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Language Arts

Eye for an Eye

Stemming from biblical times -Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth- is still a popular phrase. Eye for an eye was defined by the idea that the punishment should fit the crime. This popular idiom is used in justice systems globally. Read on for more on an eye for an eye.

Throughout the world, the idea of retributive justice, "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" has been used to keep societies in check and the justice system in balance. Stemming from the harsh concept of no forgiveness in Hammurabi's Code, King Hammurabi used this concept to maintain stability in his Babylonian kingdom during his reign in 1792 to 1750 B.C. This code is the oldest set of set of formal written laws known to exist. The code now turned popular idiom was meant to protect all levels of Babylonian society including women and slaves. Hammurabi sought protection of the weak from the powerful and the poor from the rich. This idea of retributive justice has since spread to other justice systems and cultures throughout the ages, which  In this famous idiom, the definition is found by comparing an eye in exchange of its equal. 

An eye for an eye supports the idea that punishment should fit the crime, and should be equal to the crime or of the same level of severity to the offense. The literal Latin to English translation of "an eye for an eye" is "The Law of Retribution." The popular saying also survived the existence of the Akkadian language, and can be found in the Kings James version of the Holy Bible in the book of Mathew 5:38: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth."  The phrase "eye for an eye" is also found in several instances in the Old Testament. While earlier legal codes required some sort of equivalent payment like a fine for a physical assault, Hammurabi's code was more literal. He demanded exact repercussions for the original crime. For example, if you killed someone, you would be killed yourself. If you beat someone, you would also receive an equitable beating. Concepts like the death penalty and capital punishments are instances of Hammurabi's "eye for an eye"  code still being used by modern day societies. 


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