The Law of Talion

An Ancient Law of Jurisprudence


  • George Nedungatt Pontifical Oriental Institute


Old Testament, Jesus' Law of Love, Penal Law, Covenant Code, Historical Dimension of Law, Scholion, Inclusive Language


There is much misunderstanding about the law of talion, which many consider a relic of barbarity. In the history of penal law, however, it marked progress in justice. It was common to several cultures. It was a principle of justice conceived in terms of arithmetical equality and was adopted as a law of jurisprudence in the Old Testament. Jesus did not abolish or modify it but taught a moral law proper to the children of God. Canon law retains its essence in the concept of just or congruent penalty. 

Author Biography

George Nedungatt, Pontifical Oriental Institute

George Nedungatt, born on 21 December 1932 at Peringuzha (Kerala, India), was ordained a priest on 19 March 1964, in the Society of Jesus. He holds licentiate in Philosophy and Theology. He took doctorate in Oriental Canon Law from the Pontifical Oriental Institute (PIO), Rome in 1973. Besides being professor, he has served in various capacities like Dean, Faculty of Canon Law at PIO (1981-1987), president of the Apostolic Process Tribunal, Palai, for the beatification of Sr. Alphonsa (1980), Consultor of the i) Pontifical Commission for the Revision of the Eastern Canon Law (1973- 1990), ii) Special Commission of Liturgy of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, (1989-2000), iii) Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legal Texts, since 1991 and iv) Congregation for the Causes of Saints, since 1997. He was also is the editor of Kanonica and Delegate to the Institute of Oriental Canon law, at DVK, Bangalore, India since 1999.