"An Eye for an Eye" As Law and Ethics
WONG Fook Kong

The lex talionis has had its fair share of detractors. The negative view of this law has lessened greatly in recent years as scholars noticed its underlying principle of just recompense. Nevertheless, the notion that it, if not totally wrong, at least does not measure up to Christian ethics still persists. In this essay I will try to show that it is a principle behind many laws dealing with personal loss and injuries in the Pentateuch. What this law teaches is not revenge but that the punishment must fit the crime. This notion of just recompense is also found throughout the Old Testament. I will also try to show that the law is neither abolished nor superseded in Matthew 5:38-42. This law is no less worthy of Christian ethics than "Thou shall not murder" or "Thou shall not commit adultery." The question of whether one should observe a principle of just retribution or go the extra mile depends on the context. In a law court, one should follow the principle of just retribution. In our personal life, we should be willing to go the extra mile, take a loss or endure an insult.