes this message, encouraging us not to return “insult for insult.”
Lastly, I want to clarify that I am not encouraging vigilante justice. We know that vengeance belongs to YHWH, and that He will repay. I am not saying if someone breaks your arm, go break theirs. Even in the Torah where these laws are given, we are not told to exact punishment on our own! Rather, the Sanhedrin (religious court) would hear the case and decide on a judgment. If it was found that the accused did, indeed, warrant their own arm being broken (or whatever the original injury) then the court would inflict that. It is the same reason we do not stone anyone for breaking the Sabbath: we have no Sanhedrin. We do not have the court of righteous elders and priests to hear the cases and decide on them according to Torah Law.
Deuteronomy 17:8-13 – “8If there arises a matter too hard for you in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within your gates; then you shall arise, and go up to the place which YHWH your Elohim shall choose; 9and you shall come to the priests the Levites, and to the judge who shall be in those days: and you shall inquire; and they shall show you the sentence of judgment. 10You shall do according to the tenor of the sentence which they shall show you from that place which YHWH shall choose; and you shall observe to do according to all that they shall teach you: 11according to the tenor of the Torah which they shall teach you, and according to the judgment which they shall tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside from the sentence which they shall show you, to the right hand, nor to the left. 12The man who does presumptuously, in not listening to the priest who stands to minister there before YHWH your Elohim, or to the judge, even that man shall die: and you shall put away the evil from Yisrael. 13All the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously.”
There you have it: it is up to the court to decide. And after the court DOES decide, the sentence MUST be carried out. Not simply just a matter of eye for eye, but for nay matter which they were to judge. Today, without a Sanhedrin, if someone attacks us and gouges our eye out, what do we do? Most of us call the police. The police will then (ideally) arrest the person, who will then await trial. This is similar to how it was done back then. The only difference is that we have a secular court, whereas they had the religious court.
To conclude, let’s recap. Yeshua never taught against the Torah. Yeshua taught not to return insult for insult, which was echoed by Peter (second witness). The Sanhedrin (or religious court) of judges and priests are the only humans qualified to judge the matters and to carry out sentences, based solely on the Torah. There is no Sanhedrin today, and as such we cannot carry out these sentences in our own communities.
I pray this study has blessed you, and at the very least caused you to study it on your own. Be Berean. Shalom.
By J. A. Brown
Interested in the Books of Enoch, Jasher, Jubilees, and the Testaments of the 12 Patriarchs? Click here to check out Genesis Retold, the newest member of the Shem Qadosh Version series!