23 January 2014

Turn the other cheek

Fascinating specifics about Jesus' crafty use of nonviolence.

In Jesus’s time, striking someone of a lower class (a servant) with the back of the hand was used to assert authority and dominance. If the persecuted person “turned the other cheek,” the discipliner was faced with a dilemma. The left hand was used for unclean purposes, so a back-hand strike on the opposite cheek would not be performed. Another alternative would be a slap with the open hand as a challenge or to punch the person, but this was seen as a statement of equality. Thus, by turning the other cheek the persecuted was in effect putting an end to the behavior or if the slapping continued the person would lawfully be deemed equal and have to be released as a servant/slave.

More examples under the link, though it doesn't include my favorite example of Jesus' clever rhetorical jujitsu: “render unto Ceasar”, in which he plays dumb in order wittily observe unspoken assumptions. “Gee, I don't know about money. Can I see one of these coins you're talking about? There's a guy's picture on there! I guess it's his! So if he really wants it back …”

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