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Q&A #57 - Biblical basis for "vengeance is mine"
by Robert Nguyen Cramer
This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.
Question/insight #57: Where if at all in the Bible is "Vengeance is mine" found?
You asked where "vengeance is mine" is found in the Bible. You will find it in the NRSV, NASB, and KJV of Romans 12:19-21, where Paul writes, "19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." 20 No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (NRSV)
Barclay Newman and Eugene Nida, in their excellent Translator's Handbook on Paul's Letter to the Romans (New York: United Bible Societies, 1973, page 242), write regarding Rom 12:19:
The scripture quotation in this passage comes from Deuteronomy 32:35... In translating "I will take revenge" [KJV: "vengeance is mine"] it is important to indicate that God takes revenge for what others have done, but not necessarily to himself. In other words, God is not being vengeful in the sense that he retaliates for what people do to him. Rather, he exercises judgment upon those who harm others. Therefore, one may translate "I will take revenge on the evil that has been done" or "I will take revenge on those who have done evil." In some languages the closest equivalent may be "to pay back" -- for example, "I will pay them back for how they have caused others to suffer." In other languages one may translate as "I will cause them to suffer in return."
In Greek it is not the noun form of revenge that is used in Rom 12:19; rather, it is a verb form, antapodoso <Strong's Greek word # 467>, that is used, and is translatable as, "I will give back again."
[For a more complete understanding of Paul's meaning in using this phrase, browse http://www.bibletexts.com/qa/qa097.htm.]
Copyright 1996-2004 Robert Nguyen Cramer