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Mark McCulley
Judge by the Gospel


Lex Talionis: Romans 13

Jesus counters here misinterpretation of the command to exact an eye for an eye and a tooth of a tooth. An examination of the OT shows that the lex talionis, in which the punishment is proportional to the offense, is found in civil contexts...

mark mc: and didn't the pharisees know that? Did Jesus need to become incarnate in history simply to clear up that misunderstanding? Is it a fact that any pharisee misunderstood this?

Schreiner: "Jesus does not suggest that governments cease using this principle of justice, for it is the only basis upon which punishment can be meted out righteously."

1. This simply begs the question:instead of saying that we can't do it without this standard, perhaps we should ask first if we should do it!Ig God can impute the sins of the elect to Christ, is it a sure thing that WE must punish the sins of anybody, be they elect or reprobate? Should only the pagans punish? Even if only the pagans punish, by what standard should they punish? Is "eye for eye" the only standard for pagans?

2. If we are going to argue from silence ("Jesus does not suggest"), why not maintain all the OT penalties? Jesus does not here suggest that the death penalty for adultery has ceased...

3. What pharisee would disagree in the first palce that the "eye for the eye" was for the government? Didn't they hand Jesus over TO THE GOVERNMENT INSTITUTION to be killed?

Schreiner: Jesus does not overthrow the principle of equivalent compensation on an institutional level.

mark mc:

1. By word and practice, Jesus did overthrow the equivalence idea. He often asks: what MORE do you do? Imitating the cross is Refusing to return evil for evil. (Romans 12:21)

2. So again the question is begged: "on the institutional level". The murder of Jesus took place on the institutional level. Wouldn't the pharisees already have known a difference between the institutional and the personal level? So exactly which "misinterpretation" was Jesus clearing up?

Schreiner: One could externally obey the command to turn the other cheek and burn with hatred within toward the person...

mark mc:

1. Again, is he suggsting that the pharisees didn't already know this difference between the external and the internal? Jesus came to this world and spoke with authority to show them an "internal" difference???

2. How does this external/intenral observation relate to his institutional" argument? Is the idea that institutions can't/don't "hate" so it's ok for them to kill?

3. Is it possible to externally kill but internally obey the command to love or "not hate"? If you turn around Schriner's "one could", you begin to see the problem: it is NOT very possible to kill on the outside with love on the inside. (But I have heard it said: I love them too much to lie to them, so I will kill them; or I love her too much to divorce her, so I will kill her!. Fundamentalists seem to have scruples about everything except killing. I would rather be hated or lied to than killed.)

Schreiner: "Believers are not to take vengeance into their own hands,but the state rightly 'is an avenger for wrath to the one practiing evil'..."

mark mc:

1.Schreiner supplies the "rightly": the word is not in the Romans 13 text! Assyria avenged Israel as God's "minister" (Isaiah 13), but not "rightly". A "rightly" needs a standard, which Romans 13 does not supply.

2. What Pharisee would have disagreed with Schreiner? If this is all Jesus was saying, how is the authority of Jesus different from any other rabbi/exegete? Why did Jesus cause such an offense? The explanation of Schreiner does not offend legalists: only us pacifists!

Mark McCulley

Copyright © 2000 by Mark McCulley. All rights reserved.