Its meaning in the Bible was simply, the punishment or sentencing should equally match the crime. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury. For both passages, the phrase is used in the circumstance of a court case before a civil authority such as a judge. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
What is the Significance of "Eye for an Eye?"
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Eye for an eye , in law and custom, the principle of retaliation for injuries or damages. See also talion. Eye for an eye. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree See Article History. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:.
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It is in a series of commands regarding assault and injury. The previous chapter of Exodus contains the Ten Commandments. An eye for an eye seems to be a simplistic form of justice that is focused on retribution.
In softer interpretations, it means the victim receives the [estimated] value of the injury in compensation. The term lex talionis literally meaning "the law of the claw" does not always and only refer to literal eye-for-an-eye codes of justice see rather mirror punishment but applies to the broader class of legal systems that specify formulate penalties for specific crimes, which are thought to be fitting in their severity. Some propose that this was at least in part intended to prevent excessive punishment at the hands of either an avenging private party or the state. Legal codes following the principle of lex talionis have one thing in common: prescribed 'fitting' counter punishment for a felony. In the famous legal code written by Hammurabi , the principle of exact reciprocity is very clearly used. For example, if a person caused the death of another person, the killer would be put to death. The simplest example is the "eye for an eye" principle. In that case, the rule was that punishment must be exactly equal to the crime. Conversely, the Twelve Tables of Rome merely prescribed particular penalties for particular crimes.