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Is the Bible different from the Qur’an?

Eye for eye, tooth for Photo: Laurence Vagner/Flickr

“Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand…” (Exodus 21: 24)   Photo: Laurence Vagner/Flickr

There is a video circulating on the internet produced by two men, Alexander Spoor and Sacha Harland from Holland, who seemed to compare the violent actions of Islamic extremists to Christianity.

What they did was take a Dutch Bible and enclosed it in a paper cover that made it look like a Qur’an. They then took this book into the streets of Holland and had people read selected verses from the Bible thinking they were reading the Qur’an.

Explaining their YouTube video, entitled The Holy Quran Experiment, the two said:

[Islam] has been under huge scrutiny lately and is often [criticized] for being an aggressive religion… but what about Christianity? In this video we disguised a Bible as a Quran and read some of it’s most gruesome verses to the people. This is what they had to say.

Though people read from a few passages, what seemed to catch everyone’s attention were the verses in the Old Testament:

“eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,” Moses (Exodus 21:24 NASV)

The “eye for eye” was part of the Mosaic law that explained how personal injury was to be dealt with. It seemed to imply if a man cut off a person’s hand, then the offender’s hand was similarly hacked off. If a tooth was knocked out, then the offender paid with his tooth.

People began commenting how barbaric the Qur’an was and of course at the end when the producers told them they were reading Bible verses most were shocked.

However, what Spoor and Harland failed to do was read the “whole” Bible.

This shows up when they asked one man, prior to telling him he was reading the Bible, what he thought about the Qur’an in relation to the Bible, he said:

“Hearing this I would think the Quran is much more aggressive. Especially with things like cutting off people’s hands.”

Because, this man noticed what the video producers failed to acknowledge — that the Bible differed in practice from what seemed to be spoken in the law.

When reading the Old Testament “eye for eye,” I always found it strange that there are no examples of people having hands lopped off, eyes gouged out or teeth removed. You would think that if this was a vital part of the law, there would have been at least one case of it being done.

Why the absence?

To answer that question, I turned to Jewish commentators for an explanation.

They pointed to other Bible passages that explained how “eye for eye” was to operate. One of them is found in Numbers:

“Moreover, you shall not take ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death.” (Numbers 35:31 NASV)

This verse said a ransom could not be paid for first degree murder. Since this was the only exemption, it meant that for every other part of the law such as “eye for eye” a ransom was paid as compensation to the victim, instead of inflicting punishment on the offender.

Essentially, the potential punishment determined the amount of a ransom. For example having your tooth knocked out (because you knocked out another person’s tooth) was far less punishment than having a hand cut off for damaging a person’s hand. Consequently, the compensation paid for a tooth was far less than the amount paid for a hand.

“Eye for eye” was never intended to be retaliatory. It was used to calculate the amount of money paid to the injured person. Read my article, Eye for an eye means you love your neighbor as yourself for a fuller explanation.

It also showed that only first degree murder was exempt from a ransom. This meant that a ransom was paid out for other crimes that had the death penalty attached such as rape (Deuteronomy 22:24),  adultery (Leviticus 20:10), and kidnapping (Exodus 21:16).

This is not to say that some with a pharisitical edge did not try to do enforce the physical punishment. There is the story in the New Testament of how some pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11).

They wanted to stone her for the act and asked Jesus what He would do. All we are told is that Jesus knelt to the ground and began writing some words in the dirt. Perhaps Jesus was just quoting Numbers 35:21.

We are not told what the words were, but after Jesus finished the pharisees, from the oldest first to the youngest, left.

Jesus was bringing people back to how the law was originally intended to function. Jesus then turned to the woman and said her sins were forgiven and told her to go and sin no more.

As for the other verses cited in the video such as those that talk about women keeping silent in church, it has to be understood in the context to a specific incident happening in the Corinthian church at that time Paul wrote the letter.

However in their introduction to the video, one of the two men did say:

“According to this entire book [the Bible], the woman has to be submissive.”

Yet in both the Old and New Testament, there were women prophets who spoke for God to men such as Huldah (2 Chronicles 34:22-28) who in this passage the priests went to for advice.  There is also the prophetess Miriam who is listed as one of the three leaders of Israel (Micah 6:4).

In the New Testament we have Anna (Luke 2:36) and the daughters of Philip (Acts 21:8-9)  called prophetess.

We also can’t forget Deborah who was not only a prophet but the leader of Israel (Judges 4:4) and actually led Israel into battle. There were several women besides these who functioned as full-blown prophets and many more who prophesied without being called prophets.

In the New Testament, Paul seems to suggest that one of the early apostles was a woman — Junia being a feminine name (Romans 16:7).

You can see their video below (language warning).

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