Q: “You know the Bible contradicts itself all the time, like when it says ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’ – but the whole idea Jesus preached was to forgive. How do we know which bits to believe? And how can we trust it?”
A: Well I am probably going to get into a bunch of trouble for not referring a bible question to the “Bible Geek,” but I am answering this question.
Alright, in the particular passage you mention there is not a contradiction present at all. In fact, it shows how the scriptures illustrate the development of God’s plan through time. You see, if we look where the passage, “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” from the Book of Exodus 21:24 comes from the Old Testament we see that it’s in the passage called “The Law of Talon.” And if you read the whole chapter it’s basically telling you to respect people and their property or else suffer an equal amount of pain or injury that you would have inflicted on them (and after reading it through, I was pretty convinced). However as God’s plan unfolds and his son Jesus Christ comes to establish a new law of love this position changes, so that when you read “An eye for eye, tooth for tooth’ in the Gospel of Matthew 5:38 it doesn’t end there. Jesus goes on to tell them that the old “Law of Talon” no longer applies to His followers because they are called to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors. Which means there is no contradiction at all, one law passes away to make room for the greater law…it’s a sign of spiritual growth and development.
Thanks for the question, hope my answer helps and know that I am praying for you.