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Ερώτηση:

Αγαπητέ π. Χριστοφόρε,
Ο Χριστός κήρυξε στον κόσμο την φιλανθρωπία και την αλληλοσυγχώρηση. Ο Θεός στην Παλαιά Διαθήκη διακηρύττει το "οφθαλμόν αντί οφθαλμού". Δεν είναι τούτο αντιφατικό;

Translation of Question 15.

Dear Fr Christopher,
Christ preached the people to have love for all men and to forgive each other. God in the Old Testament proclaims “an eye for an eye”. Is this not a contradiction?
 

Answer to Question 15.
Dear Constantine,

Greetings in Christ.
Christ is the Word of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, so he is the same person who spoke in the Old Testament. But why does he give other commandments in the Old Testament and other in the New Testament?
The Old Testament law says: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The law was righteous and effective because it worked like a deterrent: someone feared to do harm to someone else because he knew the law allowed that same harm to be done to him. When we examine the Old Testament laws in the light of the New Testament, we see that they were not perfect, but they were laws the people could apprehend. We must not forget that as yet, they were still in a period of darkness without the grace and light of the Holy Spirit to enlighten them and show them a different and superior code of conduct. Let’s not imagine for one second that the nations of the Old Testament understood everything we have been taught in the New Testament. From Adam and the fall people lived distant from God, living in their transgressions without laws. This lawlessness led the people to such wickedness that we are told God repented that he created man. “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.”(Gen. 6: 5-6)
Thus creation is destroyed by the flood with only Noah (the only righteous man on earth) and his household being saved to carry on the continuity of mankind. With our logic we could say that God acted wickedly, but that is because we do not see God’s eternal plan for mankind. By saving Noah he still saved Adam and all those who died in the flood only died a temporal death and would all have the opportunity to hear of Christ and be saved eternally if they so desire. Their souls went to Hades like every other soul whether righteous or unrighteous. Went St. John the Baptist died he also went to Hades and prepared the souls by preaching to them of Christ the saviour. Then when Christ died on the Cross he also descended to Hades and with his resurrection raised all the souls of the departed (who wanted to be saved). What do we sing at the end of the Epitaphion service and again just before the Resurrection service and on other Sundays of the year?
“When Thou didst descend toward death, O Life Everlasting, Then Thou didst shatter Hades with the light of Thy Divinity. And when Thou didst raise the dead from that infernal place, all the heavenly powers cried unto Thee, O Christ our God, the giver of life, glory to Thee.” (Resurrection Troparion Tone 2)
How many years we live doesn’t really matter. What matters is that after we die this temporal life we will be alive eternally with Christ.
After Noah, humans again multiplied upon the face of the earth, but still they lived unrighteously, because there still was not a God-given law to correct their evil ways. They forgot the true God and worshipped idols and only Abraham was singled out for his faith in the one true invisible God, which was accounted to him as righteousness. God then made a covenant with Abraham that from his seed he would establish an everlasting covenant: in other words, a promise that from Abraham’s descendants, man would find salvation. Thus began the chosen people to have a purpose in life – to give birth to the Messiah who would save the world. But still there was no law and we see in the Patriarchs of the Old Testament that they practiced polygamy, not only with second wives, but also with their concubines. However, the primary reason for all of this mating was not the gratification of lust, but the desire for descendants and to produce the Messiah.
The law came with Moses and as St. Paul says “I would not have known sin except through the Law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the Law had said ‘you shall not covet’”. (Romans 7:7) The law then defined what sin was and without it the people were unaware of its existence. But even with the law, the people were not ready to accept spiritual laws like turning the other cheek and loving their enemies. They needed to be educated slowly and in a way they could understand. An eye for an eye was, for that period of time before grace, the most effective law, because in the majority of cases the fear in breaking the law held them bound to keeping the law. Our best teacher to help us understand the Old Law and how things changed with the coming of Christ is St. Paul. Here are just some of the things he says concerning the Old Law and faith in Jesus Christ.
“But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 22:26.)
“For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:11-18)
Thus to conclude, there is only one God who in the Old Testament is often revealed as a cruel and harsh God, but in the New Testament is revealed as a kind and loving Father. This might seem like a contradiction, but it can best be explained with an image of a modern day parent and his child. To teach his child what is right from wrong, he often uses punishments which can at times seem harsh. Is the parent cruel? No, he chastises the child because he loves him greatly and wants him to grow up to become a caring adult knowing right from wrong. The eye for an eye rule works on children. Many parents tell their children that if they smack another child they also will receive a smacking. The Old law can then be likened as laws for children who are not ready to think like adults, but by this I mean they are like children in the spirit who have not grown spiritually. St. Paul again gives us this interpretation:
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:11-12).
Another image we can use to explain the differences in the Old and New Testaments is our educational system. The Old Testament is like the education we are given in infant and junior schools and the New Testament like the education we are given in senior school. University, which is optional, can be likened to those who have put into practice the teaching of the New Testament and have received a master’s degree in the spiritual life.
With love in Christ
Fr. Christopher.