Here a novel interpretation of the above passage, that someone tried on me today:
Back in first century Palestine, the left hand was considered ‘dirty’; if you were going to strike anyone, you’d use your right hand.
There was also an accepted code of etiquette regarding how you should hit someone; if you considered them lower than yourself, you’d strike them with a backhand stroke (i.e. on the right cheek) - if you considered the person an equal, you’d strike them with your palm (i.e. on the left cheek).
So what Jesus was saying here was that if someone hit you on the right cheek, you should offer them the left, because you’re forcing them to acknowledge you as equal, or back down.
Now this set off the great big bullshit alarm in my head; not only does this seem a rather… no… very ‘reaching’ explanation, but it now doesn’t fit in with the following statements; if someone wants to take your tunic, give him your cloak as well and If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
Anyone heard this explanation before? Is there even a grain of truth in it?