Tormentor (βασανιστής, Mt 18:34) signifies one who examines by torture, and is derived from βασανίζω, which in its passive form means to be 'tossed as by the waves of the sea.' Torture, judicially applied, must be distinguished from punishment, however cruel and barbarous it may be; whether it be capital, as impalement or crucifixion; or secondary, as the putting out of the eyes, or any other kind of mutilation. For torture; was not intended to act fatally, nor was it, when so denominated, inflicted as a part of a judicial sentence. SEE TORTURE. It was usually employed to extort confession or evidence, as when Claudius Lysias, the chief captain, commanded Paul to be brought into the castle and "examined by scourging" (Ac 22:24). In the text first cited it is used as the means of obtaining payment of a debt. The "tormentors" there referred to are the jailers, who were allowed to scourge and torture the poor debtors in their care in order to get money from them for the grasping creditors, or else to excite the compassion of friends and obtain the amount of the debt from them. In early times of Rome there were certain legal tortures, in the shape, at least, of a chain weighing fifteen pounds, and a pittance of food barely sufficient to sustain life (see Arnold, Hist. of Rome, 1, 136), which the creditor was allowed to apply to the debtor for the purpose of bringing him to terms; and, no doubt, they often did not stop here. The incident was one with which the hearers of our Lord's parables were, no doubt, familiar, and its introduction here shows how savage and tyrannical was the spirit of the age. It is no small mark of the mild and equitable spirit of the legislation of Moses that it did not recognize the use of torture in judicial trials. SEE CORPORAL INFLICTIONS. For the "torment" or tympanism of 2 Macc. 6,19, 28, SEE EXECUTION; SEE PUNISHMENT.

Definition of tormentor

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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