As per the previous post, the table here is a simplified summary of some of the points Russell Gmirkin discusses in Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible. It is far from being a complete representation of his discussion. It is best read as an easy reference guide in conjunction with the detail covered in the book. The table is only a starting guide: it will be expanded and modified as the details of laws are further explored. I expect to do a few more similar tables for other types of laws. (Still putting on hold the discussion of the final chapter of Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible as I backtrack to sections I covered too briefly earlier or inadvertently omitted altogether.)
I have added more illustrative and explanatory notes at the end of the table this time.
ANE = Ancient Near Eastern laws
Greece/Plato = Laws as implemented in Athens and/or Laws presented as ideals by Plato in Laws
|1. General principle: lex talionis (eye for an eye)||✓||✓||X|
|2. Compensate loss of income and medical expenses||✓||✓||✓*|
|3. Assault on parent punished by amputation of hand||X||✓||X|
|4. Assault on parent punished by death||✓||X||✓**|
|5. Maiming a slave entitles the slave to freedom||✓||X
|6. Class based penalties:
–greater penalties for commoners against nobles;
–lesser penalties for nobles against commoners
|7. Lesser (or no) punishments for assaults on slaves||✓||✓||✓|
|WHEN MEN FIGHT (with a woman nearby)….||Bible||ANE||Greece/Plato|
|And one injures a pregnant woman:
— Money compensation for loss of fetus
|And one injures a pregnant woman so that she later dies:
— Execution of the man
|And a woman grabs/crushes the testicles of one to assist the other:
— Cut off her hand or finger
|Thieves breaking into a house at night to be slain||✓^||✓||✓^|
|Highwayman — death penalty||✓||✓|
|“Normal” daylight theft — financial penalties||✓||✓||✓|
|Kidnapping — death penalty||✓||✓||✓
|Temple theft — death penalty||✓||✓|
|Public property theft — death penalty||✓|
|Stealing from a house on fire — get thrown into the fire||✓^^|
|All property theft — only financial penalties, no death penalty||✓^^^||X||X|
* financial compensation for damages if unintentional or double the amount if willful
** Death was a maximum penalty but judges were to decide if it was warranted in each case
*** Greek laws in fact reversed the principle; hubris, the crime of humiliating another person to aggrandize oneself was worthy of death
^ the house owner himself was free to kill the thief
^^ this appears to me to be an obvious example of a theoretical or literary law; one presumes the fire would have burnt itself out by the time the trial was held.
^^^ See below
Illustrative and explanatory notes follow…..
1 & 6. Lex talionis and class based
But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
Laws of Hammurabi
#196 If an awilu should blind the eye of another awilu, they shall blind his eye.
#197 If he should break the bone of another awilu, they shall break his bone.
#198 If he should blind the eye of a commoner or break the bone of a commoner, he shall weigh and deliver 60 shekels of silver.
2. Compensate loss of income
In the case of men quarrelling, one man strikes his fellow with a stone or his fist, and he does not die but becomes bedridden; then if he rises and walks outside with his cane, the one who struck him will be cleared [of a serious charge], but he will pay for his period of rest and all his medical expenses.
Laws of Hammurabi #206
If an awilu should strike another awilu during a brawl and inflict upon him a wound, that awilu shall swear, “I did not strike intentionally,” and he shall satisfy the physician (i.e., pay his fees).
Plato, Laws [879b]
Whoever wounds another involuntarily shall pay a single equivalent for the damage . . . .
3 & 4. Assault on parent
Anyone who attacks their father or mother is to be put to death.
Laws of Hammurabi #195
If a child should strike his father, they shall cut off his hand.
Plato, Laws 9:878e
When woundings of this kind are inflicted by children on parents, the judges shall be, of necessity, men over sixty years of age who have genuine, and not merely adopted, children of their own; and if a person be convicted, they shall assess the penalty—whether such a person ought to be put to death, or ought to suffer some other punishment still more severe, or possibly a little less severe: but none of the relatives of the culprit shall act as a judge,
5. Maiming a slave
An owner who hits a male or female slave in the eye and destroys it must let the slave go free to compensate for the eye. And an owner who knocks out the tooth of a male or female slave must let the slave go free to compensate for the tooth.
7. Lesser or no punishments for assaults on slaves
Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.
^^^ All property theft — only financial penalties, no death penalty
The clearest expression of this is the remarkable leniency with which property offenses are dealt with in biblical law. No crime against property is punished with death. The insistence of life for life, to the exclusion of monetary compensation — a severity unparalleled in ancient Near Eastern law — has its counterpart in the refusal to consider any offense against property worthy of the death penalty — equally unheard of in all Near Eastern systems but the Hittite. In biblical law life and property are incommensurable. — Greenberg, Moshe. “The Biblical Conception of Asylum”, in Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 78, No. 2 (Jun., 1959), p. 129
In this context I find it interesting that the biblical codes contain no provision for temple theft or penalties for the highwayman. Is it possible that penalties that in real life required the death penalty were omitted from the biblical codes for theological reasons?
Latest posts by Neil Godfrey (see all)
- Celestial or Earthly Christ Event? Why So Much Confusion About Paul? - 2021-05-11 12:05:05 GMT+0000
- Did Paul Quote Jesus on Divorce? — Getting History for Atheists Wrong (Again) — #5 - 2021-05-10 10:42:06 GMT+0000
- Getting History for Atheists Wrong (Again) — #4 - 2021-05-10 02:50:25 GMT+0000
If you enjoyed this post, please consider donating to Vridar. Thanks!