Monday, 1 March 2021

Monday quote

There is no situation so bad but that you can't make it worse.

Douglas Wilson.

Monday, 22 February 2021

Monday quote

Better a man with no ideas than the wrong ones.

Theodore Dalrymple

Monday, 15 February 2021

Monday quote

If we have to "choose between unequal prosperity and shared poverty," I'll choose the former.

RJ Moeller 

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

A vessel for honour or for dishonour

Romans 9:14-23 is foundational to Calvinist theology.

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—
The question in verse 21 reads in the following versions,
  • Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? (NIV)
  • Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? (ESV)
  • Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? (NKJV)
  • Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? (NASB)
  • Or has the potter no right over the clay, to make from the same lump one piece of pottery for honor and another for dishonor? (CSB)
  • Or does the potter not have authority over the clay, to make from the same lump a vessel that is for honorable use and one that is for ordinary use? (LEB)
  • Has the potter no right to make from the same lump of clay one vessel for special use and another for ordinary use? (NET)
  • Does the potter not have authority over the clay, out of the same lump to make one vessel to honor and one to dishonor? (LSV)
My thoughts on the translations:
  1. The verse contrasts the previous verse, as emphasised in the LEB, CSB and NASB (and Greek).
  2. "power", "right", "authority", even "liberty" and "freedom" are reasonable translations of exousia, but "authority" may be best.
  3. "the clay" is genitive; "his clay" is a possibility. The same with "lump".
  4. The emphasis on the last part of the sentence is between honour (timē) and absence-honour (atimia). Does "atimia" mean "common" or "ordinary"? Or does it mean "dishonour"?
  5. The Greek uses the conjunctions "men...de" to contrast the "honour" with the "dishonour". In all the above versions the word "and" is used for this contrast. Would "or" contrast more accurately?
Point 5 is important as the reader pictures the potter making 2 objects or vessels: one that has honour and one that has dishonour. But what if one is to picture the potter deciding on whether to make one object which is either to have honour or to have dishonour. If point 5 is correct then the reader is not seeing a potter take the same lump of clay and make half into one object and the other part into another object. Rather there is one lump of clay. The potter can take a lump of clay and make it into an object of honour, or the potter can take that same lump of clay and make it into an object of dishonour.

As a possible translation,
Rather, does not the potter have authority over his clay to make from the same lump, either a vessel that is for honour or that is for dishonour?

Monday, 8 February 2021

Monday quote

 The idea that any man or writer should be opaque to those who lived in the same culture, spoke the same language, shared the same habitual imagery and unconscious assumptions, and yet be transparent to those who have none of these advantages, is in my opinion preposterous. There is an a priori improbability in it which almost no argument and no evidence could counterbalance.

C.S. Lewis, "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism", Christian Reflections.


Friday, 5 February 2021

Middle Kingdom of Egypt and the Israelites

The documentary Patterns of Evidence uses the principle of finding similarities between events which must be synchronous, rather than trying to patch events that historians happen to think occurred about the same time. Findings in Egypt and Canaan that match the biblical record are identified. The movie discusses the epoch of Joseph, of Moses, and Joshua; matching archeological discoveries in Avaris and Jericho to the events in Scripture. Much of the documentary follows the chronology of David Rohl.

Egyptian chronology is divided into
  1. Old Kingdom
  2. First Intermediate Period
  3. Middle Kingdom
  4. Second Intermediate Period
  5. New Kingdom
Following Rohl, but using biblical dating we have
  1. Pharaoh who Joseph served: Amenemhat III, Dynasty 12, c. 1675 BC
  2. Vizier of Amenemhat: Joseph c. 1675
  3. Joseph dies c. 1600 BC
  4. King who did not know Joseph: Sobekhotep III, Dynasty 13, c. 1550 BC
  5. Adoptive grandfather of Moses: Neferhotep I, Dynasty 13, c. 1530
  6. Pharaoh from whom Moses fled to Midian: Khanefere Sebekhotep IV (brother and successor of Neferhotep), Dynasty 13, c. 1490 BC
  7. Pharaoh of the Exodus: Tutimaeus = Dedumose II, Dynasty 13, c. 1450 BC
  8. Hyksos invasion and the beginning of the second Intermediate Period, c. 1450 BC
This compares to secular dating of these pharaohs c. 1850–1650 BC; a 200 year difference.

There have been a range of suggestions for the Pharaoh of the Exodus. But it seems likely that the time that the Israelites were in Egypt corresponds to part or all of the Middle kingdom: Dynasties 11, 12 and 13. Dynasties 12 and 13 collapsed at the time of the Exodus and the Middle Kingdom came to an end. Then begins the rule of the Hyksos who rapidly conquered Egypt who had been bereft of her king and army.

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

When you can't defend your position

I read a Calvinist response on a message board that amounted to: Paying attention to a specific non-Calvinist is embarrassing. He suggested a Calvinist author instead. While a rather short retort it raises a large number of issues.

Firstly it is an attempt at cool-shaming. Said author is supposedly an embarrassment to theology or Christian truth. Perhaps, but if the claim is not true this is a false accusation.

Secondly, it fails to deal with the arguments. If a person presents such poor arguments he should be easy to refute. It would be better to actually clearly refute nonsensical claims and prove they are an embarrassment, even if you then state the fact.

Thirdly, suggesting a Calvinist author over a non-Calvinist author is it's own fail. You are generally better to give a better author in the same category. If someone recommends Dawkins as a defense of atheism (and this is embarrassing), there are better atheists to read: Nagel for example. Related to this, why would anyone recommend against an opponent using such poor reasoning? A poor opponent himself is an argument against his own position.

Fourthly, someone is better to steer people away from well meaning but poor defenses of even his own position. If a Calvinist recommends a particular Calvinist author who is enthusiastic but poorly reasoned, others can recommend against that particular author in preference to better Calvinist defenders of the position.

Monday, 1 February 2021

Monday quote

People have a strange tendency to accept bramble-leadership, a fact which continues to baffle us.

Dale Ralph Davis, Such a Great Salvation.

Friday, 29 January 2021

A theodicy is not ad hoc

The reason is that the theodicy argument as proposed by atheists and ad hoc theorists is not true. Theodicy is asking why God may permit evil, the existence of evil itself is not an argument against God.
  1. The existence of evil is an argument for theism based on the moral argument. If we concede that evil is in fact real (not just unpleasant) then theism is true.
  2. This argues not solely for theism, but good theism, ie. a good God. This is because evil does not exist of itself, it is parasitic; evil is a perversion of good.
  3. Therefore the existence of evil raises the question of why would a good God allow evil. The existence of evil does not raise the question of God's existence; rather his existence is proven by the existence of evil.

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Is polygamy acceptable or not?

The question of whether a man may take a second (or third...) wife is arising more frequently in our culture. Islam teaches a man may have up to 4 wives at a time. The Bible has multiple examples of polygamous relationships. Yet throughout Christendom since early in its inception the propriety of monogamy has been taught.

The question is actually quite a complex one. So I will first make the case for monogamy followed by the case for polygamy.

When asked about divorce Jesus points to creation (Mat 19). His reference to God making man and woman is foundational to all questions of marriage and relationship.
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27)
and
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” ...So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Gen 2:18,21-25)
Jesus specifically quotes that God made male and female, that the man is to leave his parents and that they are to be one flesh. There is much that can be taken from these passages in Genesis.
  1. Marriage is instituted by God
  2. Marriage is to be between a male and a female
  3. Marriage is to be between 2 people
  4. Marriage addresses the problem of being alone
  5. God made the man before the woman (leadership, 1Ti 2:13)
  6. God made the woman from the man's side (joint dominion, Gen 1)
  7. The nuclear family is primary, and the marriage covenant supersedes filial bonds
  8. Marriage is permanent
  9. Becoming one flesh through coitus is part of marriage
  10. Becoming united in relationship is fundamental to marriage
Jesus emphasises 1, 2, 7, 8, and 10.

For our purposes here we see that marriage is between 2 people which argues that monogamy is the antelapsarian situation. Polygamy is only potentially permissible for fallen man.

The first mention of polygamy is that of Lamech. It is incidental to the narrative. Lamech kills a man and pronounces vengeance for himself. He does so in the pattern of God protecting Cain. Cain rightly feared for his life as he had murdered his brother. God put a mark or sign on Cain to let men know that God would take vengeance seven-fold if they killed Cain. Lamech, a descendant of Cain, in his pride claimed vengeance 77-fold were any man to kill him for murdering another. It is mentioned that Lamech had 2 wives. It is difficult to make much of this other than noting that Lamech was otherwise a wicked man.

There are several examples of multiple wives throughout Scripture. It is often claimed that these are universally negative examples which point to polygamy being a bad institution. Some of the examples are indeed negative but it is not clear that they all are. Moreover, negative examples may be more likely to be identified because of strife. Nevertheless, the stories of Sarah and Hagar, of Rachel and Leah, of Peninnah and Hannah, warrant careful consideration.

Polygamists mentioned in Scripture include: Abijah, Abraham, Ahab, Ahasuerus, Ashur, Belshazzar, Benhadad, Caleb, David, Eliphaz, Elkanah, Esau, Ezra, Gideon, Jacob, Jehoiachin, Jehoram, Jerahmeel, Joash, Lamech, Machir, Manasseh, Mered, Moses, Nahor, Rehoboam, Saul, Shaharaim, Simeon, Solomon, Zedekiah.

Additional to the implications of the creation narrative, we have God warning kings against multiplying wives excessively (Deu 17:17). Solomon being the paragon who both disregarded this command to an extreme measure, and who was drawn away after several foreign gods just as was warned.

Polygamy therefore was never intended to exist before the Fall and has had negative implications on many occasions. Even so, the Bible does not treat it universally as wrong. It is not necessarily immoral.

God commands the Levirate marriage which may entail taking a second wife (his brother's widow). The Mosaic Law has provision for second wives. And God told David that he would have given him more (2Sa 12:8); this may have included more wives. However God still said that David's adultery with Bathsheba was obscene. David's situation should give our own culture pause: we who would condemn a polygamist more than an adulterer.

The Levirate marriage is mentioned in the Mosiac Law although it antedates the Law: note the case of Tamar. The Law states,
If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. (Deu 25:)
Here the levirate marriage is commanded of a brother if his sister-in-law becomes a childless widow. That is, a man is told that the right thing to do in such a situation is to take a second wife. The reason being to provide children to his brother's widow and they will be counted as his brother's offspring. So the principle one can derive from this passage is that taking a second wife can, in at least one situation, be an act of mercy. It is the right thing to do. It is important to note that this situation may arise in a fallen world, but was not relevant in the antelapsian world.

Monogamy was God's design when he created the world. It fallen world, polygamous relationships may be  merciful.

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Biblical inerrancy in the original manuscripts

Joseph Kelly from kolhaadam blog (now defunct) ran a 4 part series on why he is not an inerrantist. In part 1 he identifies the inerrantist's claim that only the original manuscripts are free from error. Kelly states that because there is no clear single autographical tradition the inerrantist's appeal to such is stillborn, there is no unique tradition. The example he gives is the book of Jeremiah. The Masoretic Jeremiah is significantly diverse from the Septuagintal Jeremiah, more than translational considerations allow. Kelly suggests than it is even possible Jeremiah and Baruch wrote several copies that were divergent and led to variant textual traditions.

I don't think this is a strong case against the inerrantist position for 2 reasons.
  1. It is possible that recensions are also inerrant; and
  2. The inerrantist appeal to the autographs is a minor feature of their position.
It seems likely that the Hebrew manuscripts were modified over the years after they were written. I take a relatively conservative approach to authorship, but even though I hold to the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, I don't think that the Deuteronomy postscript was written by Moses, and I think it likely that Moses compiled Genesis from sources that antedate him. Further, there were probably modifications to the Pentateuch over the centuries for explanatory reasons and the like. The Masoretics' aversion to modifying the text need not apply to pre-Christian Jewish scribes. This view even allows for Jeremiah to modify his writings resulting in a primitive and a modified textual tradition. Inerrantists could claim both to be without error, and the modified text to be the more complete revelation. Not that I necessarily hold this view of Jeremiah. But the argument about choosing manuscripts is more about textual criticism than it is about inerrancy.

The larger issue here is that the appeal to autographs is not the focus of inerrancy. Kelly seems to recognise this as he states,
This appeal to the autographs helps to escape the obvious error that occurred during transmission as well as the complexity behind identifying which textual tradition is the inerrant one.
The focus of inerrancy is that the Bible is without error of fact, not just doctrine. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (which I am comfortable with) affirms this. There are several articles to explain what is meant by this affirmation but some of these qualifiers mean that inerrantists are not compelled to defend pseudo-errors. One of the qualifiers is that the claim of inerrancy only applies to original wording of the manuscripts. Article 10 states,
We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.

We deny that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.
While Kelly is addressing text-types (or rather, the possibility of non-unique sources, which is within the larger concept of text-type veracity), the bigger issue for inerrancy is usually one of translation. In practice, appeal is made to the Bible in one's own language. I speak neither Hebrew nor Greek so my appeals must be to the English Bible. And I am confident that Bibles in other languages are accurate enough for inerrancy apologists of foreign speech. It is not that inerrantists continually appeal to the non-extant texts, rather it is to dismiss the claims of error that only exist as result of errant transcription and, more often, errant translation. It seems to me that the usual appeal is to the original language or the original words (as opposed to the original manuscript) to resolve a difficulty of translation. I am not certain that a large number of difficulties, that is issues of errancy, arise from the different text-types.

Monday, 25 January 2021

Monday quote

There is a difference between a prodigal who comes to his senses and returns home and a whore who pleads for her husband's security only until she finds someone else to take her on.

Dale Ralph Davis, Such a Great Salvation.

Sunday, 24 January 2021

An outline of Genesis 1 and 2

Following previous comments on the structure of Genesis 1 and 2 and their parallels, here is an outline.

1 Creation of the Universe (Gen 1:1–2:3)
1.1 Introduction of the Creator (Gen 1:1–2)
1.2 The Six Days of Creation (Gen 1:3–31)
1.2.1 Day 1: Light (Gen 1:3–5)
1.2.2 Day 2: The Sky (Gen 1:6–8)
1.2.3 Day 3: The Land and the Plants (Gen 1:9–13)
1.2.3.1 Land (Gen 1:9–10)
1.2.3.2 Plants (Gen 1:11–13)
1.2.4 Day 4: The Luminaries (Gen 1:14–19)
1.2.5 Day 5: Air and Sea Creatures (Gen 1:20–23)
1.2.6 Day 6: Land Creatures (Gen 1:24–31)
1.2.6.1 Creation of Animals (Gen 1:24–25)
1.2.6.2 Creation of Humans (Gen 1:26–28)
1.2.6.3 Plants for Food (1:29–31)
1.3 Conclusion: The Seventh Day (Gen 2:1–3)

Toledoth 1 (Gen 2:4–4:16)
Toledoth (Gen 2:4a)

2 The Garden of Eden (Gen 2:4b–2:25)
2.1 Introduction: State of the Land (2:4b–6)
2.2 The Six Stages of Eden (2:7–22)
2.2.1 Creation of Man (Gen 2:7)
2.2.2 God Plants Garden (Gen 2:8)
2.2.3 God Organises Garden (Gen 2:9–15)
2.2.3.1 Trees Grow (2:9–14)
2.2.3.2 Man Placed in Garden (Gen 2:15)
2.2.4 God Commands Man (Gen 2:16–17)
2.2.5 Man is Alone (Gen 2:18)
2.2.6 Search for Companion (Gen 2:19–24)
2.2.6.1 Animals Named (Gen 2:19–20)
2.2.6.2 Man Sleeps (Gen 2:21)
2.2.6.3 Woman Created (Gen 2:22)
2.3 Conclusion: Man and Woman Come Together (Gen 2:23–25)

Friday, 22 January 2021

Principles of the talion

God gave commands to the Israelites through Moses after deliverance from Egypt. One of the most significant principles he taught them was that of talion: the command that punishment is to be measured by the criminal act. As such it was measured: there were limitations as to how bad a punishment could be.

By the time of Jesus the principle was being misapplied. Men were using it is justify their desire for personal revenge and neglecting the matter of mercy. Ever seeking justice for themselves they failed to realise that what they most needed was forgiveness. If they wanted mercy from God they needed to offer mercy to men.

In our own age that has had 2000 years of Christendom teaching mercy we risk neglecting justice for others. It is true that we need to allow vengeance at God's hand and not pursue personal vendettas, even so, victims require justice, and God has given us his principles for justice.

At its most simple the principle of talion is to require the criminal to receive what he has done. This is restricted to permanent personal damage done intentionally, or at least caused by gross criminal negligence. Thus,
  • Remove an eye: lose an eye
  • Kill a person: be executed
The principle does not apply to non-permanent personal damage or to crimes of property. Thus a judge can request a man be lashed (though this is limited to 40 lashes for the sake of shame), and thieves can be fined more than what they stole to act as a future disincentive.

There are several aspects to the talion. The first is that punishment is limited. Limited to the level at which a crime is performed. If a man is intentionally causing permanent injury to another then the consequence for him can be no greater than the harm caused. If he blinds a man in one eye you cannot blind him in both. If he cuts off a finger you can't cut off an arm. Related to this is the fact that, excepting execution, one cannot be maimed for infractions that do not maim others. A thief is not to have his hand cut off. A voyeur is not to have his eye plucked out.[1]

Certain crimes are still capital offences. Treason, adultery, etc may still require the death penalty but judges are not permitted to maim and mutilate indiscriminately.

A second aspect is that men are to be punished if they give fraudulent evidence that may cause maiming. When a man falsely testifies to something that would lead to damage he is to receive the same,
If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you. Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Deu 19:16-21)
The command that your eye shall not pity may mean that the judge is not permitted to give a lesser punishment or substitute a fine; it is a minimum sentence.

The implications of this principle are striking. Essentially a false accusation incurs the guilt of the crime. A man accusing someone of murder bears the guilt of murder. A woman who falsely claims rape is as guilty as a rapist.


[1] The only exception appears to be if a woman grabs a man by his testicles during a fight. In this case she was to have her hand cut off and a fine could not be substituted (Deu 25:11-12). One possible explanation is that such behaviour could cause injury to the testicles (such as sterility, the context concerns descendants) so she was to receive a punishment that was appropriate. This would be her hand as females do not have testicles and she used her hand to commit the offence.

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Justice and mercy

Mercy triumphs over judgment.—James 2:13

In the Law we see the principle of the talion. Sins against men are addressed by doing to the sinner what he did to another. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. This principle applied to the body. A few maiming or capital punishments could be greater against a criminal in certain circumstances (eg. sexual crimes). But permanent destruction of a man or a part of his body was limited to what he had done to others. An example is in King Adonibezek who had cut off the thumbs and great toes of kings and the same was done unto him (Jug 1:7). He saw this as a punishment from God because of what he had done.

The punishment could exceed this in some circumstances, especially property crimes: A thief pays back more than he stole to act as a deterrent. Further, a man could be flogged for a crime because this did not cause permanent physical destruction of an organ.

The talion acted also limited punishments; it prohibited judges from sentencing excessive punishments.

Jesus speaks against the talion in his Sermon on the Mount. It is worth noting that he is teaching not against what is written, but what the people had be taught. When Jesus refutes his opponents he frequently appeals to Scripture saying, "It is written." The rebuke is in not believing Scripture. If his opponents claim to believe Scripture Jesus shows them how they err in their interpretation. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus refutes not what is written but what they have been taught. Jesus prefaces his teaching by denying that he is abolishing the Law,
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 5:17-19)
And then he says,
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ (Mat 5:21)
And
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ (Mat 5:27)
And
It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ (Mat 5:31)
And
Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ (Mat 5:33)
These are what they have been taught by the scribes. When Jesus addresses these teachings, which are based in the Torah, Jesus explains what they mean. He explains that murder originates in the heart and that lesser sins  such as hatred also violate the law. He explains that adultery can be in the heart. He corrects the teaching they have received on divorce. But consider this teaching,
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ (Mat 5:43)
Hating your enemies is not an Old Testament quote. He tells them to love their enemies.

When it comes to the talion Jesus says,
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. (Mat 5:38-42)
Jesus is not abolishing the Law as he has already said, but he is commenting about how they are applying the Law. None of the examples Jesus gives involves actually losing an eye, or a tooth, or one's life. Jesus is speaking against a spirit of retaliation. The talion was given to administer judgment and limit sentences, it was not given to justify our internal desire for revenge. This is what the Pharisees got wrong and why Jesus spoke so sternly to them in other situations. A spirit of revenge works against mercy. It subverts all that God wants to do. It is antagonistic to God's purposes. Punishment is not wrong, and the principle of the talion is not wrong, but if we let revenge take priority in our hearts we oppose what God is doing.

When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, God pronounced judgment against them. The judgment was severe: they became mortal, they were estranged from God, they had difficulty with children, difficulty between each other, difficulty in their ability to get enough food. And such a judgment was necessary, they now knew good and evil and the depths of depravity the human race was now capable meant that they had to be restrained.

Even so, look at the promise when God curses the serpent.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen 3:15)
The protevangelium contains the promise of deliverance. Even in the curse God is planning to redeem the problem. God does not intend for men to be alienated from him.

Jesus teaches the same thing.
No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light. (Luk 11:33-36)
When our eye is healthy, or generous, we view things rightly. We need to pay careful attention that we have healthy eyes. Luke writes this within the context of people saying Jesus operates by the power of Beelzebub. He warns them against having an unclean spirit, and he rebukes them for their unbelief. Then following this is a condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees.

Some have argued that Jesus opposes the religious but defends sinners by virtue of his kindness towards tax-collectors and prostitutes but frequent condemnation of the religious men of the day. This misreads what Jesus does and is doing. Jesus befriended sinners because they were lost. The sick need a physician. Yet the sinners we encounter in these verses are repentant sinners. Jesus offers mercy to those who repent. Jesus had a generous eye, one that defeats his enemies by making them his friends. It is this what the Pharisees get so wrong. They load up burdens on men's backs but do not help lift a finger (Mat 23:4).

It is not that mercy is right and justice is wrong, it is that people do not care for mercy which is a higher virtue. Love is above all.

And it is not that being a sinner gets one right with Jesus, it is repentance that matters. Jesus called Herod a fox (Luk 13:32), he warned the paralytic to stop sinning else something worse than paralysis would happen (Joh 5:14). And Jesus was gracious towards many righteous who were not sinners, including some who were Pharisees.

God is about redemption. He is about getting people into his kingdom. The pathway is faith demonstrated by repentance. The harsh words of Jesus against the Pharisees was because they opposed God's purposes which was to enable sinful men and women to repent and be accepted into the kingdom of Heaven. It matters not whether you consider yourself religious or not, what matters is that you have a heart inclined towards mercy.

But this is not a condemnation of justice. Justice remains. It is only in the context of justice that we can understand mercy. The men who refuse to call sin for what it is have neither justice nor mercy. They refuse to see that sin is an affront to God. They offer acceptance without repentance which is not mercy because it leaves people in their sin and outside God's family. They condemn religion while justifying the rebellious. Yet it is the very nature of justice which should make us so cautious.

Judgment will come. Heaven cries out,
her sins are heaped high as heaven,
and God has remembered her iniquities.
Pay her back as she herself has paid back others,
and repay her double for her deeds;
mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed. (Rev 18:5-6)
It is the certainty of judgment which men deserve which makes mercy so imperative. Jesus is against men who would refuse the repentant; such an attitude demonstrates that they themselves have not received mercy, that they remain outside the kingdom.
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” (Mat 21:31).

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