Different interpretation of 'turn the other cheek' - bogus?

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?

I have no idea whether it’s true, but that’s what we were taught in Catholic religion in school.

Can’t tell you about slapping etiquette of the day. But that interpretation is at odds with the context of the statement. In the passage Jesus is setting up an alternative to the traditional standard of proportional punishment (ie eye for an eye, do as much harm as you suffered and no more). Forcing someone to acknowledge you as an equal isn’t contrary to that idea, in fact the notion of an eye for an eye is a very egalitarian one when you think about it. So it only makes sense in context if the message is meant to be “do no harm, even in reprisal.”

The quote goes:

In that context, it seems clear to me that your friend is mistaken.

:smack: OK, so I didn’t read the OP clearly. Let me try again:

Given the context of the quote that you provided, it seems clear to me that your friend is mistaken…


Jesus: the Complete Story (on the Discovery channel) offered the same interpretation as the one in the OP. I can’t find a transcript from the program, but I found it interesting.

Well, I can tell you that “eye for an eye” dates back to Mesopotamia, and was entirely a guidance for a legal code, as in restitution and such like. It wasn’t a justification for revenge, as it is often quoted today.

It would not surprise me at all if ‘turn the other cheek’ has similar backgrounds. However it would surprise me even less if it had Buddhist background, but that’s a bigger GD altogether :smiley:

Oh, and a genuine question…assuming the OP is using the King Jame bible, how is it translated in other English versions? And does anyone have knowledge of other relevant languages?

Must have been a different Catholicism than they had in my school :wink: Never heard of it in all that time.

However, the whole of the Sermon of/on the Mount tends to be in the general direction not so much that the followers of Jesus should be doormats, but that in their conduct they must try to act ethically beyond the expected social norm (“If you only love those who already love you, how does that make you worthier? Don’t even pagans do so anyway?”); thus, ‘go the extra mile’ and so forth. So there may yet be an element there of putting the assailant on the spot: he’s looking to provoke you into a fight so he can “justify” finishing you off; you instead give him the chance to expose himself as an abusive aggressor.

My quote was from the NIV, but the others are pretty similar:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

Others are similar; This degree of agreement (almost word for word) between translations often indicates a reasonably close similarity with the literal Greek.